Beef, Mushroom, Root Vegetables & Barley Soup


1 3/4 lb cubed sirloin
2 stalks celery, diced (greens too!)
2 medium carrots, sliced
2 parsnips, sliced
1 onion, diced
1 lb (6 caps) portobello mushrooms, cubed
8 oz button mushrooms, sliced
4 cloves garlic, sliced
1 medium rutabaga, diced
1-quart beef stock
1 cup pearl barley
1 teaspoon nigella seeds (aka kalonji or charnushka) or caraway or fennel seeds
2 1/2 teaspoons paprika
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
superfine flour like Wondra or just plain flour


In a large nonstick skillet, sprinkle the beef with flour then brown for 1-2 minutes. Add the mushrooms and saute until the beef is lightly browned on all sides but not fully cooked. Use a slotted spoon to scoop the meat and vegetable mixture into a  4 (it will be very, very full!) or 6-quart slow cooker. Add the spices, barley, and stock. Stir. Cook on low for 8-10 hrs. Add additional warmed stock to thin out the soup if desired.

Yield: a ton. Maybe 8-10 servings

My thoughts:
We made mushroom barley soup back in 2006 which was very good and reminiscent of what my husband used to get at the 2nd Ave Deli in NYC. Then I made a meaty version in 2013 (and served in a mug that broke long ago and that I miss) that was also delicious. I had been thinking about that soup a lot lately while we’ve been home self-isolated due to the coronavirus. We only have grocery shopped twice since 3/12/20 but our produce deliveries have started up again and we can add things to the box if we’d like. They had barley and some lovely local mushrooms so I thought I’d try yet another version. 
This one uses rutabaga (aka swede, neep), a true underutilized stalwart of the kitchen. In the US they are often waxed so they last for nearly forever in a cool place. They are a cross between cabbage and turnips and add a peppery flavor and texture interest to the soup. I also used some parsnips I seriously believe I bought in February. Behold the power of the root vegetable!

This soup comes out the slow cooker pretty thick. It reminds me of what Rachael Ray used to call a “stoup” a cross between a stew and a soup. If you like more of a soup texture, add some (warmed) stock or broth to your bowl or the slow cooker (if you have room, I used a 4 quart and it is packed) before serving. That pearl barley really absorbs a lot of liquid and expands quite a bit. I kind of like it less soupy but it’s up to you. 

It is just so cozy!

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