Drape yourself in warmth with comforting stew

Nourishing beef and barley stew is perfect for cold days

I was recently suffering from extremely dry hands.

The very cold weather and constant hand-washing resulted in horribly sore, cracked, bleeding hands that I just couldn’t heal. No matter what ointment or cream I used they just got worse and worse.

In desperation I walked down to the school nurse to ask her advice — I figured she probably washes her hands even more than I do and might have a trick to teach me. She gave me some suggestions and a bottle of baby shampoo (much gentler than the soap in the dispensers) and told me she hoped that helps.

Just a few days after implementing her strategies I found relief, and my sore hands were under control, so I visited her again to return her soap and to thank her for her help. She took my hands in hers and inspected them closely, then looked up at my face with a smile and stroked the back of my hand a few times as she told me how happy she was that I was feeling better.

The simple gesture felt like a warm blanket being draped around me, and I walked back to my classroom with relaxed shoulders and a glowing heart. How lucky those children are to have her to comfort them in pain and sickness.

When the weather is cold and nasty I crave cozy meals, and this beef and barley stew is both comforting and nourishing — perfect for when your fingers are frozen and your cheeks are chapped.

Beef and Barley Stew


2 pounds beef stew meat

1 whole white onion, chopped

2 large carrots, in bite-sized pieces

4-6 stalks celery, chopped

4 garlic cloves, finely minced

1 cup pearl barley

4 tablespoons tomato paste

6 cups beef stock

2 bay leaves

1 teaspoon dried thyme

1 teaspoon dried (or fresh) rosemary

1 teaspoon salt (or to taste)

½ teaspoon black pepper

4 tablespoons olive oil

2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce

Parsley garnish


Pat dry your cubed stew meat and season with salt and black pepper.

Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large pot and brown your stew meat (in batches to prevent overcrowding). Remove from the pan and set aside.

Add the rest of the oil to the pan and cook your garlic, carrot, onion, and celery until the onions have softened and are somewhat translucent.

Drop in the tomato paste and stir to coat the vegetables. Cook for 3-5 minutes, then pour in about 1/3 cup of beef stock to deglaze. Scrape the bottom thoroughly and when all the fond is off the pot, pour in the rest of the stock.

Return the meat to the stew, then add the dry herbs, salt, pepper, and bay leaves.

Bring to a slow simmer and add in your rinsed barley.

Leave uncovered on a very gentle simmer for 1 ½ hours, at which point the beef should be soft and tender and the barely should be cooked.

Turn off the heat, taste and adjust seasoning, then stir in the Worcestershire sauce and parsley immediately before serving.

***This is a great crockpot meal if you need to plan for dinner in advance. Searing the meat at the start is very important for flavor, so don’t skip that step, but after that, you can simply drop all the raw vegetables, tomato paste, herbs, seasonings, browned meat, stock, and barley into the crock, then set on low heat for 8-12 hours.***