Slow-Cooker Beef and Barley Stew

I’ve been keeping an eye out for lower GI index recipes – that is, given my shaky understanding of the concept – because my mom has been trying to eat this way for health reasons.  So far this mostly means finding “family favourite, comfort food” recipes that replace white potatoes with healthier alternatives.  One great idea I saw recently was making a traditional shepherd’s pie but using mashed sweet potatoes on top.  Great idea I want to try.

Another such idea was this recipe – Beef, Vegetable and Barley Stew – from Ricardo Cuisine – he is this slightly wacky Quebecois guy who has a cooking show on both the French and English channels – I like a lot of his recipes and his website seems packed with great ideas and dishes.  I love barley and am determined to use it more.

I combined the idea from his recipe, and a bit of the beef stew recipe from the milk cookbook (the idea of thickening the broth with a milk and flour mix intrigued me), added beans as I usually do,  and this is the result!  Obviously the vegetables are very flexible here, add what you like or what you have on hand, in the quantities that you prefer.

Slow-Cooker Beef and Barley Stew
1 kg (2 lb) stewing beef, aprx. (I had .75 kg)
3/4 cup pot barley (or pearl barley – pot barley has more fibre and is less refined)
2 1/2 cups or one large can drained and rinsed, cooked beans – I used small white beans called “Navy” or “Great Northern” I believe
1 cup milk
1/4 cup flour
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
4 stalks celery, diced
1 carrot, peeled and chopped
3 parsnips, peeled and chopped
1 very small turnip, peeled and diced (grapefruit sized, or use part of a larger one)
2 cups mushrooms, cut into thick slices
3 small onions, chopped
8-10 cloves garlic, minced (I got a microplane garlic grater for my birthday and can’t stop using it!)
1 cup apple juice mixed with 1-2 tablespoons white wine vinegar, or 1 cup wine if you have it
4 cups broth (I used my bean cooking water and added a few tsps. of beef broth powder – it tasted delicious)
2 tablespoons dried herbs (I used thyme, sage and oregano mixed, but use what you like, amount to taste)
Salt and pepper

Vegetables ready to chop.
Vegetables ready to chop.

Whisk together flour and milk.  Pour this mixture, 4 cups broth and mustard into cooker and stir to combine.  Add barley, cooked beans and celery.

Broth with milk, flour, barley, beans and celery.
Broth with milk, flour, barley, beans and celery.

You can skip this step but if you have time, or just brown the meat, but it adds a lot of flavour.

Brown everything in the same skillet, remove after the ingredient is brown and add to the cooker.  I browned things in this order: mushrooms, then carrots, parsnips, and turnip,

Browning mushrooms and root vegetables.
Browning mushrooms and root vegetables.

then beef (patted dry with paper towel, seasoned with salt and pepper),

Browning meat.
Browning meat.

then onion and garlic.

Browning onions and garlic, just prior to dumpling apple juice and vinegar in the pan.
Browning onions and garlic, just prior to dumpling apple juice and vinegar in the pan.

Once you brown the onion and garlic, pour the apple juice into the skillet and scrape up any brown bits for flavour.  Let the liquid simmer and reduce to concentrate flavour, then add to cooker.

Complete soup ready for its 7 hour simmer!
Complete soup ready for its 7 hour simmer!

Season the stew with salt, pepper, and herbs to taste, then cook on low for 5-7 hours, or high for 4 hours.  Just before serving you can add some finely chopped parsley or spinach which is what I did.
Picture 008

Result:  We both really liked this, it was a nice change from the usual beef stew – the one cup of milk really made it creamy, even though it was diluted with about 6 cups of other liquid – the dijon mustard added a nice tang, and it all went well with the gingery parsnip and turnip tastes.Picture 013I served it with skillet fried biscuits.


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