Let me just say up front, my favorite kinds of soups are more broth-y than creamy. To me there is no sadder soup than a chicken noodle that has the consistency of gravy.
So that would explain my love of a good Beef Barley soup. It's hearty and filling, but not too heavy, with a broth you can sip by itself. This soup was pretty good (I brought some to my sister when she had a cold and it cheered her right up) but could use some tasty additions.
I left out the 1/2 cup finely chopped mushrooms (perhaps unwisely) due to taste, but would recommend adding, perhaps, chunks of potato, peas, carrots, in addition to mushrooms (or whatever you like). I also think the beef could have benefited from searing first, to seal in the flavors--though I didn't use the recommended cut of beef, so that could have been the issue as well. Barley preparation was not nearly as daunting as I thought. Just give yourself the time. Oh, and if you have it, use real beef stock. I can only imagine how delicious it would taste (alas, I have no time for bone-boiling and used Emeril's beef broth).
Beef Barley Soup
from William-Sonoma Food Made Fast: Soup, with mods.
4 cups beef broth or stock
salt and pepper
1/4 cup pearl barley
2 TBS unsalted butter
1 small onion, chopped
1/2 lb eye of round beef cut into thin slices, then finely chopped (they recommend boneless beef sirloin, which may work better)
1) In a saucepan over medium heat, bring 3 cups of water to boil. Add 1 teaspoon salt and the barley. Return to boil, then reduce the heat to low and cover. Cook the barley until just tender, about 1 1/2 hours. Drain and set aside.
2) While barley is cooking, melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté until translucent, about 4 minutes. Add the stock and beef, reduce heat to low, and simmer, uncovered, about 10 minutes.
3) Add barley to the soup and simmer over medium heat for 5 minutes, to blend flavors. Season with salt and pepper to taste.