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Mushroom Barley Soup

1-lb stewing beef, cut into 1-inch cubes
-tsp salt
-tsp pepper
-tsp dried thyme
2-tbsp vegetable oil
1-cup diced onions
1-cup diced celery
1-cup diced carrots
6-cups sliced cremini mushrooms
6-cups chicken stock
-cup pot or pearl barley
1-tbsp tomato paste
1-bay leaf

Sprinkle beef with salt, pepper and thyme
In a large Dutch oven, heat 1-tbsp of vegetable oil over medium-high heat
Brown the beef in batches, about 5 minutes
Transfer to slow cooker
Drain off the fat from pot
Add remaining oil
Fry the onions, celery and carrots over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 5 minutes
Add mushrooms to Dutch oven
Cook, stirring often until mushroom liquid begins to evaporate, about 5 minutes
Scrape mixture into slow cooker
Add stock, 2-cups water, barley, tomato paste and bay leaf
Cover and cook on low for 8-10 hours or until barley is tender
Discard bay leaf

Makes 8 servings