Sunday, August 30, 2015

Beef Barley Mushroom Soup

The descriptive word that comes to mind is hearty, followed by chewy and trailing last is beefy. The sum of these three adjectives is a satisfying spoonful of soup. Beef is the meat of choice. I often use boneless cuts of beef as they brown and braise easily. When I have leftover roast beef or steak, it gets chopped into bite size pieces and cooks along with the mushrooms. Sometimes I braise lamb neck bones, debone the meat and add it to the soup along with the resulting broth. The most convenient is to start with some form of cooked beef. It's easier, faster, helps the soup along in a jiffy. You do have to have a few mushrooms on hand though! And some barley!

Barley benefits from a quick first boil. It cooks faster and plumper. Pearl barley is easily found in most grocery stores. It has a nutty flavor akin to farro. As it cooks it opens up and adopts the flavor of the broth. The result is a nibbly chew in your spoon. Thick-cut mushrooms and herbs give an earthy taste to the broth. I leave thyme stems whole and pick them out once the soup is done. Fresh oregano and parsley round off the soup. The soup should be thickish, not runny. So instead of using a roux, I grate a small potato into the simmering broth. As the potatoes cook, they disintegrate and give just enough thickness to the broth. A squirt of tomato paste gives the soup a hint of sour. Soups on!

Makes 4 generous portions

1 cup cooked Beef (roast, steak, deli sliced roast beef)
1 cup Cremini or White Mushrooms
1/2 cup Pearl Barley                           
2 tablespoons Olive Oil
1 large Onion
4 Garlic cloves 
1 tablespoon Tomato Paste
1 small Potato
4-5 cups Beef Broth
1/2 teaspoon Kosher Salt
3/4 teaspoon ground Black Pepper 
5 Thyme sprigs
2 tablespoons fresh Oregano 
3 tablespoons Parsley

Put barley in a small saucepan. Cover barley with two inches of water and bring to a boil. Let barley boil for 8-10 minutes.

Chop cooked beef into bite sized pieces.

Clean and slice mushrooms thickly.

Cut onion and garlic into thin slivers.

Heat olive oil in a Dutch oven or deep sided pan.

Drop onions into one side of the oil and garlic into the other. Let garlic color for 30 seconds and then stir both together.

Drain barley and add to onions. Stir well for a few a minutes.

Add tomato paste and stir well to blend in. Cook for 15 seconds.

Add mushrooms to soup base. Saute.

Pour beef broth in and let it come to a vigorous boil.

Drop beef pieces into broth.

Drop thyme sprigs into soup. 

Roughly chop oregano and parsley and add to soup.

(Remove thyme stems before serving)

Season with salt and pepper.

Lower flame and let the soup simmer at a low boil. 

Grate the small potato into soup. Stir to mix. Gently boil for 20-25 minutes.

Heat soup for a few minutes before you eat.

A small bowl constitutes lunch. Accompanied by my summer staple sandwich of avocado and tomato on wheat bread. My insides get a warm hug with each spoonful. Chewy barley and mushroom, small beef nuggets and an herb-laden beef broth is 'souper' lunch special.