This soup is one of those classic comfort foods. It’s thick, hearty and delicious, and also nutritious as it’s packed full of vegetables, pearl barley and meat; perfect to keep your vitamin levels up during the cold season. If you use tougher cuts of meat, it’s also quite a cheap dish. Gravy beef or chuck steak, when simmered over a long period of time, breaks down and the tough pieces become tender melt-in-your-mouth morsels.






Skill level

Average: 3 (10 votes)


  • 1 tbsp olive oil 
  • 500 g beef (gravy beef or chuck steak), cubed 
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed 
  • 2 brown onions, finely diced 
  • ¾ cup pearl barley 
  • 3 cups beef stock 
  • 1.5 litre water 
  • 1 bay leaf 
  • 1 sprig fresh thyme 
  • 1 sprig fresh rosemary 
  • 2 medium potatoes, cut into 1 cm cubes 
  • 2 medium carrots, cut into 1 cm cubes 
  • 2 medium zucchini, cut into 1 cm cubes 
  • 100 g button mushrooms, sliced thickly 
  • ¼ cup parsley, finely chopped

Cook's notes

Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.


In a large pot on medium heat, add the oil and brown the beef in batches, setting it all aside. Add onions and garlic to the pot and sauté until onion has softened. Put the beef back in, add the barley, stock, water, bay leaf, rosemary and thyme. Cover with a lid and bring to the boil. Reduce to a simmer for 1 hour or until the beef and barley are tender. Skim the fat occasionally from the top of the soup.

When the hour is up, add the diced vegetables, cover, and simmer for a further 25 minutes or until vegetables are soft. Remove the thyme and rosemary, ladle into bowls and garnish with parsley.



• This soup freezes really well so I do recommend making a big batch if you have the time and freezer space.


Recipe from The Whimsical Wife by Melissa Darr, with photographs by Melissa Darr.

This recipe is featured as part of our online column, Eat well: In defence of whole grains. View more recipes from this column.

View previous Eat well articles.