My Mom always made the most amazing stews and this Beef and Barley Stew was one of my favourites. My Dad bought her one of those special clay pots that were so popular back in the 1970’s, and she used to love using it. Mom often put pearl barley in her stews, both to ‘stretch’ the meat and to give the stew flavour. I loved it – pearl barley has such a wonderful, nutty texture.
Cooking with Pearl Barley
But when I made this stew last week, it was the first time ever that I had cooked with pearl barley. Whenever I looked at packages of it on the shelves of the grocery stores here in England, the instructions were really daunting. “Wash thoroughly” and “boil for 45 to an hour”. It was a far cry from watching my Mom tip a half cup of pearl barley into the stew and just cook it in there. Was barley different here? I wasn’t sure, but I was intimidated enough not to use it.
Last week though, I wanted to make a Guinness stew in honour of St Patrick’s Day, and I really wanted to add pearl barley to it. So I screwed up my courage, rinsed the barley as directed, but popped it into the stew at the beginning of cooking and hoped for the best.
It was wonderful – my whole family loved it – and I will definitely be using pearl barley regularly from now on. So whether you love pearl barley and use it all the time, or have never even tried it, this is the stew for you.
Nutritious and Delicious
Rich and hearty, this Beef and Barley Stew recipe is really good for you too. With beef, fresh vegetables and pearl barley, you are getting lots of nourishment as well as a lot of flavour! I used Guinness in honour of St Patrick’s Day, but any full bodied stout or ale would be fine. A small glass of the beer you used in the stew makes a great drink for the grown ups to enjoy alongside.
Virtually all the alcohol in the beer cooks off during the long stewing time. However, if alcohol is a concern, you can just use extra beef stock. The flavour will not be exactly the same, but it will still be delicious.
Your family will love this warming Beef and Barley Stew! I often make a double batch as it keeps really well in the fridge. Leftovers are great the next day or the day after that. Just heat gently in a saucepan, adding a bit of boiling water to loosen the sauce.
Beef and Barley Stew Printable Recipe
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 large onion, peeled and finely sliced
- 1 lb chuck steak, cut in chunks roughly 1 inch square
- generous half cup pearl barley, rinsed
- 1 and a half cups Guinness
- 2 cups beef stock (you may need a bit more)
- 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
- 1 tablespoon of tomato puree
- 1 cup of quartered mushrooms, optional
- 2 to 3 cups root vegetables of your choice (carrots, parsnips, turnips etc), peeled and cut in chunks (I used all parsnips this time)
- 1 large bay leaf or two small
- good twist of ground pepper
- ½ cup frozen peas, optional
- Preheat the oven to about 325℉ (or about 170℃ - 160℃ for a fan oven).
- You need an oven safe casserole with a lid that you can also use on the stove top. (I use a Le Creuset casserole.) Alternatively, you can use a large frying pan for the first part, and transfer everything to a casserole with a lid before you put it in the oven.
- Heat the olive oil over medium heat in an oven safe casserole with a lid that you can also use on the stove top.
- Sauté the onion until it begins to look translucent.
- Add the beef and brown it in the oniony oil.
- When the beef has begun to brown, stir in the barley and let it get coated in the oil too.
- Now add the beer, the stock, the Worcester sauce and the tomato puree and stir though.
- Stir in the mushrooms, if using.
- Tip in the vegetables and stir gently.
- Stir through the pepper and add the bay leaf before covering with the lid.
- Put the casserole in the oven for an hour and a half, stirring every half hour. You may need to add more stock as the barley absorbs the liquid. The amount of liquid you need will be affected by what kind of vegetables you use and the amount of them that there are.
- Keep the heat nice and low, you want to cook low and slow.
- Remove the casserole from the oven, and take out the bay leaf.
- Add the peas, if using, and a bit more stock again if necessary. Put the lid back on the pan and return it to the oven for about 20 minutes, just to cook the peas and bring everything together.
- Serve in warmed bowls.