And so, the need for a big pot of soup won't be so great as we progress into warmer weather.
So let me give you an easy beef and barley soup recipe. This is another good one for the crock pot as barley needs to absorb lots of moisture to soften properly. That doesn't mean you can't make it on the stove top but be prepared to let it simmer for a few hours to get an edible texture.
For my soup, I am using a pearled barley. It's about $.85 for a pound bag, which would easily make two big pots of soup.
You will need:
1 heaping cup of pearled barley (this is about half a pound bag)
3-4 carrots, diced
1 small onion or 1/2 medium onion, diced
2-3 stalks of celery, diced
1 can diced tomatoes, optional (if you don't use the tomatoes, the soup needs a dash of acid, like a bit of lemon juice or vinegar to balance the flavor)
6-8 cups water with 6 bullion cubes (beef or vegetable) OR 6-8 cups of beef or vegetable stock
1 pound of stew meat or beef tips
salt and pepper to taste; parsley
I like to sear my beef in a skillet first to give it a nice caramelization on the outside instead of just boiled meat. After searing the beef and removing from the skillet, though, I add about a half-cup of the stock or water to the pan to deglaze any of the little bits of flavor that are stuck to the pan. You really don't want to lose them.
To the crock pot, add the broth/water, followed by the veggies, the meat and the barley. Cover and let cook on low for 4+ hours or on high for 2+ hours. Stir occasionally and taste once everything is warmed up to see if you need a bit of this or that for the flavor. As I said, if you don't use the tomatoes, add a bit of acid to balance out the flavor. I used a dash of balsamic vinegar this time because I was also using beef stock so it seemed to work well but that's just me.
When the barley softens, it will also add starch to the soup which thickens the soup a bit so if you would like more broth, add a bit of water as you go.
The soup is done when the vegetables are pleasantly soft and the barley is soft and kind of creamy.