Looking for an easy flavourful yet wholesome soup for the winter doldrums? This triple-mushroom recipe is the perfect antidote to snow, cold, rain, wind, or whatever weather is making you crave a sturdy soup. Even if you live in more temperate climes, this soup should cure any longing for mushrooms in a full-flavoured yet exceedingly nutritious meal.
I had been looking to use up a gift of a handful of dried porcini from Poland and had some organic cremini on hand, making me think mushroom soup would be in order. This recipe recently appeared on Smitten Kitchen, from which I adapted it slightly (it originally was in the New York Times). As Smitten Kitchen was the first food blog I followed, I thought this recipe would be appropriate for my first visit from a food blog-buddy I had never met before - in person, that is – Jackie of I Am A Feeder.
Jackie’s site never fails to entertain or educate me. I find it very unusual to discover consistently humourous food blogs. There are those blogs, which have to use “LOL”, “LMAO”, or such to let me know they are supposed to be funny; hers is not one of them. I first came across Jackie’s site it while waiting for a flight at YVR (the Vancouver airport, where there is free WiFi!) last May, and it made me chuckle out loud (“COL”?), in the U.S.-departures lounge. Since then, we have been following each other’s sites. While we missed getting together in the UK during our visit last October, Jackie made it out to our little island in the Pacific.
I went into Vancouver first to meet Jackie, and the two of us visited some Vancouver food and culinary hot-spots and not-so-hot-spots, as Jackie mentioned on her site. It was fun to get to know each other in town and back on the island, via very different experiences. I thought it would be good to introduce Jackie to slow-cooker Italian beef sandwiches, a distinctive Chicago specialty, to prepare for her upcoming visit there. But the mushroom soup seemed to be a good starter for the meal, if not a traditional one.
I had just about everything on hand for the soup. We popped out to the local market for some more mushrooms and barley, spelt, or faro (“far-what?” was the clerk’s response, when I asked), but fortunately the shop across the road had “pot” barley – I wonder if they stock this variety for its cheeky reference to British Columbia’s major economic driver).
As it is not quite spring in B.C., it is time for a gratuitous floral interlude, amidst all this brown soup:
For the review and recipe…
Jackie helped out, with her impressive knife-wielding skills. She thought my 25-year-old Henckel knives were sharp, but I think it is time to have them sharpened, as I have not done so for nearly two years.
With no knife sharpening on the island, one has to wait for the annual visit of a tinkerers’ truck from a neighbouring island in May. An American-born former-M.D. and her German-born husband are itinerant knife-sharpeners and do basic mechanical repairs. They visit in the spring for the annual Bob Dylan birthday party on our island and set up shop from their truck. It is part of the charm of island living: one cannot have knives sharpened whenever one wants, but, when May rolls around, someone proficient in surgery and her German husband will do a respectable job with your knives – and just in time for the Bob Dylan potluck and musical celebration.
The beauty of Deb’s recipe on Smitten Kitchen (or, the mother of Marian Burros, originally) is that it is versatile. The grains can be either faro, spelt, or barley, and I found that apple cider vinegar was a good substitute for sherry vinegar - among my many vinegars, I found I had none of the sherry variety. As I had a bit more than ½ cup of the dried porcini, I used them all, even though a bit more than the amounts in the original version. This recipe is easy to prepare, and I cannot think of a better mushroom soup I have had.
This can be a vegetarian soup, by substituting all vegetarian or mushroom broth for the beef stock (or chicken). Beef stock, however, would make an even more profound soup. I happened to have organic mushroom and organic chicken stock but no beef, unfortunately; the soup turned out to be flavourful, complex, and satisfying, nevertheless.
This soup is a very earthy profoundly mushroom experience. With dried porcini, fresh cremini, and mushroom stock, it is a mushroom triple threat: singing, acting, and dancing for your pleasure. The texture of the cremini complemented the thick rich broth, which had a deep flavour. It is almost more of a stew than a soup, with its hearty but not heavy texture. While the chewy barley makes it a classic wintry soup, tiny bits of carrot sprinkled throughout give it a bit of colour and verve. All in all, a fine soup for a food-blogging visit or any other occasion.
Triple Mushroom-Barley Soup, adapted from Marian Burros’s mother, in the New York Times, via Smitten Kitchen
Makes about 7 cups
- 1/2 cup dried mushrooms, e.g., porcini (the original recipe had 1/3)
- 2 tablespoons oil
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 1 medium carrot, diced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 pound mushrooms (white, cremini, shiitake or whatever mixture you like; I used organic cremini)
- 1/2 cup barley or faro or spelt, rinsed
- 6 cups low sodium or salt-free broth or stock, preferably organic (I used 2/3 mushroom stock and 1/3 chicken but beef or vegetable would work, substitute as needed for vegans)
- 1/4 cup dry sherry
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar (the original had sherry vinegar)
- Cover dried mushrooms with one cup of boiling water; put aside for 20 minutes or so, while you prepare the soup.
- Clean (with a soft brush), trim, and slice mushrooms. Chop the mushrooms to your desired texture, though they should be recognizable as mushrooms – not finely minced.
- Heat oil in heavy-bottomed deep pot.
- Sauté onions and carrots over medium heat until onions begin to color, about 10 to 15 minutes.
- Add garlic, and sauté for 30 seconds, until fragrant.
- Add fresh mushrooms, and cook until they begin to release liquid, about 5 to 10 minutes.
- Raise heat and add barley; sauté until it begins to colour
- Add broth, sherry, and tomato paste.
- Drain the reconstituted porcini and chop them finely; strain the mushroom-soaking liquid to remove any grit and add liquid into pot with the reconstituted mushrooms.
- Season with salt and pepper, and simmer for about 45 minutes, or until the barley is tender.
- Stir in cider vinegar, adjust seasonings, and serve.