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)

Ingredients
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

Steps
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.

4 comments:

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 thing...how 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...

Jade:

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 recipe...in 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)