Vegetable Beef Soup Recipe
There are few faster ways to impress people than to make homemade soup for them, and with a pressure cooker, it couldn’t be easier and quicker! I’ve based this recipe on the ingredients in a popular canned soup so its very familiar and accessible to children, but its freshly made, has less salt, no preservatives or chemicals added, and it tastes better! And I made it for a fraction of the cost: all I had to purchase was the pearl barley and the beef broth, and all the other ingredients were leftovers from other meals. The basic recipe has bite size chunks of beef, pearl barley, diced carrots, chunks of potato, green beans, and tomatoes in a delicious beef broth, but you can customize it with the vegetables you like, or use whatever leftover vegetables you have in the refrigerator.
Beef for the Soup. For the batch of soup above, I reserved 2 cups of diced brisket from my Brisket with Caramelized Onions recipe (I’ll post the recipe soon), but you could use just about any leftover beef you have in the refrigerator or freezer. I’ve also used leftover top round and pot roast, but you could also use leftover beef roast, short rib meat picked off the bones, cooked stew meat, meatballs or even ground beef. If you use ground beef, you need to be careful about fat content, because pressure cookers are really good at rendering fat, and your soup broth could end up greasy. 80/20 ground beef is the most economical choice, but I would recommend that you either pan fry it separately and drain it really well, or if you want to form it into meatballs, that you pressure cook those meatballs in water separately from the rest of the ingredients, and that you discard the cooking water. If you wanted to use quicker cooking meats like leftover steak, tenderloin, or tri tip, in order to avoid overcooking them, I would recommend that you pressure cook everything else together, and then add the meat after pressure cooking, and let the hot soup warm the beef up instead.
Pearl Barley versus Hulled Barley (Barley Groats). Both are considered whole grains, and the hulls must be removed from both before human consumption, but there are two differences: pearl barley has the bran removed, and hulled barley takes longer to cook. If you want to make this soup even more nutritious, you can substitute barley groats for pearl barley, but you’ll need to increase the pressure cooking time in Step 2 below by 5 – 10 minutes. (Even so, cooking grains is one of the many beauties of pressure cookers – cooking hulled barley would take an hour using conventional methods.)
Gluten Free Version of This Soup. Barley is a grain, and while its nutritious, a source of fiber, contains lots of vitamins and minerals, and “. . .barley beta-glucan soluble fiber promotes healthy blood sugar by slowing glucose absorption“, unfortunately, it also contains the form of gluten that is problematic for those with gluten sensitivities or celiac disease. Fortunately, there’s an easy substitution that is gluten free: brown rice. Just substitute 1 cup of brown rice for the barley. You’ll also need to be careful about the broth you use (some contain grain based “flavoring”) – here’s Campbell’s / Swanson’s List of Gluten Free Broths (US Version) and Campbell’s / Swanson’s List of Gluten Free Broths (Canada Version). Alternatively, there are a number of Gluten Free Broths and a Gluten Free Beef Flavored Base available.
PRESSURE COOKING TIP: You need to remember that different ingredients cook at different rates in the pressure cooker. That’s why, for example, I partially cook the pearl barley before assembling the soup, rather than pressure cooking the soup longer. Another way to compensate for this differential is to cut longer cooking vegetables (such as potatoes and carrots) into smaller pieces. Since (ironically enough) pressure cooking hardly disturbs cooking food, I also layer ingredients in the bowl, with the ingredients that can tolerate the longest cooking in the bottom, nearest the pressure cooker heat source, and the more delicate vegetables on top, farthest away from it.
½ cup pearl barley (or 1 cup brown rice)
2 ½ cups cold water
2 cups pre-cooked beef
2 -3 cups diced potatoes
1 cup bite size green beans
1 cup diced carrot
1 cup diced stewed tomatoes (with juice)
4 cups beef broth (2 – 15 ounce cans)
2 teaspoons Beef Base
2 tablespoons port or red wine
½ teaspoon coarsely ground pepper
Electric Pressure Cooker
12″ Silicone Tipped Tongs
Strainer or colander
Ladle or soup spoon
COOKING TIP: If you’re in a real hurry to get the soup on the table, you can use frozen vegetables for this soup. Use frozen country style hash browns instead of freshly diced potatoes. You can use frozen green beans, frozen peas and carrots, frozen corn or even frozen mixed vegetables in place of fresh beans and carrots. This soup is a good way to use up those vegetables that have been sitting in your freezer for a while. To speed things up even more, pressure cook the barley in advance.
- Measure out ½ cup of pearl barley (or brown rice), place in a strainer or colander, and rinse thoroughly with cold water.
- Add the pearl barley and 2 ½ cups of water to the bowl of your electric pressure cooker. Cook the barley at HIGH PRESSURE (10 PSI) for 15 minutes using QUICK PRESSURE RELEASE. (If you’re using brown rice, reduce the pressure cooking time to 10 minutes.) When the timer goes off, use your tongs to move the pressure to “release”. When unit has depressurized and unlocked, turn off the “keep warm” setting, remove the lid (tilting it so any hot water can drop into the bowl), pour the bowl contents into a strainer to remove the water. The barley will be mostly cooked, but it will still have a little bite (it will finish cooking with the rest of the soup ingredients).
- Add 2 cups of diced beef (approx. ¼” dice) to the pressure cooker pot.
- Peel several potatoes, cut them into ¼” inch planks, and from there, into bite size dices. You’ll need 2 – 3 cups of diced potatoes. Place the potato chunks into a strainer or colander, rinse under cold water, then add to the pot. (You can use frozen diced hash browns instead, if you wish.) Mix the potatoes, meat and pearl barley together.
- Add bite size green beans to the pot. You can use fresh or frozen. In the above photo, I used leftover fresh green beans that I had blanched and frozen. Unfortunately, the pressure cooker does wipe out vibrant greens, so if the deep green color and appearance of your green beans matters to you, leave them out for now. You can add them after the rest of the soup has cooked under pressure, and put them in as soon as cooking has finished. Wait a few minutes for the hot soup to warm up the green beans.
- Peel carrots, cut them up into approximate ¼” inch dice, and add 1 cup of diced carrots to the pot. (You can use frozen diced carrots if you wish.)
- Add 1 cup of diced canned tomatoes (plus juice) to the pressure cooker pot.
- Add 4 cups of beef broth, 2 teaspoons of beef base, 2 tablespoons of port, and ½ teaspoon of coarsely ground pepper. Pressure cook at HIGH PRESSURE (10 PSI) for 5 minutes using QUICK PRESSURE RELEASE. Once pressure is released and the lid unlocks, turn off the “keep warm” function (unless there will be a delay serving the soup), tilt the lid to allow any hot broth to dribble back into the bowl.
- If you’ve reserved the beef or green beans up until this point, add them now, and allow the hot soup to heat them for a few minutes before serving. Otherwise, serve as soon as possible. Enjoy!
PRESSURE COOKING TIP: One thing pressure cookers DON’T do well is maintain the beautiful green color of vegetables like broccoli, green beans, swiss chard and spinach. Unfortunately, they will turn an olive green color (see the pressure cooked green beans in the soup pictures). Fortunately, there is an easy way to get around this: cut broccoli into small pieces, and add it and any other green vegetables after pressure cooking the rest of the dish. Basically, you allow the residual heat of the pressure cooked food to steam those green vegetables so you can maintain their nice green color. (Leafy greens are so quick cooking that they don’t need pressure cooking in any event.)
COOKING TIP: If you have a fussy toddler or children who, like my nephew, refuse to eat certain vegetables, there’s an easy way to sneak the ones they don’t like into the soup. Leave the vegetables they like in bite size pieces, and take the ones they refuse to eat, like my nephew and tomatoes, and puree them in a blender or food processor before adding them to the soup. You can puree tomatoes, mushrooms, onions, zucchini, and other “offending” vegetables, and they’ll flavor the soup broth, and add nutrients and minerals to the meal, and your child will likely never be the wiser.
NOTE: Since you use the pressure cooker twice to complete this recipe, about half the cooking time estimate is bringing the pressure cooker up to pressure, not actual cooking "under pressure"
- ½ cup pearl barley (or 1 cup brown rice)
- 2 ½ cups cold water
- 2 cups pre-cooked beef
- 2 -3 cups diced potatoes
- 1 cup bite size green beans
- 1 cup diced carrot
- 1 cup diced stewed tomatoes (with juice)
- 4 cups beef broth (2 – 15 ounce cans)
- 2 teaspoons Beef Base
- 2 tablespoons port or red wine
- ½ teaspoon coarsely ground pepper
- Place ½ cup of pearl barley in a strainer or colander. Rinse the barley thoroughly with cold water.
- Add the rinsed barley and 2 ½ cups of cold water to the pressure cooker. Pressure cook at HIGH PRESSURE (10 PSI) for 15 minutes using QUICK PRESSURE RELEASE. When the timer beeps, turn off the "keep warm" function, and use your tongs to move the pressure gauge to "release". When pressure has released, remove the lid, hold the cooker lid over the bowl at a tilt to allow any hot water from the lid to run back into the bowl. Drain the water out of the barley in the strainer, and return the grain to the pressure cooker bowl.
- Add 2 cups of diced pre-cooked beef (approximately ¼" dice).
- Peel several potatoes, and cut them into bite size chunks (approximately ¼" dice). Add 2 – 3 cups of diced potatoes to the soup.
- Add 1 cup of green beans (cut into bite size pieces) to the pot.
- Peel and dice carrots into ¼" dice. Add 1 cup of diced carrots to the soup.
- Add 1 cup of diced, canned tomatoes (plus juice) to the pot. (You can substitute chopped fresh tomatoes, if you wish.)
- Add 4 cups of beef broth, 2 tablespoons of port or red wine, 2 teaspoons of Beef Base, and ½ teaspoon of coarsely ground pepper to the soup. Cook at HIGH PRESSURE for 5 minutes using QUICK PRESSURE RELEASE.
- Once pressure is released, and you can remove the lid, add any beef or green vegetables you reserved until after pressure cooking (see Pressure Cooking Tip and this explanation above). Wait a few minutes for the soup to warm the new ingredients, otherwise, serve immediately.
(Even More) Vegetables Beef Soup. Add sautéed mushrooms, peppers and onions. In spring and summer, add corn kernels, fresh peas and diced yellow and zucchini squash. During the fall, add "winter" vegetables like cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower florets.