My pantry is in desperate need of reorganizing. I don’t even know all I have in it. Most likely I either have too much of what I’m trying to phase out or I’m low on my true staples. I shouldn’t even be sharing this with you–how embarrassing.
My pantry hasn’t always been in this poor state; I go through periods of being a neat freak, during which time I attack my linen closet, my refrigerator, my pantry–removing their contents and replacing the latter according to color, size, season, food group and cuisine, respectively. Then for days I open the closet/refrigerator/pantry doors just to admire my wonderful homemaking skills. Really.
Putting a positive spin on my pantry’s state of disorderliness, I found several items that I didn’t even know I had so I was able to create this soup. The star? Pearl barley. An unopened bag was hiding in one corner with spelt and quinoa, and the timing of my discovery couldn’t have been more perfect as I had a refrigerator and freezer to clean out also. Remember this recent get-together with some friends? The evening left me with lots of leftovers (you’ll be seeing more leftover-inspired dishes soon) including mushrooms, tomato purée and potatoes; together with the barley, I hoped to create something hearty and nourishing.
Still, I wasn’t confident about the potential outcome of this hodge-podge of ingredients. Sure barley and mushrooms are a popular pair (I also added dried porcini and the liquid) but I was a bit doubtful about adding the two cups of tomato purée that were left over from the party’s pizza course. From a rare fit of meat-buying frenzy I also had two pounds of pork hocks that I was motivated to use. And what about that Shaoxing wine that was in danger of going bad? What’s the shelf life of Shaoxing wine anyway? I’ve had mine for a couple of weeks. But I digress.
This soup was a home run, a winner. It was rich like a full-bodied wine from the mushrooms, hearty from the vegetables and barley, bright from the thyme with added complexity from the Shaoxing wine. With a cooking time of about one hour, there was still a hint of acidity from the tomatoes but by the following day, the flavors had all harmonized into one pot of thick, comforting, satisfying, hearty goodness. The soup dries out a bit between re-heatings but adding just a bit of water still leaves a flavorful soup.
- 7 – 8 cups stock (I used 4 cups broth from simmering the pork hocks and the rest chicken stock)
- 2 1/2 cups fresh cremini mushrooms, sliced
- Meat from pork hocks, optional
- 1 cup dried porcini mushrooms, rehydrated in 1 cup warm water (about 100ºF) for about 20 minutes then chopped (you can substitute mixed dried wild mushrooms)
- 1 cup reserved porcini mushroom liquid (from above)
- 1 onion, chopped
- 3 stalks celery, chopped
- 2 carrots, peeled and chopped
- 2 cups tomato purée (I used Pomi Strained Tomatoes)
- 1 cup pearl barley
- 4 baby potatoes, skin on, diced
- 1/2 cup Shaoxing wine (you can probably substitute sherry wine)
- 1/2 tablespoon butter
- Olive Oil for sautéing
- 2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- 1 teaspoon to 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- 1 – 2 teaspoons no-salt seasoning/herb blend
Start by rehydrating the dried porcini mushrooms in one cup of warm water. Let them sit for about 2o minutes, drain and chop the mushrooms, saving the liquid.
In a large pot, sauté the onion in butter and olive oil over medium-high heat. Cook until the onions are translucent, about 3-5 minutes, then add the celery and carrots. Season with salt and pepper. Cook for about three minutes before adding the potatoes and crimini and porcini mushrooms. Cook for another 3-5 minutes.
Add the Shaoxing wine and allow to reduce for a couple of minutes before adding the tomato purée and reserved mushroom liquid, stock and barley. Bring to a boil then lower heat to a simmer.
Note: If you have homemade pork stock, feel free to add the meat while the soup simmers. I omitted the meat in the main recipe to accommodate my husband but I added pieces of it when I served myself.
I simmered the soup for an additional 30-45 minutes, just until the barley was done and the acidity of the tomato purée cooked down a bit. While it simmered, I added no-salt seasoning and soy sauce until the flavor was to my liking. With just about 5 – 10 minutes of cook time left, I added the chopped thyme. Finish cooking and serve while hot.