Barley Mushroom Casserole (Tsar-kasha)

Because I am working on a new book series for middle grade children that focuses on early 20th Century eastern European immigrants to North America where life was hard and childhood was short, I currently have a special interest in Russian/Ukrainian cuisine. Both of my grandfathers worked in the coal mines of northeastern Pennsylvania during that era, so some of these recipes have been passed down through the generations. I am resurrecting a few favorites from my childhood and experimenting with them to fit a meat-free plant-based lifestyle.

This is a simple Russian/Ukrainian peasant recipe that I have adapted from the original to be vegan. I am including the original ingredients in parentheses so you can choose the version you prefer. This was an easy recipe to adapt because it was already vegetarian. I just made a few minor adjustments to make it vegan.

Ingredients:

2/3 cup finely chopped onion

3 Tbsp grapeseed oil (or 6 Tbsp butter)

1 large clove garlic, minced

1 lb fresh sliced mushrooms (these were traditionally hand-picked in the forest, but you can just use sliced white mushrooms from the grocery store as I did here)

3 cups water

1 cup regular barley

3 tsps instant vegetable bouillon granuals or “Better Than Bouillon-No Chicken Base” (or instant chicken bouillon or regular chicken broth)

1/4 cup snipped fresh parsley

1 tsp dried basil leaves

1/2 tsp salt (optional)

1/4 tsp ground black pepper

Method:

In a large pot combine the onion, oil, garlic, and mushrooms. Cover and cook on medium, stirring occasionally, just until the onion is tender.

Stir in remaining ingredients and bring to a boil. Lower heat to simmer, cover and cook until barley is tender. Stir occasionally and add more water if needed.

Remove from heat and let stand covered for 5 minutes.

This simple recipe yeids 8 -10 side dish servings or 4 – 5 maindish servings.

My mother would have served this with ground redbeets mixed with horseradish, but I really dislike that concoction. I served it with a side of whole cranberry sauce instead and roasted vegetables. Serve as you like.

If you are interested in learning about the early 1900’s coal mine experience as seen through a child’s eyes, then please check out my new book, “Peeling Potatoes: Katie’s Story” on Amazon. Available in Paperback or eBook: https://amazon.com/dp/B0B4KTJL3F

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