At the Artisan Markets a few weeks go, I had a cup of the most delicious beef and barley soup.
The following week I found myself craving the taste again, but I had a busy morning planned and didn’t have time to fuss over a pot on the stove. So I pulled out my Römertopfs and let all the ingredients simmer away in the oven.
The end result was a thick stoup (my friend Joanna’s term for a stew-like soup). It wasn’t quite as caramelised and unctuous as traditional versions, because I didn’t brown the meat and veg first (I was a bit pushed for time, and I didn’t want the extra washing up), but it was delicious nonetheless.
I used beef brisket (it was in the freezer) and assorted root vegetables. Below are approximate quantities and instructions – I filled two clay pots, so please reduce the amounts accordingly if you’re only planning to use one.
- Beef brisket, cut into small cubes (I used about a kilo in total)
- potatoes, 3 medium, peeled and diced
- swede, 1 large, peeled and diced
- celeriac, 1 large, peeled and diced
- carrots, 3 medium, peeled and diced
- onions, 2 medium, peeled and diced
- a couple of bay leaves
- plum tomatoes, 4 medium, diced
- Swiss brown mushrooms, 2 large, peeled, de-stemmed, and diced
- thyme, a few sprigs
- pearl barley, 1 cup per pot
- homemade beef stock, about 1 litre per pot or as much as needed to cover the ingredients
- salt and pepper
- Worcestershire sauce
1. Presoak the Römertopf base and lid in a sink of water while you prepare the ingredients. Arrange the oven shelves to fit the pots, but don’t turn the heat on yet.
2. Pile the ingredients into the wet base of the pot and season well with salt and pepper. Stir well, then pour over the stock. Add a splosh of Worcestershire sauce. Stir to combine, then cover with the wet lid and place the pot into the oven. Turn the heat up to 200C with fan.
3. Bake for two hours, pulling the pot(s) out every hour or so to stir. Then reduce the heat to 160C with fan and bake for a further one to two hours until the beef and barley are both tender. For the second half of the time, check the pot every half an hour or so, stirring and adding more hot water if needed (be careful not to add cold water to the hot pot).
This was warming and delicious and exactly what I was craving. I rang Carol and invited her over for lunch, and then froze boxes of leftovers for future meals. It’s so thick that it tends to defrost like a porridge rather than a soup, but I don’t mind at all!