Mushroom Barley Soup

Mushroom Barley Soup

This is another recipe I grew up with, and when the weather turns cool it’s one of my favorite—and easiest—things to make. It’s from an English kosher cookbook, called The Gourmet’s Guide to Jewish Cooking by Bessie Carr & Phyllis Oberman. It’s one of my mom’s most-used cookbooks, and she gave me a copy when I got married the first time. It’s filled with recipes for things I’ve never heard of, like Klops or Koklaten, Pepper Holishkes or Braised Bola. The book itself is classically uninviting, with butt-ugly food photos, almost no style in the layout, and terrible four-color printing. Some of the photos are as bad as these—there’s one called “Baked Worsht Potatoes” that appears to be baked potatoes with slices of kielbasa wedged into slits. At some point I’ll have to scan a bunch just so you can giggle along with me. It feels like a promotional book from the seventies—and what do you know, the copyright is 1973! But putting its hideousness aside, it does have the recipes for several of my favorite childhood dishes—tomato rice soup, goulash, sweet noodle kugel, and apple cake. Sigh. This is my comfort food, without a doubt.

A note on this recipe: It says it serves four, but I have never found that to be the case so I usually double—or triple—it.

Schwemelach (Dried Mushroom) and Barley Soup
1 T. oil or chicken fat
1 onion, chopped fine
1 carrot, diced
1 stick celery, diced
1 small piece turnip [we use rutabaga], diced
5 cups chicken broth [my mom uses Telma bouillon cubes, but I use a combo of cubes and canned broth]
1 t. salt [you can probably skip this if you use bouillon cubes]
1/8 t. pepper
¼ oz. (1 T) dried mushrooms*
2 oz. (1/4 cup) barley

Heat fat over medium-low heat in a large saucepan or stock pot, add vegetables, and saute gently until all the fat has been absorbed. Add the broth, seasonings, mushrooms, and barley, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, covered, for about 2 hours, until the soup is thick and the barley is cooked through.

Serve with crusty bread [my challah from the other day was just perfect!].

*We use a brand that’s in the kosher section of the supermarket, a small plastic container with a white top that says “Genuine Imported Dried MUSRHOOMS.” I’m pretty sure they’re garden variety button mushrooms, but porcini or some other variety would be delicious here, too.