How to Make Mouth-watering Homemade Vegetable Beef Soup: Insider Tricks

Homemade soup is one of the easiest things in the world to make. If you throw a package of stew meat, a bag of frozen vegetables, and a can of diced tomatoes into a stock pot with some water, in an hour, you have a very respectable pot of homemade soup.  It’s respectable but not really amazing. Today I want to take a few minutes to explain some insider tricks for making simply amazing soup. (Rumor has it that it’s possible to make soup with a stone, but that is, thus far, unverified.)

Two simple rules will change your soup-making:

1. Maximize the flavor of each ingredient.

2. Never, NEVER throw away flavor.

Maximize the flavor of each ingredient: browning, sauteing, and roasting really develops and brings out the flavors of just about anything. Yes, this does add prep time but not as much as you think. If you saute your onions and celery, for example, they are already well on their way to being cooked. Browning your meat before putting it into the soup means that it requires less cooking time later.

Never throw away flavor: This is going to go against what your mother, and mine, told us to do when we cook. Instead of washing up as we go when we cook, we want to RE-use those pans to capture all the different flavors. If I saute onions and garlic until they’re carmelized in the pan, I can either scrub that pan out before browning the meat in it OR I can let the meat brown in a pan that is already reeking (in a really GOOD way) of garlic and onions. I never wash flavor down the sink  if I can help it.

Vegetable Beef Soup

Ingredients:

  • 2  28-ounce cans of whole peeled tomatoes (or 10-12 romas)
  • 4-5 whole garlic cloves
  • 2 medium onions, chopped
  • 3 stalks of celery, chopped
  • 1 handful of kale, chopped
  • 1 handful of fresh parsley, chopped
  • 2 pounds of frozen, mixed vegetables
  • 2-3 pounds of round steak (or other meat of your choice)
  • 12 ounces of oregano tea
  • 1/2 c. uncooked barley
  • 2 slices of bacon, fried crispy
  • Approx. 4 quarts of Hearty Beef Stock (enough to fill the pot)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • butter and/or olive oil for sauteing

Instructions:

First, the disclaimers. If you don’t like a particular ingredient, don’t use it. If you want a different flavor or ingredient that I haven’t mentioned, DO add it. If you don’t have time to maximize the flavor of a particular ingredient, don’t sweat it. If you’re in a hurry, dump stew meat, frozen veggies, water and diced tomatoes into your stock pot and turn on the burner. The more “maximized ingredients” you have in your soup, the more complexity and depth of flavor you’ll have in your soup bowl.

The next thing I need to point out is that when you saute foods, a splash of olive oil is going to be one of the healthier options. Try using a batsqueak of butter when you brown the meat because butter just browns up WAY better than olive oil.

1. Start roasting your tomatoes. I generally toss whole tomatoes with olive oil, a little sea salt, and whole garlic cloves. Fresh tomatoes are best but at this time of year, canned tomatoes work. Here’s an entire post on roasting tomatoes that might help. One of the first places I invoke rule #2 (never throw flavor AWAY) is by draining the cans of tomatoes into a bowl. I then soak the uncooked barley in that juice while the tomatoes are roasting, which is about three hours.

roasting tomatoes for vegetable beef soupwhole tomatoes for vegetable beef soupsoaking barley in tomato juice vegetable beef soup

2. At this time you should make your oregano tea. This is an area where you can get creative. In fact, today I used a tablespoon each of thyme, marjoram, oregano, and tarragon. An Italian seasoning mix is tasty in this herb tea as well as herbs d’Provence.

make a tea of oregano and other herbs for vegetable beef soup

3. Next, chop and saute the onions and celery. When they are translucent and soft, stir in the kale and fresh parsley and cook for a few minutes longer.

saute onions and celery for vegetable beef soupadd kale and parsley to vegetable beef soup

4. Remove the onions, celery, kale, and parsley from the pan and set aside in a large bowl or tub. Using the same pan, saute the frozen mixed veggies for about ten minutes. If some of the vegetables get slightly browned (not burned) don’t worry, that will only increase the flavors.

saute mixed veggies for vegetable beef soup

5. Remove the veggies from the pan and add to the tub of already-cooked items. Melt 1/2 t. of butter in the bottom of the pan. While it’s melting and starting to brown, rinse and pat dry the round steak. Add the meat to the browned butter and let it sizzle for a bit, turning frequently until most of the surface area of the steak is browned. The meat may not be cooked through yet, but the flavors are really developing now. The bottom of the pan should be accumulating some lovely browned meat juices too. Do NOT throw those away!!!!

brown round steak for vegetable beef soup

6. Remove the meat from the hot pan and set aside. Pour the tomato juice and barley into the pan on top of the buttery meat juices. Add a quart of beef stock and start to simmer the barley.

7. Cut the cooked meat into small, bite-sized pieces and set aside with other cooked items. (And if you end up with any small bones in your meat, be sure to bag them up and stick them in the freezer as a head start on your NEXT pot of beef stock!)

getting a start on the next back of beef stock

8. Add the entire tub of cooked veggies and meat back into the stockpot. Add enough additional beef stock to cover everything completely with liquid. Strain and add the oregano tea. Let the soup start cooking.

tub of ingredients for vegetable beef souphearty stock for vegetable beef soup

9. Fry the bacon until it is very crispy but not burned. After the bacon cools a few minutes, crumble it up as finely as you can add to the soup. I can’t help but sing the praises of a slice or two of bacon. There is no ingredient that gives you more flavor bang for your buck. Two slices will flavor an entire pot of soup. Nobody will feel like they’re eating bacon in their soup, but you’ll get a nice flavor bump.

fried bacon adds flavor to vegetable beef soup

10. When the tomatoes and garlic have finished roasting, chop both up coarsely and add to the pot of soup.

roasted tomatoes for vegetable beef soupChopping garlic for vegetable beef soup

Here’s another chance to invoke rule #2. When you take the tomatoes and garlic out of the baking dish, there will be some lovely flavorful juice in the bottom of that hot pan. Pour about a cup of beef stock into the hot pan and use a spatula to work loose all the browned bits of tomatoes and garlic. Dump it all into the soup pot.

capturing the flavors for vegetable beef soup

11. Let the soup simmer for a couple of hours on a very low burner. If you plan to eat the soup the following day, you can refrigerate it after it’s simmered for 2 hours. Soup is often more flavorful the day AFTER you make it because the flavors have a chance to develop and marry in the pot.

vegetable beef soup is now ready to simmer

12. Salt and pepper to taste.

Serve with crusty French bread. Be sure to take the time to savor all the complex flavors in your soup!

bowl of vegetable beef soup

Now….again with the disclaimers here….I realize that this has taken me most of the day. I haven’t actually spent most of the day WORKING on this soup, but it’s been in the making while I’ve done all the other things on my to-do list today. I realize that not everybody has the time to spend an entire day making a pot of soup, so here are a couple of things to remember.

First, you can make some of these things ahead. Today I could have roasted twice as many tomatoes as I needed and frozen the half I didn’t use. I could have sauteed twice as many onions and celery and frozen part. I could also have made half the components for this soup today and the other half tomorrow. There are a lot of short cuts that work on this.

Second, if I hadn’t had time to oven-roast the tomatoes, I could have skipped that step. In fact, if all I had time to do was saute the onions and celery and brown the meat, I would have still ended up with delicious soup. The more flavor-maximized ingredients I have, the richer and more complex the soup flavors are. Some days, my soup might be pretty basic and that’s okay. If I maximize the flavor of just ONE ingredient, it can really change the soup for the better.

Of course, if you want to keep your soup vegetarian, just skip the meat and use a vegetable stock instead of beef stock. Celiacs should leave out the barley. Brown rice is a good substitute if you want to add in a carbohydrate. Six years ago I wrote some more thoughts on the Art of Homemade Soup that have some additional thoughts and idea on soup-making….without the stone!

Barb

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How to Make Mouth-watering Homemade Vegetable Beef Soup: Insider Tricks

Rating: 51

Prep Time: 2 hours

Cook Time: 3 hours

Total Time: 5 hours

Yield: 10 quarts

13 ounces

Maximize the flavor of each ingredient and NEVER wash flavor down the drain are two axioms for making fabulously flavorful soup.

Ingredients

  • 2 28-ounce cans of whole peeled tomatoes (or 10-12 romas)
  • 4-5 whole garlic cloves
  • 2 medium onions, chopped
  • 3 stalks of celery, chopped
  • 1 handful of kale, chopped
  • 1 handful of fresh parsley, chopped
  • 2 pounds of frozen, mixed vegetables
  • 2-3 pounds of round steak (or other meat of your choice)
  • 12 ounces of oregano tea
  • 1/2 c. uncooked barley
  • 2 slices of bacon, fried crispy
  • Approx. 4 quarts of Hearty Beef Stock (enough to fill the pot)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • butter and/or olive oil for sauteing

Instructions

1. Start roasting your tomatoes. I generally toss whole tomatoes with olive oil, a little sea salt, and whole garlic cloves. Fresh tomatoes are best but at this time of year, canned tomatoes work. Here's an entire post on roasting tomatoes that might help. One of the first places I invoke rule #2 (never throw flavor AWAY) is by draining the cans of tomatoes into a bowl. I then soak the uncooked barley in that juice while the tomatoes are roasting, which is about three hours.

2. At this time you should make your oregano tea. This is an area where you can get creative. In fact, today I used a tablespoon each of thyme, marjoram, oregano, and tarragon. An Italian seasoning mix is tasty in this herb tea as well as herbs d'Provence.

3. Next, chop and saute the onions and celery. When they are translucent and soft, stir in the kale and fresh parsley and cook for a few minutes longer.

4. Remove the onions, celery, kale, and parsley from the pan and set aside in a large bowl or tub. Using the same pan, saute the frozen mixed veggies for about ten minutes. If some of the vegetables get slightly browned (not burned) don't worry, that will only increase the flavors.

5. Remove the veggies from the pan and add to the tub of already-cooked items. Melt 1/2 t. of butter in the bottom of the pan. While it's melting and starting to brown, rinse and pat dry the round steak. Add the meat to the browned butter and let it sizzle for a bit, turning frequently until most of the surface area of the steak is browned. The meat may not be cooked through yet, but the flavors are really developing now. The bottom of the pan should be accumulating some lovely browned meat juices too. Do NOT throw those away!!!!

6. Remove the meat from the hot pan and set aside. Pour the tomato juice and barley into the pan on top of the buttery meat juices. Add a quart of beef stock and start to simmer the barley.

7. Cut the cooked meat into small, bite-sized pieces and set aside with other cooked items. (And if you end up with any small bones in your meat, be sure to bag them up and stick them in the freezer as a head start on your NEXT pot of beef stock!)

8. Add the entire tub of cooked veggies and meat back into the stockpot. Add enough additional beef stock to cover everything completely with liquid. Strain and add the oregano tea. Let the soup start cooking.

9. Fry the bacon until it is very crispy but not burned. After the bacon cools a few minutes, crumble it up as finely as you can add to the soup. I can't help but sing the praises of a slice or two of bacon. There is no ingredient that gives you more flavor bang for your buck. Two slices will flavor an entire pot of soup. Nobody will feel like they're eating bacon in their soup, but you'll get a nice flavor bump.

10. When the tomatoes and garlic have finished roasting, chop both up coarsely and add to the pot of soup.

Here's another chance to invoke rule #2. When you take the tomatoes and garlic out of the baking dish, there will be some lovely flavorful juice in the bottom of that hot pan. Pour about a cup of beef stock into the hot pan and use a spatula to work loose all the browned bits of tomatoes and garlic. Dump it all into the soup pot.

11. Let the soup simmer for a couple of hours on a very low burner. If you plan to eat the soup the following day, you can refrigerate it after it's simmered for 2 hours. Soup is often more flavorful the day AFTER you make it because the flavors have a chance to develop and marry in the pot.

12. Salt and pepper to taste.

Serve with crusty French bread. Be sure to take the time to savor all the complex flavors in your soup!

http://www.mysisterskitchenonline.com/2012/01/24/how-to-make-mouth-watering-homemade-vegetable-beef-soup-insider-tricks/
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  1. This soup sounds really good. I really like your advice about not throwing away flavor. One thing I like to do when I buy my frozen vegetables is buy one bag each of the vegetables I want – i.e. one bag of corn, one bag of green beans, etc. Then I mix them in one container and keep it in the freezer all the time. I find that the quality of the vegetables when bagged individually is better for some reason than when I buy one bag of mixed vegetables, and then I can pick out the kind I want of each, too.

    • Oooh, that’s a very good tip. Sometimes I don’t use frozen veggies at all…just fresh carrots and celery. I DO like the idea of making your own mix though. Duly noted!
      Barb