Super tender slow-cooked beef cheek is the key to this rustic winter classic.
In a soup pot, sauté the onion in the olive oil over medium heat until translucent. Add the celery and carrot and cook for another 5 minutes. Add the beef cheek and continue cooking for 5 minutes, stirring until browned on all sides. Add the garlic and continue to cook for a couple of minutes. Add the white wine and cook for a few minutes, then add the salt and water. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer over low heat for 2½ hours, skimming and discarding any scum that rises to the surface. Remove the meat and set aside to add back to the soup later. Strain the rest through a colander over a bowl or large saucepan and discard the solids. You should have a little more than 2 litres (70 fl oz/8 cups) of stock, which you can set aside. If the stock has reduced to less than this, you can extend it by adding more water.
Rinse the barley or wheat and cook in boiling water (at least three times the volume of the barley) for about 30 minutes until tender. Drain the barley and set aside. Cut the meat into small pieces and set aside. It should be super tender at this point and will more or less disintegrate into small strands when it goes back into the soup. In a soup pot, sauté the mushrooms in the olive oil over high heat for a few minutes, then add the onion, celery, carrot, parsnip, bay leaves and thyme and lower the heat to medium. Cook for a further 5 minutes, stirring. Add the reserved stock, bring to the boil, then lower the heat to a simmer. Cook for about 20 minutes or until the vegetables are tender. Blend the white wine with the cornflour, mix it into the soup and simmer until slightly thickened. Season with salt and pepper.
Add the meat and barley to the simmering soup 5 minutes before serving. Serve garnished with some chopped parsley.
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