Hearty Beef and Pearl Barley Stew

I love London. But I love it more when it rains... and I don't have an umbrella. 

Why, you might wonder, would anyone love grey London, damp socks and cold fingers? It's because the rain in London is like little commercial breaks all through the day. It interrupts my day and propels me down cobble stoned streets to take shelter in dusty shops, taverns and pubs that I might not have ever stopped into otherwise. And as always, I seem to discover some real pearls on these commercial breaks.

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Ten years ago, on a wet, wintery afternoon, I stumbled into a dark, warm pub, whose walls were lined with centuries-old timber and decades-old patrons. Wiping the damp hair away from my face, I found a cozy spot by the fireplace and decided to warm myself up with a little bite to eat; a hearty beef and barley stew piqued my interest. It was love at first bite and it's been love ever since. Every year, on my annual trip to the UK, I always make sure that I get my beef and barley stew fix. And for the months that I'm away, I've learned how to make the best Beef Barley Stew in my kitchen, using my trusty Dutch oven. It's pure comfort food that is sure to warm my cockles, whether I am wet or not.


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Beef and Pearl Barley Stew with carrots and potatoes


Pearl Barley

Pearl barley, aka 'pearled barley' is barley that has been polished to remove some of its outer, fibrous bran layer. It cooks faster than other forms of unprocessed barley, such as 'hulled barley' or 'barley groats', but with the outer bran/husk partially removed, it has less fiber than hulled barley. However, rest assured, barley does contain dietary fiber (both insoluble and insoluble) in the entire kernel and not just in the outer layer. Pearl barley is great to thicken stew, soups and potages. Adding pearl barley to stew adds a nice, slightly chewy and nutty flavor to the stew.

In terms of nutritional value, pearl barley is similar to wheat in calorie, protein and vitamin content. If you are in a grocery store wondering how to tell the difference between pearl barley and hulled barley, raw pearl barley is a pale, creamy colored grain, compared to raw hulled barley which is golden brown, with slightly pointed ends.

Pearl barley in blue bowl
Pearl barley


How to Cook Pearl Barley

Pearl barley does not need to be soaked before cooking. However, do rinse pearl barley before using. 1/4 cup uncooked pearl barley will yield 3/4 cup cooked pearl barley.

To cook on a stovetop: Boil water and barley with some salt over high heat. Cover and then simmer for about 30-35 minutes until the barley is done.

To cook in a pressure cooker: Put washed barley in a pressure cooker and cover with enough water. Stopper pressure cooker after steam comes through valve. After 1 whistle, turn off. Drain barley water before using barley.

In my recipe, I prefer to cook the pearl barley separately before adding it to the stew.


RECIPE: Beef and Pearl Barley Stew in a Dutch Oven

 Ingredients:

☐ 1lb. Veal Sirloin Tip, cubed
☐ 1 medium white onion, roughly chopped
☐ 3 cloves garlic, diced
☐ 1/3 cup red wine (Merlot)
☐ 1 beef bouillon cube dissolved in 2 cups of water to make broth or 1 carton beef stock
☐ 1 large carrot, chopped
☐ 1 1/2 baking potatoes, cubed
☐ 1 heaped tablespoon flour
☐ 1 teaspoon pepper corns, crushed
☐ 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
☐ 1/4 teaspoon rosemary
☐ 1/4 cup raw/dry pearl barley, cooked separately
☐ Vegetable Oil
☐ Salt to taste


Step-by-Step Instructions

Step 1: Brown Meat

Heat oil in a heavy bottomed pot or dutch oven. When the oil is hot, add the cubed meat and brown meat on all sides. Do not overcrowd the meat in the pan. If necessary, brown the meat in a couple of batches. Remove browned meat and set aside.

Step 2: Make Roux

  • Add the chopped onions to the oil and saute until soft.
  • Add flour and sauté for 2 minutes.
  • Add garlic and sauté for 1 minute.
  • Add red wine, scraping the pan with a wooden spoon to loosen up any browned bits. Then add broth/ beef stock, all the spices (pepper, thyme, rosemary, salt). Bring to a boil.

Step 3: Cook Meat

Add the meat. Cover with a tight fitting lid and simmer for 25 minutes.

Step 4: Add vegetables

  • After 25 minutes, add the vegetables (carrots and potatoes). Add more water/broth if needed and salt to taste. Cover and cook further for 20 minutes.
  • Add the cooked barley in the last 5 minutes.
  • Best enjoyed with crusty bread.


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For other hearty soups and stew recipes, try my Anglo Indian Chicken Meatball Stew or my Spicy Butternut Squash Soup.

Or take look at My Cookbook Index for other delicacies to tickle your palate.


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