I know what you're thinking: this soup doesn't look very soupy, does it? Well, in real life, it's a soupy soup, but in the life of a food blogger who wants to show you the goodness swimming below the surface, and who removes a little too much of the broth to make sure the barley and other ingredients reveal themselves in the photographs, it's a bit hard to see that there is, in fact, really rich liquid binding everything together. Although you can surely make this soup in a Dutch oven on the stovetop, the pressure cooker, if you have one, does an exceptional job of pumping flavor into broths, and tenderizing grains. It's really a kind of double soup recipe. First, you make a chicken broth; then, use the meat from the broth to enrich the barley soup. This freezes well, so make a batch today, and save some for later. On the snowiest days of winter, you'll be glad to have some of this soup on hand for apres-shoveling lunches.
Pressure cooker barley soup with chicken, sausage, mushrooms and leeks
From the pantry, you'll need: olive oil, barley, onion, garlic, thyme, soy sauce, fresh black pepper.
I use an electric pressure cooker; if you use a different type, you might need to adjust cook times.
For the homemade chicken broth (makes 6 cups):
5-6 large boneless, skinless chicken thighs (at least 2-1/2 lbs total)
1 carrot, cut in half
1 stalk celery, cut in half
1 small onion, cut in half (leave the skin on)
1 bay leaf
6 black peppercorns
For the barley soup:
2 tsp olive oil
1/2 lb chicken sausage, your favorite pre-cooked type (I like garlic and onion, or spinach and fontina; you could also use spicy chicken sausage), diced
1 medium leek, trimmed and diced
1 clove garlic, chopped
1/4 cup chopped celery
2 carrots, trimmed and diced
8 oz sliced mushrooms (I like cremini)
1 Tbsp dried thyme leaf
1 cup pearl barley, rinsed and drained
6 cups chicken broth (homemade)
1-2 Tbsp reduced-sodium soy sauce, to taste
1/2 tsp fresh black pepper, or more to taste
2-3 cups chopped cooked chicken (from making the broth)
In the pressure cooker, place all of the ingredients for the homemade chicken broth. Add 6 cups of water. Lock the top, and set the cooker to High Pressure for 20 minutes. Use Natural Pressure Release. When the pressure valve drops, carefully lift the cover of the pressure cooker, and remove the chicken pieces to a bowl. Discard the vegetables. Strain the broth into a large measuring cup or bowl, and set aside.
Wash and dry the pressure cooker.
Set the cooker to Browning, and add the 2 teaspoons of olive oil. When the oil is hot, add the chicken sausage, leek, celery, carrots and mushrooms. Cook, stirring frequently, until the onions are translucent and the mushrooms have given off some of their liquid, 3-4 minutes. Add the thyme, and stir until the mixture is fragrant (2-3 minutes). Add the barley and chicken broth. Turn off the cooker.
Lock the lid in place. Set the pressure cooker to High Pressure for 10 minutes. When the cooker beeps at the end of the cook time, use the Natural Pressure Release method, which will release the pressure in approximately 20 minutes.
When the pressure is released, open the lid carefully, and stir in the chopped chicken, soy sauce and black pepper. Pour the soup into individual serving bowls, and serve hot. Or, pack into freezer-safe containers. Let the soup cool completely before freezing.
Note: if you refrigerate or freeze the soup, you might need to add some water when you reheat it, as the barley will absorb most of the chicken broth.
More barley soups, made in the pressure cooker or on the stovetop:
Beef barley soup, pressure cooker or stovetop, from The Perfect Pantry
Ground turkey and barley soup with mushrooms and spinach, from Kalyn's Kitchen
Slow cooker Italian chicken, mushroom, and barley soup, from Aggie's Kitchen
Hearty kale, butternut, barley soup, from Cafe Johnsonia
Mushroom-barley soup with cannellini beans and cabbage, from FatFree Vegan Kitchen
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