Recipe: Mushroom, Rosemary & Pearl Barley Broth

I developed this recipe for a lovely couple who are getting married in Autumn 2018 and wanted a simple seasonal start the meal before a magnificent spread of sharing platters to be served as the main course. It reminds me of the beautiful broths we ate in Ukraine earlier in the year; there they are always finished with a dollop of smetana (a rich sour cream), so I’ve added some as a garnish to finish this dish. Sometimes a simple but delicious starter like this is the perfect complement to a dramatic and colourful main course.

This soup definitely benefits from a mixture of mushrooms and if you can get some wild mushrooms all the better. The mushrooms add earthiness and the sauteed leeks a gentle allium sweetness. If you want a more substantial dish, to serve as a lunch or dinner, then I suggest adding twice the amount of pearl barley. You can also easily make a vegan version of this dish by replacing the butter for frying the mushrooms with some extra olive oil and leaving off the sour cream (or using a vegan substitute). Serve with lots of fresh crusty bread!


Serves 4 as a starter


Stock Ingredients:
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 carrot (chopped into approx. 1 cm cube)
1 white onion (chopped into approx. 1 cm cube)
½ large leek (sliced in half lengthways and then finely sliced)
½ teaspoon salt
150g fresh mushrooms (I used a mix of chestnut & portobello, roughly chopped)
35g dried mushrooms
2 bay leaves
10 peppercorns
1 large sprig rosemary
10g parsley stalks (roughly chopped)
1800ml cold water

Soup Ingredients:
80g pearl barley (if you want to make the soup more substantial add 160g pearl barley)
300g mushrooms (use a mix of interesting mushrooms if possible, chopped into chunks)
45g butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
Salt & pepper
1 teaspoon rosemary (very finely chopped, measure once chopped)
½ large leek (sliced in half lengthways and then finely sliced)
2 cloves of garlic finely chopped

To garnish:
10g flat leaf parsley (roughly chopped)
20g sour cream


Firstly make the mushroom stock.

Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan or casserole dish over a medium heat. Add the chopped onions, carrots, leek and salt and sauté until soft but not coloured, about 7 minutes.

Add the fresh mushrooms and cook for another 5 minutes. Then add the dried mushrooms, bay leaves, peppercorns, rosemary and parsley. Cook for another minute, stirring to combine the flavours.

Add the cold water and bring to the boil. Once boiling reduce the heat to a gentle simmer and put on the lid. Simmer for one hour (or a little longer). Taste to check the strength of the stock; it should be flavoursome but not too strong as this will be the broth for the soup.

Once you are happy with the flavour of the stock strain the liquid into a clean pan, removing all the vegetables and aromatics you used to make the stock. Add the pearl barley to the liquid and put on a medium heat, stir a few times to ensure the pearl barley doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan. Once simmering put a lid on the pan and cook until the pearl barley is cooked, this should take 25-30 minutes. Season to taste.

Meanwhile, in a separate frying pan heat 1/3 oil and 1/3 butter over a high heat. Once the butter is foaming add ½ the mushrooms, salt & pepper and 1/3 rosemary and cook over a high heat until soft. Remove the mushrooms from the pan. Repeat with the second half of the mushrooms.

Now, heat the remaining 1/3 oil and butter over a medium heat and add the leeks with salt & pepper and the remaining rosemary, sauté until soft. Once the leeks are soft add the mushrooms back in with the chopped garlic and cook for a couple more minutes until the garlic is soft and everything is warm.

Divide the mushroom and pearl barley soup between 4 bowls and then divide the sautéed mushrooms & leeks between the bowls. Top with sour cream, flat leaf parsley and black pepper.

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