Home » I Can't Believe It's Not Barley and Beef Soup

I Can’t Believe It’s Not Barley and Beef Soup

I Can’t Believe It’s Not Barley and Beef Soup

From Oonagh Williams of Royal Temptations Catering

I can't believe it's not barley soup

(Sorry, I just couldn’t resist saying that – “I Can’t Believe It’s Not Barley and Beef Soup!)

In England, I loved throwing barley into soups and stews, soft but chewy, different texture, totally wonderful. With gluten-free, I happily use quinoa grains in lots of recipes, but quinoa just isn’t the same as barley. When I spoke a conference in Atlanta in May, I heard Carol Fenster say that she uses sorghum for a barley substitute. Came home, tried it and it works. I do notice that even with soaking overnight and over an hour of cooking, plus sitting in whatever soup or stew it’s in, sorghum still stays chewy and doesn’t go “soggy.” So, kids who don’t like texture might object to this dish or to having to chew the beef in the stew. So, it’s easier to use ground beef.

I did notice that when I cooked sorghum on its own, it left a heavy starch ring around a non-stick pan that was difficult to clean. My local regular grocery store carries Bob’s Red Mill sorghum grain. I used the vegetables we would use in the winter in England. Go ahead and use what you like for different flavors each time.


  • ½ cup (120 ml) sorghum grain soaked in cold water covered overnight, then drained and rinsed
  • 1 to 1 ½ lbs. (500-750 g) stew beef, cut into small pieces or use the same amount of ground beef
  • 2-4 Tbsp. (30-60 ml) olive oil
  • 1 large onion, peeled and finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and finely crushed
  • 4 large carrots, peeled and quartered lengthwise and cut into ½ inch pieces
  • 2 sticks of celery, washed, quartered lengthwise and cut into ½ inch pieces
  • 1 tsp. dried thyme
  • ½ tsp. dried rosemary
  • ½ tsp. dried sage (these are herbs we have in England called Mixed Herbs. They do not taste like an Italian herb blend)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 6 cups (48 fl oz.) gluten-free beef stock
  • ¼ cup (60 ml, 2 fl. oz.) tomato paste or tomato ketchup
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 Tbsp. (15 ml) gluten-free cornstarch mixed with 2 Tbsp. (30 ml) cold water (optional, to thicken)


  1. In a large stock pot, heat oil, add onions and cook over medium heat until starting to brown. Add either stew meat or ground beef and cook until stew meat is seared or ground beef is brown.
  2. Add carrots and celery and cook for another 5 minutes.
  3. Add drained sorghum, garlic, herbs, stock, tomato and salt and pepper.
  4. Bring to a boil, turn down to a simmer, cover and cook for at least one hour. Stew beef needs at least this length of cooking and sorghum needs at least an hour as well. But, you have to taste it for tenderness of beef and sorghum. Sorghum will still be chewy but shouldn’t have the hard raw center of undercooked pasta or rice.
  5. Depending on how well your pan lid fits, more liquid might have evaporated, so add more at the end to your taste. I like to add some milk. My husband likes the soup slightly thickened. Taste and adjust seasonings. I do like to throw in some loose, chopped, frozen spinach. Chopped sun dried tomatoes at beginning are good. You can try leeks instead of onions. Parsnips, turnips, rutabaga (swede) and butternut squash are all good additions.

About Chef Oonagh Williams

Like Chef Oonagh at Gluten Free Cooking with Oonagh on Facebook where she posts recipes, tv appearances, products she’s tasted, places she’ll be. Contact her for conference sponsorships, corporate lectures etc. Start off the New Year with some new tasty gluten-free recipes from her Delicious Gluten Free Cooking ebook. Over 200 pages for just $20. Consult with her on Skype. Email: [email protected].

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