It's been so long since I've had a good old white potato that I don't even miss them. Really. I don't.
Previously on this blog I included a recipe for another type of beef stew. Delicious, but lacking something. Potatoes, that's what. So I've experimented and have come up with a recipe that I think actually surpasses the standard meat and potatoes stew we've all grown up with.
The technique also could not be easier.
Step one. Instead of pre-cooking the barley to make it not gum up the works, soak it! I read about this and was stunned and excited by it's simplicity. Quickly inse a quarter of a cup of barley and then soak it in a bowl or pot. Cover the barley with about an inch of water. Set it aside for about three hours. Really, you can't hurt this. A little more time, a little less time. No problem.
After the barley has soaked, drain it. Now. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Get out a cast iron variety Dutch oven or a ceramic baking bowl with a lid (even just foil will do...but you have to cover and seal the baking vessel). So...in the bottom of your Dutch oven or baking dish put a knob of butter (about a tablespoon), on top of that put a layer of cut mushrooms (you can slice them neatly or just break them up...I break them up because they then resemble the beef cubes), on top of the mushrooms put one medium diced or sliced onion (I used a fresh spring onion!). Next sprinkle your pre-soaked barley. Top the barley with chunked carrots and the green and yellow beans. (All of this is fresh as now I can get the vegetables fresh but this is easily adapted to winter...carrots, mushrooms, frozen beans).
The final layer in your dish is the beef cubes. Sprinkle a little salt and pepper to taste. A shake or two of garlic powder is nice or you can put one clove of fresh garlic through a press and drop that in.
Finally pour a can of your favorite beef broth and another can of water on the whole pile. Cover the dish tightly. (That may mean putting foil and then a lid). Put the whole thing into your 350 degree oven and walk away for 2 1/2 to 3 hours.
When it's time for dinner. Take the dish out of the oven (and if it's pretty enough!) put the dish on the table. Take off the lid and stir it up. You will not have a lot of "gravy" but there is enough. Spoon the stew onto a plate and top with a slice of butter. Heavenly!