If ever there were a soup that defined “never-fail,” this is it. It’s not flashy, it’s not going to win any culinary awards, but it’s easily made with things you probably have in your house, and it will, as the saying goes, stick to your ribs. (I’ve never been a fan of that expression — it sounds painful. But there it is.)
My maternal grandmother — the dairy farmer’s wife — is the source of this recipe. It’s the soup that my mother brought to our freezers when my sister and I were having babies. It freezes well. It’s easy to double, triple, or quadruple the recipe if you find the need to. And I’ve added some notes at the bottom for variations.
Nana’s Hamburger-Barley Soup
1 lb. ground beef
1 bay leaf
1/2 C. chopped celery
1/2 C. chopped onion
1/2 C. chopped carrots
2 C. chopped tomatoes (I use one can of diced tomatoes)
1/2 C. barley or rice
4 cubes beef bouillon
In a large pot, brown the meat. Drain, return to pan. Add 6 C water and bay leaf; simmer for 30 minutes. Add all other ingredients and simmer for 30 minutes more.
And that’s it. Easy, right?
I almost always up the broth amount and add more veggies and barley. Also, you should try adding other veggies. Frozen corn, frozen peas, chopped zucchini, and bell peppers would all work nicely here.
My grandmother uses barley, my mom uses rice, I use barley. It tastes good either way.
If you want to use your crockpot for this recipe, you can. Just brown the meat ahead of time and then throw everything else in together.
This recipe requires good old-fashioned bouillon cubes. If you use a stock concentrate like I do, you will need to add salt. I actually keep bouillon cubes in my cabinet just for this soup.