Beef Barley is a soup that hasn’t gotten it’s due, perhaps because the recipe most of us know is from the back of the Barley box. Good fare, not great. And while I love a good Beef Barley made with a home-made beef stock, it’s incredibly hard to find good bones here, terribly expensive, and frankly, a lot of work for a simple soup. My solution? A lovely Beef Barley Soup made with a “doctored” up broth.
Can you imagine me trying to explain my method of infusing flavor into this soup to my Scottish great grandmother? All because bones are so expensive? She’d be shaking her head for sure! Can you imagine the look on her face when I opened up a box of broth? Or made the soup out of left over Pot Roast? Because the meat of pot roast is already infused with flavor at the start, I don’t need to rely on expensive ox-tails, short ribs or flanken for flavor. Funny thing is, those used to be cheap cuts – not so much, anymore.
I have a couple more tricks up my sleeve, though, to further improve this soup, and you may use any or all, as you see fit and as time allows:
- If you’re using pot roast, use some of the drippings or gravy from the pot roast to enrichen the broth. Depending on how you’ve flavored your pot roast be careful, as some flavors might hijack the profile of the soup. Start with a little, taste, add a little more…
- If starting just from a broth, caramelize vegetable scraps (from the veggies you’ll be using in the soup) and use them to infuse a boxed or canned broth – a simmer together helps to take away that “tinned” taste.
- Add dried Porcini or Shitake mushrooms, one of my “Stealth” ingredients, to the broth for a deep, rich taste. Yeah, they’re a bit pricey, but very well worth it. If not, consider finely dicing button mushrooms and cooking until deeply browned and adding them – see Classic Vegetable Soup.
- Sneak a package of gelatin in the soup to simmer away during the final stages…it adds just a hint of body that’s missing in a store bought broth. After all, gelatin is made from bones and such.
- Cook the barley is by itself and add to the soup – this is no starchy mess with strange, bloated barley. It’s perfectly cooked al dente, just a bit chewy and delicious. (Make extra barley and toss in the freezer for a great time saver.)
I think of this soup whenever I make pot roast, and I’m a bit stingy about my pot roast left overs! See, if it all gets gobbled down by a gluttonous family member (you know who you are!) I won’t be able to make this soup. Not only do I love Beef Barley, I recognize that a great way to work some fabulous frugality into the budget is to use a more expensive protein in more than one meal.
The first meal, heavy on the meat, can be quite pricey if it’s all eaten up – but if you add a second, third or fourth meal (like this huge pot of soup – I’ll serve for dinner the first night, freeze enough for a second meal and divide the rest into individual servings to freeze for lunches) into the equation, then all of a sudden you can “cost average” the meals.
I call this “dividing and conquering.” The same holds true, with the “healthiness” of the meal. A huge pot roast with “mashed and a side” might be a bit on the heavy side – if your next meal is chock full of vegetables, like this soup, you’ve just found a bit of balance.
Serve this with a great hunk of bread, saltines or a sandwich. Might I recommend Crusty Bread?
Best Beef Barley Soup
Doctored up Broth:
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- scraps from vegetables used in the soup
- scant teaspoon sugar
- 1 onion, diced
- 3 to 4 dried mushrooms, chopped or 8 ounces fresh
- 5 whole cloves
- Parsley sprigs or stems, optional
- 6 cups of beef broth, canned or boxed
- 4 cups water, divided (3 plus1)
Add olive oil to Dutch oven and when heated through, add vegetable scraps, sugar and onion. Cover and adjust heat to medium, stirring now and then, until the vegetables begin to caramelize, about 20 minutes. Remove lid, stir until lightly browned. Add rest of ingredients and three cups of water. Cover and simmer at least 20 minutes and up to 1 1/2 hours.
Strain broth into a bowl, pressing on vegetables. Use remaining cup of water to pour through the vegetables and allow to drain for several minutes.
If desired, before straining, the dried mushrooms, which will be floating on the top of the broth may be removed, finely chopped and added to the soup. The longer the broth simmers, the less flavor will be left in the mushrooms, so taste one to see if this would be worthwhile.
If you don’t have dried mushrooms, finely chop 8 ounces fresh mushrooms and saute until deeply colored. Add to the broth.
Beef & Barley Soup:
- 1 packet of gelatin
- 6 carrots, peeled and diced
- 6 stalks celery, diced
- 2 to 3 cups chopped cabbage
- small can of crushed tomatoes (optional)
- 2 to 3 cups of cooked barley (1 cup dry = 3 1/2 cups cooked)
- 1 to 2 cups of left over pot roast
- salt and pepper to taste
- dash of red wine vinegar
Bring stock to a simmer, add gelatin, carrots and celery. Simmer about 10 minutes. Add cabbage and tomatoes if using. Simmer another five minutes. Add barley and simmer about five to 10 minutes until heated through and vegetables are at the desired stage of tenderness.
Check for consistency. Add a bit more beef broth or water if needed or desired for taste. Adjust seasonings. Add a dash of red wine vinegar if the soup needs any “perking up.”
Note on broth:
- I generally buy 2 boxes of beef broth, 4 cups each. In this instance, I’d already used about a cup of the broth in the pot roast, Pot Roast Carbonnade. The rest went in the soup, but I held the last cup back until the end, just in case.
- Beef broths vary widely in strength, flavor and saltiness, so this allows me to hedge my bet, here. I don’t wish to overwhelm the soup with a very strong broth, but I don’t want it to be dull and lacking either.
- The barley can be a variable, too; depending on how well cooked, it may absorb more broth then expected. It’s nice to have a bit of broth on the side in case you wish to add.
from the kitchen of http://www.frugalhausfrau.com
Let’s talk about how to save money/time on this recipe:
- Use a coupon matching site! One of my favorites in my area is Pocket Your Dollars, but every store has a group of enthusiastic Coupon Matchers. Do not discount the savings! I check their site every week, even if I don’t “need” to go to the store and often find bargains I can’t pass up.
- Follow my 12 Strategies – You’ll see them on the upper drop down menu of every page and how I apply them, below.
- Don’t get discouraged if your prices don’t match mine! Keep shopping at the best prices and your fridge/freezer and pantry will be stocked with sales priced ingredients.
- Read Strategies Applied additional tips as well as throughout the recipe, for saving time and managing food.
Put Your own Spin on It:
A soup like this is marvelous with so many different vegetables. Don’t ever feel as if a recipe like this has to be made exactly as written! Use what you and your family like – I do encourage the use of healthy cabbage, though! 🙂
Based on a cup of beef: Calories 178; Total Fat 7 g 10 %; Saturated Fat 2 g 9 %; Monounsaturated Fat 3 g; Polyunsaturated Fat 0 g; Trans Fat 0 g; Cholesterol 19 mg 6 %; Sodium 86 mg 4 %; Potassium 249 mg 7 %; Total Carbohydrate 20 g 7 %; Dietary Fiber 4 g 16 %; Sugars 4 g; Protein 10 g 20 %; Vitamin A 77 %; Vitamin C 19 %; Calcium 3 %; Iron 8 %
When I make Wild Rice, which I use in several dishes, especially my Wild Rice and Smoked Turkey Chowder, I never toss any left over water from the rice. I put it in small baggies in my freezer. If I’m making a soup like this that is lacking the deep “umami” flavor I think it should have, I pull out my little stash of liquid and add a bit to the soup. It brings in a deep, earthy, unidentifiable flavor that is lacking in the canned stock.