Slow-braised beef and barley



500 g (1 lb 2 oz) beef chuck or lean braising steak, trimmed and cut into 5 cm (2 in) cubes
2 garlic cloves, halved
3 bay leaves
6 juniper berries, lightly crushed
1 sprig of fresh thyme
250 ml (8½ fl oz) full-bodied red wine
12 baby onions
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
55g (2 oz) pearl barley
400ml (14 fl oz) beef stock
3 large carrots, cut into large chunks
2 celery sticks, sliced
1 swede, cut into 4 cm (1½ in) chunks
salt and pepper


Put the beef in a bowl with the garlic, bay leaves, juniper berries and thyme. Pour over the wine, then cover and leave to marinate in the fridge for 8 hours or overnight.
The next day, preheat the oven to 160ºC (325ºF, gas mark 3). Put the button onions in a bowl and pour over enough boiling water to cover. Leave for 2 minutes, then drain. When cool enough to handle, peel off the skins. Set the onions aside.
Remove the beef from the marinade and pat dry on kitchen paper. Heat the oil in a large flameproof casserole over a moderately high heat. Add the beef and brown on all sides. Do this in batches, if necessary, so the pan is not overcrowded. Remove the beef from the casserole and set aside on a plate.
Add the onions to the casserole and cook gently for 3–4 minutes or until lightly coloured all over. Add the barley and cook for 1 minute, stirring, then return the beef and any beefy juices to the casserole. Pour in the stock and bring to a simmer.
Strain the marinade into the casserole, and add the bay leaves and sprig of thyme. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Cover with a tight-fitting lid, transfer to the oven and braise for 45 minutes.
Add the carrots, celery and swede, and stir to mix. Cover again and braise for a further 1–1¼ hours or until the beef, barley and vegetables are tender. Remove the bay leaves and thyme stalk before serving.


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