Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Ground Beef Barley Soup

I have loved the 'idea' of Beef Barley soup for a while now but oddly enough, I never seemed to have the stewing beef around to make it.  And when I made the effort to go buy some just for the soup, it was always way more expensive than I anticipated so I never bought it and never made the soup.  One day, I had finally had enough of the soup's denial and took the chance on trying something new - ground beef!  Definitely a cheaper option and after eating it, equally as good if not better.  My recipe below was modified from "Looking for Mr. Goodbarley" in my all-time favorite cookbook Crazy Plates.  It is perfect for  the winter's stormy weather!  It really is packed full of goodness.

Ground Beef Barley Soup
1 - 1 1/2 lb ground beef *
1 medium onion
1 clove garlic
1 cup celery - chopped
1 cup carrot - chopped
3 cups water
4 cups Beef Broth/Stock *
1-5oz can Tomato Paste
2/3 cup Pot Barley*
1 tsp dried Marjoram
3/4 tsp dried Thyme
2 Bay Leaves
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 1/2 cup frozen kernel Corn 
1/2 cup fresh parsley* - chopped

Optional veggies to add: peas, green beans, parsnips, turnips

In a larger stock pot, brown the beef over medium-high heat.  Turning the heat to low-medium, add the diced onion, garlic carrots and celery and saute this for several minutes (5 - 8 minutes will bring out great flavour of the veggies).

Add all the remaining ingredients except the parsley.  Bring to a boil and then reduce the heat and simmer for an hour or two.  You could also make this in a crock pot and let it simmer for the day.  Prior to serving, add the fresh parsley. 

Add some fresh (wheat-free) bread and a salad and supper is served!

Cook's Notes:
Ground Beef: In many cases, I brown several ponds of beef with onions and garlic ahead and freeze it for another time such as this.  If you are doing the same, just add the veggies to the browned meat and carry on.  I have also used a mix of ground chicken and beef and it went undetected to those who enjoyed the soup. 
If you happen to have stewing beef to use, feel free to do so and just brown the outer edges first (do not fully cook it) in the pot and add the remaining ingredients as noted.  You would also need to cook the soup then for 2 - 3 hours or until the beef is tender and done.

Barley 101:  The most commonly found options in the grocery stores are Pearl Barley and Pot Barley (or Scotch Barley).   The Pot Barley is less polished and therefore contains a more nutritious outer layer but takes longer to cook.  In health-stores or specialty stores, you would likely find the even better options of Barley flakes and grits or Whole-grain (bits of whole-grain barley).  Both those would require longer cooking times but in a soup like this, why not?  Soup always tastes better with longer simmering.  

Beef Stock/Broth:  I am still in the process of finding a "healthy" broth/stock option for beef.  I thought i found one at the bulk barn but discovered it had maltodextrin which is a sugar.  So please use something you are comfortable with.  Once I find one that I like, I will be sure to pass it on.
If you an unsure of the difference between stock and broth, stock is made using meat with a bone (and a deeper flavour) and broth is made using only meat.

Parsley:  Fresh herbs are best added right at the end of cooking for the most flavour impact.  And dried is not really the same in my books.  Parsley is also very high in calcium so don't be shy about the amount.  3 1/2 oz has 203mg of calcium and cow's milk only has 118 mg for the same amount.***
And I know many people do not like to buy the fresh parsley because it does not last long.  So here is my trick.  I wash it and then store it in a larger yogurt container with water at the bottom and a produce bag over the top to keep it fresh longer.  Mine can last anywhere from 1 -3 weeks depending on how crowded the container is.
Another great tip for cutting fresh parsley and other similar herbs is to put the greens in a small bowl and snip them to the desired size.  I think it works like a charm!

***source: Food and Healing by Annemarie Colbin


  1. Mmmmm my house smells wonderful as this soup is presently simmering on the stove and cornbread is in the oven! I've been making it every other week since the weather became cooler and we have been loving it. I'm enjoying the ease and texture of ground beef vs. stewing beef. Thanks Jenn! xo