Beef Barley Soup ~ put another log on the fire and cozy up with a steaming mug of this classic comforting soup. You can simmer it on the stove, or let the slow cooker do the work.
VINTAGE VIEW ~ this hearty beef barley soup is from TVFGI archives, first published in 2013. As part of a new series on the blog I’m reviving some of the best recipes that you may have missed over the years ~ I’ve updated the recipe and notes, and shot new photos. I even made it crock pot friendly, this time, too.
Beef barley soup is a classic old world dish, and it’s been simmering away in pots for centuries, probably as long as people have been making soup. It just makes sense ~ the little white pearls of barley add lovely texture, as well as extra nutrition and satisfying bulk, all important things when you’re trying to make dinner out of a pot of soup. Barley’s natural starch thickens the soup as it cooks, too. This one is so satisfying and chunky we should really call it a stew.
One of the things that makes this soup so enticing is that it contains a good dose of Sherry.
The finer points of Sherry ~
- It’s an aged fortified white wine from Spain. Fortified just means it has a higher alcoholic content than regular wine.
- Sherry is old school, just like this soup ~ my great-grandmother would always have a nip of Sherry in a tiny glass after dinner, and over time it got the reputation for being a ‘little old lady’s wine’.
- But smart Millennials have rediscovered it, and it’s now trending again.
- I love the flavor, and I keep a couple of different bottles above the stove for cooking.
- Sherry has the reputation for being sweet, but most of it is actually dry, and the flavors can be very complex. Here’s a great guide, if you want to know more.
- You can use any type of dry Sherry for cooking, but avoid actually ‘cooking Sherry’ which contains additives.
- A generous pour of Sherry gives this broth a rich restaurant quality flavor. Use it in soups, stews, gravies, etc.
One of my warmest food memories is walking home for lunch from elementary school and sitting down at the kitchen table with my mother over a bowl of soup. Canned, of course. With Saltines on the side. And Beef Barley was one of my favorites. This soup brings back those memories… minus the Saltines.
This hearty soup is a meal in itself, that goes without saying, but in case your family is craving a little something to go with, I recommend my super easy one hour WHOLE GRAIN OAT ROLLS…they’re a favorite around here, and mercifully easy to make, like under an hour, from start to finish!
If you’re yeast-phobic, try my IRISH OATMEAL SODA BREAD.
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
- salt and fresh cracked black pepper
- 1 1/2 lb London broil, steak, chuck roast, cut in bite sized pieces (if you use pre-cut stew beef, cut it into smaller pieces)
- 1/4 cup flour
- 1 leek, thinly sliced, or 2 shallots, chopped
- 1/2 medium onion, diced
- 2 or 3 stalks of celery, sliced, leaves and all
- 2 carrots, peeled and diced
- 1/2 cup dry Sherry
- 1 32-oz box good quality beef stock, I like Swanson
- 2 bay leaves
- 2/3 cup barley
- 3 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
- 1 cup frozen pearl onions (optional)
- Sprinkle the beef generously with salt and pepper. Toss it in the flour and make sure to coat all sides of the meat.
- Coat the bottom of a heavy bottomed soup pot with about 1 tablespoon of the oil and heat it on medium high until you see it shimmer. Brown the beef on all sides, working in batches so you don't crowd the pan. Add a little more oil as necessary for the rest of the meat. Remove to a plate.
- In the same pan saute the leek, shallot, onion, celery and carrots for several minutes until the onions start to soften.
- Add the Sherry and let it cook for a minute, scraping up the brown bits as you stir. Add the meat back to the pan, along with the beef stock and bay leaves. Bring up to a boil, then turn down the heat, cover, and let barely simmer for an hour.
- Add the barley and let cook for another 30-40 minutes, until the barley is tender.
- Finish with the Worcestershire sauce, and more salt and pepper to taste. Remove the bay leaves before serving.
- Note: if you use the pearl onions, add them in at the end and just let them heat through.
- If you refrigerate the soup before serving it will thicken as the barley absorbs the liquid, you can thin it down with extra stock or water as you reheat.
- For crock pot ~ cook as above, but after adding the Sherry, meat, and stock to the pan, transfer to a crock pot. Add the barley and cook on low for 6 hours. Season with the Worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper just before serving.
Make it your own ~
- Make it gluten free ~ omit the flour and substitute rice or quinoa for the barley.
- No reason you couldn’t substitute chicken and chicken stock for the beef. Or lamb, for that matter.
- Sliced mushrooms make a nice addition to this soup.
Don’t forget to pin this Beef Barley Soup!