Hearty Mushroom and Barley Soup

Hearty Mushroom and Barley Soup

Just like the animals in the field (or the squirrels in the backyard, as the case might be), we humans feel the need to "stock up" on nutrients as fall turns into winter. For me and many other vegetarians, this often takes the form of thick, hearty and nourishing soups. And for me, these kinds of soups are a great excuse to load in the succulent mushrooms.

This mushroom and barley soup loaded with vegetables and seasoned with dried herbs and spices is just the thing to warm and nourish the body as the cold weather sets in. I call it a soup, but it can be prepared almost as a thick stew or in a thinner broth as you please — it simply depends on how much stock or water you use. Either way, it's delicious, pleasing and comforting.

Note: I like to reserve the mushroom soaking liquid to use as part of the soup broth, much like I do when I soak sun-dried tomatoes. This really enhances the earthy mushroom experience of the soup.

  • 1 oz (28 g) dried mixed mushrooms
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 to 3 shallots, finely chopped
  • 1 medium carrot, diced
  • 2 celery stalks, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced or crushed
  • 2 to 3 red chilies, seeded and finely chopped
  • 1 lb (450 g) button mushrooms, sliced
  • 1/2 tablespoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon dried dill
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary
  • 1 teaspoon garam masala (optional)
  • 2 medium tomatoes, chopped
  • 2/3 cup coconut milk
  • 3 to 4 cups vegetable stock or water, or as needed
  • 2/3 cup pearl barley
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt, or to taste
  • juice from 1 lemon (3 tablespoons)
  • Soak the dried mushrooms in 1 cup of hot water for 30 minutes. Drain, reserving the soaking water, and chop. Set aside.
  • Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan or soup pot over medium heat. When hot, sauté the shallots, carrot and celery for 5 minutes. Add the garlic, chilies, dried mushrooms and fresh mushrooms. Cook for another few minutes until the mushrooms begin to release their juices.
  • Toss in the paprika, coriander, cumin, turmeric, dill, thyme, rosemary and garam masala if using. Stir for 1 minute, then stir in the tomato and cook for another few minutes to soften.
  • Pour in the reserved mushroom soaking water, coconut milk, stock or water, and barley. Bring to a gentle boil, reduce the heat to medium-low, and cover. Simmer until the vegetables and barley are tender, about 35 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add more stock or water as needed to achieve your desired consistency.
  • Stir in the salt and lemon juice and taste for seasoning. Serve hot.

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