Now I’m not normally one to blown my own trumpet, but this meal that I’m going to share with you is amazing. It’s ideal for the cold nights that are creeping in and it’s also really healthy. I’m a huge lover of veg and barley, to the point that I always prefer to eat more of them than meat. This personal preference is reflected in the recipe, so feel free to play it by eye as you make it.
Slow cooked shin beef and barley stew
To make this shin beef and barley stew I used:
- 300g of diced shin beef
- 1 tablespoon of plain flour
- 1 tablespoon of olive oil
- 300g of Iceland’s frozen casserole vegetable mix
- 150g (dried weight) of pearl barley
- 1 beef stock cube
- Some gravy granules
- 1/2 tablespoon of tomato puree
- A splash of Worcester sauce
Now I went to the butcher’s yesterday and asked for a lb of diced shin beef. I got just a bit more (a total of 592g) for £5.21. This price may seem steep, especially as the meat doesn’t actually look that appealing, but as you can see I only used half of the amount in this dish. The other half is in the freezer waiting to be made into a chilli. When you buy the meat, ask for either skirt or shin beef, as these are the two tenderest cuts ideal for this time of stew. This is my Mum’s recipe which I have adapted to suit my own personal taste and size of my slow cooker. I would recommend either using a slow cooker if you are out all day, or a large pan if you can be near it the whole time as the meat needs to cooked on a low temperature to make it melt-in-the-mouth beautiful. Honestly this meal is worth the prep and time as it tastes divine!
Last night I weighed out the pearl barley in the measuring jug and then topped with lukewarm water up to the pint mark. It’s best to leave them to soak overnight as they get all plump and it’s one less step to do in the morning, but you can soak them in boiling water for thirty minutes and they’ll taste the same. After all they’re going to be stewing with everything else and absorbing all that goodness for a fair while.
This morning I got up a little bit earlier to prep everything to cook before I went to the gym. Firstly I split my bag of beef in half and bagged the remaining to be frozen. Like I said, this is simply because I prefer more veg and less meat. However I did keep in mind that my housemates would also be eating it, so that’s why I used 300g instead of 200g. The meat that was being used today was placed back in the butcher bag along with the flour and some black pepper to season. You could use a stock cube at this point, in fact I would’ve because that’s how Mum does it, but mine don’t crumble, they just dissolve. Close the bag and shake it to coat all the pieces with the flour/seasoning as it helps seal in the flavour. Then fry in the oil until the meat is sealed and coloured. I tried using fry-light at first but it didn’t work, the oil in this case is a necessary evil, just don’t go nuts with it. I only used about a tablespoon and my meat cooked nicely in that.
Shaken not stirred
Nicely coloured and ready to be slow cooked
I then measured out my veg mix. I have to use frozen mixes like this one because I only get two shelves in a small freezer. Such is the sacrifice of shared accommodation. However it is convenient and cheap – it contains leeks, onions, turnip and carrots – and it’s a fraction of the individual prices per veg given the weight of the mix. Usually I would also add in frozen peas (because I love them) and maybe some mushrooms depending on if anyone else is eating it. Personally I like mushrooms, but not everyone in the house does. Again I was going to put in 200g but once I’d added it, I decided to chuck in another 100g to pad it out. It’s all about personal preference.
Next into the slow cooker went the barley. I’d tipped the steeped barley into a sieve and then poured cold water over them to remove any other starchy stuff from them. That’s what Mum told me to do. I’m not entirely sure why, but it doesn’t do any harm. I then poured in a pint of boiling hot water mixed with the beef stock cube. The liquid level in the slow cooker looked a little low seeing as the barley could possibly still absorb more and I like gravy with my stew, so I made up half a pint of gravy with some beef gravy granules. This looked much better. The final touches were just to add a little more flavour to the stew. I stirred half a tablespoon (probably equal to one teaspoon but I had already used the tablespoon) of tomato puree in and then added a splash of Worcester sauce. That’s the recipe that Mum uses and I saw no point in messing with it.
Now to cook
If you are doing this in a slow cooker like I did, I left it on low heat from 9am until 5pm and it was beautiful. If you are doing it in a large pan and staying nearby, cook on a low heat for roughly three hours, stirring often as the barley likes to stick to the bottom of the pan. Mum does hers in the big cauldron/jam pan and once the meat is completely tender, that’s when it comes off the heat. That’s probably the most crucial thing about this dish – the tenderness of the meat. I couldn’t believe how much it changed from start to finish! I didn’t think I could feed it to the others until I checked it when I got in and saw/smelt it. The stew goes really sticky, almost like a risotto with the barley in it. It’s a definite comfort food hug that will warm you from the inside and keep you going for ages.
Ta da – now to dish up and serve
Now I was going to serve it with some mustard smash (my ultimate fave student mash) but I didn’t have either ingredients in (not for long though). Instead I half filled my bowl (three heaped ladles) and had it with some crusty multigrain bread that I made yesterday. Seriously making your own bread is really easy and I find it cheaper and more satisfying than shop bought. I do cheat though – I use a bread mix of my choice and then knead it by hand. This was easier at home because this student house, especially in the kitchen, is pretty cold, but I’ve got a method now. I also know were it went wrong yesterday with them as they ended up looking like little boulders rather than buns – my water wasn’t lukewarm enough. I’m not going to be beaten by that though as they tasted really nice. Just what you need to mop up any excess gravy! I’ve frozen the remained of the batch to use when I want them.
The perfect meal after a busy, cold day
I got six portions out of my stew – four my size portions featured in the photos and two for my housemate and I don’t know how much they ate. I’d say roughly for the average person this would serve between four and six depending on how you ate it (ie serve with mash you’d probably get six portions out of it).
Nutritional information for my meal shown in the picture above according to MyFitnessPal using my exact ingredients and measurements:
- Stew: 155 calories,14 carbs,6 fat,12 protein
- Multigrain boulder: 137 calories, 27 carbs, 2 fat, 6 protein
- Total meal: 292 calories, 41 carbs, 8 fat, 17 protein.
I wasn’t really that bothered about the numbers of the nutritional info – as far as I’m concerned it’s got everything you need in it and tastes fantastic. The fact that it isn’t hugely calorific is just an added bonus.