Foraging for mushrooms is bit of a national pastime in the Czech Republic. During mushroom season people get up as early as 5am to get to the woods before anybody else, they guard their mushroom rich spots with their life. Even relatives will not disclose where they found their precious funghi.

There is a hierarchy among the mushrooms. The most desirable are girolles and porcinis, and some types of porcini are more sought after than others. It can sound a bit complicated to a novice, but every Czech child seems to know which are the basic edible mushrooms. I always loved searching the woods for chanterelles, they hide in banks of woodlands tucked away under tufts of grass. You can smell mushrooms in the woods as soon as you enter, their heady scent can be rather intoxicating.

we Czechs love to dry our mushrooms in the summer sunshine, keep them for the winter months. In the Czech cuisine there are many recipes using the edible fungi and quite a few of them are vegetarian. Mushrooms are a great meat substitute, the large ones can be simply grilled and used in place of a burger, chopped small can be used instead of mince, their rich flavour makes for a great gravy. They are fabulously and good for you too.

Unfortunately I have yet to discover places where to forage for mushrooms in UK, I am sure they must be around. In the meantime shop bought dried porcinis will have to do. They retain their flavour, it actually becomes even richer, and the scent is wonderful, just pour the boiling water over them to release it.



This recipe is inspired by an old Czech recipe that is traditionally cooked at Christmas. The original tends to be made with loads of lard and baked. I made this dish much lighter and used extra herbs to enhance the flavour.

The barley in my recipe is natural whole barley as oppose to pearl barley variety which is a more refined polished grain.

Serves 4 generously


15-20g dried porcini mushrooms
300g whole barley
vegetable stock
1 medium chopped
1 Tbs rapeseed or olive oil
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
200g mushrooms
1 Tbs rosemary, finely chopped
1 tsp dried marjoram
2 Tbs parsley, chopped



  1. Soak the mushrooms in boiling water, use enough water to make up about 500ml (2 cups). Soak for 20min. Take the mushrooms out and reserve the liquid.
  2. Put the barley and about 750ml (3 cups) of vegetable stock in a large sauce pan. Boil for 20 min. Drain and set aside.
  3. In a wide saute pan heat the olive oil and cook the onion till soft. Add the rosemary and mushrooms. Cook for about 5 min.
  4. Add the garlic, drained porcinis and the marjoram. Cook for 2 minutes.
  5. Add the barley, reserved mushroom soaking liquid and half the parsley. Season.
  6. Cook gently till most of the liquid is evaporated. This will take about 10min.
  7. Serve garnished with the reserved parsley.