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When the weather dips below zero(and further), the only thing you want to do is stay cozy with a warm bowl of soup. This soup is not only great for warming your insides, but it has a long cooking time on the stove top, which heats to the house, so it does wonders for warming you outsides, too! Pair this delicious meal-in-a-bowl with some crusty bread, or a nice homemade olive foccacia, and you've got yourself a fantastic Sunday evening meal, with lots of leftovers for the week to come! Enjoy!

Step 1: What You'll Need:

(Note: this recipe can easily feed 8 to 12 people, and generously at that)

- 3 tbsp. vegetable oil
- 2 onions, finely chopped
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 lb. ground beef
- 3 carrots, sliced
- 2 bell peppers, diced (I used red and yellow)
- 8 sun-dried tomatoes, sliced
- 2 tbsp. fresh basil (or 2 tsp. dried)
- 2 tbsp. fresh oregano (or 2 tsp. dried)
- 5 c. beef broth
- 1-796ml(28 oz.)  can plum tomatoes, chopped
- 2 tbsp. tomato paste
- 1 c. pearl barley
- 1 c. small lentils(brown or orange)

Optional toppings:
- grated cheese, like mozzarella
- hot sauce or smoky chipotle sauce

Step 2: Prepare the Ingredients

This goes without saying, but cooking goes easier when you chop and measure all the ingredients before starting to cook, and placing them, by step, into bowls next to your cooking area. Here's how:

In one bowl, put the onions and garlic, and have the ground beef close by.

In one bowl, put the carrots, peppers, sun-dried tomatoes, basil and oregano.

In a large measuring pitcher, mix up the broth, if making it from powder.Add the tomato paste. Open the canned tomatoes and chop them up using a pair of kitchen shears(Tip: this is the easiest and cleanest way to chop canned tomatoes).

In one bowl, mix together the lentil and barley.

Now the cooking process becomes that much easier!

Step 3: Sauteing the Ingredients

Heat the oil in a 5-litre(5 quart) heavy cast-iron pot over medium-high heat. (You can easily use a regular cooking pot for this step, just reduce the heat a little to prevent burning.) Add the onions, garlic and ground beef, and saute, stirring, until meat is brown and cooked through, about 10 minutes.

Add carrots, peppers, sun-dried tomatoes, basil and oregano. Cook until the peppers just soften, about 5 minutes. 



Step 4: Creating the Soup

Mix in beef broth, canned tomatoes and tomato paste; bring to a boil.

Stir in barley and lentils. 

Step 5: Simmering...

Reduce heat  and simmer the soup until the barley and lentils are tender, stirring occasionally, about 1 1/2 hours. Go get yourself a blanket and a good book, and stay toasty. 

Or better yet, make some olive foccacia to accompany your simmering soup!

Step 6: Serve It Up!

Ladle the soup into bowls and serve. This dish is a meal in a bowl, so you really don't need anything else, but I like to top mine with some grated cheese and a couple of dashes of smoky chipotle sauce, for that added kick. It's so good.

Enjoy!

Step 7: Leftovers

Here's the best part - unless you are having an entire sports team over for dinner(which, I admit, is possible), there is NO WAY you will eat all of this barley and lentil soup in one sitting. That means one thing:

LEFTOVERS!

This soup makes great leftovers, if you know how to do it properly. Lentils and barley are kind of like pasta - they will continue to absorb liquid, even after the cooking process is over. If you divide up your soup as is, when you come back for leftovers later, you find yourself with something resembling a stew or even a risotto. Here's the trick:

Divide the soup between containers, filling only 3/4 full. Now mix up a batch of beef broth, and top up the containers with liquid. The extra broth will ensure that tomorrow, your soup will still look like soup. 

Let the leftovers cool a little before putting the lids on the containers and storing them in the fridge.

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