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Saturday, 10 May 2014


Beef stew with pearl barley
SLOW COOKED beef stew and pearl barley is another of our favourite dishes. We revisited it today, making a large batch - enough for 8 to 12 portions.
There's something comforting about pearl barley in a stew, provided it's not overcooked - see our tip below. Pearl barley swells up a lot, and can take over the dish if you're not careful.
Use about one tablespoon of (uncooked) pearl barley per portion. This will add around 45 calories to the dish.
Each dumpling is around 90 calories. The portion of beef stew in the photograph contains around 75g of beef and two (very fluffy) dumplings which worked out at around 500 calories.
For this recipe I used a SLOW COOKER, but you can always cook this in an ovenproof dish on a low heat - 140ÂșC for two to three hours. Cover tightly with foil first, then the lid. You'll need to check that it hasn't dried out.
Here's how we make our stew:

Serves 8
1 kg brisket of beef, cubed
plain flour to dust
8 tablespoons of (uncooked) pearl barley
4 large carrots, roughly sliced
one large turnip, cubed
two large onions, sliced
one leek, chopped
two sticks celery, chopped
2 cloves garlic (optional)
2 star anise - look for these in the supermarket, as they add a great depth of flavour
dash of Worcestershire sauce
tablespoon tomato puree
herbs - we used fresh thyme and rosemary from the garden (dried would be fine)
2 stock cubes
small glass of red wine (if you have any)
salt and pepper
enough water to cover
For the dumplings, we use Atora Suet - but you can use butter if you prefer. They are quite easy to prepare. Use half fat to (self-raising) flour - e.g. 100g flour and 50g suet. Combine, then add enough water to form into balls. Add these to the slow cooker about an hour before the end of cooking, removing the herb stalks and star anise before doing so.
Heat a little oil in a frying pan. Lightly dust the beef with some plain flour, then brown the beef in the frying pan. 

Once all the beef has been browned and added to the slow cooker, take a small glass of red wine (or water) and pour into the frying pan. Stir to collect any meaty bits that may be left behind, then add to the slow cooker.

Add more oil to the frying pan, and lightly brown the onions, leek and celery. Once these have softened, add the (minced) garlic if using. Give everything a good stir for a minute or two then add to the rest of the ingredients. 

I like to heat through all the vegetables before adding to the slow cooker - to get the heat into them. I've chosen turnips and carrots today, but you may prefer e.g. swede. Use whatever you have - cheat and buy a pack of ready prepared stew vegetables. Just throw them into the frying pan and heat through. 

Add all the other ingredients to the pot - star anise, Worcestershire sauce, tomato puree, herbs, stock cubes and season with salt and pepper. 

Pour enough water to just cover the ingredients, and slow cook for 6-8 hours. Follow the manufacturers instructions. We cooked ours on high for half the cooking time, then reduced it to medium. Don't forget to add your dumplings around an hour before the end of cooking time.

Meanwhile, put the pearl barley into a separate saucepan of cold water. Bring to the boil and cook for 15 minutes. Drain and run under cold water. Add to the stew 30 minutes before the end of cooking.
Do you know how many calories you are allowed each day? Once we found out, our weight loss really began to take shape.
Here's a link to our very first blog post about our weight loss journey, which began in January 2011. We started this blog as a way of recording what we ate while losing weight. The blog is a food diary, and contains lots of recipes, tips and ideas about losing weight.
You'll find our WEIGHT LOSS PLAN here. 
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