Beef Barley Soup With Lemon

Beef Barley Soup With Lemon

By Melissa Clark

Armando Rafael for The New York Times. Food Stylist: Simon Andrews. Prop Stylist: Paige Hicks.

3½ hours
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With a higher ratio of broth to barley than one usually sees, and the addition of plenty of fresh baby spinach, this beef barley soup is a little lighter than most of its kind. However, it’s still a substantial, satisfying meal that gets a heady aroma from spices (coriander, cumin and paprika) and a brightness from lemon. If you like your meals with a kick, top this with thinly sliced jalapeño, which will wilt slightly from the heat of the soup. Leftovers freeze perfectly for at least three months, though if using the jalapeño, don’t add it until serving time.

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Yield: 8 servings

  • 1pound beef stew meat, cut into ½-inch cubes
  • 2teaspoons kosher salt (such as Diamond Crystal), plus more as needed
  • 1teaspoon black pepper, plus more as needed
  • 2tablespoons olive oil, plus more as needed
  • 4garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 3celery stalks, diced
  • 3small or 2 large leeks, thinly sliced
  • 1fennel bulb, diced
  • 1tablespoon tomato paste
  • ¾teaspoon ground coriander
  • ½teaspoon ground cumin
  • ½teaspoon sweet paprika
  • Large pinch of cayenne (optional)
  • 1quart beef or chicken stock
  • 3sage sprigs
  • 2rosemary sprigs
  • 2bay leaves
  • 2carrots, peeled and cut into ½-inch chunks
  • 2parsnips, peeled and cut into ½-inch chunks
  • 2large turnips, peeled and cut into ½-inch cubes
  • ¾cup pearled barley
  • 8cups baby spinach or baby kale (8 ounces)
  • ¼cup chopped parsley
  • Finely grated zest of 1 small lemon, plus fresh lemon juice to taste
  • Thinly sliced jalapeños or other chiles, for serving (optional)

Nutritional Information


  1. Step 1

Season beef with 1 teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon pepper. Let mixture stand for 30 minutes to 1 hour at room temperature.
2. Step 2

Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large pot over medium-high. Add meat and cook in batches, turning occasionally, until well browned, 8 to 10 minutes per batch. Drizzle in more oil if the pan seems dry. Transfer the browned meat to a paper-towel-lined plate to drain.
3. Step 3

Add garlic, celery, leek and fennel to the pan; cook until soft, about 7 minutes, adjusting the heat if necessary to prevent burning. Push the vegetables to one side, and, if the pan looks dry, add a bit more oil. Add tomato paste and spices to the cleared spot and cook until tomato paste is darkened and caramelized, 1 to 2 minutes. Stir together vegetables and tomato paste.
4. Step 4

Return meat to the pot. Pour in stock and 8 cups water. Using kitchen string, tie sage, rosemary and bay leaves into a bundle and drop into pot. Bring the liquid to a simmer over medium heat. Cook, partly covered, for 1 hour.
5. Step 5

Stir in the carrots, parsnips, turnips, barley, 1 teaspoon salt and remaining ½ teaspoon pepper. Simmer until barley is cooked through and meat is tender, 45 minutes to 1 hour more. Pull herb bunch from pot and discard.
6. Step 6

Stir spinach and parsley into pot until wilted, 2 to 3 minutes (kale may take a few minutes longer), then stir in lemon zest and juice. If soup is too thick, thin it with a little water. Taste and adjust seasonings, if necessary. Serve with chiles, if you like.