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This time around my beef barley soup is tasting a bit on the plain side. It has the right amount of saltiness but is lacking in the flavorful department. The ingredients used thus far have been:

Beef Stock, Water, Salt, Ground Black Pepper, Seasoned Pepper, Rosemary, Onions, Carrots, Barley, and Cubed Beef.

What can I do to help boost its flavor?

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Beef stock on its own should be extremely rich; how did you make it? –  Aaronut Mar 27 '11 at 18:31
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If the soup is already made and you just want to deepen the flavour, try a shake of a pre-made sauce such as Worcestershire, brown sauce, barbecue sauce, soy or even kecap manis etc. For next time, more or better beef stock. –  KimbaF Mar 27 '11 at 18:35
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8 Answers

up vote 4 down vote accepted
  • If you use self-made beef stock, try boiling a bit longer, so that the flavour of the beef is a bit more concentrated.
  • Boil your soup a bit longer.
  • Use more beef stock and/or cubed beef.
  • I don't know how much herbs you put in. Maybe a bit more pepper or rosemary can make a difference.
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I put in about a 1/8 t of ground black pepper, a few shakes of the seasoned pepper, and a pinch or so of rosemary. When I cooked the beef roast, before cubing, I rubbed on salt, pepper, and rosemary. –  duchessofstokesay Mar 27 '11 at 18:27
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+1: It is all about the stock. If you want the sort of soups you get at restaurants this is the secret. Make high quality broth, and reduce, reduce, reduce. –  Satanicpuppy Mar 28 '11 at 20:00
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One way to boost flavour would be to roast some beef bones till they brown a little (you can get bones from your butcher) and then cook them with your soup. You can take them out when the broth is cooked. This will add a nice depth of natural 'beefy' flavour.

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And the gelatine from the bones makes a huge difference in texture and depth of flavor. –  Satanicpuppy Mar 28 '11 at 20:01
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Reconstitute and chop up an ounce of dried porcini mushrooms, reserving the liquid. Filter the liquid to remove grit, and then add it and the mushrooms. You'll add a good burst of umami and a nice earthiness, without adding too much bulk.

Also, fine-chopped celery works to give some interesting higher notes.

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+1 for adding celery. –  Chris Cudmore Mar 28 '11 at 11:57
    
Alternately, you can just grind up the dried porcini mushrooms and add that to the soup base for a nice burst of umami. Add some peppercorns and/or dried peppers to the grinder along with the mushrooms to add more spicy flavor. –  MargeGunderson Oct 26 '12 at 22:01
    
Also, adding the celery is a significant improvement in the overall taste of the finished product even if you, like me, hate the taste of celery on its own. In this case, make sure to leave the chunks large enough that you can avoid them when dishing it up and not get ambushed by a blast of that distinct celery flavor. –  MargeGunderson Oct 26 '12 at 22:07
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I have no idea how this works but... I find with a lot of beef soups/stews letting it go cold and re heating it the next day seems to do the trick. Some how all the flavor comes out of the meat when you cook it and then goes back in long after my guests have left.

If any one has an explanation for this please let me know!

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I am making my version of Beef Barley soup and I add cumin,curry and tumeric as I am browning my diced meat and onion. I only add a small amount of each but it adds a lot of flavor and I use vegetable juice instead of boulion.

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It sounds like you had enough spices. Are you sure you used meat meant for soup? Cuts intended for frying/roasting are more tender, but have much less aroma. For soup, you need older, tougher meat. Also, you say "Cubed beef", which sounds as if the bones have been removed. Cooking the meat together with the bones gives you more flavour. Third, you are supposed to sear the meat and sweat the onions before simmering, because that develops flavour. It doesn't get clear from your question if you did that.

Another way to have more flavour is to use more fat. Even if the fat itself is neutral tasting, it makes you taste the other aromas stronger. Add it when sweating the onions.

It may be worth trying to first roast the barley in the oven, or even prefrying it, like prefrying rice for a Balkan/Middle Eastern dish. I haven't tried this and cannot guarantee that it will work.

You can also use MSG or other glutamates. They are usually not sold pure in the supermarkets, but are included in other products, like broth cubes and seasoning powders. Maybe you can get them pure in a Chinese shop.

None of the ideas above apply to your already cooked batch soup (you could take out some of the liquid, dissolve a broth cube, and put it back, but it will make it much saltier). The only things I can think of will add flavour, not strengthen it, thus changing the original idea. I don't know if this is a problem for you.

If you don't mind changing the flavour, you can 1) add other herbs (they need to be fresh, dried ones should have cooked a bit). Parsley, marjoram, and lovage come to mind. 2) Add condiments. Worceshire sauce is unusual in soup, but works well for my taste. 3) Cook chopped dried mushrooms in a very small amount of liquid, then add them to the soup together with the liquid. 4) throw in crumbled feta cheese (good quality, preferably from sheep milk).

Other ideas which change the flavour, but cannot be applied to the already cooked soup, would be adding celery and bay leaf.

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I cooked the meat prior to adding it in the soup and then cut it into small cubes. The meat is very tender. I sweated the onions in some butter along with the carrots. I ended up adding a bit more pepper and rosemary and that did the trick. –  duchessofstokesay Mar 27 '11 at 21:54
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I've had good luck adding a small packet of unflavoured gelatin, it's not enough to gel the soup (gross), but it adds some of the body that long simmered beef bones would add.

Celery is essential, as someone else mentioned. You wouldn't think it would add much, but there's something magic about it.

I also toss in some celery seeds (not celery salt!) I grind them to a fine powder for beef barley soup but add them whole for chicken soup.

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I usually choose not to add celery to some things due to the fact I am not a big fan of it (mostly texture wise). But I might try adding in some celery seeds next time as I don't mind those. –  duchessofstokesay May 11 '11 at 16:26
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I too have trouble sometimes when making soups. I recently discovered that about a half of a medium rutabaga peeled and diced in 2 quarts of soup adds a lot of flavor. It takes about an hour to cook them so plan to put them in at the beginning. You can also add a pinch of dried thyme. Be cautious with thyme because it can easily overpower your soup.

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