Lentil Mushroom Soup with Barley

A few weeks back I was sitting with a friend in a bakery and he was eating what looked like a mushroom and lentil soup with maybe some barley in it. It looked and smelled delicious, so good I actually pondered grabbing a spoon and joining him! I actually never caught the true name of the soup, but since I was on my way to the grocery store, I added lentils and chicken broth to my list, making a mental note I had some barley in the larder.

During the month of December which is dark, cold, filled with way too many sweets, a hearty and cozy soup like this is just perfect for lunches and even dinner. I found this a perfect comfort soup; warm, flavorful, healthy, and the best thing of all, super inexpensive!

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Lentil Mushroom Soup with Barley
Makes 4-5 cups, but can easily be doubled.
Takes 30-40 minutes from start to finish

I like the heartier flavor of baby bella mushrooms in this soup; it adds a certain earthiness to the broth. To save money on the grocery bill, buy just the right amount of lentils and barley in bulk.  

2 teaspoons of olive oil
3 cloves of garlic, large, finely minced
1 medium onion, minced
2 carrots, peeled and diced finely
2 cups chopped mushrooms
½ cup brown lentils
½ cup pearled barley
4-plus cups chicken or vegetable broth, or water
A splash of white wine (optional)
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat the olive oil in a large Dutch oven. When warm, add the garlic, onion, and carrots, cook until the onions are transluscent and the carrots soft. Add the mushrooms and stir until they start to lose their juices. Add the broth, and lentils and barley. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and cook until the lentils and barley are finished cooking. Add more water or broth to the soup to thin it out if needed. Add a couple splashes of white wine for flavor to the broth if using.

Cook’s Notes: While this is tasty without herbs, I thought perhaps some thyme might be a nice addition. Also, if you have any spinach or kale in the fridge, it wouldn’t hurt to add those as well.

Comfort in a Bowl

You know those days you just want to crawl under the covers and not face the world again? Or your best friend moves away? Or your candidate loses an important election? Those are the days I make a big pot of Hungarian Mushroom Soup, as it’s the perfect way to end a bad day. The slicing of the mushrooms and dicing of the onions allows you to get out your frustration, anxiety, or whatever is bothering you. The soup harkens back to my Eastern European roots; it’s a comforting bowl of creamy soup with just the right amount of spice to make your nose run and nice big slices of mushrooms. If I’m feeling blue or feel a cold coming on, I’ll buy two boxes of mushrooms on the way home from work and right away I know where I’ll be that evening–hunkered over a steaming bowl.

I discovered this soup when I ordered takeout for lunch one day. It was delicious and creamy, but as is my usual way, I knew I could find a way to make it cheaper than what I paid for a small takeout container. And I did.

This recipe is originally from The New Moosewood Cookbook, but many years ago I found online a lower calorie and more flavorful version. So forgive me for not giving proper credit; I use the basic outline, but go off on tangents from there.

Try making this soup over the winter when you have a case of the mean reds. Snuggle up on the couch and put on your favorite movie. Whatever is bothering you, trust me, you’ll feel better!

Hungarian Mushroom Soup

Adapted from The New Moosewood Cookbook by Mollie Katzen

• 12 ounces mushrooms, sliced (you can always use more if you like)
• 2 cups onions, chopped
• 2 Tablespoons butter
• 3 Tablespoons flour
• 1 cup milk
• 2 teaspoons dill weed
• 1 Tablespoon hungarian paprika (you can use either sweet or hot paprika, I like it hot and spicy!)
• 1 Tablespoon tamari or soy sauce
• 2 cups chicken broth (for a vegetarian version, use water or vegetable broth)
• ½ cup sour cream
• ¼ cup parsley, chopped
• Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste (I find I never add salt to this, as the tamari adds just the right amount.)

1. Sauté onions in a little bit of broth until soft. Add the mushrooms, 1 teaspoon of dill, ½ cup of broth, tamari, and paprika. Sauté and simmer for about 15 minutes.

2. In a small saucepan, add the butter. When melted, whisk in the flour to make a paste. Add the milk, and whisk over low heat until thick.

3, Add the milk mixture to the mushrooms as well as the remaining broth. Cover and simmer for 15 minutes or so.

4. Just before it’s done, whisk in the sour cream, remaining teaspoon of dill weed, parsley, and salt and pepper.