Barley soup is a dish that separates people. There are the ones who love it and the ones who hate it. Nearly nothing in between. And I can understand that.
Barley is a very starchy grain that tends to make the soup a little slimy. I’m obsessed with this sliminess. I love porridge too. It was quite common to eat porridge regularly for a long time in Germany. However, that trend has faded and nowadays most people prefer the grains in their soup to be ‘al dente’.
Barley soup is kind of a rarity nowadays, even though it has always been there and I’m sure it will never die out completely. I’m using the traditional German name ‘Graupen’ to refer to barley. But don’t be surprised if you ever find this dish rebranded as ‘Gerstensuppe’. New name, same dish.
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Beef broth is the basis for my barley soup
Barley cooked in water is a pretty bland affair. So, you will need to cook a simple beef broth for this dish. I think I don’t need to explain another time on my blog why I think that homemade broth is superior to store-bought. I’ve already published a detailed guide on how to make German beef broth.
Do yourself the favor and soak the barley in water the evening before. That way, the barley will be cooked in just under 30 minutes. You’ve already spent enough time cooking the beef broth so save yourself from simmering barley for an hour or more.
As always when one of my recipes calls for mushrooms, they need to be sauteed before adding them to the broth. I think the high-temperature frying adds a lot of flavor complexity to the mushrooms.
Shortly before serving, season your broth with nutmeg, vinegar, and salt. A few drops of vinegar will do. But don’t leave it out. It brightens the flavor and takes the broth from average to outstanding.
Barley Soup with Mushrooms and Beef (‘Graupeneintopf mit Pilzen und Siedfleisch’)
1/2 head of celeriac (celery root), cut into 1-inch pieces
a bundle of curly parsley
1 pound (450 g) beef for soup
For the barley and mushrooms:
1 cup barley, soaked in plenty of water the day before
1 tablespoon clarified butter
1/2 pound (225 g) button mushrooms, halved and cut into thin slices, about 4 cups
black pepper, to taste
salt, to taste
For seasoning and garnishing the soup:
red wine vinegar, to taste
freshly grated nutmeg, to taste
salt, to taste
1/4 cup finely minced curly parsley, for garnishing
Prepare the broth:
Place the leeks, carrots, celeriac, and parsley in a large pot and cover with water just to submerge all the ingredients. Bring the water to a light simmer, then add in the beef. Make sure it is completely submerged. If not, add more water. Leave the broth to simmer over the lowest possible heat, uncovered, for about 1.5 hours or until the beef is tender. Skim off any scum that might rise to the top while cooking. Once, the beef is ready, remove it from the pot. Discard the vegetables and pass the broth through a fine-mesh sieve. Cut the beef into 1/2-inch cubes once cool enough to handle.
Cook the barley and mushrooms:
Rinse your soaked barley thoroughly. Then put it into a large pot and add your strained broth. Bring the broth up t a simmer and let the barley cook, covered, over low heat for about half an hour or until tender to your liking.
While the barley is cooking, heat the clarified butter in a large nonstick saute pan over high heat. Saute the mushroom slices for 3-4 minutes until just cooked. Season them to taste with salt and pepper and set them aside.
Assemble and season your soup:
Once the barley is cooked, add the beef and mushrooms to the broth. Season the soup to taste with red wine vinegar, nutmeg, and salt. At the table, sprinkle the finished soup with some finely minced parsley leaves.