Well, technically, if you are making my version of Mushroom Barley Soup, it should actually be classified as a stew. Both my husband and I love barley, so I feel no need to use moderation when adding the pearly grain. So many recipes I see for this type of soup use a paltry 1/3 cup of dried barley with 8 cups of broth – ridiculous! The recipe below is filled with barley and mushrooms, and it makes a hearty meal for two, or a light lunch for three. And when I say hearty, I mean it. I am sitting here typing this with an ever-expanding belly having just downed this entire bowl …
Also, I lost track on how much salt I used (bad I know!), but it was somewhere around ½ teaspoon, plus I added 1 teaspoon of miso paste (optional, can just add salt to taste; we tend to splurge on the salt with soups). The amount of salt you need will vary quite a bit depending on the saltiness of the broth and tomato paste you use and how salty you like the end result. I used the organic beef broth from Trader Joe’s, but I was ½ cup shy, so I added water to get to the full 4 cups. I also used a tomato paste that was simply tomatoes, no added sodium or flavors. While I do recommend beef broth, chicken broth or no chicken broth could be subbed in a pinch, and I think the mushroom broth from Pacific Foods would be good; I buy it whenever I find it for a good price, which is rare.
Okay, one last note … I was completely out of other veggies, but if you like, feel free to add in some diced carrots and/or celery for some added nutrition and flavor.
Hearty Mushroom Barley Soup / Stew
1 Tablespoon Oil (I used grapeseed, but Olive or Vegetable will do)
½ Medium Onion, slivered (about 1¼ cups)
½ Cup Dry Barley, rinsed (I used the inexpensive pearl barley)
2 Large Garlic Cloves, Minced (or about 2 teaspoons bottled minced garlic)
1 Teaspoon Dried Thyme
8 Ounces Sliced Button or Cremini Mushrooms
4 Cups (1 quart) Beef or Mushroom Broth
1 Tablespoon Tomato Paste
1 Teaspoon Balsamic Vinegar
1 Bay Leaf
¼ -1 Teaspoon Salt to Taste
1 Teaspoon Miso Paste (or simply more salt to taste)
Freshly Ground Black Pepper to Taste
Heat the oil in a stock pot over medium heat. Add the onions, and sauté for about 5 minutes, or until they are translucent. Reduce the heat just a touch, add the barley, garlic, and thyme, and sauté for another 3 to 5 minutes. Stir in the mushrooms, followed by the broth, tomato paste, vinegar, bay leaf, and I would start with ¼ teaspoon of salt and the miso if using. Bring the soup to a boil, reduce the heat to low, cover, and allow the soup to simmer for at least 1 hour, or until the barley is nice and tender. Season to taste with additional salt (see my notes in the post above) and black pepper to taste.
Yields 2 hearty, meal-sized servings
I had planned to make this soup crockpot-style, but as usual, I ran out of time. It should do well in a slow cooker; set on low for 6 to 8 hours, allowing the barley time to cook.