Mushroom barley soup is right near the top of my “comfort food” list. I remember my grandma making it when I was little (and she made the best soups). Sadly, I don’t have grandma’s recipe. She was a taste, toss, and stir sort of cook). Nothing was ever written down! My mom still mourns not having her recipe for pickles.
However, this Tori Avey recipe comes close. Grandma wouldn’t have used fancy mushrooms, so neither did I, but you can add them if you like.
Grandma was from Poland, and as Tori Avey points out, mushrooms were a popular food there because you could dry them and store them for later use. Barley also grew well in that climate, and could be dried and stored for the winter when other foods were less plentiful. Mushroom barley soup was popular throughout the whole country, but since observant Jews had dietary restrictions (no mixing milk and meat), there were two versions of this soup. One with just vegetables (which could be eaten with sour cream) and one with meat (more on that below).
There’s no meat in this recipe, but I did use chicken broth. If you want a vegetarian version, you can substitute mushroom broth or vegetable stock instead.
As is, there’ s not a lot of fancy ingredients, and it’s just the thing for a chilly fall or winter day when all you want to do is snuggle inside a warm blanket in front of a fireplace. And you haven’t got a fireplace!
Also, since I’m lazy about pot cleaning, I simplified it. Only one pot! Not two or three. And I made fewer servings, because 8 is too much!
Mushroom Barley Soup Substitutions and Variations
- use vegetable or mushroom stock instead of chicken
- add upscale dried or fresh mushrooms, such as shiitake or chanterelle
- try it with flanken (short ribs, or spare ribs cut sideways with little oval bones)
- deglaze the pan with a bit of sherry or white wine before adding the broth