It’s the second day of Spring! .. clearly this means that it is snowing outside.
Typical New England.
In addition to my “I thought it was Spring?” and “Holy good god I’m sick slash allergic to this Winter HELL” blues, I also have a cold. Awful. And not one of those sniffles colds, but the kind where you mistake your throat for sandpaper and want to gauge your eyes out every time you cough, kinds. It’s definitely not pleasant.
Yesterday (when it was still gorgeous out — nice and sunny with a cool breeze that made you hate days like TODAY) I had a huge craving for beef. Sweet, savory beef. I don’t know what got me thinking of it, but I remember when I was younger my grandmother made this delicious beef and barley soup with chopped up spaghetti noodles in it. Seeing as I had a cold and that brothy beef sounded delicious and I wanted it in my mouth ASAP, I felt the motivation to attack my first soup from scratch. And if you ask me, it came out pretty great!
In addition to the typical beef, barley, veggies combo I also added kale. Being that I live in Burlington, Vermont, I am constantly reminded to “EAT MORE KALE,” so I decided to go for it. Despite my first “kale is for bunnies, you crazies!” mindset, I didn’t mind it so much. Please keep in mind that I’m a picky eater (just think of my poor vegetable-loving mother) and am always trying to force myself to try new vegetables. But, in my eyes, kale is alright. I might even like it. (WHAT?!)
One thing I might try next time (and that you should, too!) is to add some tomato paste to the soup to give the broth a heartier flavor in addition to the robust beefiness. Also, because I like things spicy, my roommate suggested adding peppercorns to the meat while it’s browning. Both great ideas, and I’ll probably try it next time around. Anyway, here’s what I did:
Beef, Barley & Kale Soup
- 1 to 1-1/2lb beef, cubed
- 4 cups beef broth
- 3-1/2 to 4 cups water
- 6 garlic cloves, chopped
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 4 carrots, chopped
- 4-5 celery stalks, chopped (I use celery hearts)
- 1 cup barley, slow cooking (aka not instant)
- Around 1/4 box spaghetti pasta, cooked and diced
- Vegetable oil
- Beef bouillon (I have an addiction to Better Than Bouillon. Comes in a jar, allowing me to overindulge by the spoonful.)
- Worcestershire sauce
- Fresh basil, chopped (use a decent amount, we used at least 10 good sized leaves)
- 5 kale stalks, ribbed, chopped and steamed
- Kosher salt
- Cracked pepper
- Spices (smoked paprika, garlic powder, chili powder,
AdoboLOVELY MAGICAL SUBSTANCE, etc.)
- Your favorite sprinkle cheese (for topping. FYI, Cabot Seriously Sharp Cheddar = perfect)
Prep ALL the veggies and set aside, but don’t steam the kale until later. (Or make your roommate your impromptu Sous Chef and have her take care of the tedious vegetable chopping needs — aka Laura.)
Get your broth started. Because I’m only half-lazy, instead of making my own broth I improvise. In a sauce pan, add 4 cups of beef broth (from a can) and heat. Once it gets warm, add a few spoonfuls of bouillon — or a few cubes, if you’re using the dry stuff. Feel free to add spices, but be hesitant to add salt as that bouillon is SUPER SALTY. (Aka I LOVE IT?) Bring to a boil and simmer for a few minutes. Set aside.
Line the bottom of a large pot (any large pot will do, I used a dutch oven) with vegetable oil and a little spice. Add the cubed beef, garlic and some Worcestershire sauce. Keep on medium heat until all the beef is browned.
Add vegetables one at a time. First the carrots, let them steam. Then add the onion, and finally the celery. Spice it up, then add the broth and water, slowly. Simmer for 15 minutes on medium heat.
Add barley to the pot and stir. Let this simmer for another 30 minutes.
While the barley cooks, steam the kale and cook up the spaghetti. My grandmother always put spaghetti in her barley soup, so clearly I had to do the same. After cooking and rinsing the pasta, dice it into smaller pieces. If you don’t want to use spaghetti you could also use orzo or even elbows. Whatever your little heart desires, do it.
After the 30 minutes is up, add the pasta, steamed kale and fresh basil. Let this simmer for another 15-20 minutes. You’re almost there!
By this time your soup should be finished. Ladle into serving bowls and top with your favorite cheese. Serve with some fresh bread and butter (lots of butter). Enjoy!