Here in Rhode Island, the calendar says Spring, but the thermometer says Not Yet. I drive around looking for places where green might be peeking through, but until a few days ago, lingering patches of ice suppressed most of the crocuses, daffodils and fiddlehead ferns. The rainy, raw weather of early April puts me in the mood for soups like this traditional beef barley. I'm having a lot of fun learning how to use my first-ever electric pressure cooker, which is my new preferred method for making this soup, though I've included directions for making it on the stove. In the pressure cooker, the small chunks of beef and barley cook to perfect tenderness in just ten minutes at high pressure. Thick and chewy beef barley soup, a standard in New York delicatessens, has been a favorite of mine since childhood. This version is better than any you'll find in a deli. I promise.
Note: I use this 6-quart electric pressure cooker. If you have a stovetop pressure cooker, the timing might be different.
Beef barley soup (pressure cooker or stove top)
2 tsp olive oil
3/4 lb stew beef (chuck roast is great), cut into 1/2-inch dice
1 medium onion, diced
1/4 cup chopped celery
2 carrots, trimmed and diced
8 oz sliced mushrooms (I like cremini)
1 Tbsp dried thyme leaf
1 Tbsp tomato paste
1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1/2 tsp fresh black pepper
1 cup pearl barley, rinsed and drained
4 cups chicken broth (low-sodium store bought, or homemade) + 2 cups water
Directions (pressure cooker)
Set the pressure cooker to Browning. Heat the olive oil in the cooker, and add the beef. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the meat is no longer pink, 3-4 minutes. Turn off the cooker, and scoop out the beef, leaving any excess oil in the pot.
Turn the cooker to Sauté. To the residual oil in the pot, add the onion, celery, carrots and mushrooms. Cook, stirring frequently, until the onions are translucent and the mushrooms have given off some of their liquid, 3-4 minutes. Add the thyme, tomato paste, Worcestershire sauce and black pepper. Stir until the mixture is fragrant (1-2 minutes). Add the barley and liquid, and the beef. Turn off the cooker.
Lock the lid in place. Set the pressure cooker for High Pressure for 10 minutes. When the cooker beeps at the end of the cook time, use the Natural Pressure Release method, which will release the pressure in approximately 20 minutes.
When the pressure is released, pour the soup into individual serving bowls, and serve hot. Or, pack into freezer-safe containers. Let the soup cool completely before freezing.
Directions (stove top)
In a Dutch oven or heavy stock pot, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the beef. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the meat is no longer pink, 3-4 minutes. Scoop out the beef, leaving any excess oil in the pot.
To the residual oil in the pot, add the onion, celery, carrots and mushrooms. Cook, stirring frequently, until the onions are translucent and the mushrooms have given off some of their liquid, 3-4 minutes. Add the thyme, tomato paste, Worcestershire sauce and black pepper. Stir until the mixture is fragrant (1-2 minutes). Add the barley and liquid, and return the beef to the pot.
Cover, reduce heat to low, and cook for 30 minutes, or until the barley is soft and chewy. Stir occasionally to make sure the barley isn't sticking to the bottom of the pot. If necessary, add more water, 1/2 cup at a time, until the barley is completely cooked.
More ways to use barley:
Vegan barley and lentil pilaf with mushrooms and spinach, from The Perfect Pantry
Barley, artichoke, sun-dried tomato and feta salad with zahtar dressing, from The Perfect Pantry
Toasted barley and shrimp salad, from Cookin' Canuck
Carrot barley galettes, from Chocolate & Zucchini
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