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Archive for December, 2003

Beef Barley Soup

One of the permanent images of the Soup Lady’s childhood is being plunked down in front of a bowl that containted a strange brew. For years, I shivered at the recollection of it’s dark brown broth with the alien white things half-sunk in it. Never in my short life did I see such a concotion, let alone be expected to eat it. My mother called it soup, but it sure didn’t look or smell anything like the canned chicken noodle or alphabet soup that I was used to. I sat in silent protest, refusing to even try it as the minutes and hours (could it have been that long?) ticked by. My sister went so far as to refuse to even sit at the table. That poor reception squashed my mother’s first and only foray into the world of homemade soup. Years later, I realized that it was Beef Barley Soup and I have been apologizing to it ever since.

This is a basic beef barley soup jazzed up with a little catsup. You know the Soup Lady believes that catsup is the world’s most underrated and underappreciated condiment. This is a wonderful opportunity to see for yourself how a little bit goes a long way to add a certain something to the broth here. So today, during the first real snow storm of the season in the northeast, fill your crockpot, go out and shovel and return inside to your warm house, your dry socks and your steaming bowl of Beef Barley Soup. There will be plenty left for tomorrow, too.

BEEF BARLEY SOUP
1 pound of stew beef, cut into 1/2″ chunks
2 c. carrots, diced
1 c. celery, diced
1 lg. onion, diced
1/2 c. uncooked barley
1/4 chopped parsley
6 cups of beef or vegetable broth
2 tsp. salt
3/4 tsp. dried basil
1 bay leaf
2 tbsp. catsup

Brown the beef in a non-stick saute pan in minimal oil. Remove beef chuinks and place in crockpot. Add the diced vegetables to the pan and stir them around to pick up the flavor bits. Add 1/4 cup of water to the saute pan and stir. Move vegetables to the crockpot with the beef and add the remaining ingredients. Cook on low for 8 hours or on high for 4 hours. Check near the end of the cook time to see if you need to add more liquid. (The Soup Lady likes this a little on the thin side.) Remove bay leaf before serving. And don’t tell my mother that I’m making this.

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From Our Mail Bag: A Reader Request
An alert reader has written to say: “Dear Soup lady, Winter’s coming! Gotta put out a recipe for bavarian liver (meatball) soup!” Well, the Soup Lady doesn’t know anything about Bavaria, but she does know Mig, the genial host of Lost In Transit. As a former Seattle resident now living in Vienna, he knows a thing or two about soup weather.

Lost In Transit is a group weblog by expatriates and emigrants around the world, writing about their experiences. Web User Magazine says: “More informative than a dozen Michael Palin travelogues, Lost In Transit is a top destination.” The Soup Lady heartily agrees with that – it’s the first place I went to get this authentic Austrain recipe for Leberknoedelsuppe. Sure, you can do internet searches to get a list of ingredients and instructions, but where else can you get an Aunt Mitzi?
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Dear Soup Lady,
My mother-in-law is an expert soup cook. She does not make liver-
dumpling soup because chopping/grinding the liver makes more mess than she likes. Her best friend Mitzi, however, does make a good liver dumpling soup, so I asked her for a recipe. She cooks by heart now, rarely using recipes, but she agreed to write one down for the Soup Lady. This soup is generally served as a first course.

AUNT MITZI’S LIVER DUMPLING SOUP (LEBERKNOEDELSUPPE)
Ingredients:
200 grams pork liver (roughly, 1/2 pound)
60 grams margarine (2 oz.)
2 eggs
3 dinner rolls, softened in milk
2 tablespoons breadcrumbs
Finely-chopped:
1 onion
1 garlic clove
Parsley
salt, pepper, marjoram
Instructions:
1. Heat half the margarine in a pan, sautee the onion and garlic
2. Beat the rest of the margarine with salt, spices and eggs until it
is foamy. Soak the rolls in milk first to soften them, press out the milk and rip into small pieces. Mix with the ground/chopped liver, parsley, bread crumbs, onion and garlic and sautee for about 15 minutes.
3. Form dumplings. Place into soup at a low boil and simmer on a low
flame for 15 minutes.
[note: Aunt Mitzi didn’t mention this in her recipe, but the dumplings
are formed by hand into small spheres about the size of golfballs; the
soup is normally a clear broth, usually a beef broth. ]
Mit freundlichen Gruessen,
Mig

liver dumplings.jpg
photo from Austria.org

Dumpling tips from the Austrian Press & Information Service:
“A few tips may be helpful, particularly for less experienced dumpling makers who are exhorted not to give up at the first miscooked, collapsed dumpling. “
– Dough made of bread, the crumbs of bread rolls, semolina, must be allowed to “rest” for a while in order to absorb moisture.
– Dumplings as garnish in soup, meat and liver dumplings, bread dumplings should be rounded with wet hands.
– It is advisable to cook one dumpling first as a trial. If the inside is “dry,” i is a success; if it is too solid, add liquid (soup, milk, water); if it tends to fall apart, perhaps bind with egg and/or flour.
– Leave the saucepan in which you boil dumplings half uncovered: only yeast dumplings should be cooked with the saucepan lid wholly on.
– Drain the dumplings carefully and serve in a warm dish. If dumplings are to be kept warm and you do not have a steamer, put them in a colander on top of a saucepan of hot water.
– Practice makes perfect.

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