Mushrooms have long been associated with medicine and magic. Referenced by the Romans as “food of the gods” and “plants of immortality” by the Ancient Egyptians, mushrooms were fit for consumption by royalty. In fact commoners were forbidden from eating them. Eastern cultures, such as in China and Japan, have been using mushrooms for medicinal purposes dating back two thousand years. The health benefits of the ingredients include: Selenium (good for bones, nails, hair and teeth as well as being an antioxidant), Calcium, Vitamin D, Copper (antibacterial), Potassium, Fiber, and Zinc — to name only a few.
One of my favorite soups is wild mushroom soup. Although I typically go dairy free with my soups, there is something about the combination of the mushrooms, herbs and cream that make my tastebuds soar. Anytime I see it on a restaurant menu, my eyes light up and I am compelled to try it. On the other hand, I haven’t always appreciated mushroom barley soup. Perhaps it was barley, but I would typically skip right over it without a second thought.
A few years ago, I was invited for dinner where mushroom barley soup was being served. During that experience, I had a mushroom barley soup awakening and really liked it. In fact, I appreciated the graininess of the barley, as it gives the soup a filling and hearty dimension. Not only did I like the way it tastes but I knew that it was doing wonders for my digestive tract, inviting the kinds of bacteria my intestines needs to stay healthy. Fortunately, I have never had cholesterol issues, but another bonus is that barley has been proven to demonstrate multiple benefits for those battling high cholesterol as well. Gluten-free eaters don’t need to shy away from this soup as the barley can easily be replaced with brown or wild rice which is also rice in nutrients.
I quickly took to making it in my own kitchen, playing with ingredients. I learned that although I like barley in the soup, there has to be just the right ratio of ingredients, my preference heavy on the mushrooms and light on the barley, avoiding a grain overkill. I add other vegetables such as carrots and celery as a base, but I also like to include a bit of fresh chopped spinach for an extra superfood boost.
It has become a soup that I make often for my family and is one of my best sellers when preparing it for others.
What you will need:
Saute pan (optional can also use the soup pot)
Strainer (s) to clean mushrooms and barley.
Bowls for ingredients
30 ounces of mixed mushrooms:
My preference: 10 ounces of cremini mushrooms, 10 ounces of button mushroom, 4 ounces portabella mushrooms, 4 ounces of shitake mushrooms
1/4 – 1/2 half cup pearl barley (depending on personal preference of barley); for gluten-free users 1/2 cup of brown or wild rice
1/2 half cup of diced carrots
1/2 half cup of diced celery
1 medium to large chopped onion
4-6 cloves of garlic minced
1 cup fresh chopped spinach
1 cup of wine (red or white)
8 cups of vegetable broth (meat eaters can use beef broth).
1-2 sprigs of fresh thyme or 1 tablespoon dried thyme
2 bay leaf leaves
1 tablespoon of turmeric
Salt and Pepper
Heat pan/pot with with a tablespoon of olive oil.
Add the chopped onions and garlic and mix on low heat.
Mix in turmeric and thyme.
Add salt and pepper to your liking.
Caramelize the onions and garlic until a golden color. Then turn off.
Wash and slice mushrooms.
Rinse the barley in a strainer.
If the onions & garlic are in the pan, transfer to soup pot.
Mix the onions, garlic, carrots, celery and mushrooms together. First start with heat at off then turn to low to medium heat.
Add broth, barley (or rice), wine and bay leaves to the mix.
Leave on medium heat to low heat.
Will typically take an hour to cook. I don’t like the barley too mushy, so I typically check the barley around 45 minutes later.
Since the barley and rice absorb water, you may need to add more water.
When you are ready to completely turn off the heat, remove the bay leaves, add the cup of spinach and stir together.
Salt and pepper to taste.