Nivea Snow, thank you for your inspiration!
Last week we made the most wonderful snow day soup and I have to share our recipe.
Here it is:
Saute an onion and a couple of stalks of celery in olive oil. When the onion is almost transparent, add a pound or two of stew beef, grass-fed, of course. Brown over high heat. When the beef is browned, add a cup or so of barley, a couple of sliced carrots, a half pound of mushrooms (I used a half pound of local shiitakes and a half pound of portabellas since we had some in the fridge), a tsp of thyme, a bay leaf, a 1/2 tsp to 1 tsp of peppercorns (I really like pepper, you might prefer adding only 4 or 5 peppercorns), sea salt, 3 or 4 cloves of sliced up garlic, and almost a gallon of water.
Bring everything to a boil, then skim off the foam if you wish. Turn down the heat and simmer your soup while you go shovel snow, or read a book or wash clothes. Sometimes I like to make our soups on the woodstove. Just keep an eye on the pot if your stove is very hot. This soup can be simmered for an hour or two or three. The longer it simmers, the more concentrated the flavor. Add more water if it gets too thick. I prefer it fairly cooked down so the beef is meltingly tender and the barley very creamy. When it smells so good you can't wait any more, taste for salt then add a bunch of chopped up kale or chard or spinach. Let the greens cook until tender, then slice some bread, set out some cheese and have the most wonderful peasant feast.
I am so glad we tried those flavors. I think if you added a splash of sherry or vermouth at some point you would be very pleased, but we were out, so I didn't.