Mushroom Barley Soup from Veselka

About a month ago I was dawdling my way through Barnes & Noble when I saw what appeared to be a book with a giant bowl of borscht on the front.

THE book

Immediately I ran to it and discovered Veselka, the supposed Mecca of Ukrainian food, right in the heart of New York City’s East Village.  Flipping through the pages I was immediately in heaven, my mouth-watering at the thought of there being a place on this planet that serves, in my opinion, some of the best food on this planet, 24-hours a day.

This past weekend my family and I were going to go to Queens to visit my Godparents, and a trip to Veselka was on the agenda.  However, the heavy snowfall in the city meant there was no place for us to park on their street, so we sadly couldn’t go.  Yesterday in the mail, the Veselka cookbook showed up as a surprise gift from my Godmother.  It was like Christmas!  God love her!

Strangely enough I’d been wanting to make Mushroom Barley Soup, so I thought I’d try out their recipe.  I had to make quite a few changes to accommodate what I had in my kitchen,  but isn’t that what every good cook does?  (And I’d like to think I’m a good cook!)

Here’s the recipe as it appears in the book:

Mushroom Barley Soup from The Veselka Cookbook

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 large carrots, minced
  • 2 celery stalks, minced
  • 5 cups minced white button mushrooms
  • 6 cups vegetable stock
  • One 10-ounce can cream of mushroom soup, optional
  • 2 cups cooked barley (3/4 dried)
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  1. Melt the butter in a large stockpot over low heat.
  2. Add the carrot and celery and cook, stirring occasionally, until they have softened, about 8  minutes.
  3. Add the mushrooms and vegetable stock.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, and simmer, uncovered (though you may want to partially cover the pot with a lid to stop to stovetop from being splattered) for 30 minutes.  Stir in the cream of mushroom soup, if using, and the barley.  Season to taste with a generous amount of black pepper.  Continue to cook until the flavours have combined, about 5 more minutes.  Serve hot.

For starters, I didn’t have any celery, but my dad made me privy to the fact that, in true Ukrainian fashion (“never waste anything!”), my mom kept the leafy parts of the celery in a bag in the bottom drawer of the fridge.  Perfect for soups!  Secondly, I didn’t have enough mushrooms, so I used half fresh mushrooms and half dried mushrooms.  Of course, you have to reconstitute them in water, and you end up with this deliciously awesome mushroom water that’s full of flavour.  Since the vegetable broth I had was loaded with sodium I used 2 cups broth, 2 cups water, and 2 cups of the mushroom water.  At the very end I had to add some fresh dill.  (How can you have Mushroom Barley Soup without dill?!?)  Finally, to allow the flavours to blend, I let the whole thing simmer on low for a couple of hours.  I truly wish that I could send smells and flavours through The Interwebs, because what I have sitting on my stove right now is a deliciously thick and wonderfully mushroom-y pot-of-wonder.

Here are some pictures from the process:

Reconsituting the dried mushrooms

Mmm...mushroom water

The carrots and the celery go in first. Pretty colors!

Adding the mushrooms and the liquids

The finished product!


February 16, 2010. Tags: , , , , , . Cooking, Ukrainian. 1 comment.