Pearl Barley Beef Stew with Lovage

Barley stew certainly has gone out of fashion in recent times, but it’s a fantastic comfort food and is perfect for cold stormy winter days.

The best thing about stew is that you don’t need to measure anything – your pot size is your limit. Also, all ingredients you don’t like can be left out or replaced with something else.

For this recipe we’re using a large pot that will hold 7 litres of fluid, but you can scale it up or down to your own linking.


  • 750 g beef for stew
  • 200 g beef bones
  • 3 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 handful fresh lovage OR 2 Tsp dried lovage
  • 1 bunch fresh parsley
  • 2 onions
  • 1 bunch celery stalks
  • 1 leek
  • 4 carrots
  • 3 parsnips
  • 250 g pearl barley


Generously cover the meat and bones with cold water in the pot and bring it to the boil on high heat. Then turn the heat down and let the meat simmer for about an hour. Use a slotted spoon to keep skimming off the foam that forms on the surface in the beginning. Once no more foam builds up, you can leave the pot alone.

While the meat is simmering, peel and dice the onion, carrots and parsnips, and slice the celery and leek and chop the herbs.

When the meat is tender remove it and the bones from the broth and set them aside. Add the vegetables, herbs and seasoning to the meat broth without removing it from the heat. If you want, also add any bone marrow left on the bones. As soon as the meat has cooled enough to be handled, cut it into bite-sized cubes or strips and add it back into the pot.

Bring the pot back to a boil and add the pearl barley. Boil for about 20 minutes, stirring every now and then, until the barley is soft. If you’re unsure about the timing, catch some barley grains with a spoon and try them. They should have the consistency of cooked rice when they’re done.


You can add more water at any time to make a thinner stew. Don’t worry if you’ve used too much fluid – the barley will continue to soak up fluids even after they’re tender, so if you let the stew cool and put it in the fridge overnight, it will become considerably thicker. You might even need to add back some extra water when heating it up again the next day.

You can leave out any ingredient you don’t like. Replace them with spring onions, swedes, potatoes, or similar. Some people use pork instead of beef, or add cubed fried bacon to the stew.

There is no need to keep to the exact measurements. Only have 2 parsnips and 1 onion, but 6 carrots instead? No problem. Hate celery? Cube some potatoes instead. Want to add black pepper? Go ahead if you like.

Enjoy your barley stew!

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