Hearty and delicious slow cooker beef and barley soup – the ultimate comfort food.
When the entire family is struck down with the sniffles you know it’s time to pull out the big guns. A hearty soup is definitely the best way to deal with a cold – this has apparently been scientifically proven! Beef and barley soup is actually a cross between a soup and a stew, it is so very thick and filling. I love that you can play around with the ingredients according to the season and mood. I always add carrots and potatoes but am also partial to squash, parsnips and sweet potato. I am on the fence about adding tomatoes but will compromise by adding a few tablespoons of tomato purée.
The soup requires a little advance prep before adding the ingredients to your slow cooker but afterwards to you can leave it to do all the work. I usually set it to cook for eight hours overnight and reap the benefits the next day. Since the soup keeps really well you can make a big batch and serve over a few days (that’s my lunch sorted) or freeze it for later. Do bear in mind that the barley absorbs a lot of water as it cooks so the soup will get very thick – you can always add a little warm water to thin it out when reheating it.
For all its great qualities, and it has many, beef and barley soup is not the most photogenic of foods. I have to admit that I had cooked and photographed it a long time ago but hated the photos so much I shelved the recipe for a whole year! In its previous incarnation I had flavoured the soup with star anise, cinnamon and lemongrass (with added tomatoes this time) taking inspiration from my popular Vietnamese beef stew recipe.
- 700 g | 1.5lbs beef shin cut into small cubes
- 100 g | 3.5oz pearl barley
- 3 carrots peeled and finely diced
- 2 celery sticks peeled and finely diced
- 2 leeks white parts only, finely diced
- 2 shallots peeled and finely diced
- 2 tbsp tomato purée
- 1 large floury potato peeled and cubed
- 1 tbsp plain flour
- 1 tbsp soy sauce
- 1/2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
- 1 tsp dried mixed herbs thyme, oregano
- 1 1/2 litres | approximately 6 cups hot beef stock made with 1-2 stock cubes
- salt and freshly ground pepper to season
- handful flat leaf parsley chopped, to garnish
- olive oil to fry
- Add the flour onto a plate and season liberally with salt and pepper.
- Toss the beef cubes to coat in the flour.
- Heat a little olive oil in a large non-stick frying pan. Fry the beef cubes, in batches, until lightly browned. Transfer to your slow cooker.
- Fry the carrots, celery, leeks, shallots and potato over medium heat until slightly softened.
- Stir in the tomato purée, soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, dry herbs and transfer everything to the slow cooker.
- Add the stock and pearl barley and stir well. Cover and cook for 8 hours on low setting.
- Serve garnished with a little chopped parsley and crusty bread on the side. Thin the soup with a little water if necessary before serving.
Vary the vegetables according to what's in season. Squash, parsnips, sweet potatoes are all great additions.
Make sure you leave a bit of space at the top of your slow cooker as the barley will thicken as it cooks.
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