This feels Eastern European but it’s actually the soup served at my best friend’s house on a Sunday night when we were growing up in Northern Ireland.
I’ve added dumplings – we used to eat it with thick slices of toast – but they’re northern Italian in style and not at all heavy. I also love potatoes in this as well as barley.
If you don’t want to make the dumplings, serve the soup with a bowl of horseradish cream, made from whipped cream, fresh horseradish or creamed horseradish from a jar (Tracklements do a good one), a pinch of sugar, a tiny drop of vinegar and a little grain mustard. Don’t make it too hot. People should just spoon it on top of their soup.
Prep time: 30 minutes, plus chilling time
Cook time: 3 hours
For the stock
- 1kg beef shin on the bone
- 1 onion, peeled and halved
- 2 celery sticks, roughly chopped
- 2 carrots, peeled and halved
- generous handful of parsley stalks
- 10 black peppercorns
For the soup
- 100g pearl barley
- 1 large leek
- 1 stick of celery, trimmed and finely chopped (reserve any leaves for a garnish)
- 225g carrots, finely chopped
- 10g flat-leaf parsley leaves, coarsely chopped
For the dumplings
- 65ml milk
- 100g fresh white breadcrumbs
- ½ small onion, very finely chopped
- 10g butter
- 1 egg, lightly beaten
- ½ tbsp finely chopped parsley
- 1 tbsp creamed horseradish
- plain flour, for dusting
- Put everything for the stock in a large saucepan and add enough water to cover. Bring to just under the boil, turn the heat right down and simmer very gently for 2 hours. Check the water level every so often.
- Lift the shin out of the saucepan, put it in a bowl with a little of the stock (this will keep it moist), cover and put it in the fridge.
- Strain the stock. You will probably have about 2 litres. Add the barley to this and cook on a medium heat for
- Trim the leek and remove the coarse outer leaves, then cut the rest into 0.5cm rounds. Wash these to get rid of any soil. Add the leek, celery and carrot to the soup, and cook for another 25 minutes, with a lid on, or until the vegetables are soft and the soup has a consistency you like (add water if it ends up being too thick and adjust the seasoning after that).
- Tear or cut the beef into small chunks, leaving the fat and bones behind. Stir the meat into the soup with the parsley and check the seasoning – this needs good seasoning as it’s starchy with barley.
- To make the dumplings, sprinkle the milk on the breadcrumbs and leave to soak for 15 minutes.
- Sauté the onion in the butter until soft but not coloured.
- Put all the dumpling ingredients, apart from the flour, together in a bowl and season. Bring the mixture together and, with wet hands, form it into dumplings about the size of a walnut. Roll them very lightly in flour. You can chill them now for about 30 minutes – it makes them easier to poach.
- Bring a pan of water to the boil and add salt. Turn the liquid down to a gentle simmer – if it’s too brisk, the dumplings will break up.
- Drop half the dumplings into the water and poach for about 10 minutes. They should float to the top when they’re ready. Scoop out with a slotted spoon on to a double layer of kitchen paper and cook the rest of the dumplings.
- Gently heat the soup, add the celery leaves if you have them, and check the seasoning once more. Add the dumplings to the whole pot of soup or to individual servings.