I made my first-ever mushroom barley soup last week. I can’t believe it took me so long to give it a try, and I can safely say it won’t be the last pot I make because that stuff is good. I am a big fan of barley, especially in the wintertime; I feel less guilty eating barley than I do eating rice, and they are interchangeable to my taste buds. (Well, almost.) Barley is high in fiber, selenium and some other key nutrients and has a pleasant, chewy texture and a mild, nutty flavor. I cooked some to have with a veggie stir fry and had a lot left over, hence the inspiration for finding a soup recipe. Though my husband lobbied for a beef barley soup (which I will make for him sometime soon), I found a gorgeous-looking recipe from Food52 for a mushroom barley soup and had to give it a try, especially since I had some dried porcinis in the cupboard, ready to go. I used the Food52 recipe as a guide and made some modifications: the result was closer to a stew than the brothy soup I thought I was making, but I didn’t mind one bit. We had it for dinner with my Mom’s garlic rolls and the mustard pickles I made last fall and had enough left for lunch the next day; it tasted even better once the veggies and barley had soaked in the flavors of the broth. A divine winter soup!

Mushroom Barley Soup (adapted from this recipe)

  • 1 oz. dried porcini mushrooms, soaked in 1/2 c. boiling water (reserve soaking liquid)
  • 2 T. olive oil
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1 carrot, diced
  • 1 stalk of celery, diced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 c. cremini mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 T. tomato paste
  • 1 T. soy sauce
  • 1/4 c. marsala
  • 1 c. cooked barley*
  • 3 c. chicken stock (or vegetable)
  • 1 1/2 c. beef stock (or mushroom)
  • salt & pepper to taste

In a stockpot, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion, carrot and celery and saute until soft, about 10 mins. Add the garlic and sliced mushrooms and cook for about 5 mins., until the mushrooms soften and begin to release some moisture. Remove the rehydrated porcinis from the soaking liquid and chop coarsely; add to the pot and stir to combine. Make a well in the vegetables so the bottom of the pan is exposed; add tomato paste to the well, stir and cook for 1-2 mins. Stir in the cooked barley; pour in the soy sauce and marsala and simmer vigorously until most of the liquid has evaporated. Add both kinds of stock and the reserved liquid from the porcinis; season with salt & pepper. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 30 mins. Serve hot.

Because it’s a broth-based soup, it will freeze well; store tightly-covered for up to three months.

*As I mentioned, I had cooked barley left over that I wanted to use up.  If you are working with uncooked barley, refer to the Food52 recipe for instructions on how to add it in and how long to cook.