Whether you are vegetarian, vegan or just trying to eat less meat, you are sure to love my Old Fashioned Vegetable and Barley Stew recipe. Suitable for both vegans and vegetarians, it is warming and comforting with a toothsome texture that makes it incredibly satisfying.
Aside from a bit of peeling and chopping, this is a remarkably low effort recipe. It comes together quickly too. You can pop my Old Fashioned Vegetable and Barley Stew on to cook when you get home from work, shower and get into your pjs while it’s cooking, and then put you feet up and enjoy a nice bowl of comfort food. Except if you have small children, in which case you might be giving the kids their baths or helping with their homework while the stew cooks. The putting your feet up part will have to come later…sometimes much later!!
Lessons from My Mom
My late mom was one of the first university graduate ‘dieticians’ (or nutritionists as we would call them now). Mom then worked in a boarding school and then went on to become chief home economist at the ‘Hydro’ (as the electricity company was called in those days). She even had her own local radio show talking about food, nutrition and the modern kitchen.
When I was born, Mom became a full time housewife, but she used her experience to plan and cook delicious, nutritious meals for my Dad and I. We were on a budget and one of the things Mom taught me was that stews were a great way of feeding your family nutritiously and frugally.
Cooking tougher cuts of meat long and slow made them tender and if you added pearl barley to your stews it would stretch them even further. Plus, pearl barley was nutritious on its own as it contained selenium, magnesium, B vitamins and lots of cholesterol lowering fibre.
Creating a Vegetarian/Vegan Version of Mom’s Meaty Recipe
Now that my family and I are endeavouring to eat less meat, I’ve been working on converting some of Mom’s tried and tested stew recipes into delicious meatless meals. Mom’s Beef and Barley Stew was a real favourite at our house. I wanted to retain the warm, tasty and comforting aspects of Mom’s recipe – as well as the nutrition – but eliminate any animal products.
Using root vegetables, good vegetable stock (from a cube is fine), and plenty of herbs gives my Vegetable and Barley Stew lots of flavour. Mushrooms add nutrition and mimic the texture of meat.
Don’t leave out the nutmeg, it makes a fabulous seasoning for savoury dishes and it has lots of nutrients. Don’t add too much though as nutmeg can give very vivid dreams and larger doses can be dangerous. A quarter teaspoon for this much stew is just right.
Serving Old Fashioned Vegetable and Barley Stew
The other advantage to my Old Fashioned Vegetable and Barley Stew is that although it does benefit from gentle cooking it doesn’t take nearly as long to cook as a meaty stew does. In fact, if you are feeling pushed, cut the veggies into smaller pieces and it will cook faster. You will still need a good 30 to 45 minutes for the barley to cook properly though.
My Old Fashioned Vegetable and Barley Stew makes a hearty vegetarian main dish all by itself, but I sometimes serve it with a salad or some dinner rolls. It also makes a delicious side dish.
Leftovers will keep for two to three days in the fridge. Reheat gently over low heat, carefully stirring through a bit of boiling water to loosen the sauce.
Try it today! Even confirmed meat eaters are unlikely to miss the meat, and everyone will love this warming and comforting recipe.
Old Fashioned Vegetable and Barley Stew – Printable Recipe
- 2 tablespoons mild olive or other vegetable oil
- 4 leeks, cleaned and cut in half inch chunks
- 5 large carrots, peeled and cut in half inch chunks
- 5 large parsnips, peeled and cut in roughly half inch pieces
- 1 cup mushrooms, cleaned and halved (or quartered if large)
- 1 cup pearl barley
- 4 cups vegetable stock (you may need a little bit more or less)
- 1 teaspoon dried basil
- ¼ teaspoon freshly ground pepper (you may need a bit more)
- ¼ teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg (you may need a bit more)
- You need a casserole dish with a lid that will go from stove top to oven.
- Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C or 170°C for a fan oven).
- Heat the oil in the casserole dish over medium heat on the stove top.
- Sauté the leeks for two or three minutes, getting them well coated in the oil.
- Tumble in the carrots and parsnips and cook for moment or two.
- Stir in the mushrooms.
- Rinse and sort the pearl barley.
- Add the pearl barley to the vegetables and stir well to coat it in the oil.
- Stir in 3½ cups of the stock along with the basil, pepper and nutmeg.
- Cover the casserole and put it in the oven for 30 minutes.
- Remove the casserole from the oven and stir the stew, adding a bit more stock if the barley has absorbed it all.
- Return the casserole to the oven for another 20 - 30 minutes.
- Remove the casserole from the oven and stir again, checking to see if the barley and vegetables are tender.
- You can add a bit more stock to loosen the stew if desired, but you want it to be quite hearty.
- Carefully taste for seasoning (it will be very hot) and adding salt and pepper if necessary.
- Serve in warmed bowls.