WND – This is the week that was

December 17, 2010

So this has been a week.

Firstly, that cold, the one I was determined not to have this year, because I’m tired of going home for Christmas sounding like a consumptive? It caught up with me. I was doing so well too, I wasn’t sick, I didn’t know anyone who was sick, and then on Sunday evening I felt that tell tale tickle in the back of my throat. I spent Monday trying to will it into oblivion, but that failed, so on Tuesday I took advantage of the fact that my boss was out of town and called in sick and slept.

Then on Tuesday evening at Dinner (which was held because the soup was already made) I innocently bit down on a slice of bread and cheese and broke a tooth. I cry foul, because it wasn’t even crusty bread. My dentist – of whom I am quite fond, this week in particular – not only slotted me in for a new crown first thing on Thursday morning, but also didn’t even blink when I said I was flying to Malta on Sunday, and in fact came back with ‘so I’m guessing there’s lots of crusader stuff there, but is there much Arabic influence’ (brought to you by the heart felt declaration of omg if I never have to explain where Malta is again it will be too soon).

I’m really hoping that whatever the third thing is – because these things always come in threes – it will be marginally inconvenient, but won’t require massive time and energy to resolve. Running out of oil would be acceptable. Yes, it’s flipping cold in Boston right now, but because local oil companies understand the concept of ‘cold’ and ‘out of oil’ they’re really good at emergency top ups to keep you going for the night (or so past experience suggests). Also acceptable would be, clogged sinks (in the long term it’s my landlord’s problem, not mine), last minute grocery requests from my mother despite the fact that she swore she didn’t need anything, or the cable/internet going out (it would be annoying and I’d grouse, but not actually the end of the world).

What would be unacceptable is a large enough quantity of snow to disrupt my flight schedule. Between the year that my train ticket was for the wrong day, the year that my flight was canceled because of a snow storm, and last year when mechanical problems in Boston caused me to miss my connecting flight in Amsterdam, my mother is somewhat understandably paranoid about the combination of me + Christmas + travel. Schiphol, incidentally, made my top 5 airports I never want to spend time in again list. It didn’t beat out the Brussels airport for the #1 spot, but this is mainly because nobody was on strike, the electricity stayed on the entire time I was there, and the KLM gate attendant was fabulously kind. My mother has so far not started obsessively checking the Boston weather report (at least not that I know of), and refrained from flipping out a month ago when Heathrow was closed for several days due to unexpected snow.

In conclusion, no snow, please? The collective sanity of everyone involved says thank you in advance.

And that’s the last Dinner of 2010. See you in the New Year.

Beef, Leek & Barley Soup

Beef, Leek & Barley Soup
(serves 6-8 )
I talked about this soup a couple of weeks ago as one of the easiest most satisfying soups I’ve ever made, and I’ve been craving it again ever since I made it the first time. The best way to make this soup is to put it on to simmer midway through a Sunday afternoon and then go on about your Sunday business. Come dinner time you have a pot of soup ready to eat, and a house that smells wonderful, plus leftovers to eat for the rest of the week.

1 tsp olive oil
2-3 meaty beef short ribs
8 oz mushrooms, cut into quarters
½ cup pearl barley*
3-4 leeks, sliced (white and green parts)
2 onions, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
4 cups water
4 cups beef stock**

Heat the oil in a heavy pan and brown the beef ribs. Remove from the pan and reserve for a minute. Sauté the mushrooms in the oil/rendered beef fat until slightly browned. Remove and return to the pot in the last 45 minutes of cooking.

Optional (but really why wouldn’t you?): deglaze the pan with a little alcohol (1-2 Tbsp) – sherry, brandy, calvados, red wine, whatever you have on hand.

Return the beef ribs to the pan and add all the other ingredients. Bring to a boil and then simmer for 2-3 hours until the meat on the beef ribs falls off the bone. Remove the meat, shred and return to the pot. Skim off some of the fat and serve with a nice crusty bread.

* There is a difference between pearl barley and regular barley. I don’t know exactly what it is, but pearl barley will cook in a reasonable amount of time and regular barley really won’t. In this recipe where you cook the soup for 3 hours it probably doesn’t make much difference (although I haven’t tried it with regular barley so I’m just guessing on that), but it will make a difference in other recipes.

** You can also use all water or all beef stock, but I like the mix.

Note: I made this on Monday night and then reheated it on Tuesday evening for Dinner. To make sure that the barley didn’t turn into mush, I didn’t cook the barley with the soup on Monday. Instead I added the barley in at the 2 ½ hour mark and cooked it with the soup for 30 minutes, and then let it finish cooking in the soup the next day when I reheated the soup.

Bread & Cheese



  1. That soup sounds tasty. I believe the short ribs that have been languishing in my freezer are destined for this recipe.

  2. […] The third thing was totally snow. Not, I’ll point out, snow in Boston (because when Boston got 20” of snow, Logan airport was open again the next day). No, it was snow in London which was much much worse. Through an unfortunate confluence of bad luck (lots of snow in a short period of time), poor planning (not enough de-icer fluid) and incompetence (‘we were prepared for the snow on the runways, but were surprised at how it piled up around the planes’ – which, what? Did you think that snow was selective about where it fell?) Heathrow shut down for something like 5 days just before Christmas. This resulted in an unsurprising, if tedious, amount of chaos. […]

  3. […] vegetable soup, a salad, bread & cheese) and make soups that are essentially one pot meals – beef, leek & barley, sweet potato and sausage, black bean & pumpkin with ham, gingery split […]

  4. […] Recipe previously given:  This is the Week That Was […]

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