Vegan Mushroom Barley Soup

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Cool nights call for a steaming bowl of soup, a hearty and satisfying bowl of warmth and nourishment. This vegan mushroom barley soup gratifies in so many ways. A mirepoix of celery, onions and carrots give it much flavour, mushrooms make it 'meaty' and hearty, and barley lends a load of fibre and protein to this substantial soup.

Granted it doesn't cook in a flash, but most of the time required is inactive, or waiting, time. And for someone like me who likes, or rather, needs to prepare multiple meals at a time, a dish like this is ideal. Because most of the time, the other dish is a quicker, maybe fussier, hands-on kind. Yes, you could and would find something to do in the kitchen for sure while waiting for this glorious soup to take form.

Now if you haven't tried barley, now's the time to jump on the bandwagon, because barley in soup is a match made in a Dutch oven heaven. It gives the soup some bite, much needed fiber and protein, and is quite filling. So this vegan mushroom barley soup is actually a whole meal, not just a side.

Most of the barley sold in stores will be pearl barley. Essentially, the barley grain with the hull, bran, and germ removed, making it easier to prepare and digest. It has been polished and is off-white in colour. Barley is rich in beneficial nutrients, with one cup providing 6 grams of fiber (24%), 4 grams of protein, 2 mg (12%) of iron, a slew of B vitamins, and minerals such as selenium, phosphorus and manganese. So rather than having toast with my soup, I'd rather have barley.

It's relatively easy to prepare. Just rinse and boil 1 cup of barley with 3 cups of water. Do it in your rice cooker for a hands-free experience. And how do you know when the barley is done? It will have softened and doubled in size, but will still remain chewy.

You can enjoy it in soups, which is the most popular way to have them. You can substitute it for arborio rice and make a dang good risotto with it. You can have it in place of your morning oatmeal, as a porridge, or toss it in salads. And from Greece and Britain to Southeast Asia, barley water is savoured, often with lemon or lime. So go get a pack or buy it from the bulk bins today!

This recipe serves 4 as a main or 6 to 8 as a side dish.

4 tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, finely diced
4 carrots, finely diced
4 celery stalks, finely diced
1 cup pearl barley, rinsed
4 tbsp flour
450 g (1 lb) cremini or baby bella mushrooms, diced
6 cups vegetable broth
1 tbsp savoury spice mix*
1 tsp thyme
1 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper

* usually sold in grocery stores, savoury is a blend of rosemary, thyme, marjoram, onion powder and black pepper.

1. In a heavy bottomed stock pot or a Dutch oven, warm the oil on medium heat.
2. Add the onions, carrots, and celery, and cook, covered, until soft. This will take about 6-8 minutes. Stir a few times.

3. Add the pearl barley, stir to combine, cover, and cook for 4-5 minutes.
4. Stir in the flour, mixing until no visible lumps remain.
5. Add the chopped mushrooms, broth, and the seasonings.
6. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 40-45 minutes until the barley is tender.

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