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Porcini, Cremini and Barley Soup

February 17, 2011

My pantry is in desperate need of reorganizing.  I don’t even know all I have in it. Most likely I either have too much of what I’m trying to phase out or I’m low on my true staples.  I shouldn’t even be sharing this with you–how embarrassing.

My pantry hasn’t always been in this poor state; I go through periods of being a neat freak, during which time I attack my linen closet, my refrigerator, my pantry–removing their contents and replacing the latter according to color, size, season, food group and cuisine, respectively.  Then for days I open the closet/refrigerator/pantry doors just to admire my wonderful homemaking skills.  Really.

Putting a positive spin on my pantry’s state of disorderliness, I found several items that I didn’t even know I had so I was able to create this soup.  The star? Pearl barley.  An unopened bag was hiding in one corner with spelt and quinoa, and the timing of my discovery couldn’t have been more perfect as I had a refrigerator and freezer to clean out also.  Remember this recent get-together with some friends? The evening left me with lots of leftovers (you’ll be seeing more leftover-inspired dishes soon) including mushrooms, tomato purée and potatoes; together with the barley, I hoped to create something hearty and nourishing.

Still, I wasn’t confident about the potential outcome of this hodge-podge of ingredients.  Sure barley and mushrooms are a popular pair (I also added dried porcini and the liquid) but I was a bit doubtful about adding the two cups of tomato purée that were left over from the party’s pizza course.  From a rare fit of meat-buying frenzy I also had two pounds of pork hocks that I was motivated to use.  And what about that Shaoxing wine that was in danger of going bad? What’s the shelf life of Shaoxing wine anyway? I’ve had mine for a couple of weeks. But I digress.

This soup was a home run, a winner.  It was rich like a full-bodied wine from the mushrooms, hearty from the vegetables and barley, bright from the thyme with added complexity from the Shaoxing wine.  With a cooking time of about one hour, there was still a hint of acidity from the tomatoes but by the following day, the flavors had all harmonized into one pot of thick, comforting, satisfying, hearty goodness. The soup dries out a bit between reheatings but adding just a bit of water still leaves a flavorful soup.

Porcini, Cremini and Barley Soup
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* The ingredient list looks long but I really was determined to clean out the fridge. You might have most items (or acceptable substitutes) handy already.
  • 7 – 8 cups stock (I used 4 cups broth from simmering the pork hocks and the rest chicken stock)
  • 2 1/2 cups fresh cremini mushrooms, sliced
  • Meat from pork hocks, optional
  • 1 cup dried porcini mushrooms, rehydrated in 1 cup warm water (about 100ºF) for about 20 minutes then chopped (you can substitute mixed dried wild mushrooms)
  • 1 cup reserved porcini mushroom liquid (from above)
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3 stalks celery, chopped
  • 2 carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 2 cups tomato purée (I used Pomi Strained Tomatoes)
  • 1 cup pearl barley
  • 4 baby potatoes, skin on, diced
  • 1/2 cup Shaoxing wine (you can probably substitute sherry wine)
  • 1/2 tablespoon butter
  • Olive Oil for sautéing
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 teaspoon to 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 – 2 teaspoons no-salt seasoning/herb blend

Start by rehydrating the dried porcini mushrooms in one cup of warm water.  Let them sit for about 2o minutes, drain and chop the mushrooms, saving the liquid.

In a large pot, sauté the onion in butter and olive oil over medium-high heat.  Cook until the onions are translucent, about 3-5 minutes, then add the celery and carrots.  Season with salt and pepper.  Cook for about three minutes before adding the potatoes and crimini and porcini mushrooms.  Cook for another 3-5 minutes.

Add the Shaoxing wine and allow to reduce for a couple of minutes before adding the tomato purée and reserved mushroom liquid, stock and barley.  Bring to a boil then lower heat to a simmer.

Note: If you have homemade pork stock, feel free to add the meat while the soup simmers. I omitted the meat in the main recipe to accommodate my husband but I added pieces of it when I served myself.

I simmered the soup for an additional 30-45 minutes, just until the barley was done and the acidity of the tomato purée cooked down a bit.  While it simmered, I added no-salt seasoning and soy sauce until the flavor was to my liking.  With just about 5 – 10 minutes of cook time left, I added the chopped thyme. Finish cooking and serve while hot.

31 Comments leave one →
  1. February 17, 2011 10:27 PM

    I so love mushrooms & barely! Looks like a perfect soup to go with all of the cold weather we have had this winter. My wife and I just reorganized our pantry and made an inventory list of all of our staple items. We keep the list in Evernote which syncs with our iPhones. It’s really convenient when we are out and not sure if we have an ingredient at home.

  2. February 17, 2011 10:33 PM

    Oh this looks so comforting right now. There’s just something about mushrooms that offers such a deep, warm flavor. Yum!

  3. February 17, 2011 10:42 PM

    This looks perfect for wintery days. My mom used to do this too with left overs. Congrats on cleaning up your pantry and thanks for sharing this gorgeous recipe. 🙂

  4. February 17, 2011 10:54 PM

    I’ve been looking for a recipe for a barley soup that inspires me and this is it! The mushrooms grabbed me – thanks, Jean. Have a fabulous weekend!

  5. February 18, 2011 1:04 AM

    Now that is one fine looking bowl of soup!

  6. February 18, 2011 5:20 AM

    Oh, boy, does that look like one fabulous soup!!! Thanks for sharing~

  7. February 18, 2011 6:34 AM

    Oh Jean, this looks like a dream of a hearty bowl of soup! Good luck with organizing your pantry, I just made a sweep of my fridge after a short trip. I put everything in a pot and made soup, didn’t want to go to the market in the rain. But, I would go to the market to find the ingredients to your recipe;-)

  8. February 18, 2011 7:15 AM

    That soup looks incredible! I was awarded a stylish blog award yesterday and asked to pass it on to the blogs that I am loving these days, so I am passing it on you! I have really enjoyed your blog and your photos are all so beautiful.

  9. February 18, 2011 7:32 AM

    I never think of barley though I do enjoy it when I have it in a soup. Pork hocks and mushrooms certainly take this to the next level — and your presentation is gorgeous.

  10. February 18, 2011 8:25 AM

    The soup looks wonderful! Hearty and comforting.

  11. February 18, 2011 8:30 AM

    This soup looks lovely, I also love barley. It’s so chewy and holds up well in soup. I can’t believe you made this by rummaging through your kitchen though – that’s awesome. Usually for me cooking involves a lot of planning.

  12. February 18, 2011 9:10 AM

    I’m so with you on the pantry thing, it’s not even funny. Don’t you wish they stayed organized forever? I’m not a huge mushroom fan, but this soup sounds really great.

  13. February 18, 2011 9:41 AM

    What a perfect soup for this stormy weather we have been having! I can see you and hubby enjoying this wonderful soup by the fire. The combination sounds amazing. I completely know what you mean by the disorganization of the pantry – just when I clean it up, several months go by and then it needs to be re-done. Enjoy the upcoming three day weekend!!! 🙂

  14. February 18, 2011 10:50 AM

    I have never been able to photograph a hearty soup in a way that makes it look not only delicious, but worthy of hanging on the wall. (Wait, did that sound like I wanted to hang this soup on the wall? Because I doubt there would be enough leftovers to do it…)

  15. February 18, 2011 11:07 AM

    How come my leftovers result in eggs n’ toast and grilled cheese kinda meals and yours result in such delicious creations? Clearly, you have a different caliber of leftovers 🙂 I hope you’re able to make it out tomorrow! It’d be great to see you!

  16. Hermione permalink
    February 18, 2011 11:14 AM

    That looks wonderful! I feel your organizational pain. I am missing a beater. How can it just vanish?

  17. February 18, 2011 11:24 AM

    mmmmm I love barley in soups! This looks incredible. Glad to see a great meal to come out of a disorderly pantry… mine is probably worse. I cleaned it 3 weeks ago and now I can’t find anything because it’s a mess, again.

  18. February 18, 2011 1:02 PM

    I am really in love with the deep hue of your soup! Something about it is so alluring! I love cleaning out my pantry and fridge, too. I always feel so resourceful and it often times leads to excellent meals! :-p Looks wonderful, Jean!

  19. February 18, 2011 1:07 PM

    I love porcini mushrooms! I need to try this soup, it looks great. I love soup this time of year, so perfect! 🙂

  20. February 18, 2011 1:22 PM

    I do the same thing with my pantry and fridge too! Its cleansing sometimes to go through and try and re-organize only to fail miserably at keeping it that way. This soup looks fantastic, I could definitely go for a bowl right now.

  21. February 18, 2011 1:50 PM

    Something about this weather just screams out for mushroom soups, doesn’t it? This looks beautiful! I recently had a delicious mushroom soup with barley, courtesy of my friend over on one of the Vancouver Islands, so I can totally get behind the flavours and nuttiness of the barley!

    Man, I miss my kitchen…

    Jax x

  22. February 18, 2011 10:02 PM

    Ah…this bowl of soup is what I need right now. Barley is such a hearty grain, and it adds such character to stews/soups. I am an organization freak, so whenever I visit my parents, I usually spend the first day cleaning/organizing their pantry. I need to find some inspiration next time with the products I’m “discovering”. Thank you for sharing your heart and these eats. I hope you have a blessed Saturday!

  23. February 19, 2011 3:30 PM

    hi Jean
    what a tasty hearty soup! The pork hocks must have given it so much flavor, and the crimini and barley finish it off perfectly!
    thanks for sharing this wonderful soup on such a cold windy day!


  24. February 20, 2011 6:21 AM

    Mmm I am a big mushroom lover and can never have enough — what wonderfully satisfying soup I’m sure!

  25. February 20, 2011 6:42 PM

    You just reminded me that, being busy and preoccupied with my hubby studio construction, I have been completely neglecting my kitchen. I’m scared to open my cabinets sometimes and with the little time to cook I have these days I think I might find so many expired or uninteresting things. You inspired me to make an ingredients hunt tomorrow, taking advantage of the long weekend. I wish I had a chance of finding barley but I’m sure I won’t…sigh…I love barley so much. A very basic staple in Italy very much unused until recently in the US. You made such a great soup with it. Bravo!

  26. February 21, 2011 1:40 AM

    The ‘clean out the kitchen’ soups are usually the best, unfortunately, they can rarely be repeated…. Anything with barley – and mushrooms, tomatoes….
    Now I have to get my pantry organized!

  27. February 21, 2011 6:45 AM

    pantry discoveries are very satisfying! and this one looks like a winner. It’s fun to play “desert island” and see how one would survive with a month of only pantry food 🙂

  28. February 21, 2011 4:49 PM

    Oh, Jean!! What a wonderful soup!! I’m on a bit of a mushroom obsession right now and actually found them in my pantry! I am just like you, I frequently have not idea what is in there and am so excited when I find a new treasure that I forgot I had. I’ve actually stood there and admired a cleaned out pantry too!
    We’ve left you a Stylish Award on our blog. Thanks for your wonderful posts!

  29. February 24, 2011 8:56 PM

    Ooo this looks so perfect for this random spell of chilly weather we’re having! So fun to hang out last weekend and hope you guys are staying warm!

  30. February 28, 2011 9:13 AM

    Hmmmm – this soup has delicious and comfort written all over it.

  31. March 1, 2011 6:30 PM

    This looks fantastic-love how rich it looks.

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