Drain the pearl barley and set aside.
Carefully remove the soaked ceps without disturbing the soaking
liquid too much. Roughly chop the mushrooms and set aside. Strain the
mushroom soaking liquid through a coffee filter, muslin, or a very fine sieve
to remove any gritty particles, then set aside.
Preheat the oven to 350°F.
Heat the oil in an ovenproof saucepan, and cook the onion over
medium heat for 8–10 minutes until softened. Add the garlic, thyme, bay
leaves, celery, and carrot and cook for another 3 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat the vegetable stock and red wine with the reserved
mushroom liquid until just below boiling point.
Add both the fresh and soaked mushrooms to the onion mixture and
cook over high heat for 3 minutes. Add the barley, black pepper, and
heated stock, stir to combine, then bring to a boil, cover, and place in the
preheated oven for 35 minutes. By this stage, all the liquid should have
Take out of the oven, remove the lid and, over very low heat, stir in the
Maggi seasoning, if using, and the baby spinach. Stir until the spinach has
wilted. Check the seasoning, then serve piping hot.
Tip: I’m a great fan of Maggi liquid seasoning in soups and stews. It’s like a
vegetarian version of Worcestershire sauce, and adds that little je ne sais
quoi, but beware, it does contain MSG.