I grew-up eating the mushroom barley soup that came in a cellophane tube-and it wasn't bad. In fact, it was one of the few foods my mother couldn't ruin because all you had to do was add water, and set it to simmer for a few hours. The dehydrated mushrooms, and large white Lima beans were pretty decent, and if we were lucky, she wouldn't try to dress the soup up with the addition of leftover brisket, or hunks of dried salami. What always bothered me about the soup was the lack of carrots. Soup should have carrots-and I mean that as a sort of general statement. Maybe not potato soup (though they wouldn't hurt) but a few carrots almost always make food taste better.
I don't know quite when it was I realised you could make mushroom barley soup without the cellophane tube of ingredients. At some point, I must have decided it was more economical to buy a box of barley, and then there was no looking back-except, were the tubes readily available here, I might buy them as a base. I really might, but they're not, so out comes the box of pearl barley.
With a storm coming in, I didn't feel the need to race out and purchase fresh mushrooms for this-so I used tinned. I don't think anyone noticed. Tinned mushrooms are vastly improved over what used to be sold, and with some searching, you can even find portabellas in a tin. These were not fancy mushrooms, but the .50 cent stems and pieces I like to keep on hand for making kasha. Keep in mind, that using tinned vegetables will increase the sodium content of your overall soup, so adjust accordingly. I didn't have any cooked Lima beans, so I used tinned pintos, which made me feel like such a radical. My mother never would have added pinto beans to mushroom barley soup.
We're on the third night of eating this (with potato/carrot kugel) for dinner and as the 40 mph winds blast the farmhouse with -29 below wind chills, a surplus of soup isn't exactly a bad thing to have on hand.
What I Did:
8 cups vegetable stock
6 large carrots, diced
1 large parsnip, peeled and diced
1 large onion, chopped
1 teaspoon dried rosemary
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
2 small tins mushrooms, drained and rinsed
1 cup pearl barley, rinsed well, and drained
1 tin pinto beans (or any you like) rinsed and drained
Add everything to a large stock pot, and bring to a boil. Skim if needed, then reduce to low simmer. Cover, leaving a small space to vent, and cook at least two hours until carrots are very soft, and barley has plumped and given off quite a bit of starch to thicken.
Makes a great, big, kettle of soup.