Beef Barley Soup

One of my favorite memories of growing up in the diner was my father’s soups.  I don’t remember him ever following a recipe.  He would just throw things together and the most delicious soup would come from that.  I have heard stories that at times he would run out of the soup well before lunch even started.  He had customers who were drivers from the highway department stopping in late in the morning after plowing snow and grabbing a bowl of hot soup. Dad would then have to whip up another batch for the lunch crowd.

There are three soups that I really remember well. The first is a very easy soup to make that doesn’t need a recipe.  He made cream of tomato soup ( using milk and not water) from the condensed cans, but then adding cooked elbow macaroni.  The end result was Tomato Macaroni Soup.  Then he made something called Chuckwagon Soup and I believe that was a beef based soup but was a combination of whatever he had as left overs.  My all time favorite soup and the focus of this blog post was Beef Barley Soup.  Now as I said, there are no written recipes from Dad so I had to find my own.  So I went to one of my favorite chefs Ina Garten for her version of Beef Barley Soup complete with Oxtails.  

I didn’t know what Oxtails were or what part of the cow it was from.  Thank goodness we shop at a store that has a great meat department and a good butcher to ask.  Our Oxtails were found in their freezer section and we picked the meaty ones.  Oxtail is the tail end of the cow if you haven’t guessed. 


  • 1 tablespoon good olive oil
  • 2 pounds beef oxtails
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 cups chopped leeks, white and light green parts (2 leeks)
  • 2 cups (1/2-inch) diced carrots (4 carrots)
  • 1 cup chopped yellow onion
  • 1 cup (1/2-inch) diced celery (2 stalks)
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme leaves
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 10 cups canned beef broth
  • 1 cup pearled barley


    Heat the olive oil in a large pot or Dutch oven, such as Le Creuset. Add the oxtails, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper and cook over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes until browned all over. Remove the oxtails with a slotted spoon and reserve.

    Add the leeks, carrots, onion, celery, and garlic to the fat in the pot and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes, until the vegetables start to brown.
     Tie the thyme sprigs together with kitchen string and add to the pot along with the bay leaves.
    Return the oxtails to the pot and add the broth, 1 teaspoon of salt, and 1 teaspoon of pepper. Raise the heat and bring to a boil. Lower the heat, cover, and simmer for 1 hour. Discard the thyme bundle and the bay leaves, and skim off the fat.
    Meanwhile, bring 4 cups of water to a boil and add the barley. Simmer uncovered for 30 minutes, drain, and set aside.
    When the soup is ready, add the barley and cook the soup for another 15 or 20 minutes, until the barley is tender. Depending on the saltiness of the stock, the soup might need another teaspoon of salt and some pepper. Serve hot, with or without the oxtails


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