Whenever I cook this recipe now it reminds me of the very cold Perth winters where I first cooked it this year for the whole family after our little grandson Hugo was born. The combination of fennel and barley in this beef stew ensures it is a winter warmer and a crowd pleaser. However it is one of those very adaptable recipes, and if fennel isn't in season just add dried fennel seeds instead, or leave the fennel out completely and add 2 rashers of bacon and the juice of an orange for extra flavour and some mixed herbs. This stew doesn't need to be thickened with flour at all as the barley swells and absorbs a lot of the liquid. Delicious and so easy.
This recipe can also be easily adapted to the wonderfully aromatic Middle Eastern flavours by adding harissa paste or spices such as cinnamon, and serving with couscous.
I prefer to cook this dish in my slow cooker for convenience mainly, particularly in winter, however it can be cooked on top of the stove in a pan for 2 hours until deliciously tender.
2 tsp olive oil
500g Gravy Beef or cubed beef, cut into 3cm pieces
1 brown onion,thinly sliced
1 baby fennel, thinly sliced
1 celery stick, thinly sliced
1 carrot, peeled, halved, and thinly sliced
2 crushed garlic cloves
400g can diced or whole tomatoes
2 cups (500ml) beef stock, reduced salt
1/2 cup (100g) pearl barley
2 fresh rosemary sprigs
2 dried bay leaves
- Heat the oil in a large casserole pan over medium to high heat. Cook the beef in batches, turning occasionally, for 3 mins or until browned all over. Transfer beef to a bowl or the slow cooker.
- Add the onion, fennel, carrot and celery to the pan. Cook, stirring for 5 mins until the onion softens. Add the garlic and cook for 1 min or until aromatic. Return the beef to the pan with the tomatoes, beef stock, barley, rosemary and bay leaves. Bring to the boil. Reduce heat to low. Transfer all of the cooked ingredients to the slow cooker and cook on high for 4 hours or slowly for 6 hours or until the meat is tender, or cook covered for 2 hours in the pan on your stove or until the beef is very tender. Add more beef stock if the stew seems too thick. Season to your taste with salt and ground pepper. Serve with vegetables of your choice.