Polish mushroom, barley and vegetable stew

Polish beef stew

I’ve always been a sucker for confort food, and when I saw this recipe for a Polish mushroom and barley soup on Susan’s blog, I immediately hankered after a hot bowl of the rustic looking food. And I’m pretty susceptible to good photo and recipe too.

Happily I’d been making beef stock not long before and had a freezer full of the stuff. So I set about defrosting it and hunting down the pearl barley from the back of the store cupboard.

Sitting down on the sofa with a bowl of this made me feel like I’d been outside slaving away in the cold winter air for hours, instead of tapping away on a keyboard in a warm office. See, I told you I was susceptible.

Mind you, it was pretty late by that point as I hand’t really added up all the minutes you needed to spend cooking this beauty. Consequently it was a late dinner. But that just sharpened the anticipation.

Polish beef stew

Mushroom, barley and vegetable stew
Feeds two hungry bellies

The key here, even more than other soups, is the stock. Make sure it’s decently beefy and intense. Mine was a bit watery and the end result lacked character and had to be beefed up with umami paste and extra seasoning.

Otherwise this is a properly hearty meal. It warms you up and would be wonderful at the end of a long winter walk, or hard day working outside. The flavours are clear and simple making the dish feel somehow honest.

1.5l beef stock – make sure it is intensely flavoured
75g/half cup of pearl barley
20-30g/A cup of porcini – soaked in boiling water for 30-45 minutes
1 carrot – chopped into bite sized pieces
1 onion – roughly chopped
1 stick of celery – chopped into bite sized pieces
1 potato – peeled and diced
1 bay leaf
A handful of strong greens – roughly copped
Small handful of parsley – roughly chopped
Some umami paste or balsamic vinegar

Lightly fry the onions until translucent, then pour in the beef stock and porcini liquid. Roughly chop the porcine and add them to the pan along with the bay leaf. Simmer for 30 minutes or so.

Add the potato, pearl barley, carrot and celery. Simmer for 20 more minutes and chuck in the greens. Cook for 15 minutes, taste and add salt, pepper and umami paste/balsamic to taste. Cook for 5 more minutes, chuck in the parsley and serve with some crusty bread.

6 Responses to “Polish mushroom, barley and vegetable stew”

  1. Vintage Macaroon

    Soup is my winter staple, love it. I don’t use beef stock that much really so I’ll keep this one bookmarked for winter to try, sounds lovely.

  2. Mr Noodles

    Silly question but what is umami paste made from? Is it middle-class MSG, or is it made from natural extracts? And lastly where can I buy it from?

    BTW this post is quite timely from my point of view as I’m currently in Warsaw where it’s -15C outside! I’m just warming up looking at this photo of the stew…

  3. Paul

    I made something very similar with a ham stock and left over bits last night. Barley is so soothing for some reason, lovely stuff!

  4. The Grubworm

    @VIntagr Mscaroon – i rarely use beef stock either, which is why mine was probably a bit watery for this, but it went down a treat with the onion soup. Got the bones free from a good butcher too.

    @Mr Noodles – i was pretty sceptical when i first saw it as well, but it does add a certain something. It’s basically made of mushrooms, anchovies, olives, parmesan etc. It does something similar to fish sauce without being as powerful. Check it out here: http://www.laurasanttini.com/umami.html. You can, unsurprisingly, get it in Waitrose.

    And if you are in Warsaw then you should definitely get some pirogi and krupnik down you!

    @Paul – ooooh, ham hock and pork stock would be ace here. And I am so with you about barley, this is the first time i have actually cooked it myself and it really is soothing.

  5. Susan

    Looks great!!! I too am curious about umami paste. Sounds like it should be traded on the black market. BTW, my mother read my recipe and said she always adds potatoes. So you are channeling real Polish-ness.

  6. The Grubworm

    @susan – thanks! I still wonder if it was a bit too full of stuff. Glad to hear I’m channeling my inner Pole when it comes to this soup ;)

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