Not only is barley a great budget-stretcher, it packs a powerful nutritional punch. With a texture that is similar to pasta when it is cooked, and a slightly nutty flavour it can be added to soups and stews that have a good flavour base to make the meat portion stretch further without sacrificing taste. Beef and barley soup is very popular, but this stew makes a heartier meal for those that are not fans of a soup for dinner.
Heat a heavy pot to medium-high and add two tbsp of olive oil (or vegetable if you prefer). Add about one pound of stewing beef and sear it well, until all the pieces have a nice browning on them. Unlike typical stews, you do not coat your meat in seasoned flour first since the barley will thicken the stew.
Once your beef has browned on all sides add one cup of diced onion, one tbsp each of rosemary, thyme, minced garlic and sage and a tsp of salt. Lower the heat to medium-low and toss while the seasonings and onions are mixed in.
When the onion has softened slightly, add six cups of beef broth allow the mixture to heat enough to just begin a low boil. Turn the heat one full notch lower and cover. When you simmer meats to tenderize, you do not want the mixture to boil because that will produce a tough and dry product. Allow the meat mixture to simmer for one hour.
When the meat has simmered for a full hour, add to your pot two cups each of potatoes and carrots cut into large bite-sized chunks. You do not want to cut them too small as the stew will be cooking for a bit yet, and a stew should have good hearty bites to it. Also stir in one cup of pearl or pot barley.
Although the barley will all but disappear when you stir it in, resist the urge to add more. Barley swells to many times its size once it has fully cooked and absorbed enough liquid to make it tender. Allow the stew to simmer for about one more hour, or until the barley is cooked to al dente. Stir the mixture every so often, adding a bit of beef stock or water if necessary.
The barley adds heartiness to the stew, and thickens the remaining liquid into a gravy leaving you a hearty and super-nutritious dinner! All that is left to do is serve it up!