This smells amazing while it’s cooking. First there’s mostly the aroma of the onions caramelizing in the oven. Then after they’re added to the soup, the aroma of simmering portobello mushrooms really comes to the fore.
You can begin the onions either before or after you start the other ingredients in the CrockPot. It doesn’t take long to preheat the oven and prep the onions so it doesn’t make any difference in the amount of time they cook with the other ingredients. Though this recipe is made in the CrockPot it’s not one you can start and walk away from for several hours. The onions need a couple of hours in the oven, and need to be stirred before being added in with the rest of the ingredients. This is a good recipe for being stuck inside on a cold day. The kitchen is toasty warm and the aroma is homey and enticing.
Note: my CrockPot is 6qts. You may need to adjust amount of liquid or ingredients if your slow cooker is smaller.
5 portobello mushrooms
3 medium yellow onions
1/2 cup split red lentils
1/2 cup pearlized barley
2 stalks celery
32 oz vegetarian broth
4 cups water
I use split red lentils because I usually have them on hand and they cook quickly, disintegrate and thicken the soup. They don’t keep their bright red-orange color, but it’s that irresistible color that makes me continue to buy them. They brighten up my pantry. 🙂 The broth I use is Central Market Organics Vegetable Broth. Most vegetable broths aren’t too strongly flavored, so I could probably use it for all the liquid, but with portobello mushrooms and caramelized onions, I really want those flavors to dominate so I dilute the broth with water. (I add celery, which is a strong flavor, simply because I so strongly associate it with hearty soups and stews.)
Wash mushrooms and coarsely chop. I shoot for making pieces that look about an inch, maybe slightly less. Slice and chop the celery, but not too finely. If the leaves look good, use them too.
Put the mushrooms, celery, lentils and barley into a slow cooker. Add the broth and water. Stir well. Set the slow cooker for 4 hours. (It won’t hurt to cook a bit longer.)
Preheat the oven 350. Prep the onions by peeling and slicing them. This recipe works best if they are sliced pretty thin. I would guess I slice them into 1/4 inch slices or less. Place onions in 9″ x 12″ baking pan. (I line it with foil because despite all the margarine and periodic stirring, it does tend to stick in places. ) Dot liberally with margarine. (I use Smart Balance Original.) I scoop the margarine out with a spoon and I’d guess I use about 10-12 spoonfuls, divided up and dabbed on the onions.
Bake 350 for 2 hours, stirring periodically. (I set the timer to stir every half hour.) When the onions are done, add them to the contents of the CrockPot, stirring well. Let the soup finish cooking. (My CrockPot rolls over to warm when it’s done.)
You can add herbs to the soup when you start it, if you want to change the flavor, but it tastes good with no seasonings. I don’t even add salt and pepper.
Before serving, stir the soup very well. The lentils (what’s left of them) and barley tend to sink.