I cooked a delicious beef, barley and mushroom soup the other day; it's perfect winter food. In the holiday spirit, I'll include sort-of, kind-of exact measurements. But don't get used to it, bahumbug!
To start, I browned both sides of a beef shin bone (from a grass-fed cow, bought at Whole Foods) in olive oil and butter in a large soup pot. (Remember to season the shin bone with unrefined sea salt and fresh ground pepper before browning it. Other cuts of meat you can use are beef short rib or lamb shank; meat close to the bone is supremely flavorful.)
When the shin bone was browned, I removed it to a cooling rack. In the pot (and in the shin bone's fat), I sautéed chopped onion (from one medium-large yellow onion), chopped carrot (from one medium-large carrot) and sliced mushrooms (from eight crimini mushrooms). (If you only have one medium onion, one large carrot and six white button mushrooms, it's OK!)
I stirred occasionally and when the onions, carrots and mushrooms started to soften, I added minced garlic (from two garlic cloves) and about 1½ tablespoons of fresh thyme. I cooked this mixture for another two minutes or so, taking care to not burn the garlic.
I then added about a tablespoon of whole wheat flour (which helps thicken the soup) and stirred for about 30 seconds. (If you want a thin, liquid soup, do not add the flour.) I added some salt and pepper, plus about a cup of hulled barley and stirred. The mixture was on the thick side (exactly what I wanted) and I added about six or seven cups of cold water and one bay leaf. I also put in the shin bone and any of its juices that had accumulated.
I brought the mixture to a boil and then returned it to a simmer. I covered the pot, but left a little open space. I let the mixture simmer for about 45 minutes; the barley was cooked but the shin bone meat was still a little tough. I removed the shin bone, cut off bite-size pieces of meat and put them and the baldish bone back in the pot. I let the soup cook for another 30 minutes or so, until the meat was tender.
I tasted; the soup needed quite a bit of salt and pepper, but I knew that would be the case. Its thickness was perfect for my liking but add more water or cook longer (without a lid) if necessary. Store in the refrigerator, but be aware that the barley will absorb quite a bit of liquid, so add a little water when reheating.
Any questions, leave a comment and I'll respond.