Sunday, July 26, 2015

Recipe: Beef and barley soup

It is mid-winter and I'm truly in nesting mode. It is the season for slow cooked braises and soups. The kind of things that bubble away on the stove all day, filling the house with rich, warm, delicious scents.

Soup has been a staple in our house for the last few months. But as the winter gets deeper and the days colder I want something with a bit more substance to keep me going. Warm and hearty is what I'm after and I just don't think that you can beat beef and barley soup for that.

There is nothing particularly revolutionary about my recipe, it is a collation of ideas with chili added but I love it and I thought you might too. This makes a reasonably large amount, but this soup freezes extremely well so it is a great one to make a big batch of for those cold days when you don't want to venture outside or to keep you going all week.

I don't own a slow cooker, so I do this recipe in my cast iron Le Creuset pot on the cook top. If you do have a slow cooker you could do everything from the point where you add the spices and stock in it, however the browning of the meat and veggies at the start is really important as that is where a lot of the flavour comes from. You will note there is quite a range of time frames.

This soup is best the longer you can cook it for but not every day allows for 8 hours of cooking, so you just cook it for as long as you can.

Beef and Barley Soup

800g-1kg chuck steak diced into 2cm cubes
Worcestershire sauce
3 stalks of celery diced
2 carrots diced
1 brown onion diced
2 bay leaves
2 sprigs of rosemary
2 dried chillies
4 cloves of garlic, peeled
approx 1 tsp thyme leaves
approx 2 tsp ground black pepper
1 litre beef stock
3/4 cup of pearl barley, rinsed and picked through
1 1/2 cups hot water
1/2 bunch kale shredded
2 tbsp chopped parsley

Heat a dutch oven or heavy based saucepan till hot. Add a couple of tablespoons of canola oil and a knob of butter and allow to melt and sizzle. Brown the steak in batches.

When the steak is all browned, add it all back to the pot along with any juices and a good helping of Worcestershire sauce. I use a couple of tablespoons worth but it is a strong flavour so you can start with less. It will all bubble up, cook over the high heat until all the liquid is gone, stirring to keep from sticking. At the end the meat should be dark brown and fragrant.

Add in the celery, carrots and onion and wilt down. Again you want to cook it until there is no liquid left from the veggies - approx 10-15 minutes.

Add in the bay leaves, rosemary, chillies, garlic, thyme and pepper and stir to combine before adding the stock. Bring to the boil, then cover and cook on a low heat for 3-5 hours.

Remove the chillies, bay leaves and rosemary stalks (the leaves will have fallen off), along with any large chunks of garlic left and add in the barley and water. Cover and continue to cook on a low heat for another 2-3 hours.

10 minutes before serving, turn the heat up to medium high and stir in the shredded kale and parsley. Allow to wilt and enjoy a big warm bowl with a crusty loaf of bread.

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