One of the permanent images of the Soup Lady's childhood is being plunked down in front of a bowl that containted a strange brew. For years, I shivered at the recollection of it's dark brown broth with the alien white things half-sunk in it. Never in my short life did I see such a concotion, let alone be expected to eat it. My mother called it soup, but it sure didn't look or smell anything like the canned chicken noodle or alphabet soup that I was used to. I sat in silent protest, refusing to even try it as the minutes and hours (could it have been that long?) ticked by. My sister went so far as to refuse to even sit at the table. That poor reception squashed my mother's first and only foray into the world of homemade soup. Years later, I realized that it was Beef Barley Soup and I have been apologizing to it ever since.
This is a basic beef barley soup jazzed up with a little catsup. You know the Soup Lady believes that catsup is the world's most underrated and underappreciated condiment. This is a wonderful opportunity to see for yourself how a little bit goes a long way to add a certain something to the broth here. So today, during the first real snow storm of the season in the northeast, fill your crockpot, go out and shovel and return inside to your warm house, your dry socks and your steaming bowl of Beef Barley Soup. There will be plenty left for tomorrow, too.
1 pound of stew beef, cut into 1/2" chunks
2 c. carrots, diced
1 c. celery, diced
1 lg. onion, diced
1/2 c. uncooked barley
1/4 chopped parsley
6 cups of beef or vegetable broth
2 tsp. salt
3/4 tsp. dried basil
1 bay leaf
2 tbsp. catsup
Brown the beef in a non-stick saute pan in minimal oil. Remove beef chuinks and place in crockpot. Add the diced vegetables to the pan and stir them around to pick up the flavor bits. Add 1/4 cup of water to the saute pan and stir. Move vegetables to the crockpot with the beef and add the remaining ingredients. Cook on low for 8 hours or on high for 4 hours. Check near the end of the cook time to see if you need to add more liquid. (The Soup Lady likes this a little on the thin side.) Remove bay leaf before serving. And don't tell my mother that I'm making this.