Beef and barley soup has to rank as one of my all time favourite comfort foods. For some reason, when it is cold and rainy and I think about a meal I’d like to prepare, this is the one. If I were to make this early enough I could probably use the slow cooker but on this day, rainy = lazy so it was already afternoon.
I took my lazy time and made it on the stove top the good old fashioned way. I used eye of round marinating steak but any cheap stew beef can be used if you trim excess fat. Because the soup cooks for about 2 hours, the beef softens and breaks down. I did not even marinate the beef. Just added what was needed and started cooking right away.
Various recipes like to incorporate potatoes and/or mushrooms along with the staple carrot/celery/onion trio. As a West Indian, I knew I could do no wrong by bending the rules and adding dumplings instead of the potatoes. It was my teenage son’s request actually. I never intended to add the dumplings thinking that the barley was enough carb but at the 1 1/2 hour mark, I felt my soup was looking a bit too runny and needed a “little help”. The beauty about adding dumplings is that it helped to thicken the soup perfectly so that the final consistency was just right. If you would rather pass on the dumplings, be my guest. I can always pick your dumplings out and add them to my bowl so I get twice as much goodness!
“Rainy Day Beef & Barley Soup” by loopylocks
Makes 8 – 10 servings
cooking time: 2 hours
2 pounds beef, cubed
1 T Worcester sauce
1 T dried thyme
4 cloves fresh garlic, crushed
1/2 tsp each of salt, black pepper, onion powder, garlic powder
1-2 T olive oil
1/4 C red wine
4 C beef broth
4 C water
2 onions, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
3 celery sticks, chopped
4 roma tomatoes, chopped
1 C cremini or button mushrooms, quartered
1 C pearl barley, rinsed and drained
1 T balsamic vinegar
For the dumplings:
1 C flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 C cold water
Chop all vegetables minus the mushrooms (which are added later), setting aside garlic for marinating the beef. Chop beef into bite size cubes, 1/2 to 1 inch square sizes. In a separate bowl, add Worcester sauce, fresh garlic and all the dry ingredients to the beef.
In a large frying pan, over medium high heat, add olive oil and brown the beef in 2 batches. Add each batch as it browns to a large stock pot on the stove top. Add the wine to the frying pan to descale all the yummy bits that browned in the pan so as not to waste any good flavour. Transfer wine mixture to the stock pot with the beef and put on medium high heat. Add the vegetables (minus the mushrooms), add the broth and the water and bring to a boil stirring from time to time. Turn to low and partially cover for 45 minutes to 1 hour. Stir occasionally.
Meanwhile, rinse mushrooms and quarter. Rinse and strain the pearl barley. At the 1 hour mark, add the barley and mushrooms to the pot and return heat to high until it returns to a boil. Stir and reduce heat to low, partially covered for about 45 minutes. Stir occasionally.
At this point, start making the dumplings. They only need to be added in the last 15 minutes. In a small bowl, add the flour, baking soda and salt. Stir with a fork and add the cold water in the centre stirring with the fork or your hands until a dough forms. It should not be so dry that the dumplings crumble, nor should it be so wet that you cannot get the dumplings off your palms and into the pot. Add more water or flour if need be.
You should now be at the 45 minute mark where the barley is done and the soup is almost ready. Taste to make sure the soup does not need any more salt. For me I added an extra 1/2 tsp here and also added the balsamic vinegar.
Pinch small bits of the dough and roll them between the palms of your hand to make small 1-2 inch logs. I know them as “spinners” or “torpedoes”. The right size is about the length of your pinky finger. As you make each dumpling, drop them into the soup over medium heat. Once they have all been added, stir and reduce heat to low for about 15 minutes with the lid on.
Turn the heat off and allow to cool for 10 minutes. This soup tends to burn you with heat if you dig in too quickly (especially those yummy dumplings). Serve up into bowls. If you’d like, add your favourite bread if barley and dumplings are not enough comfort for you. Bread helps you to scrape the bowl better that any spoon 🙂 Enjoy!