We went for a walk this morning, just the two of us. The weather was beautiful, the temperature just below zero and the sun shining. We walked to Kristalbad, a water retention/ water purification area about three kilometers from our house.
Water regulation is a favorite Dutch pastime, born out of necessity. Without the ingenious dikes and all the channels, grachts and ditches, half the country would be under water. But I suspect that the Dutch also simply enjoy playing with water. I remember how, when we came upon a stream in the Czech woods, my Dutch husband immediately felt compelled to influence the flow of the water by making little dams or removing obstacles and he would have happily spent the day doing that.
Kristalbad consists of several basins and the water is pumped from one to the other, to be purified. Even though it’s been built fairly recently, it has already attracted countless water birds.
We walked and took pictures. I was talking about my plans for the coming year (and doubts about said plans) and then asked Remco: “But what do you want?” And he said: “I want more of this. I want to have time to just go for a walk with you.”
I understand. We are busy. Most of our weekends are planned before they even start. Mostly they are full of things we want to do, things we choose: gardening, kids’ badminton games, home improvement projects, my gardening courses, cleaning the house, family birthdays, dinners with friends… But still, it is so lovely to wake up on a Sunday morning and think: “What shall we do today?”
I know what: lets go for a walk and then make soup to warm up!
And that’s exactly what we did today.
The classic combo mushroom-barley soup has long been one of my favorite winter soups. But I always felt that it lacked one thing to become a perfect meal-in-one cold weather soup: there weren’t enough vegetables. Kale, the one vegetable I can reliably harvest from my garden throughout winter, fixes this problem. It is happily compatible with both mushrooms and grains.
I make a variation on this soup often, using different grains: farro, barley, buckwheat (technically not a grain, I know). All are good, but I decided that I like the soup best with spelt bulgur. It is the most “nutty” tasting of the lot, it cooks quickly, and it’s best at pleasantly thickening the soup.
Mushroom, spelt and kale soup
15 g (about ½ cup) dried porcini mushrooms
2 tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, diced
1 large carrot, diced
1 celery stick, diced
250 g (½ pound) cremini mushrooms, sliced
100 g (about 3 oz) shiitake mushrooms, sliced
3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
½ tsp dried thyme
125 ml (½ cup) dry red wine
80 g (½ cup) spelt bulgur (or another grain such as pearl barley, farro or buckwheat)
2 liters (8 cups) vegetable stock
10 leaves of kale
In a small bowl, cover the porcini with 250 ml (1 cup) boiling water, set aside.
Heat the olive oil in a large heavy-bottomed pan. Add onions and cook until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add carrot and celery and sauté until the vegetables begin to brown a little, about 5 minutes. Add the sliced mushrooms, garlic and dried thyme and cook until the mushrooms start to brown, about 5 more minutes. Pour in the wine and stir to deglaze the pan. Add spelt bulgur and stir, so that it absorbs all the lovely juices. Strain the porcini (reserving the liquid), chop them and add to the pan. Pour in the stock and the reserved porcini liquid and bring to boil. Simmer for 20 minutes (or 30 minutes if using farro or pearl barley). Meanwhile prepare the kale: remove the stems, stack the leaves and slice them into ribbons. Add the kale to the soup and simmer for 10 more minutes. Season with salt and pepper, adding soy sauce to taste.