This is a rich, warming winter casserole. You can make it with any combination of root vegetables, according to taste and availability.
It takes a long time to cook, but it doesn’t need much attention so you can do something else while it simmers away quietly in the oven.
If you don’t like pearl barley, you can simply miss it out (reduce the water by about a third if you do this, as the barley absorbs water).
Beef and vegetable hot pot (serves 4)
1 lb (approx 450 g) shin of beef, skirt of beef, stewing steak or braising steak
3 ox (approx 75 g) streaky bacon, smoked if possible
Half an onion
1.5 lb (approx 700 g) root vegetables, e.g. carrots, parsnips, swede, turnip
1 large clove garlic
1 Tablespoon (1 x 15 ml spoon) plain flour
1 pint (approx 550 ml) water
1 Tablespoon (1 x 15 ml spoon) tomato puree
1 Tablespoon (1 x 15 ml spoon) Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon (1 x 5 ml spoon) demerara sugar
1 teaspoon (1 x 5 ml spoon) dried rosemary or sage
2 oz (approx 50 g) pearl barley
Dumplings (makes 8)
4 oz (approx 125 g) self-raising flour
2 ox (approx 50 g) shredded suet
1 teaspoon (1 x 5 ml spoon) dried rosemary or sage, or other herbs of your choice
Chop the beef into approx 1 inch (approx 2 cm) cubes. Chop the bacon into small pieces.
Peel and chop the onion. Peel the vegetables and cut into pieces about half an inch (approx 1 cm) cubed.
Fry the beef and bacon in hot cooking oil in a heatproof casserole dish until browned.
Add the chopped onion and vegetables and fry gently until starting to colour. Peel and crush the garlic and add to the casserole.
Stir in the flour and mix well so that it coats the meat and vegetables. Pour in the water and bring to the boil, stirring as the sauce thickens.
Add the tomato puree, Worcestershire sauce, sugar, herbs and pearl barley. Season with salt and pepper. Mix well.
Remove from the heat, cover the casserole with a lid, and cook in a moderate oven at about 150 C for about 2 hours. You can cook it for longer if you like, anything up to 3 hours or so. Don’t try to cook it for a shorter time at a higher temperature. Stir from time to time and check that the barley hasn’t absorbed all the water. If it has, just add a bit more water – the sauce should be the consistency of thick gravy. I usually expect to check the casserole once or twice in 2 hours.
In the meantime, make the dumplings. Mix the flour, suet and herbs in a bowl and season with salt and pepper to taste. Add a few tablespoons of cold water to mix to a soft dough. If the dough is sticky, add a bit more flour, if it is floury and flaky, add a bit more water. Shape into eight balls about the size of a walnut, and add them to the casserole for the last 45 minutes or so of cooking time. (If you end up cooking the casserole for longer than you expected, the dumplings won’t mind a longer cooking time).
Serve with mashed potatoes, or jacket potatoes which you can cook in the oven at the same time as the casserole as they need about the same temperature and cooking time.
Can be frozen. Freeze without the dumplings.