Food Friday--Beef Barley Soup

I finally wrote this one down, at my son's request. He moved into an apartment at school this fall and wanted to learn to cook for himself, and this was the first recipe he requested. I'm not sure if he's tried to make it himself yet--this is still the first thing he asks me to make whenever he happens to be home for dinner. By the way, this is the soup that converted my husband from his beloved Campbells canned soup. FTW.

Sandy's Beef Barley Soup
3 medium carrots, peeled and diced
3 stalks celery, sliced thin
1/2 medium Spanish onion, diced
1/2 clove garlic, minced (more garlic to taste)
2 tablespoons vegetable oil (or olive oil)
2 pounds chuck roast
salt and pepper, to taste
3 containers low-sodium beef broth (32 oz each)
1 tablespoon beef bouillon
1 can diced tomatoes (28 oz, no seasonings)
1/2 teaspoon celery seed
1/2 teaspoon ground thyme
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 cup medium quick-cook barley

1. Prepare carrots, celery, onion, and garlic. Set aside (keep garlic separate). Trim most fat from beef and cut beef into cubes.

2. Heat dutch oven (no oil) on stove top over med-high heat. After several minutes, when dutch oven is hot, add meat. (No oil should be necessary; can add a little if you don't have much fat on the meat.) Brown on all sides, adding salt and pepper while browning. Remove meat from dutch oven and set aside. Do not wash dutch oven--leave the browned bits.

3. Heat oil in bottom of dutch oven until shimmery. Add onion. Saute until onion about 2 minutes. Add celery and carrots. Saute for about 3 minutes or until onion is transparent and maybe just a little brown. (You can put onion, celery, and carrot in all at the same time.) Add garlic and saute for another minute.

4. Add beef back into dutch oven with vegetables. Stir together, heating maybe one more minute. Pour in broth carefully, stir to combine.

5. Add bouillon, tomatoes, celery seed, thyme, and Worcestershire sauce. Stir to combine. Bring to a boil. (Taste after it's at a boil--add seasonings as necessary.)

6. Add barley, stirring while adding. Stir to make sure barley is not sticking to anything. Bring to a boil, then lower heat to simmer. Simmer for approximately 45-60 minutes, until barley is tender.

7. Barley absorbs liquid and seasonings, so taste every 15 minutes or so during cooking. If soup gets too thick, add water then beef bouillon to taste.

  • As you can tell, I cook soup in vats. Whenever I'm making this one I'm expecting to send containers home with my son and usually also my nephew, so I make it in volume. You can obviously decrease ingredients proportionately if you're not cooking for an army.
  • You can use precut stew beef, but I usually end up cutting that into smaller pieces anyway so I don't know that it saves me time, and it's more expensive. You can also use different cuts of meat--when I want to step it up a notch, I've been known to use a sirloin. Too lean, though, and you don't get much beef flavor out of it. You could use leftover cooked meat if you wanted--just adjust your cooking time and seasonings accordingly.
  • I love thyme so I tend to use a lot of it. Adjust seasonings to your own taste.
  • I also love the depth of flavor that extra bouillon brings to the party but if you're concerned about salt you will probably want to omit that. Check the comments on my chicken noodle soup recipe post for some readers' suggestions about alternatives to bouillon. Link