Sunday, February 1, 2009

Polish -style Vegetarian Mushroom-barley soup (Krupnik)

Krupnik is the Polish name of a traditional peasant (country) soup. Although each family makes it differently, the basic ingredients always include mushrooms, barley, potatoes, and carrots. Dill and sour cream are traditionally added for authentic flavor. It is a warming soup made with inexpensive fall vegetables (thus the fact that it is a peasant soup).

I grew up eating variations of mushroom barley soup that my mother and her mother made. The soups were always made in the winter, using seasonal vegetables. I’ve created this recipe from the non-vegetarian versions of my childhood, focusing on rich flavors and local, seasonal vegetables. I only make this soup in the late fall and winter. The earthy aroma of mushrooms simmering in broth and accented by the fragrance of dill and root vegetables fills the kitchen on a frosty day with warmth. The golden color of the broth is best dished up in brown or red bowls. Serve with fresh crusty bread and maybe a simple salad.

Here’s my version, which varies each time based upon what is available. The vegetables should be as fresh as possible.

One large container fresh button mushrooms, sliced
A handful of Polish or porcini dried mushrooms (if you have them available)
1 cup cleaned and chopped leeks (washed well, white part only)
1 tablespoon butter
Glug of olive oil
2 cups thinly sliced carrots (about 6 carrots)
1/2 cup thinly sliced celery (two stalks)
3/4 cup pearled barley
4 cups (one box) vegetable stock (I prefer Imagine low sodium)
2-3 cups water
Freshly ground black pepper
2 cups peeled and diced potatoes (2-3 potatoes)
2 cups green cabbage, thinly sliced into ribbons (about a ¼ head)
Dill flakes (a couple handfuls)
3 bay leaves
10 peppercorns
Tablespoon dried mushroom powder
3 cloves allspice
¼ cup of ½ and ½
Fresh dill for garnish, optional

  1. Prepare the vegetables. Try to keep slices as thin and uniform as possible.
    - Wash and thinly slice the leaks.
    - Peel and slice the carrots.
    - Slice the celery.
    - Dust off the mushrooms and slice.
    - Peel and dice the potatoes. Keep in a bowl with water until needed.
  2. If you are using dried mushrooms: In a medium bowl, cover mushrooms with 2-1/2 cups boiling water. Place a smaller bowl or plate over the bowl to keep the mushrooms submerged. Soak for 20 minutes or until softened. Line a mesh strainer with two layers of cheesecloth and drain mushrooms, reserving liquid. Coarsely chop mushrooms.
  3. In a large soup pot over medium heat, sauté leeks in butter until soft, about 2 minutes. Add carrots and celery and sauté about 3 minutes. Add mushrooms and sauté 3 minutes. Add salt, pepper, and a handful of dill flakes. Add barley, reserved mushroom liquid, vegetable stock, water, and dried mushroom powder. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for 20 minutes.
  4. Add potatoes, bay leaves, peppercorns, allspice, cabbage, and dried mushrooms. Return to a simmer and cook 20 minutes. Add salt, pepper, and dill as needed.
  5. Add ½ and ½ and stir. Remove from heat and serve. Do not let soup boil after adding the ½ and ½ . Garnish with sprigs of fresh dill, if desired.