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Jan 20, 2012 08:10 AM

Barley in Beef Vegetable Soup

I’m planning on making a beef vegetable soup this weekend. I LOVE barley in my soup, but it seems I always wind up pining for more or cursing myself for a gloppy mess because I’ve put too much in.

Can someone tell me what is a good amount of barley per cup of liquid to add to the soup?

I’m planning on making a large batch and freezing portions for future meals, does barley continue to ‘grow’ and soak up liquid like pasta does and is that something I need to take into consideration?

And lastly, if anyone cares to share THEIR all time favorite beef veggie soup recipe/method/special ingredient, please feel free

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  1. Barley will grow a little, but nothing like pasta. I use 1/2 to 2/3 cup raw in a big pot of soup, adding in last 45 minutes of cooking.

    1. I just made this yesterday. I didn't have a recipe, but here's what I did:

      Saute 1 container of cremini mushrooms in olive oil in a dutch oven until deep golden. Remove from pot. Add a little more oil and add 1 pound diced beef (I used shoulder steak london broil) and brown on all sides. Remove from pot and add 1 diced onion, 3 cloves minced garlic, 4 ribs chopped celery and 1 lb chopped carrots, salt, pepper and dried thyme. When veggies are soft, add back beef, juices that accumulated, and mushrooms with 1 carton swanson beef stock and 2 cups water. Add 1/2 package barley, rinsed, and cook at a simmer for about an hour. Delicious, perfect soup with just the right amount of everything!!! Of course, I should mention, this turned out a little more like a stew and less like a brothy soup, but that's how we like it!!

      1 Reply
      1. re: jenhen2

        Not that it's really soup or stew weather right now, but that sounds great!!

      2. My trick? I cook the barley separately. Do a whole bag and add as much as you want once the veggies and meat are done. Know that it will still soak up a bit more liquid but you have more ability to control it. Any leftover barley freezes beautiful for future use.

        3 Replies
        1. re: katecm

          That is an excellent suggestion. Not only does barley freeze well, but it has a myriad of other uses, from a simple risotto or a pilaf-like side dish at dinner or even a hot cereal in the a.m. are possible. Or more soup!

          1. re: katecm

            I concur as well to cooking separately and any extras I usually turn into a salad to go with something the next day.

            The only thing I would add is to ensure you use stock (chicken, beef or whatever) to pre cook the barley in and some salt in the liquid while cooking in order to season it before hand. This means it won't suck the flavor out of your soup when added in at the end.


            1. re: katecm

              That's what I do also. Works out nicely. Baby likes to eat some of the leftover barley for lunch.
              If I have any left to freeze, I freeze in small ziplocks. I've added it to last minute vegetable soup with good results.

            2. Thanks all for your suggestions.

              I did cook the barely separately, in salted water. Turns out that my husband isn’t a fan of barley in beef vegetable soup anyway, so it worked out best for all.

              Two beef shanks, four bones and some leftover pot roast yielded enough stock to make 8 servings of soup. I wound up freezing 6 servings in individual containers for future lunches.

              Roasted the shanks and bones, covered with cold water in the slow cooker, added two small onions, two stalks of celery, two carrots, a bay leaf, a few peppercorns and some parsley stems (went really simple)
              Put the slow cooker with the leftover pot roast pieces set on low and let it cook mostly all day. (couldn’t help myself from scooping marrow out of one of the bones near the end of the process… I love marrow schmeared on crackers)

              Drained it and passed it through a fine mesh sieve. Let it sit overnight and took the fat off the next morning.

              Brought it up to a simmer, added salt to taste, and then added green beans, frozen corn, celery and carrots, simmered till nearly tender and added some chopped zucchini at the very end, added a little more salt. I was considering adding a can of fire roasted tomatoes, but I decided against it. I really liked the flavor just as it was and didn’t want to muck it up.

              Boiled the barley for me and some acini de pepe for my husband and we had a wonderful lunch on Sunday with more to come.
              (I do love soup in the winter)

              1 Reply
              1. re: cgarner

                That sounds awesome, I think I'm doing beef barley soup this week :)

                Only things I do different is I smear tomato paste on the beef bones before roasting them to get a slightly richer darker stock. Also I reduce the stock to about 75% of it's volume to concentrate the flavor in between straining it and letting it sit overnight.

                But yummmm and congrats! :)

              2. Ratner's, for decades an Article of Faith on New York's Lower East Side, was a restaurant specializing in Jewish "dairy" (no meat) cuisine. Ratner's intense Mushroom and Barley Soup tasted as if it had beef in it, which it didn't. Their cookbook gives a complex recipe with the proportion of 1/2 cup of coarse barley to 2 quarts of water and a lot of vegetables. All ingredients are simmered together for 1 1/2 hours. Instructions do not mention soaking the barley.

                1 Reply
                1. re: Querencia

                  It's amazing how some soups are meat free, yet can have that 'beefy' taste... (I feel pretentious using the word Umami)