Mushroom-barley soup is a good choice in winter. (Photo/Faith Kramer)
A bowl of hot soup is a good choice in winter. (Photo/Faith Kramer)

Don’t reach for your jacket  — make some soup

When the colder weather arrives, I start craving hearty, meal-in-a-bowl soups — and these mushroom barley and split pea soups are satisfying and warming.

Mushroom barley soup is known as krupnik (from the Slavic word for hulled grains) and has been an Eastern European Jewish comfort food for centuries.

The split pea soup gets its flavor from the Yemenite spice mix hawaij for soup, available in some specialty, Middle Eastern and spice markets. Curry powder makes a good substitute for this recipe.


Mushroom Barley Soup with Beef

Serves 8

  • 2 Tbs. oil
  • 1½ cups chopped onion
  • 2 Tbs. minced garlic, divided
  • ½ tsp. ground black pepper plus more as needed
  • ½ tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
  • ½ tsp. paprika
  • ½ tsp. cumin
  • ½ tsp. crumbled dried oregano
  • ¼ tsp. salt plus more as needed
  • ¼ tsp. ground ginger
  • 1 cup chopped carrot
  • 1 cup chopped red, orange and/or yellow bell peppers
  • 1 cup chopped celery
  • 8 cups vegetable or chicken broth or stock, plus extra as needed
  • 1 lb. boneless beef chuck roast
  • 6 cups quartered cremini or white button mushrooms
  • 1½ cups raw pearled barley (not hulled or barley groats)
  • 3 to 4 cups chopped fresh spinach
  • ¼ cup finely chopped parsley
  • 3 Tbs. grated lemon zest

Heat oil in large soup pot over medium-high heat. Add onions. Sauté, stirring often, until golden (10 to 12 minutes). Add 1 Tbs. garlic. Sauté, stirring often, until golden (1 to 2 minutes). Stir in black pepper, pepper flakes, paprika, cumin, oregano, salt and ginger. Sauté 1 minute. Stir in carrot, peppers and celery. Sauté 5 minutes.

Pour in 8 cups broth. Bring to simmer. Add beef. Return to simmer. Cover. Adjust heat, keep at simmer for 30 minutes. Stir in mushrooms and barley. Return to simmer. Simmer, covered, and stirring occasionally, for 30 to 35 minutes until barley is cooked and meat is fork tender. Turn off heat.

Remove beef. Let cool slightly on a plate. Use two forks to shred meat. Reheat soup over medium heat, adding broth (or water) as needed if soup has thickened too much. Return to simmer. Stir in shredded beef. Simmer until reheated, adding more broth if needed. Stir in spinach. Simmer until spinach is wilted. Taste. Add salt and pepper as needed. Serve topped with 1 Tbs. garlic, parsley and lemon zest.


Yemenite-Spiced Split Pea Soup

Serves 4

  • 2 Tbs. oil
  • ½ cup chopped onion
  • 1 tsp. minced garlic
  • 1 tsp. minced fresh ginger
  • 1 Tbs. Yemenite mixed spices for soup (hawaij) or curry powder
  • ¼ tsp. salt plus more as needed
  • ¼ tsp. ground black pepper plus more as needed
  • 4 cups vegetable broth or stock
  • 1 cup dried green split peas
  • 1 cup chopped red bell pepper
  • 2 cups chopped fresh spinach or chard
  • 3 Tbs. chopped cilantro or parsley
  • Z’hug (see notes)

Heat oil over medium-high heat in soup pot. Add onions. Sauté, stirring often, until golden (10 to 12 minutes). Add 1 Tbs. garlic and ginger. Sauté, stirring often, until garlic is golden (1 to 2 minutes). Stir in hawaij, salt and pepper. Sauté 1 minute.

Add broth. Bring to simmer. Stir in split peas and bell pepper. Return to simmer. Adjust heat to keep at a simmer. Simmer covered for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in spinach. Return to simmer. Cover and simmer 10 minutes more until split peas are soft and spinach wilted. Taste. Add salt and pepper as needed. Serve as is or mash or blend some of soup for thicker consistency. Serve with cilantro garnish. Pass z’hug on the side.

Notes: Z’hug is a Yemenite hot sauce. It is available fresh in some specialty markets. To make your own, see my 2011 column at tinyurl.com/fjk-zhug. Or pass chopped jalapeños and lemon wedges when serving the soup.

Faith Kramer

Faith Kramer is a Bay Area food writer. She blogs about her food at clickblogappetit.com. Contact Faith at [email protected].