Beef, mushrooms and mixed beans soup
I really like our weather the past several days, with cloudy skies, light rain and cool afternoons of around 25 C and colder at night, the coolest days we've had in years. The only problem I have with such nice weather is the floods in the rural areas. Those in dreary grey places will not understand but if you live in hot sunny weather 365 days a year, you'll welcome the rain and clouds like the Brits welcome the sun.
This started out as 'beef & barley soup with mushrooms and dill' from a copy of Australian House & Garden but because Ming preferred mixed dried beans to barley, because shiitake mushrooms are cheaper than button mushrooms (he loves mushrooms) and sherry reduced with the onions is one of his fav cooking secrets, he came up with a different soup but one that was so superb we (except for Wey, who probably is planning to run away from home soon--we've had a pork-free week) didn't eat anything else but the soup for dinner last night. The only thing you can't omit or substitute though is the dried porcini mushrooms which gave the soup that special savory flavor.
Stews and thick soups always taste better the next day when the ingredients have been given time to absorb the liquid and flavor, and the soup infused with the ingredients. If possible, cook the soup the night before but I don't think that'll work because honestly who keeps freshly cooked soup for the next day? So the next best thing to do is cook this ahead of time, say hours before dinner. And if your family is like mine, always trying to loose some weight, all you need with the soup is some crusty bread.
Ming's Beef, Mushrooms & Mixed Beans Soup(serves 8-10)
1/3 cup dried porcini mushrooms
2 T extra virgin olive oil
2 T sherry
1 kg chuck or rump steak, in 2 cm cubes
2 brown onions, chopped
2 large carrots, in 1 cm cubes
2 stalks celery, 1/2 cm slices
150 g button mushrooms, quartered
150 g shiitake mushrooms, in 1.5 cm pieces
1/4 cup tomato paste
1 can beef stock
2 l water
2 1/2 cups mixed dried beans, washed well* (chick peas, butter beans, kidney beans etc)
2 bay leaves (in place of 1/4 cup fresh chopped dill)
salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste
* you can use 2 cups pearl barley instead
1. Put porcini in a small bowl and add 3/4 cup hot water to rehydrate it for about 20 minutes. Pick through the softened porcini to remove any dirt and drain the soaking water through a sieve lined with a damp paper towel to remove any grit. Keep the liquid.
2. Heat up a heavy based pot and add the oil, then the beef cubes and let it sear all over and remove. Add the onions, carrot and celery and cook 10 minutes under low heat (have patience) until softened. Now add the sherry, stir for 15 sec. Add the porcini and the other mushrooms and stir for 5 min.
3. Stir in the tomato paste, stock, water and porcini soaking liquid. Bring to a boil, add the beef and bay leaves. Simmer, with lid slightly at angle, for 1 hour.
4. Add the beans and simmer another 1 hour 30 minutes, stirring from time to time. Turn off the heat and let soup sit for at least 45 min and then heat soup up again. If the soup becomes too thick, add some water. Season with salt & pepper to taste.