Mushrooms are popular in the KB kitchen - versatile, in so many dishes. I use it in several soups, and make this one often since it comes in at less than 200 calories per serving - great on 5:2 fasting days. As I add this to the site, it's nearing the end of Winter and we all feel sun-deprived - thus possibly low on Vitamin D. Did you know mushrooms are a source of vitamin D, fibre, minerals and B complex vitamins? offers this and more info on their nutritional value - and recipes - AND they feature my Mushroom Nuggets recipe!

This recipe comes from Everyday Light by Martha Stewart and was also featured in a column by Jennifer Bain in The Toronto Star. Jennifer made a few changes and I add a few of my own in Tips below. The soup not only tastes great, but is a beautiful sight to behold with rich, deeply coloured broth. Some of the ingredient choices add to that colour, so do take note.

Getting ready: trim, clean and slice mushrooms, chop onions, mince garlic

1 TB (15 mL) olive oil
1-1/4 lb (575 g) mushrooms, trimmed, thinly sliced (see Tips)
1 medium red onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp (2 mL) dried thyme or 1 tsp (5 mL) fresh, chopped thyme

Heat the oil over medium high heat. Add the mushrooms, onions, garlic and thyme and cook, stirring occasionally until vegetables soften a bit - 6-8 minutes.

4 cups (1L) vegetable broth
2-1/2 cups (625 mL) water
1 cup (250 mL) pearl barley

Add the broth (see Tips) and water. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and add pearly barley. Cook until barley is tender (see Tips). Depending on the kind of barley you have this could anywhere from 10-50 minutes. Stir this regularly to ensure that the barley does not clump and stick to the bottom of the pan.

1/4 cup (60 mL) Italian parsley leaves, finely chopped
1 TB (15 mL) fresh lemon juice
1 oz (30 g) Parmesan cheese, shaved or coarsely shredded (optional)

While the barley is cooking, prepare the parsley, lemon and Parmesan.

Season to taste with pepper and salt  - though take care with the salt if using a salted broth.

All will be fine if you serve this immediately, but if you wait a while, or have leftovers, you will notice the barley soaking up the broth leaving you with "porridge" instead of soup. Add more water (or slightly flavoured stock) to return to a soup-y consistency. While the original recipe suggested this serves 4 - I always get closer to 8 servings.

Notes and Tips...

  • Mushrooms -  the original recipe suggests white button mushrooms, but Jennifer rightly suggest cremini - these will add more to the rich broth colour and there seems to be some consensus that creminis are more flavourful than white buttons. You could even use other mushrooms such as shiitake - though some say they get too spongy.
  • Onion - you could make this with a yellow onion, but the red onion does contribute to the broth colour
  • Broth - for all recipes that call for a broth I use the Better Than Bouillon concentrated stocks. Their vegetable stock has a rich colour (compared to some light coloured vegetable broths sold in tetra paks). Technically you could also use chicken broth (which will result in a less richly coloured broth) or beef broth - or combine a couple.
  • Pearl barley - the original recipe refers to "quick-cooking" barley which requires only 10 minutes of cooking. I could not find that and used the regular barley that I have as a pantry staple. The cook time on that is about 50 minutes.
  • Cheese - this could work with other cheeses similar to Parmesan, or even cheese like Emmental or Gruyère.
  • Variations: you could use other grains - such as brown rice, bulgur etc.

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