By Barbara Adach
This rich, warming soup is perfect for late autumn when we need to fortify ourselves against the cooler weather and the typical cold viruses that are around at that time.
Mushrooms are a delicious fall food, and they combine well with the earthiness of barley. Chinese medicine nutrition identifies mushrooms as supporting the Lungs (respiration) and the Spleen and Stomach (digestion). Interestingly, the Lungs are challenged by the cooler, dryer weather of autumn and foods that are white in colour –like mushrooms – give them a helpful boost. Western nutrition notes mushroom’s low calorie count, and immune boosting and antioxidant properties.
6 servings, approximately 2 hours to prepare and cook
- 1 lb mushrooms (any kind, but for a more interesting, richer taste try a combination of shiitake, oyster and portobello)
- 2 medium onions
- 3 medium carrots
- 1 stalk of celery
- ½ of a sweet pepper (any colour)
- 1 or 2 cloves of garlic
- ¼ cup of olive oil
- 6 cups of water (or chicken or beef broth)
- 1 cup of barley*, rinsed
- 1 bay leaf
- ¼ cup fresh parsley, chopped
- salt (try sea salt or Himalayan pink salt for extra minerals) and pepper (fresh ground is livelier) to taste
*What kind of barley is in your cupboard? If it is hulled barley (most nutritious, least processed), it takes quite a long time to cook. If it is pot barley (more processed, slightly less nutritious), it will take less time to cook. Pearled barley (most processed, and a bit less nutritious than pot barley) takes the least time to cook. They are all delicious!
Slice mushrooms, chop onions and dice carrots, celery and sweet pepper.
Warm the olive oil in a large, heavy soup pot over medium heat. Add onions, celery and carrots. Stir and cook until onions are translucent. Crush garlic and add to pot, stirring while cooking until fragrant – take care not to burn garlic. Add sweet pepper, mushrooms and bay leaf. Stir as mushrooms cook and juices are extracted (about 5 minutes). Add barley to pot and stir carefully for a few minutes. Add water or stock and stir to mix all ingredients. Add a pinch of salt, stir and cover. Bring to the boil then reduce heat to a simmer. Cook for about 1 hour (test barley for tenderness). If the soup is too thick, adjust with more water or stock. Before serving, remove bay leaf and add another pinch of salt and some fresh ground black pepper to taste. Ladle into bowls, garnish with chopped parsley and serve.
If you are sensitive to wheat, you may also be sensitive to barley. If this is the case, you can substitute other grains such as rice or quinoa. If you substitute rice, you may need to cook the soup a bit longer (depending on the type of rice you use). If you choose quinoa, reduce water or stock to 4 cups and reduce cooking time to about 20 to 30 minutes.
Barbara Adach studied acupuncture at the Institute of Traditional Medicine. She has a great passion for nutritious foods and she teaches nutrition at Eight Branches Academy in Toronto. She also works as a clinical assistant at the Pacific Wellness Institute.