Mushroom barley soup


Jon bought some new shoes last week. On one of those days when it was raining like the monsoon, he sent me an email just after arriving at work which said that his trustworthy Sketchers had holes in the soles and his feet were wet, so he had decided it was time to buy a new pair of shoes. Since this was an important purchase, he felt that it was only right to include me in the decision making process, and he sent me two links – “what do you think of these?” he wrote. I clicked on the first one and saw a pair of shoes almost exactly identical to the ones with the hole in the sole. I clicked on the second one, then went back to the email to check the links again. Oh no, wait, I squinted at the shoes on the screen and saw what I had missed the first time: the second pair had cream stripes, the first had tan. I emailed him back saying that they were both lovely and I couldn’t decide so I would leave it up to him. Several hours went past, and then I got another email. “I bought the second pair!” it said, triumphantly. “Great!” I replied, “when you get them, can we throw the old ones away?” “Well obviously,” he said, “why else would I have bought new ones?”

The new shoes arrived a few days later and sat in their box for a week. The shoes with the hole in the sole remained by the front door, in use. Then, today, Jon opened the box and carefully removed the new shoes. “Yay!” I said, “Let’s throw the old ones away now!” I went to remove the old shoes. “NO!!!” he cried, “I haven’t tried them on yet!” So I waited while he tried on the (same model, same size) new shoes, and then while he pronounced them a perfect fit. “Great, let’s chuck the old ones. Are you wearing the new ones today?” I asked. “WHAT??” He said, shocked. “No! It might rain! I need to wear these in first before I wear them out and get them ruined. THEN we can throw away the old ones.”

Is this just a man thing? A similar thing happens in this house with soup. We have a thing called Soup of the Week. It’s a soup that we make usually on a Sunday, and it lasts for most of the week, and it means that there’s always a healthy and delicious starter on week nights. We have a number of standard soups in our repertoire which get cycled around again and again, and then some new additions every now and then, most of which are OK, but don’t make it into the top list. One of Jon’s favourite soups is mushroom barley soup. It’s warming, really tasty, fragrant and perfect for winter. Jon LOVES it. He loves it so much he doesn’t really want to eat it, and conditions have to be really quite wintery before he will allow it. I think his fear is that he will have the soup, and then the week after will turn out to be worse weather and exactly the kind of conditions which would make him want to have mushroom barley soup, but he wouldn’t want to have the same soup two weeks in a row. “What soup shall we have this week?” I will ask as we consider the weekend Waitrose trip. “Mushroom barley?” “WHAT??” Jon will say, as the snow falls outside and we shiver under blankets. “It’s not cold enough for that!” Last year, I think we only had mushroom barley soup twice, because it was never deemed quite cold or wintery enough to make it. This week, it’s not actually that cold, but it is Christmas, and Christmas means wintery and cold, even if it actually isn’t. So, mushroom barley soup is bubbling away on the hob right now, Jon’s new shoes have been placed carefully back in their box and the old ones are waiting for him by the front door, as it’s going to rain tomorrow. Happy new year!

Makes around 8 portions

  • 50g dried porcini mushrooms
  • 150g shiitake mushrooms
  • 250g portabellini mushrooms
  • 3 medium carrots
  • 250ml pearl barley
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • Around 700ml vegetable stock
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  1. Soak the porcini mushrooms in around 700ml boiling water.
  2. Put the pearl barley in a sieve, rinse and drain it.
  3. Finely dice the carrots, and then heat about 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large saucepan, and add the carrots. Keep it on a medium heat and stir occasionally.
  4. While this is happening, slice the mushrooms, and add these to the saucepan.
  5. Continue stirring and cooking, add a little salt and pepper and keep going for around 5 minutes.
  6. Add the barley to the carrots and mushrooms and continue to cook on a medium-low heat.
  7. Put a layer of kitchen towel into the sieve and put the sieve over the jug of stock or another bowl. Pour the porcinis into the sieve, so that the mushrooms can be removed and the gritty bits which are always hanging around in dried mushrooms stay on the kitchen towel.
  8. Finely chop the porcinis and add them to the saucepan.
  9. Add the stock, the mushroom liquid if not already combined, and the soy sauce. Add the bay leaf.
  10. Bring to the boil and then lower the heat to a simmer and cook for 20 to 30 minutes, until the barley is very tender. Add salt and pepper to taste.

*Approximate nutritional values (1 generous bowl)*

  • Calories: 124kcal
  • Carbs: 19.3g
  • Fat: 3.25g
  • Protein: 4.1g
  • Sugar: 2.1g
  • Sodium: 643mg

*Baby friendly version*

It is easy to take a portion out of this soup before adding the salt and soy sauce. Put that in its own saucepan, and simmer as above. With the tiny diced carrots, peal barley and mushrooms this contains lots of fun textures that a baby starting out with food would probably really enjoy.


3 thoughts on “Mushroom barley soup

  1. LOVE this post.
    It is a man thing, most definitely. Except that Marc would never throw out the shoes. You see, they may come in handy for (a) gardening; (b) painting (c) insert some other activity, none of which we actually ever do.
    Can’t wait to try the soup!

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