I love homemade soup…
…soup that has been slowly brought to life by a day of tending to and fussing over the stove.
I am a chili-stew-soup sort of gal. A “one-pot” kind of person. I love bringing the “right” flavors together to make a meal a moment.
It’s a Sunday morning in November and I’m starting to sniff a hint of the meaty soup bone roasting in the oven. The farmer we buy from directly (only six miles up the road!) has the beefiest bones I’ve ever enjoyed. I’ll give this one a nice roast before adding in some aromatics and tomatoes to cook alongside before putting everything to a stock pot for a long stretch of simmering.
I have a habit of making beef stock and then immediately making soup. I rarely have beef stock on hand – I’m much better with chicken stock, I suppose, although I am fresh out right now. When we moved (and leading up until we moved), I limited my cooking. But now, two months after moving to our beautiful two acres, and with fall in full swing, I am returning to my “kitchen therapy.” I could spend a lifetime in a kitchen.
But I digress…
Today we’re making beef barley soup.
(I had it in my head that I would make a squash soup this weekend, but there you go.)
I don’t have a real “recipe” for this soup. I typically use what I have on hand.
The most important “ingredient” in this soup is time. No, not thyme, time. You need to roast, tend to, roast some more, transfer, simmer, stir, drain or blend – dependent upon your aromatics, simmer again, stir, add to, stir, simmer, taste, maybe add more ingredients, stir, simmer… and so on. It’s a day-long process.
But it’s worth it.
After roasting the beef bone – and then again with a handful of leftover carrots, an onion, pieces of shallot, and a couple of tomatoes – everything goes into a pot, along with peppercorns and some (dried) herbs (for the first simmering I used bay leaves, basil, and rosemary). Then I add water to cover.
The simmering begins on the lowest setting of my stove’s burner. (When we bought our new home, the stove included in the sale was a flat-top electric stove. Ugh. Well, we do not like it. Someday we will convert to a gas stove fed by propane. No natural gas lines out here.)
Mid-afternoon I’ll start to add seasonings: coarse salt (using pink Himalayan because I have it one hand, and why not?), ground pepper, and more herbs – this time two palms of Herb of Provence. And because this stock is going to be a big pot of soup, I decided to remove the beef bone (and meat) and blend the roasted vegetables into the liquid. Blend, simmer, taste!
I added a can of diced tomatoes and a can of tomato sauce after blending. Towards the late afternoon, maybe at 5-ish, I’ll start to add more vegetables (potatoes, corn and peas – the latter two frozen) and the barley, too. This is the moment where you fish out the beef bone (and any chunks of meat that have fallen off) and chop the meat up into tiny pieces. I discard a lot of the fat at this point, but I slip the bone and the bits of meat back into the pot. I also pull the marrow from the bone and stir that back into the pot.
Simmer, stir, taste. Add what’s needed. Maybe a bit more of pepper, a dash of salt.
When I’m ready to “boil it down a bit,” I turn up the heat and let the soup thicken with the potato starchiness, the barley, and the heat. (It smells so good in this kitchen!)
This is why time is the most important ingredient. (It’s 7:00pm as I type this – I started the process at about 9:00am.) Homemade soups love the attention you give to them. Tend to them for the day, and they will reward you with a tasty bowl at dinner.
(I added some shaved Parmesan cheese – a nice complement!)