Melt the winter doldrums with mushroom barley soup

Julie Falsetti
For The York Dispatch

It’s mid-January, and the winter doldrums have set in. The only redeeming virtue is a pretext to eat more soup.

Soups warm your heart, soul and stomach. Inexpensive and filling, soup is also great way to boost your veggie intake and keep you hydrated.

You can never have too many soup recipes. Just ask my daughter. She has a few favorite soups, and they were appearing in the menu rotation far too often for the rest of her family. To solve the problem, the date they were served was marked on a calendar so their appearance would be limited to once a month.

To add to your soup repertoire, try mushroom barley soup, a New York deli staple. In Eastern Europe, mushrooms were harvested in the fall, then dried and stored for the winter. Paired with barley, they produced a hearty soup that made people forget the long, cold nights of winter.

The mushroom barley soup recipe below is a bit different from the usual version in that it doesn’t use beef stock as a base. Instead, it gets its umami boost from dried porcini mushrooms. To further enhance the flavor, the soup has a mirepoix (sauteed onions, carrots and celery) base.

Dried porcini mushrooms can be found in the produce section of most supermarkets. For the rest of the soup, I like baby bellas, but you can use any combination of fresh mushrooms.

Robust and filling, mushroom barley soup makes a great addition to your winter soup roundup.

Mushroom barley soup helps combat the winter doldrums and expand your soup recipe repertoire.

Mushroom Barley Soup

  • 1 ounce dried porcini mushrooms
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 carrot, finely chopped
  • 1 celery stalk, finely chopped
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 8 ounces fresh mushrooms, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup chopped tomatoes
  • 2 cups water or vegetable broth
  • ½ cup barley
  • 1 teaspoon thyme
  • 1 tablespoon chopped parsley
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • A few grindings of pepper

Put the dried porcini in a small pot with 4 cups of very hot water. Let soak for 30 minutes.

Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the carrots, celery and onion. Cook for 7 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add another tablespoon of olive oil and add the sliced fresh mushrooms. Cook for about 5 minutes or until the mushrooms are browned. Add the tomatoes and cook for another minute.

Using a slotted spoon, remove the porcini from their soaking liquid. Coarsely chop, then add them to the soup pot. Carefully pour the mushroom soaking liquid into the soup pot, leaving any grit from the mushrooms behind. Add the water or broth, barley, thyme, parsley, soy sauce, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, and then lower the heat to a simmer and cook covered for 30 to 40 minutes, until the barley has cooked. Taste for salt and pepper before serving.

— Julie Falsetti, a York native, comes from a long line of good cooks. Her column, From Scratch, runs twice monthly in The York Dispatch food section. Reach her with questions and comments at