November, the time of year when we begin to desire comforting dishes to keep our bodies warm. Well, perhaps not this week given that NYC enjoyed a handful of days with temps in the 70s. No complaints here. I’m not ready for boots and hats and scarves and snow…
Nonetheless, the inevitable changing of the seasons has me thinking about soup. Love soup. I also happen to love mushrooms. So, why not combine my two loves and make a mushroom soup? Sounds pretty perfect to me.
This is a simple, hearty, comforting, vegetarian/vegan mushroom, potato, and barley soup that will fortify you for the cold winter months. Used cremini mushrooms, as I like their meaty texture, but feel free to use your preferred mushrooms. I don’t think you can go wrong when it comes to mushrooms.
I’ve seasoned the soup with Indian curry powder for a slightly different twist, garnished with fresh (garlic) chives and, one of my favorite herbs, fresh curry leaves.
If you can track down fresh curry leaves, they’re totally worth the effort. Avoid dried curry leaves, which have little aroma or flavor. You should be able to find fresh curry leaves at most Indian grocery stores (bought mine here for those of you in NYC) as well as at some Asian markets (am pretty sure I’ve seen them at my favorite Asian market, H-Mart; they have several locations dotted around the country). Of note, curry leaves freeze well.
Curry leaves are best quickly fried in a little oil or ghee, just a few seconds, until crispy. They give today’s soup a complex layer of flavor.
Simple and comforting…
I cooked the cremini mushrooms in a skillet until they got really nice and browned, before adding to the soup…
Making mushroom broth from dehydrated porcini mushrooms…
Not sure why I don’t eat more barley? I love its nuttiness and chewy texture.
Typically you’ll find two types of barley in grocery stores: hulled (my preference) and pearled.
Hulled barley is a whole grain, minimally processed, so that just the tough outer hull is removed and the bran and germ are retained, Hulled barley takes longer to cook (about 1 hour) than pearled barley, and is more nutritious.
Pearled barley is not a whole grain, the outer husk and bran layer have been removed. Pearled barley requires less cooking time (about 40 minutes) than hulled barley, though is not as nutritious.
To save time, I prepared the hulled barley ahead of time and then just added it to the soup at the end.
Mushroom, Curry, Barley Soup
1 ounce dried porcini mushrooms (reconstituted in 1 cup boiling water)
~ 1/4 cup olive oil, divided
1 pound cremini mushrooms, halved or cut in thirds if larger
3 small shallots or 1 medium onion, finely diced
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1/3 cup of dry (fino) sherry
1 tablespoons (hot) Indian curry spice blend
4 cups water
12 ounces of potatoes (such as yukon gold), cubed, skins on
1 1/2 cups cooked hulled barley (from 1 cup dried); I cooked the barley ahead of time (it takes about 1 hour to cook hulled barley)
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
(garlic) chives, finely chopped
*curry leaves, crisp in a skillet with a little oil or ghee
Reconstitute the dried porcini mushrooms in 1 cup of boiling water; let steep 20 minutes. Filter the mushroom broth and set aside. Roughly chop and reserve the rehydrated mushrooms
Heat a large skillet over high heat. Add a tablespoon or so of olive oil. When sizzling hot, add half the cremini mushrooms, making sure to not crowd the pan. Season with salt and pepper. Saute until nicely browned. Remove and set aside. Repeat with the remaining mushrooms.
Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil over in a large soup pot over medium-low heat. Add the shallots and garlic, and saute until soft but not browned, about 5 minutes. Add the sherry and deglaze the pan. Cook until the sherry has evaporated.
Add the curry powder and saute for 30 seconds. Add the reserved mushroom stock, rehydrated porcini mushrooms, sauteed crimini mushrooms, 4 cups of water, and the potatoes. Season generously with salt and pepper.
Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer until the potatoes are tender, about 10-15 minutes. Add the cooked barley and cook another minute or two until warmed through.
Taste and season as needed. Garnish with chives and crispy curry leaves.
*To crisp the curry leaves: Use the back of a chef’s knife to lightly bruise the leaves. Heat a teaspoon or two of oil in a small pot or skillet. When sizzling hot, add a handful of curry leaves, and cook for 30-60 seconds until slightly crispy and fragrant. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels.