Beef and barley soup is one of my favourite comfort foods! There is just something about a tasty bowl of soup with slowly braised melt in your mouth beef that really hits the spot. This soup takes a bit of time to make but it’s super simple/easy and it’s that long and slow cooking that helps bring out all of the amazing flavours!
I like to start this stew off by soaking dried mushrooms in just boiled water for their intense mushroom flavour and their hit of umami. (Both the mushrooms and the water that they were soaked in are added to the soup for maximum flavour.) Next up is some smoked bacon, I mean bacon makes everything better, and in addition to using the bacon in the soup, the bacon grease is used to cook the vegetables. This soup uses the standard mix of onions, carrots and celery for the vegetables and I add fresh mushrooms because mushrooms and beef is such a great flavour combo and the texture that the fresh mushrooms add is amazing! The beef is seared over high util browned in the pan and this browning adds a ton of flavour! Those brown bits that stick to the bottom of the pan are pure concentrated flavour that we cannot let go to waste so we scrape them up off the bottom of the pan when we add the broth (this is called deglazing the pan). Thyme is my go to herb for use with both beef and mushrooms and I like to add garlic, tomato paste and a hint of paprika next to build up the depth of flavour. The flavour profile of the soup is finished with balsamic vinegar, worcestershire sauce and fish sauce where the fish sauce adds even more umami in addition to saltiness but you can replace it with soy sauce or omit it entirely if you prefer. Up next is the slow simmer until the beef is fall in your mouth tender and good!
This long slow braise can be done on the stove top, in the oven or in the slow cooker! If you are going to use the slow cooker to make this beef and barley stew I recommend that you follow all of the steps up to the simmer as they add a lot of flavour but you could skip it and just throw everything into the slow cooker for a simple 1 step meal!
Beef and Barley Soup
A simple and flavourful slow cooked beef and barley with melt in your mouth beef; pure comfort food in a bowl!
- 1 ounce dried mushrooms
- 4 slices bacon, cut into 1 inch pieces
- 1 1/2 pounds Ontario Corn Fed stewing beef such as chuck, round, brisket, cut into 2 inch pieces
- 1 cup onion, diced
- 1 cup carrot, diced
- 1 cup celery, diced
- 8 ounces mushrooms, quartered or sliced
- 2 tablespoons garlic, chopped
- 1 teaspoon thyme, chopped
- 2 teaspoons smoked paprika
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 4 cups beef broth
- 1 cup pot barley
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
- 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
- 1 tablespoon fish sauce
- salt and pepper to taste
- Cover the dried mushrooms in 1 cup of just boiled water and let sit until tender, about 15 minutes, before draining, reserving the water, and chopping the mushrooms.
- Meanwhile, cook the bacon in a larges sauce pan over medium-high heat before setting aside.
- Add the beef and sear until lightly golden brown on all sides before setting aside.
- Add the onions, carrots, celery and mushrooms and cook until tender, about 7-10 minutes.
- Add the garlic, thyme, paprika and tomato paste and cook until fragrant, about 1-2 minutes.
- Add the broth and deglaze the pan by scraping up the brown bits on the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon while the broth simmers.
- Add the barley, bacon, beef, reserved chopped mushrooms, reserved mushroom water, bay leaves, balsamic vinegar, worcestershire sauce and fish sauce and either bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer, covered, until the beef is fall apart in your mouth tender, about 2-3 hours, OR transfer to a preheated 350F/180C oven and roast, covered, until the beef is tender, about 2-3 hours, OR transfer to a slow cooker and cook on low for 6-10 hours or on high for 3-5 hours.
- Remove the bay leaves, season with salt and pepper to taste and enjoy!
Option: Toss the beef in 1/4 cup flour (or rice flour) or sprinkle in 1/4 cup flour into the pan along with the garlic to thicken the broth.
Option: If you have some parmesan rinds, throw them into the soup while it simmers, removing them before serving.
Option: Replace the fish sauce with soy sauce or red miso paste or simply omit it.
Option: Add apple and/or pitted dried prunes to add a touch of sweetness!
Option: If you are in a hurry, you can take it off the heat and enjoy it as soon as the barley is cooked at about 30 minutes.
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