Traditionally, beef stew is made with chuck and can be pricey for the budget-conscious family. Using inexpensive ground beef is a great solution. It’s readily available and affordable too. Paired with barley and a few vegetables, this stew is simply delicious!
As I write up this recipe for my Barley Ground Beef Stew, I’m thinking about how many times I opened a can of Campbell’s Beef and Barley Soup when I was in college. It was quick and easy and I loved it. I could take it in a thermos and eat it whenever I got hungry. I learned my lesson very early that waiting in line for the microwave at the campus cafeteria was not something I enjoyed doing! The thermos saved my sanity!
We still buy a few cans of soup once in a while to have some on hand. John.e will make sure he always has a can of mushroom soup in the pantry. I don’t make cream of mushroom soup, so the canned stuff is as good as it’s going to get! Also, we always have some canned tomato soup too. Both him and McKenna love tomato soup with grilled cheese. I don’t mind the soup, but I do not like the taste of grilled cheese at all!
I much prefer my homemade tomato soup, because it’s heartier. It’s chunky and full of San Marzano Tomatoes. Last year, I even made up a large batch of tomato soup and canned it. I thought I could convince them that homemade was better. They ate all of the homemade Canned Tomato Soup and went right back to Campbells! I guess that just means I have to do more canning! Anyway, I digress!
INGREDIENTS NEEDED FOR THIS RECIPE:
- Ground Beef – You will need one pound, but make sure you get lean ground beef. Otherwise, your soup will be greasy. Of course, you can drain it, but you can never get rid of all of the grease.
- Olive Oil – I like to use olive oil to help the onions sweat. If you use lean beef, you won’t notice the extra bit of added oil.
- Vegetables – Referred to as a mirepoix, this recipe will use a combination of onions, carrots, and celery.
- Garlic – Fresh cloves of garlic add flavour and depth to the soup. Plus, ground beef loves garlic!
- Herbs – Dried herbs are great in soups and stews. This one has oregano, basil, and thyme.
- Tomato Paste – Use for flavour and colour, stews are synonymous with tomato paste.
- Canned Diced Tomatoes – You will need roughly two cups, including the juice. Store-bought is fine, but I used my homemade canned tomatoes.
- Vegetable Broth – Always use low sodium broth so that you can control the salt. I used vegetable, but you can use beef broth too.
- Pearl Barley – Texture, flavour, and health benefits all come from the addition of the barley.
- Fresh Parsley
- Salt & Ground Black Pepper
THE WONDERFUL WORLD OF BARLEY
Barley is a grain that doesn’t seem to get much attention. We love it, but still, we never eat it very much. In our home, it certainly does seem like a cold weather ingredient. For example, it’s the star of my Warm Barley Salad with Buttered Mushrooms and Shallots. And, I used it in yet another soup recipe, this time, it was my Squash and Kale Barley Soup.
With its chewy texture and its nutty flavor, barley is a delicious grain that can be used in a number of ways, way beyond this Barley Ground Beef Stew. It is also a very nutritious and healthy food, with lots of fiber and a number of trace minerals like selenium, manganese and phosphorus.
Barley is available in two basic forms: hulled and pearl. Hulled barley has had the tough, inedible outermost hull removed but still retains its bran and endosperm layer. It is the most nutritious of the two and can be considered a whole grain. A light golden brown in color, it’s the nuttier and chewier version as well. In contrast, pearl barley has been polished to remove the bran and possibly even the endosperm layers, resulting in a pale, creamy-colored grain. It is less chewy and cooks faster. I’m using pearl barley in this soup.
THE HOLY TRINITY OF A GOOD SOUP
Have you every heard of a mirepoix? Sometimes, it’s referred to as the Holy Trinity of cooking. It is a flavour base made from diced vegetables cooked in some type of fat, usually, butter or oil. The veggies are sometimes cooked for a long period of time on a very low heat. The goal is not not brown the veggies. Other times, they are cooked on a higher heat to bring out the natural sweetness. This is usually the case in soups.
A mirepoix is most often found combined with tomatoes or tomato paste. This creates a darker, brown mixture called a pincage. It is a long-standing cooking technique in French cuisine. Mirepoix is widely used to flavour a variety of Western dishes, such as stocks, soups, stews and sauces.
In Italian cuisine, the onions, carrots and celery are chopped to form a battuto. It is slowly cooked in butter or olive oil, becoming soffritto. It is used as the base for most pasta sauces, such as ragu, but occasionally it can be used as the base of other dishes, such as sautéed vegetables. Most of the time, the Italian version will also include garlic, shallots, or even leeks.
WANT TO MAKE IT VEGETARIAN?
Remember at the top of this post I said that you could make this dish vegetarian style? Well, that’s because once the one you see in the photos was prepared and plated, John.e, the vegetarian commented on how good it smelled and how delicious it looked. Whenever I prepare meat-based dishes, I always feel guilty that he can’t enjoy them. So, I made a brand new batch, but this time, instead of ground beef, I used vegetarian been crumbles.
If you use store-bought vegetarian crumbles like Gardein, Morning Star, or Beyond Meat, you can treat them all just like the ground beef. You will not need to fry them until the pink is gone, but heat them though just the same. Read the instructions on the package. Other than that, you can follow the recipe exactly as written.
If, however, you want to use textured vegetable protein in a dry version, you can do that as well. I have been using the dry format much more lately. It’s not only cheaper, but it has less additives. We purchase it from Good Rebel in Toronto. The only thing differently you need to do is to add 1 cup of the product to the skillet with the olive oil and 1 cup of water. Once the water evaporates, continue on with the recipe as written. Easy right!?
OTTAWA VALLEY MEATS
Barley Ground Beef Stew was prepared with 100% grass-fed Black Angus lean ground beef. Sounds pretty fancy, doesn’t it? It’s not really. What it means is that the beef is sourced from a cow known as the Black Angus. The beef develops with more marbling than other types of beef. Marbling is the fat that you see running through steaks. It improves flavour, makes the beef more tender, and keeps it moist while cooking, especially when frying or searing.
Just one pound of beef will make enough for four pretty hefty servings. I source ground beef from Ottawa Valley Meats. The beef is completely antibiotic and hormone-free. And, of course, for me, it’s local! You should always buy your food as local as you possibly can. If for no other reason, it just tastes better! And, because it’s so lean, you won’t need to drain the grease!
If you are in Ontario, be sure to check out Ottawa Valley Meats. I absolutely love the quality of the beef, as well as the chicken and the seafood too! The prices are very competitive and they deliver right to your door! It’s a great way to stock up, especially with the upcoming colder months when everyone seems to cook heartier meals!
HOW TO MAKE BARLEY GROUND BEEF STEW
Before you do anything the vegetables and barley, you must cook the beef. It’s really simple. Add the ground and olive oil to a large, heavy-bottomed soup pot. Over medium heat, cook the beef, stirring and breaking it into chunks until no pink is visible. Next, add in the onions, carrots, celery, salt, and ground black pepper. Stir to combine and cook for 3-5 minutes. Finally, add in the garlic, oregano, basil, and thyme. Stir and cook for 2 more minutes.
Next, add the tomato paste. Stir to distribute throughout the vegetables. Add the vegetable broth, and water. Bring to a boil, cover and cook for 15 minutes. Finally, add in the diced tomatoes with the juice and the barley. Stir well to combine. Place a lid on the pot and continue to cook for 30 minutes. Lastly, taste and adjust seasonings if needed and stir in the fresh chopped parsley. Serve immediately.
LEFTOVERS AND/OR FREEZING
This recipe does make about six servings, which might be too much or too little, depending on the size of your family. The recipe can easily be halved or even doubled. Just be sure to use a really big soup pot if you’re doubling this recipe! Once everyone has had thier fill, you might have some leftovers. If so, you can transfer the cooled stew to a food-safe container and store it in the fridge. I will keep for 3-4 days. Otherwise, freeze it and it will last for 3 months.
Here’s the thing about barley – even once it’s fully cooked through, it will continue to absorb liquid. That is why it is perfect for a stew, which is supposed to be thick anyway. If you do refrigerate or freeze the leftovers, you may need to add a bit of water to the stew when re-heating. Start with just a quarter of a cup of water at a time to avoid turning the stew into a soup! Of course, if you add more water, you will need to re-season as well.
Barley Ground Beef Stew
- 1 pound lean ground beef
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 large onion, finely chopped
- 2 medium carrots, peeled and cubed
- 2 stalks celery, sliced
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1/4 teaspoon dried basil
- 1/4 cup tomato paste
- 4 cups low sodium vegetable stock
- 2 cups water
- 2 cups canned diced tomatoes, with juice
- 1 cup pearl barley, rinsed well
- 1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
- Add the ground and olive oil to a large, heavy-bottomed soup pot. Over medium heat, cook the beef, stirring and breaking it into chunks until no pink is visible.
- Next, add in the onions, carrots, celery, salt, and ground black pepper. Stir to combine and cook for 3-5 minutes.
- Finally, add in the garlic, oregano, basil, and thyme. Stir and cook for 2 more minutes.
- Next, add the tomato paste. Stir to distribute throughout the vegetables.
- Add the vegetable broth, and water. Bring to a boil, cover and cook for 15 minutes.
- Finally, add in the diced tomatoes with the juice and the barley. Stir well to combine. Place a lid on the pot and continue to cook for 30 minutes.
- Lastly, taste and adjust seasonings if needed and stir in the fresh chopped parsley. Serve immediately.