Now and then I get an urge to use pearl barley - maybe in a lamb and vegetable stew, a hearty soup or a barley "risotto" (have you tried that? it's delicious with richly flavoured poultry like guinea fowl). And then the pack gets pushed to the back of the cupboard, only to either break open and spill all over everything or lurk until it's so far past it's use by date that it would need to cook for months to be soft enough to eat.
Luckily I rediscovered my latest pack just a couple of weeks before it was due to go out of date, so I decided to try something different with it. Further rummaging brought out the tail ends of a jar of redcurrant jelly and one of Dijon mustard.
I also had some home made chicken stock in the fridge (but if you are using bought stock, use beef stock!) and the remains of a bag of parsley.
Barley Beef Stew - serves 2
350g diced stewing beef
1 level tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 medium onion, chopped
1 tablespoon fat for browning - I used lard but oil or butter would work just as well
1 rounded tablespoon pearl barley
1 level tablespoon plain flour
1 level tablespoon redcurrant jelly
dash of gravy browning (optional)
chopped parsley to finish
Set the oven to 150C (130 fan) 300F gas mark 2
Place the beef in a bowl and stir in the mustard to coat evenly.
Heat the fat in a flameproof casserole and tip in the onions and meat - unlike a normal stew, you can tip all the meat in at once: although some of the juices will run out to form the gravy, the mustard will help to hold in the flavour. Toss together over heat until the onions have softened slightly and the meat has changed colour - it won't go a dark brown as it would for a traditional casserole, you just don't want any red showing.
Remove from the heat and dust in the flour, mixing well, then stir in the stock. Return to the heat and bring to the boil, stirring constantly, then add the pearl barley and redcurrant jelly, mix well and taste for seasoning. If it looks a little pale because of the unusual way of starting the beef off (and, in my case, because of the stock being chicken rather than beef), a few drops of gravy browning will sort that out.
Cover and place in the oven for around 2 hours, until the beef is tender and the barley almost falling-apart tender - it makes the gravy rich and unctuous and the pieces of barley give a lovely nutty bite to it.
Sprinkle with chopped parsley and serve with mashed potatoes to soak up the lovely juices and a leafy green vegetable like sprouts or cabbage.
I am sharing this with Kitchen Clearout at Madhouse Family Reviews