Mushroom Barley Soup

Traditional Jewish comfort food, with history more ancient and undoubtedly more venerable than the ubiquitous “Jewish penicillin” – chicken soup, Mushroom Barley soup was served in my family during the holiday of Sukkos, the final one of the series of High Holidays. The end of October – beginning of November was already pretty chilly, so a thick, hot,and filling soup was always welcome, as the Sukkos meals are supposed to be eaten outside, in the booths especially constructed for this purpose. However, there are many other fall and winter soups, just as comforting and filling, so why barley?

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The real reason goes back to the Torah, where the land of Israel is called “a land of wheat, barley, grapes, figs and pomegranates, a land of olive and honey.” This interesting combination of two grains and five fruits, known as sheva minim (seven species), was celebrated two times during the year: first on Tu B’Shvat, the New Year of the Trees, and the second time on Shavuos, the giving of the Torah festival. Shavuos is one of the three most important holidays of the year, when the entire population was expected to make pilgrimage to the Temple and bring the first fruit of the new harvest of seven species cultivated in the land of Israel.  It was both the end of barley harvest and the beginning of wheat harvest. The actual wheat harvest was concluded and celebrated on Sukkos.

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Besides the agricultural timing of the two harvests, there is a much deeper connection between the two holidays, and the seven species are not simply the ones that grew in Israel. There were quite a few other grains and fruit, and a bunch of vegetables as well, that were cultivated on that small but very fertile slice of land. These seven, though, have been singled out for their special holy properties.  They represent the seven areas of human lives, the modes and characteristics that make us what we are. Barley is our material, animalistic instinct for self-preservation, for food and shelter, for a warm bed and a nice car, and a bigger house, and a larger bank account. Wheat, on the other hand, is the constant striving to grow and develop, to nourish the human in us, the higher “self.” And there was that first moment, “the early wheat harvest,” when the Jewish people, fresh out of slavery in Egypt, exclaimed in one voice,” Give us the Torah! We will do it! All your commandments we will do and we will hear!” That was on Shavuos.

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We all know what happened there. Unfortunately, when Moses went up on Mount Sinai to receive the commandments, the materialistic, animalistic instincts, combined with crowd mentality, took over, and the people created a golden calf. And if this shiny idol is not a symbol of today’s corporate world, I don’t know what is!

Moses, who had spent 40 days on top of the mountain, literally and figuratively, came down, saw this spiritual disaster, smashed the tablets of the Law, turned around and went back up. When he came down, another 40 days later, the crows was sufficiently repentant. Yet, just a few days later, they started complaining again! The  entire account of 40 years wondering in the desert is a story of Jewish quetching: give us water, give us meat, what kind of food is manna that doesn’t even look like food! It is also the story of spiritual growth, from the lower level of barley-fed selves to the highest level of wheat-nourished human beings. As a reminder of this thorny and challenging process, we eat barley while celebrating the end of wheat harvest.

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Just like our ancestors in the desert before accepting the Torah, I start preparing the night before. I soak barley and chick peas together overnight. In the morning, I rinse them and start cooking. I first bring it to boil stove top.

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Once it’s boiling, I add cut mushrooms, celery, grated carrots, diced tomatoes, and pareve soup powder.  Then I season it with salt and pepper, and add a dash of cinnamon. I bring it to boil again and transfer to the crock pot.

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If you are in a hurry, you can, of course, simmer it stove top, if you have the time and patience to stand over the stove and stir your soup non-stop. Barley does have a tendency to thicken and stick to the bottom! You can also cook it in the crock pot on high setting, and it’ll be done in a couple of hours. I prefer to spend a few minutes in the morning to start it, and then leave it in the crock pot on low for 8 – 9 hours. This way, the flavors blend, barley thickens, and the soup becomes creamy and rich. You still have to stir it occasionally and add water if it becomes too thick.

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On Sukkos, we eat in a booth. It is the only holiday when we are surrounded by a tangible, materialistic fulfillment of a commandment that, at the same time, imbues us with higher spirituality for the entire year. The round chick peas remind us of the cycle of Torah reading, completed and started again on Simchas Torah, the last day of Sukkos, and this delicious soup envelopes us with the comfort of physical and spiritual contained in one bowl.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 cup pearl barley
  • 1 cup dry chick peas (1/1/2 cup frozen or 1 can)
  • 1/2 lb fresh mushrooms, cut into bite size pieces
  • 1/2 cup grated carrots (1 medium size carrot)
  • 1/2 cup diced tomatoes
  • 1 celery stalk
  • 1 heaping tablespoon soup powder
  • A dash of cinnamon
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Fresh parsley or cilantro to garnish

PROCEDURE

  • Soak barley and chick peas overnight. Rinse, place in a pot with 2 quarts of water, bring to boil.
  • Add the rest of ingredients, stir, bring to boil.
  • Transfer to crock pot, add water, cook on low for 8 – 9 hours, on high for 2 – 2 1/2 hours. Stir occasionally, add water if necessary.
  • Garnish with sprigs of fresh parsley or cilantro.

Enjoy!

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43 Comments Add yours

  1. It looks like something I’m going to love 🙂 Thank you 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Sounds like a perfect soups for fall. Love the chickpeas in it. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you! You’ve noticed I eliminated potatoes. To compensate for that, I double the chickpeas. Shana Tova v’Chatima Tova!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. It is a great substitute.
        Thank you and Shana Tova to you too. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  3. [ Laughs ] I would gladly volunteer to help you drink this soup!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I am glad you like it – thank you!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. [ Smiles ] You are welcome!

        Liked by 1 person

  4. As always, delectable and looking to good!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Would you like to post this one?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes, please and thank you. I will do an additional release for you my friend. Just say when you wish it to be done.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Any time in the beginning of October would be fine, if it doesn’t mess up your schedule. Thank you! Do you need me to send you the link?

        Liked by 1 person

      3. You will never mess my schedule dear – Yes share the link then I have a trail of it and post it on the https://cookandenjoyrecipes.wordpress.com/2016/09/09/update-fellow-bloggers-sharing-is-caring-recipe-exchange/. Thanks dear friend

        Liked by 2 people

      4. It is my pleasure – you are doing such a great job!

        Liked by 1 person

      5. Thanks, its great fun and I learn a lot as well

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Scheduled for release Sept 25th – Hope your followers see your Guests posts and also particpate in the exchange. Sharing is Caring. Thanks again dear friend

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Dolly my friend, just a note to let you know that your entry has been released. Thanks, just love it and your participation. Link: https://cookandenjoyrecipes.wordpress.com/2016/09/25/mushroom-barley-soup/

    Liked by 2 people

  7. InspiresN says:

    Love barley in soup, this looks great!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, dear, I am glad you like it!

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Reblogged this on koolkosherkitchen and commented:

    Today’s word prompt is MUSHROOM, so here is a hearty bowl of comfort for you, Beautiful People! Enjoy the thick and creamy Mushroom Barley Soup.

    Like

    1. Thank you for pingback.

      Like

  9. Thank you! I came for the recipe and stayed for the story. I know next to nothing… I really enjoyed reading about the spiritual significance of the foods.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much, dear Jamie, for your lovely comment. I truly appreciate your interest!

      Like

  10. We currently have a whole pot of mushroom barley soup and eat it often throughout the winter. I can’t wait to try this recipe, as the chick peas and cinnamon will be new additions to our repertoire. Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I am so glad you like it already and can’t wait to hear from you, once you try my version! Thank you so much for your lovely comment!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for reblogging.

      Like

  11. “to make pilgrimage to the Temple and bring the first fruit of the new harvest of seven species cultivated in the land of Israel.”
    A wonderful tradition, and also something the christian churches had copied for themselves. LOL

    Liked by 1 person

    1. There are many traditions that are borrowed, of course. It’s not called The Old Testament for nothing! Thank you so much for your lovely comment, Michael!

      Like

  12. Your soup looks really delicious and very nutritious too, Dolly 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much, dear Irene! I hope you are doing well! 😻

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thank you Dolly and yes, I’m improving 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      2. That’s great to hear, dear! Sending you blessings for complete and speedy recovery! 😻

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Thank you. Enjoy your day – every day!

        Liked by 1 person

      4. You too, dear Irene!

        Liked by 1 person

  13. Barley is one of the things I miss most since going GF – It looks yummie, of course, but this is not a recipe I will be making, unfortunately. I still loved the post because of all the fascinating background.

    Couldn’t agree more with your observation that the golden calf is the perfect symbol of today’s corporate world.
    xx,
    mgh
    (Madelyn Griffith-Haynie – ADDandSoMuchMORE dot com)
    ADD/EFD Coach Training Field founder; ADD Coaching co-founder
    “It takes a village to transform a world!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You just gave me an idea: I have never tried making soups with quinoa, but what if I substitute quinoa for barley in this soup? I’ll try – let’s see what happens! 😻

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I’ll be keeping an eye out for that one, Dolly.
        xx,
        mgh

        Liked by 1 person

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