‘Tis the season for comfort food (when isn’t it the season for comfort food?) and nothing hits the spot quite like a good soup. It envelops you in warmth, and if done right, has a depth of flavor that is hard to beat. This vegetable beef barley soup does just that, and it is easy to make, too! Here is what you need (and I swear, gathering the ingredients is the hardest part):
4 cups beef stock (store bought or homemade — go for low sodium if possible)
2-3 carrots, diced small
2 ribs of celery, sliced and diced
1 medium yellow onion, diced small
6 medium crimini mushrooms, cleaned with a dry paper towel and sliced
2 Tbs of tomato paste
fresh or dried thyme (1tsp fresh, 1/4 tsp dried)
1/2 cup red wine (or more if you desire — I don’t measure)
1 cup pearled barley
olive oil and butter about 1Tbs each
1 lb sirloin steak, cubed
1-2 Tbs all purpose flour
salt and pepper
Directions: cube the steak into small, bite sized pieces and dredge them in flour, salt and pepper. Heat a dutch oven (I love my Le Creuset 5 1/2 qt. It is worth the investment — deserves another post on its own!) or a heavy bottomed stock pot on medium high heat. Add about 1 Tbs of olive oil and 1 Tbs of butter. Once the butter/oil combo is hot, add the meat and brown on all sizes, then remove and set aside for later.
After you remove the meat, add your veggies (except the mushrooms — those go in last) and cook until they start to soften (about 5 minutes). Add the tomato paste and thyme (fresh or dried) and mix it all together with the veg, then add the wine to deglaze the pan, scraping up all the brown bits on the bottom.
Once the pan is sufficiently deglazed, add your barley and four cups of beef stock and the cooked steak. Bring all that goodness to a boil and simmer for at least an hour. Taste the barley along the way and add more time if you need it to soften more. It should be plump and have a slight chew to it.
During your last fifteen minute of simmer time, add your sliced crimini mushrooms, salt and pepper to taste, and you are good to go!
This soup goes well with a nice hunk of crusty bread, a side salad, or could just be a meal in itself. If you find that it becomes too thick at the end of your cooking, feel free to add more stock or even a bit of water to loosen it up.