almost (better than) scratch beef-barley soup

“In the Deep Mid-Winter,” is one of my favorite Christmas carols. The verses…

In the bleak mid-winter
Frosty wind made moan;
Earth stood hard as iron,
Water like a stone;
Snow had fallen, snow on snow,
Snow on snow,
In the bleak mid-winter
Long ago.

Our God, heaven cannot hold Him
Nor earth sustain,
Heaven and earth shall flee away
When He comes to reign:
In the bleak mid-winter
A stable-place sufficed
The Lord God Almighty —
Jesus Christ.

Enough for Him, whom Cherubim
Worship night and day,
A breastful of milk
And a mangerful of hay;
Enough for Him, whom Angels
Fall down before,
The ox and ass and camel
Which adore.

Angels and Archangels
May have gathered there,
Cherubim and seraphim
Thronged the air;
But only His Mother
In her maiden bliss
Worshiped the Beloved
With a kiss.

What can I give Him,
Poor as I am? —
If I were a Shepherd
I would bring a lamb;
If I were a Wise Man
I would do my part, —
Yet what I can I give Him, —
Give my heart.

…by poet Christina Rosetti, pull me in and hold me captive every time, though the famous haunting melody by Gustav Holst carries the lyrics perfectly on and on without the boredom and repetition of some carols.

While Colorado Springs winters are only occasionally “snow on snow,” and are more often a series of springy, above-freezing weeks (don’t tell anyone), there are moments or snapshots of frozen landscape during the month of December that are exactly reminiscent of Rossetti’s lyrics.

ABOVE: our front yard. BELOW: our back yard

And while right now we’re sitting pretty in the ’50’s, it may be chilly to the bone where you are (and will be here again, I’m told). You may be in need of the very thing that warms both your heart and soul.

“The Babies” waiting to see what Santa brings.

A few tidbits about this soup... Instead of spending hours making beef stock, this recipe comes together much more quickly. By making use of a beef soup bone that enhances and flavors purchased broth and root vegetables (otherwise known as cheater’s broth), my warming dinner feels totally homemade without quite as much mess and fuss. You even trim the meat off the bone after it’s cooked an hour or two and feel incredibly real-deal cook-ish. While it’s not done in 30 minutes, it…

…can be on the table in just about 2 1/2 hours. No, it’s not a weeknight dinner unless you’re off that day, but it will last for a couple of days’ meals (or freeze for another time), is a decided change from beef stew, and and can be a good reason to open up a decent bottle of red wine. No need for a big fat expensive Cab for this meal, but think a smaller wine — maybe a Merlot. Out of the box thought might be a California Chardonnay going with my pair the prep and not the protein approach. Beef with Barley soup is not traditionally creamy — as in contains heavy cream — but is creamy in another way that comes from starches breaking down and thickening the broth. Chardonnay loves “cream.”

…………………………………..Purchased broth or stock: is this a processed food?……………………………………

Barley is the big winner here coming in at 6 grams of fiber for every serving and containing high amounts of vitamins and minerals like molybdenum, manganese and selenium. (health If you don’t typically make barley, do try this version featuring pearl barley. Out of time? Toss in quick-cooking barley, which is ready in about 1/4 of the time. Have an hour or more to spare and are used to eating foods largely rich in fiber…ahem…? Use hulled barley, which is the most nutritious of all. We mostly think of barley in beer or whisky, but a little of this tasty little grain in your dinner bowl can help keep you more healthy and full.

By the way, if you follow a gluten-free diet, you’ll need to skip the barley and find a substitute such as quinoa or rice –either brown or wild would work.

Looking for more ways to use barley? Check out 18 Barley Recipes for Salads, Soups, Stews…from epicurious, but in the meantime….just try this:

almost (better than) scratch beef-barley soup

Adding a beef bone, vegetables, diced beef chuck, and fresh herbs to purchased beef broth helps create a cheater’s stock has this typically long-cooking soup done in less than half the time. You’ll cook a few of the vegetables with the bone and the beef for an hour or so to create the stock, remove and discard the vegetables (or chop them up and throw them in), and then add the remainder of the vegetables with the barley to cook another hour or so ‘til all is tender. If it’s not all eaten in one sitting (how nice to have leftovers!), you’ll need to thin the broth out by adding a little water or vegetable broth when you reheat it as the soup will have thickened as it chilled in the refrigerator. Taste and season again before serving a second or third time.
Servings: 8
Author: Alyce Morgan/More Time at the Table
Cost: $25.


  • 3 tablespoons olive oil divided – or more as needed
  • 1 raw beef soup bone
  • 2-3 pounds boneless beef chuck trimmed, and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper
  • 2 quarts low sodium beef broth or stock
  • 2 cups water – or more as needed
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 2 dashes hot sauce
  • 5 medium carrots trimmed, peeled, and sliced into ¼-inch coins, divided
  • 2 medium yellow onions trimmed and peeled, divided. Cut one in half to make the broth and dice the other for the soup.
  • 4 stalks of celery divided. Cut one in half for the broth and slice the other thinly
  • 2 cloves garlic peeled and left whole
  • 6 sprigs fresh parsley and 3 sprigs fresh thyme tied together to make a bouquet garni
  • Bay leaf
  • 3 medium parsnips trimmed, and sliced into ¼-inch coins
  • 1 medium turnip peeled, and cut into small dice
  • 6 small new potatoes quartered
  • 1 cup pearl barley well-rinsed
  • 2 teaspoons dried thyme
  • 8 ounces button mushrooms trimmed and sliced
  • Chives minced, for garnish


  • Heat two tablespoons of the olive oil in a large soup pot over medium-high flame. Add the beef bone and half of the diced beef chuck. Season with 1 teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon black pepper. Cook for 4-5 minutes until well-browned; turn and cook the other sides of the bone and the pieces of beef. Leaving bone in the pot, remove the diced meat to a bowl and add the rest of the meat to the pot, pouring in a little bit more oil if needed. Brown second batch on both sides and add reserved meat back into the pot. Pour in stock, water, wine, and shake in the hot sauce. Add one carrot, one onion cut in half, one stalk celery cut in half, the garlic, and the bouquet garni of fresh herbs along with the bay leaf. Bring to a boil; reduce to a healthy simmer. Taste and adjust seasonings. Cover and cook for about an hour or until beef is nearly tender.
  • Remove beef bone and the bouquet garni. Let the bone cool until you can handle it and cut meat off the bone. Skim fat off the top of the soup. Discard bone and bouquet garni and return meat to the pot. You can dice the cooked vegetables and add them back if you’d like – or discard them. Add the diced onion, sliced carrots and celery, along with the sliced parsnips, turnip, cut potatoes, and barley to the broth and meat left in the pot. Cover, bring to a boil, and reduce to simmer. Cover again and cook another hour or until everything is tender, adding more water if the soup becomes thick; it should remain quite brothy.
  • In the meanwhile, heat a medium skillet over medium flame and add the other tablespoon of olive oil, letting it warm for a minute or two. Tip in the mushrooms, season them with a sprinkle of ground black pepper, and cook until brown on one side. Turn and cook the other side. Spoon the cooked mushrooms into the soup and cook 2 minutes. Taste and adjust seasonings one last time. Serve hot with a sprinkle of chives for garnish.
  • Store in the fridge well-covered for no more than 4 days. Freeze at 0 degrees F for 4-6 months.


Copyright Alyce Morgan, 2019. All rights reserved

If you liked this, you might also like my…

Instant Pot Winter Vegetable Barley Soup


Colorado Lamb-Barley Stew with Butternut Squash and Tarragon Mushrooms

If you’d like a slow cooker version, you might use this for ideas:

All Recipes Slow Cooker Beef Barley Soup

…HERE’S WHAT COOKING AT MY HOUSE…what about at yours?

Last Friday I organized, along with a great group of folks, a cookie reception to follow our church’s LESSONS AND CAROLS worship…

Getting the cookies ready (about 2 dozen people baked for this event)
Worship itself was packed. Thanks, God!

Saturday, our kids and grands arrived for dinner and tree trimming….

In between it all, the hub (Dave) caught a wretched cold, so a big pot of chicken soup went on the stove, too. He’s recovering, but slowly.

Recipe here.

This next week I cook a luncheon for a dozen friends on Wednesday and then a holiday supper for neighbors and friends Saturday night. We’ll eat dinner, attend “The Sound of Music” at the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center, and then come back to our house for dessert. After that, a sigh of relief…it’ll nearly be Christmas. And, as my mom always said, “Christmas will come no matter what.”

Cook soup and stay warm and healthy,


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