BB told me several times that the best soup he ever had in his life was in England--this after telling me that the English do not know how to cook and that their food is always bland and overcooked--he said it was beef barley soup and the beef had been cooked until it feel apart and the barley was all swollen up.
After thinking about it a while, I made a number of forays at it, each one more successful that the one before, and all of them except one excruciatingly good. BB even liked the one I hated--and took it in his lunched and thanked me for it.
I won't tell you about them all and the various experiments I made, becasue it would take too long I will just tell you about the soup I made yesterday.
1)I bought 2 pounds of stew beef at the butchers'. You can get it at Weggies,as I am sure you know.
2)I plugged in the crockpot and set it on high and added 4 cups of water. My plan was that it would make 2 meals for two people. That's how I normally calculate--when making soup, a cup of water per person. We like our soups thick and full of goodies--more like stew that soup. I should have gotten 3 pounds becasue I usually get 1 1/2 for one meal, even though that seems like a really lot--but--that plans for leftovers for K's lunch.
3)I then cut the stew beef in small pieces--a pain in the neck. If I were doing it for myself, I would omit this step, but BB told me he pres small pieces. Toward the end, my back was hurting :-( and I started feeling resentful--he was up reading the paper and since HE was the one who wanted the small pieces, I was thinking HE should come down and cut them up--but shortly after that I finished and relaxed my impatience.
4)I tossed the pieces in every time I cut a cutting board full--they were all in and heating by 9:30 AM yesterday. Then I left them until around 11.
5)at 11, I added 4 bay leaves, garlic powder--a good sprinkle, pepper, wine, but NO SALT--I never add salt until near the end as it tends to toughen the meat. Sometimes, I saute fresh onions, garlic and shallots in a little olive oil and add that, but am trying to cut back on these as I fear they are exacerbating my fibro. Sometime I add a few prunes or raisins for complexity of flavor--they cook away to nothing.but leave a nice faint sweet fruity flavor. I suggest the fresh onions and garlic if you have no issues with them. You can also add tomatoes. IF You are adding any of the following things, you would do it at this time: carrots, potatoes, sweet potatoes. Earlier version had these items and they were good. I did add 3 small carrots cut into small pieces.
6)at this point, I also added the barley--I put in about a half a cup of pearled barley and some"Fordden" black rice. I needed more barley--last time, too. (BB and I agreed more barley would have been better). I mean to turn the crockpot to low at this point, but I forgot.
7)About 1:00, I added Brussels sprouts, cut into quarters, tons of white mushrooms slices and shiitakes. A whole box of each, the small size box. You can substitute cabbage. If you want to add broccoli instead, do it LATER! Otherwise, it gets overcooked. Make sure to press everything down into the broth.
8)This soup is very thick and needs to be stirred from time to time--if you won't be there to stir it, add a little more water.
9)Just before serving, I added more wine and salt. We dished up around 5:15. It was VERY THICK and RICH with flavor and utterly wonderful and we had seconds. We were supposed to have leftovers for lunch today, but there is only enough left for one SMALL bowl. It was really good. The barley thickens the broth and you do not have to add flour.
This soup is very forgiving--you can toss in lots of different things, add more or less water, more or less meat, bigger or smaller pieces, different meats.
The one thing that you MUST do is start it early, or the beef goes through a tough stage. IF you want to do it on a work day before leaving for work and have it ready when you come home, add more water and set the heat to LOW. Leave the vent open just a little. Use carrots, potatoes, sweet potatoes, turnips. Any green vegetables you add will be overcooked. You can cook some later for 5 minutes and add them at the end.