This is the last weekend of February and, while is was warm and sunny a couple of days last week, we are going to have a cold, rainy, dark weekend. Perfect for a warming soup.
Mushroom barley soup. A brilliant combination…but with a twist. I don’t like the heaviness of the traditional beef broth in this soup, so I use chicken broth instead. Homemade is best but a good quality purchased broth works fine. If you want to go totally meatless, use a favorite homemade or purchased vegetable broth.
leek (or onion)
First put about a cup of pearled barley into a 2 cups of water. The water should cover the barley by at least an inch. The water is to soften the barley and to rinse it. Often barley can get “slimy” but not if you soak it first.
Next cut up two or three carrots, two ribs of celery, and a leek (a small onion is a fine substitute here). Saute the vegetables for three to five minutes in about three tablespoons of butter. Just to get them soft.
Next add about a pound of cleaned and chopped mushrooms. I remove the stems but really only the hard end of the root needs to be removed. A variety of mushrooms is great but so is a pound of favorite mushrooms. This is a great soup to use up all those extra mushrooms sitting in the refrigerator Stir the vegetables and mushrooms around and let them saute for another minute or so.
Next pour in about 4 cups of broth and then add about 2 cups of water. Any broth is acceptable. Beef, chicken, vegetable. I prefer chicken. Chicken broth makes a lighter, buttery broth. It’s all about what flavor is your favorite.
Stir the pot. Completely. On medium heat, bring the soup up to a boil. Then put a lid on it and simmer on a very low setting for 3 to 4 hours. If you have to leave the soup, leave the lid on, turn the heat off, and turn it on again when you return to it. Stir it.
About a half hour before serving, taste for salt. Salt to your preference.
This is a delicious and comforting soup served with a crusty bread and good butter or with a sharp cheddar cheese and crackers or with a favorite cheese melted over that good crusty bread.
And, as always, soup is better the next day! You’ll be warmed for days!