Beef-Barley Soup

As I’ve probably noted before on this blog, my mother did not make chicken soup as a curative–she made beef-barley, usually with left-over roast beef.  While H and I don’t usually dine on large cuts of meat, this wonderful antidote to chills and colds can be made with a steak  just as nicely.


Today I was casting about my kitchen, thinking of making a soup, and opened my freezer to see if I could get some inspiration in its chilly depths.  There was a rib-eye sitting there–how long has THAT been in there, I thought, and then, a-HA!  Beef-barley soup!

I made this soup in parts–the first was to cook the rib-eye steak in a cast iron skillet with a little grapeseed oil.  While that was cooking, I put a cup of barley on to simmer in a saucepot with a vegan bouillion cube and about three cups of water.  After the steak was done, I removed it from the pan, put it on a plate, and drizzled soy sauce and sprinkled garlic powder over both sides and put it in the fridge (it’s easier to cut thin slices of meat when it’s cool).

Then into the pan went about a cup and a half of diced purple carrots and some crushed red peppers from this year’s garden plus one whole small red onion (from Patti’s farm), chopped.  After about five minutes or so, I added a couple crushed and minced cloves of hot garlic (also from Patti’s farm).  I also added about a teaspoon of dried rosemary, plus salt and pepper.

When the veggies were just about tender, I threw in about a half cup of red wine and covered the pan, turning off the heat.  I let the veggies steep for about a half hour or so (the wine also helps to de-glaze the pan).  Then I took out the stock pot and dumped in the contents of the pot of barley and scraped in the veggies and wine.

Took the steak back out of the fridge and trimmed off the fatty bits for the dog’s dinner.  Then I sliced the steak thinly and added to the pot.  I probably added about two quarts of liquid (mostly water, a little more wine) to the pot, and slowly heated the soup to let the flavors come together.  I also added a bit of dried parsley and sweet basil to the pot at this point.

This is not my mom’s recipe–I would be surprised if she ever made hers the same way twice.  I never do.  The barley always thickens the soup ever-so-slightly, and the carrots, onions, and garlic retain all their sweetness and rich flavor.  The steak is nice and tender, not ever being boiled in the broth.

It may sound strange to say that when H is here, we eat meat almost every day, but we generally eat very little meat.  That is because, as with this recipe, one steak used in a soup like this will feed us for at least two, and possibly three meals (as well as giving the dog a little extra treat).

After spending a couple of years as a vegetarian (and often reverting to vegetarianism when I’m flying solo), I tend to think of meat more as a flavoring agent in many of my meals rather than a main course, though I’m obviously not opposed to a little chicken-fried Bambi on occasion.  😉


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