I like soup – all kinds of soup, but especially the thick, hearty home-made soups like Mom used to make. I had a hankering for some the other day. From my childhood days, I envisioned an old favorite – vegetable beef barley. I could almost smell the delicious, steamy aroma flooding the kitchen. My wife didn’t exactly share my vision, as I proceeded to assemble the ingredients.
“That soup is for fall or winter – not spring,” she said, but my mind was made up. I checked out a few recipes, and found that it was really quite basic – if you don’t make your own stock. In my childhood, I remember the pot boiling away all day, with beef bones and various magic ingredients (which I now know were herbs and spices) that Mom would add at various times during the cooking process. I was feeling experimental – and willing to compromise.
An hour and a half later, the pot was filled with a thick, aromatic broth. It wasn’t as good as I remember Mom’s – but then again, memories, especially old, emotion tempered memories, have no equal. The acid test came when my wife took her first tentative, sip- and gave a smile of approval. It really is a very good soup – and filling. Here’s the recipe in case you’re inclined to give it a try.
One (1) cup each of chopped onion, celery and carrots.
Half a pound or so of stewing beef cut into one inch cubes (you don’t have to measure them unless you’re so inclined).
Two 900ml. containers of beef broth. I used salt free.
One 796 ml. can of diced tomatoes – or fresh.
One cup pot barley.
Two tbsp. extra virgin olive oil.
Pepper and salt to taste.
In a dutch oven or large pot, cook the onion, celery an carrot in the olive oil for six minutes, stirring frequently. Add the meat, and continue cooking until the meat is cooked through (seven or eight more minutes).
Add the tomatoes, including liquid, and mix in. Add the beef bullion and bring to a low boil. Add pepper (if desired) and add the barley. Cover, cook at a rolling boil for an hour. For thinner soup, add more bullion or water. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Enjoy!
If you have comments about this recipe – or have other favourites, I’d love to hear from you.
If you’re looking for a good read while your soup percolates, The White Limousine is now available as an e-book on Kobo. (www.kobobooks.com/)
You can get some bones from the butcher and just forget the meat. Avoid store bought bouillon. Cheap, easy…and just not as good. (Yesterday I roasted a chicken. When we finish the chicken, all bones will be conserved and used for a soup).
Triple the onions and make sure that they small cubes. Use fresh spices. We often don’t have much in winter so I add a cup, yes a cup of dried italian herbs. I also dry roast and grind cumin and it just adds a little depth to it all. Bring to a boil and simmer all day.
Drain, keep all vegetables and then put in a blender and add only enough bouillon to make a paste. Then mix with bouillons and add fresh carrots , celery, etc.. Cook vegetables, finely grated garlic and barley. A good soup needs to have a ”bite” of vinegar so after the vegetables are cooked, I add freshly squeezed lemon or one of my favourites, a spoon or two of non-pasturized apple vinegar. Let sit for 10 minutes.
Mom has been gone for decades but if I let the stove work the soup all day, Mom comes back to kitchen , bowl and great memories.
Mom always told me not to play with my food but play and experimenting are key.
Thanks for the tips, Peter. I’ll be sure to try them next time around.
Good ole soup. Can’t beat it, and, eat it all year long. I grew up with a soup similar to your beef barley. However, we used wild rice instead of barley. It was called “booya”, and we would make gallons of it in the big 18 quart electric roaster. You know the one…usually found cooking that big tom turkey for Thanksgiving. It was best served with my Grandpa John’s homemade honey molasses oatmeal bread and rolls. Boy, I can still smell those rolls coming out of the oven, just as I got home from school. Grandpa was so good at timing those rolls! As a pre-teen, I spent some of my summers staying with my grandfather in northern Wisconsin. I tried to write down his bread recipe one time, (which wasn’t easy), because grandpa had the recipe in his head, not on a piece of paper. The problem for me, as I watched intently, was that he never used normal cooking utensils. He used a coffee cup to measure the flour and oatmeal. But, what size coffee cup? And how much is a pinch or a dab? He always said you didn’t need measuring spoons. Fingers and the palm of your hand were good enough. I could go on and on about my grandfather’s cooking and baking. That’s because he was a lumberjack camp cook, owned a grocery store, was a butcher, a butler, and even a justice of the peace. All of this after being a stow-away on a ship sailing to America from Norway, at age 15. He was born in 1882, and died in 1977. He has left me with wonderful memories of days gone by. Boy, I guess I got off the topic a little bit. Soup…does a body good. ENJOY!
Hi Nancy. Thanks so much for sharing your story about your grandfather’s baking. What an interesting man, and what an exciting life he led. I’m sure that you have many stories about him. His measuring methods might be a guy thing. I have the same issue.
Hi John and Jan, Got your latest post John. So glad you are still writing-and making soup too! How are you both doing, health wise and otherwise? How are the kids? Life in general? We are both well, especially me. Stu is going to have a heart valve replaced sometime in the next month. He is doing well, not suffering too much and hopefully will not be suffering much after the operation either, as major as that is. But we have lots of info, support and a great surgeon at the best possible hospital for heart issues. Has your heart arythmia continued John or no? And what about your restless leg? Jan, I hope your thyroid balance is restored now. How can you tell we’re getting older? Stu celebrated his 68 bd on Tuesday and we had a brunch today with some friends here. Other fun stuff happens too. We have a new pussy cat in our lives, Monkey. My sister and niece are coming to visit right before Stu’s surgery. I’ve got tomatoes already on the vine on the balcony . And summer is on its way. So life is good. I hope things are good for you too. Love, Val
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Hi Val. Great to hear from you. Our thoughts and best wishes will be with you as Stu has his operation. We’re doing well here. My heart issue has not recurred, and my restless leg is under control. Life is good. I do aquafit and play pickleball – both great ways to exercise have fun and socialize. As my doctor is fond of saying, “If you could put all of the benefits of exercise into a pill, it would be a miracle drug.”
Keep us posted on Stu’s progress.