This is such a comforting, filling and soothing soup. There are so many versions out there but this is my favorite. In this instance I’ve used organic chicken broth but vegetarians can substitute vegetable or mushroom broth for an equally delicious result.
It also helps if you forage for your own wild edible mushrooms.
Here I’ve included dried porcini mushrooms from a previous year’s haul – but if you aren’t a hunter/forager, dried porcini are widely available in small packets and add an earthy, meaty richness to the overall flavor that’s essential, in my opinion.
Like many soups, this tastes even better the following day and it freezes well.
MUSHROOM & BARLEY SOUP with PORCINI
3 quarts (3.4 liters) of organic stock – chicken, vegetable or mushroom
1 and 1/4 cups (300 ml measure) of pearl barley, rinsed and drained
2-3 tablespoons of hi-temp cooking oil such as avocado or grape-seed – divided
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 large carrots, peeled and finely chopped
2 sticks of celery, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced
A good handful of dried porcini mushrooms, soaked in a pint of very hot water for 15 minutes
1lb (1/2 a kilo) of small brown mushrooms, wiped clean, trimmed and sliced
2 bay leaves
Sea salt & freshly ground black pepper
In a large heavy pot with a lid, heat 1 tablespoon of oil and saute the onion until soft, then add the carrot, celery and garlic. Continue to cook until the vegetables have softened a bit.
Meanwhile, line a strainer with paper towel and strain the soaked and softened dried mushrooms, capturing all the liquid. Set the liquid aside and rinse the mushrooms under a little running water, then chop them finely and add them to the vegetables in the pot. Saute for a few minutes then add the barley, bay leaves, mushroom soaking liquid and the stock. Bring it to a boil then turn down to a simmer and put the lid on.
While that’s happening, heat the remaining oil in a wide skillet and saute the mushrooms (probably in 2 batches) over quite a high heat and with a good grind of sea salt, tossing them around until they’ve turned a nice golden brown. Add them to the pot with everything else, bring the soup back to a simmer, put the lid on and cook over a low heat for 1 hour.
After an hour, check to see if the barley is big and soft and the vegetables are tender. Add more stock and cook for another 30 minutes if needed – the soup should be really thick.
Check the seasoning, adding more salt if necessary and a really good grind of black pepper to taste.
If you’re making this ahead, reheat very gently, stirring from time to time.