Sunday, 2 September 2012


It's been close to 2 months since my last post.  I hadn't given up on this little blog of mine, that wasn't the reason for not posting. It's just that here at home we were in the middle of a renovation project. One that took way too long to complete - actually there are still some odds and ends that need finishing. Consequently, there has been very little cooking going on in our kitchen. Along the way we made due with lots of canned soup, sandwiches, salads, some takeout (Chinese, of course), lots of eating standing up, lots of paper plates. A few times I ate soup straight out of the can. At other times I poured my soup into a paper bowl. Then I'd remember that the microwave was packed away in the garage, and I would have to eat my soup cold. Appetizing?  You bet!  Sampled a few cans of beef and barley. I asked myself:  can I create a beef and barley version that's better than what I am eating out of this can? The answer was quick to come: You bet!  So I waited. For the new floor. For the new counter. For the dust to go away. For the spackling paste to dry. Then I went shopping:  brisket, barley, vegetables. And then, I COOKED! For the first time in two months. Yes, I still remembered how to slice onions. I even remembered which box my chopping knife was packed in. I took it out and got started. I made a huge pot of beef and barley soup. Never mind that it was 85 degrees outside. here never was a more satisfying and enjoyable soup. Savoury, steamy broth, beef so perfectly cooked it melted in one's mouth, and beans and barley, warm and filling.  This is the kind of soup you ladle into your best china if you can remember which box it's packed in. 

Use these first 10 ingredients to make a nice broth:

3 pounds beef brisket, cut into 1-inch cubes

about 3 tablespoons olive oil
beef bones for soup
1 onion cut into large pieces
3 bay leaves
3 celery stalks, coarsely chopped
2 carrots, coarsely chopped
3 cloves of garlic cut in half
salt and pepper
10-12 cups of liquid

 Now use the following ingredients to finish the soup:

2 (8-ounce) cans of tomato sauce

3 celery stalks, chopped
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
1 small onion chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1¼ cups pearl barley, rinsed
2 cups soaked cranberry beans
3 tablespoons flat leaf parsley, chopped
2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves
salt and pepper


Making this beef and barley soup is a little time consuming, but the end result is truly worth it! Unless you are feeding a large crowd, there will be leftovers- but don't worry. The soup will taste just as good if not better the next day. I made a large batch on purpose just so we could have the leftovers.
  • Rinse the cranberry beans and soak them overnight.  About  1¼ cups should yield 2 cups of soaked beans.
  • In a large heavy Dutch oven heat the olive oil and sauté the beef two or three batches, removing each batch to a plate as it finishes sautéing.  
  • When all the beef is done place it back into the Dutch oven and add the liquid, the bones, the onion, celery, carrots, bay leaves, garlic and salt and pepper.
  • Bring to a boil and then lower the heat. Cover and cook on low for about 1½ hours. Let cool and carefully remove the meat from the broth. Strain the broth and discard the cooked vegetables and bones.
  • Pour the strained broth back into the Dutch oven and add the tomato sauce.  
  • Add the meat, the barley, the beans, the fresh onion, celery, carrot and garlic. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer on low for an hour, stirring occasionally.
  • Add the thyme, parsley and salt and pepper to taste and then simmer for about another half hour.

That should do it.  Ladle the soup into bowls and serve.  The long cooking time will make the meat very soft.