beef-leek-and-barley-soup Recipes

beef, leek and barley soup

Seeing as my parents were spending the afternoon at my apartment on Sunday so I could pilfer content for my site from their recipe box, I figured the least I could do was make them some lunch. And although it is not quite soup weather yet, I have not been able to get my mind off of a recipe I read recently, so soup it was.


Oh, but this is not just any soup. This will be, hands down and no contest, the easiest soup you have ever made. You’re not going to believe how simple it is, and what you get as a result–something so unbelievably hearty, you’ll never have room for your next course. It’s filling and healthy and warming and delicious and oh my god, I bet you just want me to cut to the chase already, don’t you?

about to simmer

Here you go: Put some stuff in a soup pot, bring it to a simmer and cook it for three hours while you go about your business. Um, you got all that? Because that is all there is. I bet you won’t even need to print this recipe off, except to check back a zillion times, unable to believe that food this good can be this easy to make.

And did you catch that “go about your business” part? I bet you recognize that voice by now, that charming lady that tells you that recipes should adapt to your schedule and not vice-versa? Why yes, it’s Laurie Colwin once again, and now that I am two for two with her runaway hits of recipes, I don’t think I can turn back now. I am too inspired. I can’t wait to hear all of the ways all of you adapt this recipe, so be sure to report back, okay?

short rib lost its bone

One year ago: Peanut Butter Brownies
Two years ago: Roasted Acorn Squash with Chile Vinaigrette

Beef, Leek and Barley Soup
Adapted from Laurie Colwin’s Home Cooking

1. Trim two big, meaty short ribs and put them on the bottom of your soup pot.

2. Add 1/2 cup of barley, three big cloves of garlic shopped up, two chopped onions, and three leeks cut lengthwise and then into segments–use both the white and the green parts. You can also add mushrooms and any other vegetables you might like. Grind in a little black pepper.

3. Add about eight cups of filtered water or beef stock and let it simmer on the back burner for at least three hours while you go about your business. You can also add lima beans, cube potatoes, peas, corn, string beans and chopped tomatoes at any point, or the second day, should you have any leftover.

4. Before serving, skim off the fat–there will be a bit, as short ribs are quite fatty–take the meat off the bones, chop it and put it back in the soup.

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179 comments on beef, leek and barley soup

  1. courtney

    To bad my husbadn doesn’t like soup. I guess I will save this for the next time he goes out of town, and share it with my MIL. Or maybe I will make it and try freezing some?

  2. It’s grandma soup! Beef, onions, and whatever is in the crisper drawer. When she was growing up in deep Alabama and company came along, they’d add more of whatever they had most of. It was normally water :) Great recipe, thanks!

  3. Dawn

    Oh my God, that looks delicious. Just like my Bubby used to make. I miss her… and her soup.

    My husband and I both love soup, and I’d like to make this, but the hubby doesn’t eat red meat. I know so much of the flavor (and the color too, I’d guess) comes from the beef, but what would happen if I omitted the beef part? Is there something that I could replace it with (i.e. chicken), or am I better off just omitting the meat completely? (I’m not a fan of chicken bits in my soup, so I’m hoping that you’ll say it will be great without any meat.)

    Btw, I just found your site and every day that you post, it’s a droolfest all over my keyboard. Your photos are incredible. And the food… oh, I’d bet it’s amaaaaazing.

  4. Sue

    This sounds great!! I like the idea of going about my business while it simmers.
    Sarah! Green chili chicken stew sounds wonderful!! Will you post the recipe?

  5. zh

    I love Laurie Colwin’s cooking books — she’s so no-nonsense and always out for enjoyment. What a delicious recipe that is, too.

  6. Susan

    I love beef barley soup..this is almost the way I make it..except that I start the beef and onions caramelizing well before I add everything else. I like beef based soups dark and rich looking. AND..I add a few raisins to it too..just because I like to be treated to an unexpected bite of something sweet. It’s an amazing touch!

  7. frog

    I usually lurk, but this is just so cool I had to come out of the woodwork- my favorite food blogger, blogging about my favorite hard-copy food writer! The bread recipe you covered may be what it takes to finally get me to overcome my Yeast Phobia, and this recipe looks amazing as well. It’s such a treat to see some of Colwin’s recipes in illustrated form; I haven’t tried either of these, and both the bread and soup would be perfect for the fall weather we’re having here in Colorado. Colwin’s lentil soup formula from her second book (More Home Cooking) literally changed the way I cook, and it’s always wonderful to see someone else discover her work.

  8. Liz C.

    oh, thank you! lately there have been so many recipes with tomatoes (which I don’t like) or lots of baking (which I don’t have extra time for these days). but a good hearty soup is totally up my alley. and i need a reason to use my nice dutch oven!

  9. I think this would adapt brilliantly to crockpot use too. I love a recipe that allows me to put everything except liquids in the pot the night before and stash it in the fridge, then just add liquid, put the pot in the heater, and turn it on before leaving for work. In fact, I think this is on next week’s menu.

  10. Amanda

    wow this soup looks so good and hearty! maybe even with some spinach or kale (my new fave veg) thrown in near the end. funny, when i left for work this morning it really wasn’t soup weather yet, but by the time i got home- i could really use a bowl :(

  11. You’re so lucky it’s not soup weather there yet. It’s freezing here in Vancouver, Canada! This soup looks so hearty and warming. I’ve been looking for a great beef and barley recipe for a while now. I think I’ve found it.

  12. beth

    My husband is one of those big burly guys who would refuse to accept that soup could be a full meal. Every time I try to make a carb-less dinner by substituting an extra veggie for the rice/noodles/potato he immediately asks “what are we eating this with?” Although, I have sold him on a provencal beef stew during the winter months. Hmm, I bet if I let this simmer down until it was a bit thicker and served it with some baked potato wedges I could pass it off as dinner.

    BTW, I only discovered this website about 2.5 weeks ago and have already made: challah, slow roasted tomatoes (about 3 times), stewed lentils with tomatoes, and am planning to make the coq a vin, onion dill bread and the apple cake next week. Turns out I’m a sucker for a pretty picture, and boy this site is FULL of them. I’m sure you hear it all the time, but this site is so inspiring – just what I needed to get me out of my recipe rut.

  13. soup-less in the southwest

    How I wish it was soup weather here. We topped out at 100 degrees today. But the calender tells me it’s soup season. I can’t stop thinking about roasted butternut squash soup. YUM! Now I have this to wish for also!

  14. I usually use gravy beef cut into chunks, about four potatos, four carrots, an onion and some cabbage. Throw in a bouquet de garni and top it up with Beef stock. All in a crock pot over night, mmmm… too bad we’re going into summer here and salads are going to be the thing now…

  15. Dwilah

    Are barley and leeks easy to find at most grocery stores, or do you think you have to go to a specialty store? I’ve never looked for it before but I can’t recall ever seeing barley around the oatmeal and rice and stuff…but I’d like to make this recipe for sure! I love hearty soups, and I have a package of baby bella mushrooms that I bet would be delicious in with this, because they are good with anything beefy. :)

  16. Oh, I just love Laurie Colwin. I so miss her voice, her column really made Gourmet for me when I subscribed to it. I own both Home Cooking books and whenever I’m in the need of beautiful prose about food, I pull them out and reread them.

    Her Black Bean soup recipe is to die for…be sure you try that one too! The weather here is perfect for it!

  17. My husband will flip over this! He claims I never make beef barley soup often enough. I usually use beef shank but will definately try it with short ribs soon.

  18. I make almost this same soup, with a spicy Italian sausage instead of the beef and a can of lentils. I’ve used a few stalks of leafy celery instead of the leeks. It’s one of the easiest and best soups ever.

  19. Teresa

    My goodness, that sounds yummy. And it’s definitely soup weather in New England, and will be until, oh, late May.
    Am I right in suspecting it would be almost as good with chunks of whatever stew-type beef you had in the freezer looking for a good home, though you’d probably want beef stock instead of water in that case to make up for not having the bones from teh short ribs?

  20. Lauren

    Deb, this was such a good recipe. I made it last night for the husband, and he loved it! Definitely another “buy the ingredients on the way home from work because it sounds too good to wait” Smitten Kitchen winner. It’s hearty, tasty and simple, and I can see it remaining a big player in my soup repertoire.

  21. Anneke

    For a meatless barley soup – I use lots of mushrooms. At least a pound of sliced buttons works fine, with onions and or leeks, a bit of celery and carrots or whatever, vegie broth (I like Better than Bouillion when I don’t make my own) and seasoned with lots of thyme. It is great in cooler weather and freezes well too.

  22. I love a good beef and barley soup- this one looks great for those who are soup challenged too. I always try to get a few good beef bones from the butcher and roast them until they are browned and fragrant, then put those in the pot. It beats a jarred beef base hands down and gives beef soup incredible flavor. I have pork bones in the freezer from my smoked and grilled roasts this past summer and I can’t wait to use them for pork stew in the coming months! Yum!

  23. deb

    Short bone swap questions: I am not a very experienced cook when it comes to beef, so your guess is probably as good as mine. I have, however, cooked short ribs many, many times (they’re my favorite) and know that its nearly impossible to overcook them. The longer the cooking time (such as these three hours), the better they get. I have not had the same experience with chunks of beef you’d use in stew, which I find after a certain amount of time just get tough.

    If you are particularly concerned about the fat content, there are two routes: One, make it the night or day before and fully chill it in the fridge. The fat will come to the top and be very easy to remove, and you can get 98 percent of it out, more than you can with skimming it while it is hot. Second option is to use beef shins instead (yeah, I’ve never seen them either). Colwin suggests this in the book as an alternative, and I believe they are much less fatty.

  24. Thanks for the recipe. I love barley! And I love this time of year, being able to cook a meal in a big pot in my kitchen again. I bet this soup was really good with your challah (if you had any left over!).

  25. Picot

    Coincidentally, I have been reading Colwin’s book. I got it out of the library a while ago, and now it is horribly overdue. I just can’t seem to part with it. Thanks for highlighting some recipes. It helps me focus on what to make first. I should just go buy the book before the fees exceed the cost of a new one.

    So sad that she died so young.

  26. Erika

    I made this last night in my Staub dutch oven, stirring occasionally, and it stuck horribly to the bottom of my pot! Unfortunately that slight burnt taste is prevalent throughout the whole pot.
    Do you have any tips for using cookware like that? I’m sure it was “user error”, but I don’t want that to happen again! I don’t know why I can make a beautiful cheesecake and layer cakes, but cannot master a simple stew!

  27. deb

    Erika — I used a Staub as well, but mine didn’t stick, so I am entirely unsure of why it happened to you. Perhaps the heat was a little high? It does confuse me, especially if you were stirred all the way down through the bottom of the pot from time to time.

  28. this looks perfect. i love to eat and make soup, but so often my boyfriend thinks it’s not filling/ hearty enough as a meal for him. this recipe seems like a great way to fix that little problem. merci!

  29. Erika

    Deb, Thanks for responding. I did crank the heat up a little bit, so maybe that was my problem. I’ll try again another day – probably in my nonstick pot! lol

  30. Nicole M

    My husband is also one of those “soup is not a meal” people but if I make it really hearty and call it stew then he’s fine. Lately I’ve been stuck on adding Belgian Golden ale to my broth but that’s always with chicken or fish/seafood, not beef. I think I’ll try it with this anyway. At worst the beef flavor will cover up the beer flavor.

  31. The temperature here will drop this weekend, it will be perfect soup weather. I wonder if you can use oxtails? My thrifty grandma made a soup similar to this when I was little and used oxtails but I’m not even sure you can buy them at the butcher shop or how to prepare them? I’ve never made soup using short ribs but I’m game. Thank you for your inspiration, I love all your recipe choices, you’ve really inspired me to cook new things and my family loves you for it!!! Sara–share your green chili soup/stew recipe!!

  32. Taryn

    I was wondering, if I wanted more meat could I just increase the number of ribs I put in the pot or would I need to also double liquids, barley, etc? Let me know. Thanks!

  33. I bought Laurie Colwin’s book through a link you provided on one of your posts awhile back. When I received it in the mail, I immediately started to browse through it … only to find I could not put it down! It is absolutely fantastic and I love her approach … not to mention her stories are priceless! Truly sad that she left this Earth at such a young age … very talented indeed.

  34. Melody C.

    Marguerite – I’m going to try this recipe this weekend with oxtails that I have in my freezer. I have a new box of barley and just earlier today I warned my husband we’d have to have leek and potato soup this weekend to use up my large pile of leeks from my CSA veg box. And it didn’t make it to 50 degrees today in rainy old England, so it’s perfect weather for soup!!! Deb, thanks for the yummy, easy recipe!

  35. Tammy

    It never ceases to amaze me that I will be thinking of something to make, mulling it over in thought, making lists…… Then I pull up your sight and BAM!………. there. it. is. The perfect recipe for what I was trying to figure out to make. I’m convinced you’re psychic as this has happened more than a few times. Thanks, again!

  36. It’s funny, I’ve been thinking of short ribs lately, even though I haven’t cooked with them in years. What I used to make was a soup not unlike this, Deb. Delicious!

  37. My tummy has been a wee bit upset this afternoon and I’d give just about anything to have a cup of this soup in front of me right now—it looks so hearty and soothing.

  38. This recipe is a nice launching pad for cleaning out the fridge! I’ll switch out the barley for brown rice or quinoa to make it gluten-free. Love the idea of leeks. I always forget about how much I enjoy them in soups and stews. Thanks for the reminder. And it’s definitely soup weather around here. It’s supposed to snow in the Colorado high country this weekend. Melissa

  39. Funny. Fall is definitely here (more like Winter in Seattle). I made a mushroom, leek , barley (and some other stuff in the fridge) soup for dinner a couple days back too. Beef would’ve been nice. I can see lots of soups and stews coming up in my kitchen….and some spicy Indian curries:-(

  40. Mary

    As soon as we finish up the pot of chicken and dumplings that’s occupying the soup pot and the fridge, I am so making this. I’ll add the mushrooms, and I think kale is a great idea! I’m in Texas and I don’t wait for soup weather, ’cause we so seldom have any. Nothing makes me happier than knowing I have an easy supper all ready, with the addition of some great bread and maybe a salad.

  41. Leslie

    I agree with everyone who says they just found this site and love it – love it – love it. The apple cake — the tomatoes — the onions — the chocolate cake – yum! Thanks, Deb, for all the great recipes. I’m making this soup tonight even though we just came out of triple digits here in Arizona. This is the first “not-100” day we’ve had in a long time and I’m stretching it into a soup day. Bon appetite to all!

  42. Dwilah

    I found the barley at the store! Good ol’ Quaker. This is cooking on the stove right now and it makes me wish I was hungry for lunch, because it smells heavenly.

  43. Dwilah

    I think I put a little too much barley in mine–it’s very thick and chunky more than brothy. But still really good, very flavorful. I used boneless short ribs because they were on sale and they turned out just fine. Meat came apart like a lean crock pot roast. The flavor’s different than the cooking smell–I’m surprised at the taste, but it’s really good. :)

  44. Sharon

    Mine is in the fridge, we’ll have it for dinner tomorrow. I want to take off the fat after a few hours of chilling. I couldn’t resist a taste, though! Next time I think I’ll use an extra cup or two of broth. I also added a bit of salt and 2 sliced carrots. Delish and hearty. Also, we have leftover challah from Friday night. I’m so looking forward to the two together.

  45. Tori

    I made this yesterday. I increased the short ribs to 3 in hopes of getting a more beefy flavor; I used water instead of beef stock. My soup wasn’t happy and I ended up adding about a half a quart of beef stock at the end. Also a dash of kitchen bouquet to help the color.

    Also, I seared the ribs first pulled them out and dumped in the onions, leeks and garlic with a dose of salt to caramelize and cook down a bit. It added a hint of sweetness that I really liked.

    Great base recipe!

    P.S. To Taryn #52. I added an extra rib and increased the water by two cups to account for evaporation. I ended up adding those 2 cups back in stock at the end. Depending on how much soup you want just keep adding ingredients, if you want more beef then leave everything else the same.

  46. Dana

    Agree about the barley. 1/2 cup makes this more like a porridge and less like I soup. Next time I make it, I’ll add 1/4 cup barley and add it 1 hour into the cooking time so it has a bit of firmness to it.

  47. This sounds like a cross between an Irish stew and a Jewish mushroom-barley soup. Both of which I love.

    I love the food photography on your blog, by the way!


  48. Shayna

    Oh my, that looks good, I bet it smells amazing simmering on the stove. It reminds me a bit of my mother’s london broil recipe or as we call it tinkine (I don’t know how to spell it, it’s yiddish meaning “to dunk”) Challah is mandatory when she makes it.
    Can you let us know approximately how much the short ribs should weigh? I would love to half this recipe or can you lend some advice on how to freeze leftovers?

  49. Hi Deb, Greetings from the far-off Hungary.:) I have loved your site for over a year now, but this was the first time I actually cooked something from here. The soup is great, I used cubed beef so I could save some time with not having to chop it once it is cooked.And I also added some dry white wine, as I almost always do regardless of what I make :)))
    As luck would have it, my partner came down with the flu this morning so the soup was proved to be the perfect remedy:) Also a huge thank you for letting me discover barley as an ingredient that has been in my pantry for quite a while, but for some reason I haven’t felt the urge to use it. For now on it is gonna be a big time favourite. Thanks again:)

  50. I made this for dinner on Friday night and it was absolutely fantastic. I used a couple of “soup bones” from our side of beef and they just fell apart at the end into tender chunks. It was so easy and required minimal prep work (my favorite kind of recipe). It also helped me use up the last of the leeks from my farm share, which is always a bonus. I will definitely be adding this one to my stable of cold-weather staples.

  51. I made this soup yesterday for dinner tonight, because as we all know, soup is better the next day. This soup is very hearty and will be especially appreciated tonight because it has rained all day. I added more veggies to make it more of a beef stew, but the flavor is outstanding , with the sweetness from the onions and leeks. My house smells heavenly! Next I am going to try the Challah bread, it looks so good and nothing is better than fresh baked bread. Thanks for making this rainy day a little brighter with this recipe.

  52. mosheep/Denise

    I made this soup this morning for us to have for dinner on Tuesday.

    It smelled so good that we all had to taste a small bowl when it had
    finished cooking.

    We are all now looking forward to dinner on Tuesday evening.

    My son even took some for lunch tomorrow.

    Thanks for a great recipe.


  53. I made this soup today and I really have to thank you for blogging about it. I made it following your recipe with the exception of only having boneless short-ribs (a bit over a pound). The soup really added a wonderful fragrance to our house. It was delicious on a rainy day and I froze three portions.

    Today’s shortbread looks so yummy!

  54. Vicki

    I made it yesterday and found it a bit blah – too sweet and not enough beef flavor. (I had used water rather than beef stock.) Today, since it was very thick because of the barley, I made some mashed potatoes, put the soup in a casserole, and turned it into shepherd pie. But first I reheated the soup and added a lot of fresh thyme and simmered it for half an hour. The shepherd pie version was very tasty.

  55. Found your recipe thru Slashfood & made it tonight with a base of half beef broth and half mushroom broth. I will definitely be adding it to my repetoire. It was a light dish with a wonderfully rich, robust flavor! Thanks so much for sharing!

  56. Nicole M

    I made this yesterday and my house still smelled fantastic this morning! The farmer’s market had great veggies in so I ended up adding carrots, red potatoes, and crimini mushrooms along with extra water, extra ribs, extra barley, a little beef base, Belgian Golden ale, and a bouquet of fresh herbs. Since it became a thick stew at that point my soup-is-not-a-meal husband considered it dinner. I love these base recipes that you can add to without worry!

  57. lemongrass

    I made the soup this weekend and thought it was fantastic. My husband didn’t like it though – thought the mushrooms I added “ruined” it. : ) His loss, my gain! I added two carrots and (like I said) two med sized portobello mushrooms at the start. I think next time I’ll skip the mushrooms and wait until a bit into the cooking to add the barley – it was a bit too done for my taste. Overall though it was great and soooo good with crusty bread!

  58. Katie

    Best. Easiest. Soup. Ever. Along with apple cake for dessert. Two days running plus I had it for lunch. I may turn into a leek.

  59. Amanda

    My boyfriend is going to LOVE this, as he is the biggest soup fan i’ve ever met. Our anniversary is coming up and I can’t think of a better thing to cook for him while we’re celebrating up at our beach house in Washington. October in Washington = perfect time to cook soup. Thanks!!

  60. Jeannette

    Hi…im new to this site and im so happy I found it…i’ve put it on my desktop :) I love the look of this soup…and lucky me…I have all the ingredients on hand…dont you just love when that happens lol….anyway I think I’ll try this one out tomorrow…thanks!

  61. I added about a half a bunch of chopped kale 15 minutes before serving, this made it into a one bowl meal. We added bread smeared with roasted garlic and it was great. Thanks!

  62. Carrie

    If you’re looking to substitute another, leaner cut of beef, try cubed chuck – it has enough fat in it that it gets tender during slow cooking, but is far leaner than short ribs. Don’t use cubed round, which is often sold for use in stews, but which is very lean and becomes tough during a long simmer. Browning the meat would also add additional flavor to the soup, although admittedly at the cost of an extra step! Can’t wait to try this – maybe even in my slow-cooker.

  63. Celeste

    I didn’t see if anyone else asked this, but what kind of difference would there be doing this in a slow cooker? It looks like an awesome weeknight-curl-up-on-the-couch-kind kind of meal… but the 3 hours on stove top destroy that option for us with 9-5s.

  64. Crystal

    When I made this soup on Sunday I had the same reaction as Vicki. I too had only used water. I stored the soup in the fridge feeling disappointed, but it seems that was all it needed. I took some out last night to have for dinner and it proved to be one of, if not the, best soup I’ve ever made.

  65. Beth

    I made this soup Wednesday during the debate, with some changes of course. Instead of beef ribs, I used half a smoked pheasant we had in the fridge (making sure to pick out all the small bones after cooking), and also threw in some cubed butternut squash, cauliflower, capers, and sundried tomatoes (leftovers from the recent NY Times autumn panzanella, minus the bread). The smoked pheasant gave it a pleasant, smoky taste, and also made the dried-out pheasant more tender during the cooking process. Like you said, this soup can take all manner of extra ingredients, and it was delicious served the next day with a light salad and some crusty bread. Thanks for the idea!

  66. I have been looking for such a recipe as this beef and barley soup. I am going to use tri tip and cut it into small pieces. I hope the meat will just fall apart. Thanks for such a hearty recipe. Can’t wait until tomorrow!!

  67. Ana

    I don’t usually post recommendations on people’s blogs, but I threw in like a teaspoon of rosemary when the soup had been cooking for an hour, and it added a whole other dimension to the soup. It is so tasty.

  68. Making this now… Browned the onions and short ribs beforehand and added a few sprigs of thyme and some mushroom. So far, looking and smelling snarfle-able. Off to mind my own business now and try to give the soup some space. You are right, it’s not so into clingy.

  69. Mary

    I, too, would like to know what you think about making the soup totally without the meat for vegetarians? I am not opposed to beef stock..just don’t eat any meat. Thanks.

  70. Mary

    I made this last Friday for my carnivore boyfriend, and he ate two bowls. We also added potatoes and mushrooms, and it was delicious. I still have some leftovers that I’m going to enjoy tonight.

  71. Tina

    I made this recipe in my new Le Creuset pot (bought it in May and just now found a good time to use it). What better way to christen it! It turned out fab. I used mushrooms and beef stock and it was perfect.

  72. First, this soup looks amazing. I have made plenty of beef barley soup before, but never with leeks, and I think that will just take it over the top.
    Second, this is the most comments I have ever seen on a soup recipe. You must be doing something right!

  73. Erica

    On my mum’s advice, I did this one in the crockpot, for about 9-10 hours on low, overnight. (I reduced the liquid by 1 cup, using 4 cups stock and 3 cups water.) Then, I let it sit all day and in the evening, simmered it for about 30-45 minutes on medium heat. The meat slid right off the bone at this point. I added a dollop each of turmeric, curry and cumin, and the final result was thick and tasty, more stewlike than soupy.

    Very tasty with crusty white bread and butter! It definitely improves from sitting all day. I think it’s probably a better idea to use beef stock than water, though.

    And I made the recently posted apple cake for dessert (in two loaf pans because I don’t have a tube pan) and it was very, very tasty! Thanks for both of these recipes.

  74. Robert

    I made it for myself and a friend last night. Good recipe, very easy and very simple. I compiled a few ideas for changes that we thought might be good.
    – Add a bit of kosher salt. Maybe 1tsp at the start.
    – Chopped carrots for a bit of sweetness.
    – Cook a mirepoix in the pot first, then add all the ingredients.
    – Chopped carrots for some sweetness, regardless if you do a mirepoix.
    – Potatoes for some texture.
    – Beer: Toss in the shortribs, pour in half a bottle of amber ale or less, let simmer for a bit, then add the rest of the ingredients. Note: I used a water base, so a beef stock base would taste different and probably not warrant this use of beer.

  75. ChristinaM

    I followed all of Robert’s suggestions, as well as using beef broth and beer…and it came out funky. I think leeks plus beer plus carrots = too much sweetness. I also used a bit of turnip.

    There might be something to be said for sticking to the recipe. Or maybe I just don’t like leek soup. Shrug. Too bad I made a huge pot of it. Trying to pawn it off on the neighbors now. ;-)

  76. Alison

    Dear Deb
    I’m usually a lurker but I had to write because I adore Laurie Colwin. I reread her cookbooks at least once a year. I bought my daughters copies of her books because I feel a kitchen is better/homier with her on the bookshelf.
    Thank you for the soup nudge, I couldn’t decide what to make for dinner tonight and was driving past a butcher where I noticed a sign for short ribs and the words Smitten Kitchen came to mind. My husband loves beef barley soup. He was a happy camper.
    I also made your mom’s apple cake for a meeting today. It was a hit. Thanks for two great recipes.

  77. Bob

    Barley soup fabulous. But, If I may say so I used trimmed flanken like my bubby did and it was even better. I have become a Jewish Hero In London because of you. Thanks Bob

  78. Kelly

    I’m making this a second time today, but I’m using more beef, less leek, more other veggies, and instead of barley I am putting in wild rice blend.

  79. Tara

    Making this for the third time since first finding your site in early February. First time out of the gate was *fabulous*. Second time I added too much barley and my leeks were smallish, but the soup was still VERY tasty. This time… well, we’ll see. I used LOTS of leek but discovered that my garlic was not very good, so I’m using my good Penzey’s garlic powder instead.

    I might (*gasp*) add some other veggie in there this time. Carrots, mayhap? Peas? Not potatoes… it’s thick enough already! Wonder if I have any cauliflower…

    Thank you for posting this. It was EXACTly what I needed this season.

  80. Iesous Makarios benYakov

    Thank you so much for this recipie. I’ve never even heard of this outside my Giagia’s kitchen. Though being Greek Jews we used lamb, it is still basically the same. I had not tasted it since she made it last, some 11 years ago. Making it with my daughter, this and matza balls, and Challa, and tzatziki, all take me back to my Giagia’s kitchen when I was a young boy in Greece. Food I think is possibly the best way to bring generations together. Thank you for the recipie, which I had never learned. If there are any Yevanic ( Greco-Jewish) recipies you want feel free to ask me, I still have 90% of her recipies

  81. emily

    I added a splash of wine, celery, and carrots and left it in a crockpot to simmer while I was out. it was delicious :)

  82. melissa

    thanks for the incredibly quick response! i’ve got the soup simmering on the stovetop right now–10 minutes to go. i kept the cover on for the first 1.5 hours then took it off because the broth was too thin/weak … now it’s rich and a bit creamy, and by all indications will be delicious. i suspect that those who commented that their soup ended up as a thick stew cooked it for the full three hours without the lid…

    for the record, i seared the salted/peppered short ribs on all sides, sauteed the leeks/garlic/onions till soft and almost browned, added in the beef broth, and after the first hour added the barley plus limas, corn, cubed potatoes, chopped carrots, a couple bay leaves, a hint of rosemary and thyme, and a bit of chicken and beef base.

  83. Jessica

    I just got home from the store and am very excited to make this soup tonight for dinner tomorrow! If I’m planning on going the route where I put the soup in the fridge overnight, is it better to add the barley tomorrow when I reheat or today when I make it half way through?

  84. heatherkh

    i’ve been meaning to make this soup since i first found your blog. SO easy, and so simple. i added carrots and dried porcini mushrooms and used chicken stock instead of beef, as it was what i had on hand. love the adaptability of this one – it is going to take me through the winter. thank you!

  85. Laurie

    Made this for family friends that were sick – excellent recipe. I stuck to the recommended premise that you put everything in the pot and let it just go for three hours instead of fiddling around with it and it was grand when it was done. I left the lid on the whole time and it thickened up quite nicely on it’s own. Reminded me of the way my grandmother cooked and everything she made was amazing. Thanks for a low effort huge result recipe.

  86. Jeri Lynn

    This totally hit the spot tonight! I was in the mood for soup but didn’t want fussy chopping (thin carrot coins can be SUCH a pain!). This great recipe is SO getting made again! I followed a suggestion and added a bit of salt at the beginning. The soup didn’t need it, though, since my stock was already a bit salty. If I was using water instead of stock, I’d probably want a bit of extra salt. Thanks again!

  87. KimP

    I made this soup last night, following the recipe, and it came out great! The smell of my house during the cooking made my mouth absolutely water. I did find that it was just a tad sweet because of all the leeks, so next time I’ll probably add some spices – thyme? bay leaf? any suggestions?

    Just curious Deb – what beef stock do you use? I don’t cook with it often, but I’m assuming the flavor can vary widely depending on which brand is used, like it does with chicken stock. I ended up using 365 brand – but if there’s something better out there I’d love to know!

    1. deb

      I’m a big, big fan of Better Than Bouillon (that is, if I have no homemade accessible). I think it has the best flavor, a good price, and is space-efficient (as it’s no fun to lug home liquid quarts of stock). By the way, I am always shocked by the amount of “beef” stocks at stores (Whole Foods especially!) that contain no beef stock, but are just “beef-flavored” when you look closer. I was very disappointed the day I brought one home accidentally.

  88. Amy

    Hi Deb… Big freeze on in the UK and 3rd day of being stranded at home… so came to your web site looking for some warming recipes. Magically I happened to have ALL the ingredients at home to make this soup! Its bubbling away on the stove right now and will be baking a loaf of bread to go with it. Sure to blow away the winter blues!!!

  89. SarahB

    I am just blown away by how a few simple ingredients can taste so good. I think that next time I will omit the barley, remove the meat at the end and then puree the remaining soup, then add quick cooking barley and the reserved meat and simmer another 1/2 hour. That would take care of the sort of chunky slimy appearance that my seven-year-old is flipping out over, and I think it’d be really silky with the pureed leeks and then the nice bite of the barley would keep the texture interesting. Thanks Deb!

  90. Angela

    I had leftover roasted short ribs from dinner out. I just used sauted leeks and water and salt. I added a drop of milk before eating, taken from a very very similar Korean soup. The Korean soup by the way, has white rice on the bottom of the bowl. topped with fresh scallions.

  91. Nicole

    It’s the “blizzard of 2010” in NYC and a perfect day for this soup. I made it at 11:30 this morning and basically left it cooking all day. I left it covered for the first two hours and then uncovered for another two hours. The last two hours I kept switching it on/off. The end result was extremely tender short ribs, a slightly creamy soup (due to the barley) and an overall amazing taste. My husband, who is the real cook in the family and who always has some sort of “constructive criticism” when I cook :), said it was perfect and didn’t need a thing! Now that is a miracle coming from him. I followed the recipie as is, using all beef stock, no water. I also added one extra short rib, carrots and mushrooms. It was amazing!!! For dessert we had mom’s apple cake, which was also delicious! I will definitely be making both again soon. I just need another snow day so I am trapped inside :)

  92. Karen

    Made this yesterday while I was watching the Olympics. My hubby and I are big soup people. I make soup at least 2 times per week this time of year. This will definately be part of my regular rotation. So delicious, so easy! It was perfect with a loaf of home-made whole wheat bread and a salad of greens, apples, walnuts, blue cheese and balsamic vinegrette. Looking forward to having the leftover soup for lunch today.

  93. Lena

    I am making this right now…. waiting for it to come up to a simmer. For mine I added carrots, lil bit of Thyme, and will add me some fried leeks as garnish… with some toasted Pugliese! Can’t wait! Will let you know how it turns out! :)

  94. Suzanne

    You are correct in that this is the easiest recipe, as well as delicious! In knowing well what my family likes, I did choose to saute first, a few min’s> the onions, garlic and short ribs. This may have(or maybe not) added to the taste factor but the aroma sure got the family to quickly inquire what was I cooking! I then added the stock but held off on the barley because I could only find “quick cooking” barley. I added the barlety last 20 min’s along with, 5 sliced carrots. Tomorrow for lunch I will add peas and sauteed celery pieces. Thank you :)

  95. Kristin

    Deb, I saw your note on freezer-ready dishes, and you can definitely freeze this soup! I made it a couple weeks ago, and it’s frozen for take-to-work lunch at some point this winter. In fact, I freeze most soups, stews and chilis with no problem. By the way, the mushroom lasagna looks divine!

  96. Brenda

    this is one of my favorite soups ever! super easy and super yummy. even my picky kids will eat it! I prefer to brown the short ribs and onions a bit and add a bit of carrot…but it’s great as is too!

  97. lynnerkat

    I had to try this and went out and got the stuff today, even tho I went grocery shopping yesterday.Soup is in the pot now. Cold snap here in the south and the house smells great,tree is up and the kitty is asleep in my lap. Perfect- thanks.

  98. rose

    was looking to make soup for a sick boy and found this – what a delicious, easy soup. added carrots, celery and dried herbs to the mix, and its great. perfect for a cold winter night. love being able to dump everything into the pot and then leave it alone for a few hours.
    thanks deb!

  99. A2!

    I just found your site today and couldn’t wait to try this recipe!

    The flavor was a bit weak for my taste, maybe because I used water instead of beef broth. I punched it up a bit by adding some dried porcini mushrooms along with the mushroom-y water in which I rehydrated them, and I also added a little bit of tomato paste to round it out. I bet I’ll be adding carrots to the leftovers, just because I can see it tasting really good!

  100. Charity

    Hey Deb! Thanks for this great recipe. I don’t eat beef but this recipe is really calling to me. Do you think I could use chicken for it?

  101. Kim

    THIS soup reminds of the beef barley soups my Scottish Dad used to make…it is simple and delicious! I’ve made it exactly as the recipe states, and also added mushrooms one time…both, simply delicious! Plus the heavenly beefy aroma fills your house as it simmers, and you just know, goodness is in that pot! Best soup recipe I’ve come across in a long time. I’ve passed it on to all the family. Everyone loves it. Smitten kitchen…..thank you….you rock!

  102. Stacie

    Just made this soup and I am sorry that we are going out to dinner tonight and will have to wait for tomorrow to eat it.
    I added carrots, mushrooms and a touch of celery to make it a fuller soup.
    Can’t wait to try the next recipe….oh, which one to choose?

    I am so excited to have come across this website, it has truly inspired me :)

  103. BunnyMaz

    Tempting! I think I’ll skip the short ribs in favour of something a bit more homelyh though – my butchers gets in the juciest, most tender and marrowboney oxtail. Mmmmm…

  104. Nica

    Made this soup tonight, came out much more like a stew. I used one pound of BEEF STEW MEAT that was cut into about 15 pieces and was purchased at a NYC greenmarket. It was very lean meat (not sure what part of the carcass the meat came from).

    The beef does have the problem of having a dry mouth feel and not being fall apart tender; however, the flavor of the stew is good. I’ll eat it for lunch this week as planned.

    The beef is a small component of the entire dish with the bulk of the stew being large chunks of 3 big carrots and 2 large Gold Rush potatoes. Cooked with Spanish onion, Penzey’s dried celery flakes, garlic, and a beef bouillon cube. Flavored with a tomato, a very small amount of leftover lemon juice, bay leaves, Hungarian hot paprika, and salt & pepper.

    Thank you for introducing me to an easy winter beef recipe, but I’ll be sure to try it with MEATY SHORT RIBS next time!

  105. Steph

    Made this for the second time on the snowy day in NYC that was President’s Day and it was perfect. I actually heated oil first with some of the garlic bits and browned the short ribs first to seal in the juices. Then I deglazed with some cheapo Trader Joe’s $5 red wine. Covering all that with the sliced onions, leeks, some extra sliced carrots, barley, water, and three Knorr beef bouillon cubes, I ignored it while it bubbled on low heat for three hours. I ended up adding a teaspoon of salt for taste but it was perfect. The beef ribs were fall apart tender and I have hearty soup for the week.

  106. Rachel

    Just made this for our family over a chilly Chicago weekend — kids, ages 4, 8 and 10, gobbled it up as did we adults. So easy and absolutely delish!! I added an oxtail in addition to the 2 shortribs and some minced mushrooms (had to mince them since our 10 year old claims to hate them….oops….he didn’t notice the heaping cup I added to this soup). I used part chicken stock and added quite a bit more than called for over the course of the 3.5 hour cooking time. Voila. so easy and so good and it tastes really rich — almost like a cream based soup, but without all those extra calories.

  107. Amdy S

    Hi..I enjoy many of the recipes posted here. I make a soup very similar to this very often for my family. One thing you might want to do is brown the meat in the pot before adding the rest of the ingredients. The “fond” left in the pot adds lots of flavor. I also add lots of meaty mushrooms which compliment the beef and barley nicely.

  108. MizDahlia

    Tee hee. Today I happened to check SK for “beef stew”. Clearly, I was channeling you from exactly three years ago. Great minds think alike? Or something.

  109. Leda

    Tried this excellent stew today. Was running late but able to pull together in 20 minutes. I browned the short ribs first in a little olive oil and then added the onions to the pan, so it was all sizzling together. As it was cooking, I continued to chop ingredients, so by the time I added everything in, the short ribs were nice and brown. I also added carrots, a wild mushroom mix, and escarole. I used the beef stock, which it seems from previous comments was the right idea. I poured in more barley than 1/2 cup as well. It came out to be more like a stew than a soup, but was perfect! My boyfriend said “you should feel free to make this any time, any day.”

  110. Maya

    Thank you, thank you – I need three hours to get everything else done! I love your blog and check in almost every day. Thank you for the wonderful recipes, streaming daily life, and the yummy pictures.

  111. Thank you. I made this as written several weeks ago and we LOVED this recipe as well as the wonderful aromas that filled our home. Will make again tomorrow with the left over bones from our prime rib Christmas dinner instead of short ribs and serve with some crusty french bread. Yum!

  112. Janna

    This is yummy! I chunked up some carrots and added them, and at the end spiked it with some sriracha. Took some to a friend who’s just had knee replacement surgery and he loved it.

  113. Dorinda

    This was as you said – really easy, and fantastic. I used beef stew meat and couldn’t get over how rich tasting and satisfying it is.

  114. Jen

    Making my first pot of the winter tonight with stock I prepared yesterday. I find it difficult to skim the fat when there are vegetable and barley bobbing around, so I tend to boil the short ribs in the stock for a time, remove them and skim the fat, and then add the vegetables. I let the ribs cool, cut them up and then throw them back in just before serving. Takes longer, obviously.

    I saw your mention of Better than Bouillon. I wonder if I can find that in Toronto. When my cousin was in the UK, she also had stock pastes that were made largely from real meat. In Canada, I’ve heard that there is actually a failrly low cap on real meat content in dried bouillon products, which is why there is so much non-meat in powder and cubes. I have no idea what the rationale is.

  115. Sheena

    Delicious!!! Browned the short ribs first then added onion + celery + carrots, caraway seeds, thyme, and a bay leaf. Used 1/2 stock 1/2 water and whole grain hull-less barley instead of pearl. Making it again tonight and will add some kale this time around.

  116. Oh my god. I love this soup. I make it often. And let me just say this about it, people… I do not require winter temperatures to enjoy it. It’s that good. In fact, I’d stand in a long line on the hottest summer day in the middle of humid swamp country to willingly and with great joy, sweat my ass off while consuming it. For real. And I don’t like to be hot. And I don’t like standing in lines. And, I didn’t think I liked leeks all that much. (I was wrong on the leeks thing.)

    I love you, Smitten Kitchen! Beautiful photographs and gorgeous, delicious food! You rock it out.

  117. Schmee

    I LOVED THIS. My husband usually makes a giant pot of soup on Sunday for his lunches all week so we decided to try this recipe. I considered browning the meat (as Sheena did) but in the end, I made it as written and was not sorry. Maybe I will tweek it next time.

  118. Leek is one of my favorite veges. I browned beef, put chopped veges then realized
    no barley in my pantry:-(( So…. I am writing this while my husband volunteered to go to a store to get them:-)) I’m sure that this is going to be a lovely dinner!
    Thank you, Deb

  119. Jackie

    This turned out wonderfully.

    This is an odd description I am about to make but it is the best I can think of:
    This soup has a delicate beefy flavor which I found almost refreshing.

    I have the left over stored in my freezer. I look forward to future lunches with this soup.

  120. Kerri

    Easiest soup ever! I thought 8 cups of beef stock may have been a bit heavy for me, so I used 4 of beef, 2 of veggie stock, and 2 water. Turned out about right, I think. The short rib was fall-off-the-bone tender, and I’ll definitely use it again in other recipes. Thank you!

  121. Rachel

    I have made this a couple times and love this recipe! With a few tweaks:
    *We like it with 5-6 short ribs so it’s more meaty for dinner (what can I say, I live with a big-time carnivore!).
    *Like others suggest, browning meat first then saute veg & garlic before adding stock, and adding more seasoning (bay leaf plus generous sprigs of fresh herbs from my garden).
    *I think adding barley it in the beginning, it overcooked and got mushy – now I add it in the last hour.
    *Lots of veggies go well here – when I made it with mushrooms, I really liked the extra umami, but my husband didn’t like the texture of the mushrooms after simmering in the liquid so long.
    *However I will say that when we added cubed potatoes, I did not care for the way the starch thickened the broth. Made it very stew-like, and I really prefer this as a soup.

    Love this as a batch meal for the freezer — reheated with a slice of toast, it’s perfect for busy weeknights when there’s no time to cook!

  122. Kirsten

    This is a great recipe. I added a bay leaf and a few red potatoes and reduced the barley to 1/4 cup. It’s really excellent and so easy

  123. Kate

    This was DELICIOUS! I swear I was going nuts with impatience from the wonderful aroma while it was cooking! I used 4 short ribs, sauteed the onion and garlic a bit to start off, then added the short ribs to brown them before adding in the broth and other ingredients. I also added a bay leaf as suggested by other commenters. I had 3 cubed russet potatoes, and added half of those an hour in, as well as the barley, then added the 2nd half of the potatoes 2 hours in. Before serving I as able to mush half of the potatoes to make it more of a stew, which was just perfect! Oh man, this stuff was amazing, and SUPER filling! This one is going in my recipe book :) Thank you so much, this was just perfect to make a wonderful Mabon celebration, and I’m sure I’ll make it often in the future!

  124. Lea

    After searching for a venison barley soup recipe for hours, I decided to just use your “recipe,” and it was great! Browned 1 lb venison stew chunks, added the barley and water, a bottle of brown beer, and added 1 cup chopped mushrooms to the leeks. Fantastic!

  125. Marcy

    I made this soup (stew?) today and it is excellent. I added mushrooms, carrots and celery, plus I used stew beef instead of short ribs dredged in a little flour – simmer these ingredients with the leeks, onions and water (just covering the meat) for 2 hours, then diced potatoes, added frozen peas, some Worcestershire sauce, some red wine, lots of salt and pepper and voila – wonderful results. Thanks for the great recipe – I’ll do this one again!

  126. Megan

    What kind of barley did you use (I did a search for hulled and pearled in the comments and it’s still not clear)? I bought hulled and I guess I’ll soak it overnight before making this soup.

    1. deb

      Megan — I used semi-pearled but seeing as this soup/stew but given that this will simmer for 3+ hours, it will not matter even if you use a longer-cooking variety; all will cook in that time.

  127. I am making this soup “as we speak”. My mother-in-law, who cooked everything for days, made beef and barley soup. No matter how good this soup is, it can’t be as good as hers. I love that my husband’s memory is that his mom’s soup was the best, best, best.
    The real reason for this post. however, is to recognize your reference to Laurie Colwin. When she passed I cried and wrote Gourmet a condolence note. I loved her guidance, her sense of humor, her books, her columns, and that you are reprinting her recipes and helping to keep her memory alive. Thank you for introducing your readers who are too young to have known who she was.

  128. Kathryn

    Thank you for this versatile recipe. I change it every time I make it, depending on what’s in the fridge. With this never-ending Winter it is most certainly “soup weather” in PA. However, I live by the belief that ANY weather is “soup weather.” I make it weekly all year.

  129. Kerri

    I made this for about the third or fourth time a few days ago, and it’s as good as ever. The weather’s just starting to turn cold down here in Sydney, so this is the perfect cure. I kept pretty true to the recipe – only change was substituting one cup of the liquid for a cup of my home-brewed stout. It was delicious! I’ve passed this recipe on to so many people since first trying it; it’s the ultimate winter comforter. Thanks Deb!

  130. KimP

    This is on the regular soup rotation each fall/winter. I love the short ribs but hubby wants to save on the fat so we use stew meat. On your rec I use better than bouillon beef stock and I add a big tub of sliced mushrooms about half way through cooking. Also if I have them, I throw in a couple of whole carrots and bay leaves for more flavor and fish them out before serving.

  131. Jeff

    I made this tonight- great. I added a bunch of carrots and mushrooms, and some dried porcini mushrooms soaked and chopped with the soaking liquid (grit strained out). It needed a good bit of salt, and I added some sherry vinegar at the end which brightened it up. Also, I used farro instead of barley. Amazing the flavor with no browning or sautéing.

  132. Nicole

    Made this last night. I used what I thought were two “meaty” short ribs. I browned the ribs, removed them, softened the garlic and onions (plus carrots) in the drippings, before adding the ribs back in, along with the beef stock and other ingredients (I followed others’ suggestions and also used a kitchen bouquet). I found that by the time three hours were up, most of the meat had cooked down and there was hardly any useable meat left on the ribs. It doesn’t seem like other comments mentioned this issue, but my recommendation would be to increase the number of ribs to perhaps 4 or more. My solution for this lack of meat was to throw in about 10 turkey meatballs that I had made and frozen from an earlier meal. It ended up being a success (and I recommend the meatballs…it gives it a bit of Italian Wedding soup flare), but was still a little disappointed about the lack of actual meaty rib bits.

    I also found that this tended to be a little sweeter than savory, so I added about 1/4 tsp of red pepper flakes while it simmered, and right before serving, topped with some freshly shredded parmigiano reggiano.

  133. HP

    I made this last night and it was wonderful.

    I used chuck roast, as the grocery I went to that day did not have short ribs. I also included carrots, celery, and mushrooms. For the liquid, I used 4 cups of homemade beef stock, 3 cups of water, and 1 cup of Bourdeaux red wine. In addition, I did brown the meat, followed by the leeks/onions, prior to simmering the soup for the 3 hours.

    I will definitely be making this again.

  134. Karin

    YUM. Cooking this now as it is my husband’s favorite soup. Added mushrooms and parsnips and a little yukon potato along with baby white mushrooms. So glad I found your blog, all sorts of tasty smidgens that a working mom can actually try.

  135. Jennifer

    I’m planning on making this today and I am looking forward to it. I read some of the previous comments re fat from the rib meat. Based on my Korean background, we use a lot soups from beef bones, oxtails, etc. Korean people always soak the meat/bones in water for at least 30 minutes in cold water to leach out all the blood, and then we hard boil the bones (in new/clean water) for about 15 minutes. You will see a lot of scum and fat rise to the top. After we boil it, we dump out the “dirty” water and rinse/clean everything under cold water. Clean the pot and then we proceed to make our broths. It it not just Koreans that use this method, but a lot of the other Asian cultures that use bones and/or beef in their broths.

  136. Simone

    I just made this and it doesn’t taste right. How much salt would you add? Any other seasoning? Maybe thyme? Maybe I’ll read through all the comments to get ideas for how to tweak this…

  137. JenniferB

    I’ve made this four times in the last few weeks; we really love it. I have not added any additional ingredients – just made it as you described (2 or 3 short ribs; whichever’s been in the package available at my local store each time). I’d never used Better than Bouillon before and am really pleased with this product. To any of the commenters stating that their final product wasn’t salty enough, I’d recommend making it again with stock made from the B than B stuff; the flavor has been wonderful. I am curious about how much of the bouillon paste you personally use for 8 cups of water? I’m finding 3 tbs. to be about right, but would like to hear other opinions on this.

    I completely agree with your assessment that 3 hours is the minimum. I’ve left this on the stove for over five hours a couple of times and have even turned it off and on as I’ve had to run out to pick up my kids and it just gets better the longer it simmers. I’ve added water if it’s gotten especially thick.

    Also, I made two pots last night: one according to the recipe and a second one without meat and the substitution of vegetable Better than Bouillon stock. One of my kids is eating a vegan diet and this was my attempt to please everyone with the “same” meal. It turned out to be quite tasty and she was completely happy with it.

    Thanks for such a practical, easy, versatile, and really delicious recipe!

  138. Kirsten

    I have made this recipe twice- the first time it was outstanding, the second it wasn’t great. I went back to the recipe and realized my mistake- I had only used 2 leeks instead of 3! And small ones at that. So, keep in mind- the leeks are critical! I bought some frozen ones and am going to heat it up and simmer again tomorrow- I’m sure it will be returned to its former glory.