Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Beef barley soup for the Olympics

When I was a kid, I took ice skating lessons at a local rink called The Winter Lodge.  I started when I was four, in the baby class, which was offered in a small, indoor rink the size of a classroom. The main purpose of the beginner class was to learn to move from one side of the room to the other without falling on your face. Over the next seven years, I skated through the different levels onto the big outdoor rink and eventually became a pretty good skater, although not competition material.

Mostly, I liked the trappings of the skating world: the pretty white skates and sparkly outfits, as well as the weird chicken soup you could buy for 25 cents from The Winter Lodge's ancient vending machine. I was also completely obsessed with the movie Ice Castles, which came out in 1978, when I was five. It's about a beautiful blond figure skater named Lexie, who, in a tragic accident, loses her sight, and then has to learn to skate all over again, but blind. Why I was watching movies like this when I was five is beyond me, but it probably helps explain why I'm a little mental as an adult.

Looking back, I suspect this movie was a big piece of garbage. But when I was little, I liked to pretend I was Lexie (pre-accident, natch), skating around to a fabulous soundtrack, my long ponytail flowing behind me as the crowds roared.

What does this have to do with food? you're wondering. Well, one of my favorite things to eat when I came home from ice skating was my mom's beef barley soup.

This weekend I got the craving for it, I think because of the Olympics. Watching the skating had me thinking about the old Winter Lodge and coming home after practice to a warm bowl of delicious soup. I had to settle for a different recipe than my mother's, though, since hers takes the better part of a day, and I didn't decide on making the soup until about 4 pm. Luckily, that old cookbook I love, Firehouse Food, came through for me yet again.

The soup was rich and meaty, full of vegetables, and thickened from the barley. We ate it with big slices of good sourdough bread while watching the Olympics, and I recommend you do the same.

Beef barley soup
From Firehouse Food

Serves 6

2 T. olive or vegetable oil 
1 lb. London broil or beef chuck, cut into 1/2" cubes (I used 1-1/2 lbs)
salt and pepper
1 small onion, small dice
3 stalks celery, small dice
1 large carrot, small dice
1/4 c. chopped parsley, plus 1 T. for garnish
6 c. beef broth
1 c. pearl barley
1 can (14.5 oz) diced tomatoes
1 T. Worcestershire sauce
3 bay leaves
1/2 t. dried thyme

In a large, heavy-bottomed soup pot, heat the oil and brown the beef in small batches, seasoning each batch with salt and pepper. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the browned meat to a bowl, leaving as much fat in the pot as possible.

Once all the meat has been browned and removed, add the onion, celery, carrot, and parsley to the pot; cover and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally for about 5 minutes, until the vegetables are soft.

Return the beef to the pot along with any juices that have collected in the bowl. Add the broth, barley, tomatoes (with their liquid), Worcestershire sauce, bay leaves, and thyme. Bring the soup to a boil, then lower the heat, put the cover ajar, and simmer 1-1/2 hours, stirring occasionally and adding water if the soup becomes too thick.

Skim any fat that has risen to the surface of the soup, discard the bay leaves, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Ladle into bowls and garnish with the remaining parsley.


  1. That looks like exactly what I want right now. Awesome. Too bad I didn't get any barley when I went to the store this morning!

  2. Looks so hearty and warming, yet healthy enough that it doesn't inspire any guilt when watching Olympic athletes - unlike last night's leftover choucroute! :)

  3. Oh, I used to love that movie too! When she tripped over the flowers?! Oh, I cried and cried. I haven't thought about that in years. :)

  4. Looks fabulous... sorry I haven't been around for awhile, I moved to the US Virgin Islands (I still giggle when I say that) for six months, and it is taking awhile to get settled. But i do think I am caught up, and will be back with new postings...

    Come take a look at my new blogs of Island life!

    Looks great, but my days of needing hot soup are over for a bit

  5. LOL, love your movie references! I never saw Ice Castles but I remember the theme of that movie playing all over the high school. Your barley soup turned out fantastic looking! I've never had but want to try now!

  6. Eeek, I think I aged myself! I didn't mean to say I heard that song in high school. I really meant in intermediate school. Or was it elementary school? Oh, better yet, I remember hearing it in the womb. :P

  7. I love half stew/half soup dish like this. looks really good!
    I recently made something similar with lamb and lots of vegetables.

  8. Now, that is one hearty soup. I think all those ice skaters need to fuel up on this before going out to skate the performances of their life.

  9. i have never ice skated. isn't that sad? how fun to learn that you excelled at it--wait, should i not have that in past tense? do you ever go skating these days?
    this soup rocks--so very filling and nutritious. barley is underappreciated. :)

  10. Oh I love these little snippets into your world Hungry Dog. I've never ice-skated either but I can roller skate! (Learnt on those 4 wheel steel type contraptions, not too sure about roller blades though.)

    That soup really looks so tempting (and I'm not just saying that). Serious tummy rumbling happening now.

  11. I wish i knew how to ice skate. I love watching ice skating on tv. One time my dad took us to the icecapades. It was a great memory.
    Love the look of the soup. Looks very hearty and warming.
    *kisses* HH

  12. Bob: grab some barley on your next trip to the store and give this a try, I think you'll like it.

    camille: well, charcutrie beats soup, hands down, I have to say!

    oneordinaryday: I'm glad someone else remembered this movie! I cried. and cried. and cried.

    A Year on the Grill: I'm heading your way in a moment to catch up on your exciting move!

    Ben: that song was horrible. I loved it.

    3hungrytummies: ooh, lamb would be great in this.

    Food Gal: I bet those skaters don't eat anything like this, ever...they're all kinda mini.

    grace: it's OK to keep it in the past tense...don't think I've skated since high school!

    shaz: that's how I learned to roller skate too, the skates with four red wheels...I can still picture them.

    HH: icecapades! Lucky girl!!

  13. What a great winter recipe. One of my daughters was a skater the other gymnast. Both meant insanely uncivilized starts to the day. Thanks so much for sharing the recipe with us. I like your blog - a lot - and will be back often.

  14. I loved ice skating when I was a kid for the spangly skirts, tights, and (I forget what I wore on top). After, it was usually a cup of weird, too-hot cocoa from the vending machine. Yurk.

  15. I grew up in a place where it almost never froze in the winter. We didn't have a big ice-skating culture. For us, it was bicycles or horses or barbecue. But I did try it. A few times. I can say proudly that I NEVER fell on my face. But that's only because I always went the other way. I had a purple/green hip or behind every time I tried to ice skate. I finally learned, though. I quit trying and I stopped having purple/green body parts!

    I always wished I could do it, though. It looks so graceful and magic to be gliding along... color me jealous!

    Let's talk about this soup. It looks wonderful. I want a bowl NOW. Do you think you could fax one over?

  16. 2 things winter is good for: ice skating and hearty soups!
    Love soup recipes, love this recipe. And your photos make it look especially good!
    I really enjoy reading your blog!

  17. I used to love ice skating! Not as good as you are/were, just fun skating with friends, always outside on rivers and canals. There were no indoor rinks where I lived.

    I had to laugh when I saw your barley soup. My mother made a great one and when she and my dad became ill, they asked me to make it for them. (Hers does not have tomatoes in it) So I started a 10 year stint as chief barley soup maker. They are gone now, but if I never see barley soup again it will be too soon! ;)

  18. Mary: thanks for stopping by! Yes, I lump ice skating and gymnastics together--mostly because they require practicing at ridiculous hours!

    cookiecrumb: yeah, I've had that mouth-burning cocoa a few too many times in my life. Loved it as a kid though.

    A La Graham: thank you! And thank you for stopping by, I look forward to checking out your blog as well!

    Barbara: that's pretty funny. Too much of something can really squash your love of it...I've had that happen with a few things in my life! Not barley soup yet, though :)

  19. Oh this is perfect for a winter's day...and for the winter games! I never took ice skating but loved the movie "The Cutting Edge" as a kid! I admit I watched only the skiing and snowboarding events at this year's Olympics, but wow they were amazing! Shaun White is one of my all time favorite athletes!

  20. Looks thick and hearty! It's my kind of soup! Will try it someday.

  21. Chef Aimee: Oh yeah, the cutting edge! I may have to Netflix that one...

    Victor: Thanks! I hope you try it. And thank you for stopping by1

  22. Looks like the perfect comfort on a cold, rainy night. Do you make your own beef &/or chx stock? -cwt

  23. Hey CWT!! Glad to see you here! I make my own chicken stock but not beef. We roast a chicken at least once a week so we've got it down to a little routine now.