Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Beef Barley Soup

I'm laughing that I'm posting a beef-filled soup after my post on how we are going to eat less meat! But, actually, this is one of my favorite winter soups. I don't make it too often because cutting up the meat into the size pieces I prefer is definitely a chore, but it is super delicious and worth the effort. Its perfect for any fall or winter day and definitely a crowd pleaser. I've been meaning to post this for a few weeks now, so without further ado, here is the next installment of my soup arsenal.

Beef Barley Soup (adapted from Cooking Light, January 2005)

Cooking spray
~ 2 pounds beef stew meat, trimmed and cut into small pieces (larger pieces will take longer to become really soft; I prefer pretty small pieces, about 1/2 - 1 inch, but whatever you like will work)
2 teaspoons canola oil
2 cups chopped leek (about 4 medium; tips for cleaning here)
2 cups chopped carrot
1-2 cups quartered mushrooms (any kind works great)
4 large garlic cloves, minced
6 cups water
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
~4 springs fresh thyme, leaves stripped (dried thyme also works fine)
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 bay leaves
2 (14-ounce) cans beef or vegetable broth (I usually use my homemade vegetable stock which has a nice rich flavor)
1 cup uncooked pearl barley

1. Coat pan with cooking spray and heat over medium-high. Add a portion of the beef (don't crowd the pan or else it won't brown), cook 5 minutes, browning on all sides. Remove from pan. Repeat procedure with remaining beef. Remove beef from pan.

2. Heat canola oil in soup pot/dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add leek, carrot, mushrooms and garlic; sauté 4 minutes or until lightly browned. Return beef to pan. Add water and remaining ingredients, except barley. Bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat, and simmer approximately 1 hour (the cooking time is different every time I make it). When the beef is almost ready (soft) and the broth is tasty, add barley; cook 30 minutes or until beef and barley are tender. Don't forget to remove bay leaves before serving!

I know the photos make the soup look more like a stew... I took them the following day and a lot of the broth got sucked up by the barley - just add a bit more vegetable broth to bring it back to its "soup" form or eat it like a stew. Works great both ways.


Nina's Kitchen (Nina Timm) said...

I actually prefer the stew version of this "Soup". I have also tried to make the changes into a healthier lifestyle and it is amazing how adaptable the family is.

DJ said...

I found your recipe by googling "beef barley soup blog." I'm not big on the commercial recipe sites, so usually find recipes (and great blog sites)in this way.

Like you, I don't make many recipes with beef involved, but my husband likes it from time to time. I do have very fond memories of my father's Saturday soups and beef barley was one of his best efforts(and after all these years I just found out it is my husband's favorite soup--a detail he's kept back because he knows beef isn't my sweet).

Also, on his behalf, I purchased a large sampler pack of grass fed beef from a farmer at the local market last fall and we are still working our way through it. Grass fed beef is very lean and so I am--by trial and error--learning how to prepare it. This recipe's slow, delicious simmering seems just right.

I'll report back. Thanks!!

Jade said...

DJ - definitely let me know how it turns out w/ the grass-fed beef. Thanks for checking out my blog - feel free to drop me an email, I"m eager to hear other peoples experiences w/ high-quality meats and trying to reduce the amount of meat in their diet.

exuberantlady said...


The soup was fantastic! thank you so much for the recipe.

It's hard to describe how good the meat was. The first time I had an organic banana, I remember thinking how extraordinarily banana-y it was. That's how I felt about the grass fed beef in this a class of its own, redefining beef (or, rather, snatching definitions of beef out of that other realm of what passes for it in the market).

It's not that I haven't had grass fed beef before. But like I said, it's very lean and I've struggled with preparing it well --especially when trying to cook it as center-of-the-plate piece of meat(on the grill, in the pan, etc.)

Like other ultra lean meats (venison and bison, for instance), I think it is much better suited to a savory stew or sauce...and that's really the way we should start thinking about meat anyway...more like a savory ingredient or condiment.

I will definitely purchase more grass fed beef, but I think I'll stick to the cuts that lend themselves to slow-cooking.

DJ (a.k.a. Exuberant Lady)