Monday, November 5, 2012
Beef, Barley and Vegetable Soup
We had about 5 beautiful, cool days of Fall. Then Sandy came and blew all the leaves off the trees and brought freezing days. Lately it seems we have minute amounts of Spring and Fall and eons of Summer and Winter.
When it is cold I like to make soup. Some soups are quick and easy and some simmer for hours filling the house with marvelous scents. I used to make bread to go with the soup and that added another layer of mouth-watering aromas. We are trying to avoid too much bread, but soup calls for it so we bought a wee loaf. You can't overeat when you only have a tiny bit of bread, she said sadly.
A neighbor moved recently and I assisted her in cleaning out her cupboards (and freezer). In other words, I took home the food she didn't want to carry across the country. I'm just helpful that way. I ended up with quite a few canned and frozen vegetables. I decided to make beef vegetable soup. These soups take longer because I want the meat to be super tender. It cooks for several hours before you add the vegetables and then they don't get mushy. It makes the whole house smell wonderful and you might end up eating before the usual time, just because you can't wait any longer. We had dinner at 4:30!
Beef, Barley and Vegetable Soup
3/4 to 1 pound of stew meat. You can also use top round.
1 large onion, chopped
2 or 3 cloves garlic, crushed
6 cups beef broth
1 teaspoon Kitchen Bouquet (optional, but it helps to make gravy, too, so you will use it again)
1/2 to 1 cup chopped carrots
1/2 cup sliced celery
1/4 to 1/2 cup barley
1 cup (small can) corn, drained
1/2 cup frozen peas
1/2 cup frozen green beans
1 can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 teaspoon Italian Herbs This is a great herb mix for pasta sauces, so it also won't go to waste.
Semi-frozen meat works the best when trimming off the fat and making cubes of meat. I took the stew meat out of the freezer the night before and it was thawed just the right amount. Conversely, you can put it in the freezer for an hour or so and get it semi-frozen.
Trim all the fat off. I am sort of OCD about that. I would rather lose a bit of good beef rather than get a bit of fat, but you make it how YOU like it. That is the best thing about soups. They are very forgiving and you can adjust things to suit yourself. Not like baking, where measurements must be precise. The beef should be cut into small bite size chunks. They cook faster this way and you want to get a bit of meat and a bunch of vegetables in each bite.
Heat 1 Tablespoon of Olive Oil in a large stew pot. Add the meat and cook until it is no longer pink. Remove the meat to a plate lined with a few paper towels. Drain the fat out of the pot and add another Tablespoon OO and the chopped onions.When they are soft, about 5 minutes, add the garlic and cook for one more minute. Don't over cook the garlic. It becomes bitter. Season with s&p.
Return the meat to the pot and add the 6 cups of beef broth. It will cook down a bit and you will fill it up with veggies later, so don't worry that it is too much. Add the Kitchen Bouquet if you wish. Bring the soup to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. Cook for one hour. Check back after a bit to make sure it is not boiling and it is still simmering. Give it a stir every once in a while. Read a book or do something else you want to do. You are working here, making dinner for the family! You are not being lazy. See why making soup is so much fun?
Chop the carrots and slice the celery. Put them in the pot. Add the barley. Bring it up to a boil and then back to a simmer. Take a rest. Whew! Making soup is so difficult that you must not do any housework or anything with work in the description. Cook one more hour. Walk into the kitchen and stir every now and again. Working, here! Take deep breaths. Smells great, doesn't it?
Now you must open cans and get some bags out of the freezer. Add the corn (frozen is OK), peas and green beans. I ordinarily wouldn't use kidney beans in a veggie soup, but I had them (remember the neighbors?) so I put them in. Plus I love kidney beans. If you don't like them , leave them out.
This is the great thing about this soup. Use what you like and what you have in the freezer or the cupboard. As long as you still have liquid and it is not all veggies, you can't go wrong. I didn't REALLY measure the amounts, other than what was in the cans. I just dumped in what looked like the amounts. If you want to dirty a measuring cup to prove how difficult this is, go ahead. It will look very impressive to your family.
You really only need to cook another 15 or 20 minutes. Just to be on the safe side, spoon up a bit of beef and barley to make sure both are tender. Then get another spoon and taste the green beans. They should be cooked and warm. No, you can't use the same spoon. Gross! How hard is it to wash one more spoon?