This heart-healthy recipe for whole foods mushroom barley soup is a great vegan variation on the classic dish found in most eastern European and Jewish restaurants. Strengthening for digestion and excellent for building the blood, mushroom barley soup is a wonderful, warming, fall/winter food.
Barley is a rich source of plant fiber and nourishes intestinal health, as well as lowering cholesterol and being an excellent source of nutrients. We love the addition of dried shiitake mushrooms for their medicinal and healing value: they are purported to improve immunity, strengthen the heart and cardiovascular function, and aid in the body's detoxification process. You can certainly substitute a rich bone broth (grass-fed beef broth or a good homemade free-range chicken broth add to the richness and nutritive value if you're thus inclined).
This soup is a cost-effective meal in itself, and invites plenty of variation: feel free to add a parsnip, turnip, rutabaga, sweet potato, or leek to this soup. Serve it with a green salad and a nice hunk of sourdough bread, and you've got a meal.
To our gluten-free friends: substitute Job's Tears or short grain brown rice for the barley, which is one of the top gluten-containing grains.
- 3 tablespoons olive or untoasted sesame oil
- 1/4 ounce dried shiitake mushrooms (soaked in 1 cup hot water)
- 1 1/2 pounds assorted mushrooms (creminis mixed with at least 6 ounces shiitakes, sliced)
- 1/4 cup shallots (chopped)
- 1 small onion (chopped)
- 1 stalk celery (diced)
- 1 carrot (diced)
- 1/2 cup pearled barley
- 4 cups vegetable stock (or water)
- 4 tablespoons tamari
- 1 branch fresh thyme
- 1 bay leaf
- Sea salt to taste
- Freshly ground pepper to taste
- Garnish: chopped fresh dill
Gather the ingredients.
Heat the oil over medium flame in a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan or 3-quart pot.
Drain the soaked shiitakes, reserving liquid.
Chop the shiitakes fairly fine and add them to the pot along with the sliced mushrooms, chopped shallots, onions, celery, carrot, and barley.
Increase the heat to medium high, and cook vegetables, stirring often, until the mushrooms have browned and the vegetables are beginning to soften, about 10 minutes.
Add the soaking liquid from the dried shiitake mushrooms, vegetable stock, tamari, thyme, and bay leaf. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover, and simmer 40 minutes. Add more water or stock if the soup seems too thick.
Check the soup for seasoning and add a pinch of sea salt and freshly ground pepper if needed.
Remove the thyme branch and bay leaf. Sprinkle the soup with dill and serve.
This soup holds well—and is even better the next day—but will thicken as it sits. Simply add a bit of stock or water when reheating.