Beef and Barley Stew

Oh, look. Another barley recipe! I don’t actually eat a lot of barley, but I absolutely adore it, and am always so excited to find low-calorie, delicious recipes with what is, hands down, my favourite grain.

Strangely enough, it’s never really occurred to me to cook it in my cast iron pot… I’m usually the goose standing in front of the stove for forty minutes at a time, stirring and adding bits of water at a time to stop it from sticking to the pan. Oh, sure, it’s a labour of love well worth the final result, but frankly, sticking it in the oven with slightly more water than I’d normally use is even better.

The combination of chilli and craisins is an absolute winner here, and lends to a sweet and spicy combo that really keeps things interesting. I know slow-cooking rump steak isn’t really the done thing, but I took the risk in hopes of keeping the recipe as low-cal as possible, and it worked. At 423 cals for a good-sized bowl, this stew is perfect for cooking the night before, ready to nourish and warm you up after a wintery evening of schlepping the kids to their various sporting commitments.

Serves 5

Ingredients

3 tsp olive oil

500g beef rump (don’t trim the fat), cubed

2 cloves garlic

1 onion, diced

3 carrots, diced

2-3 tsp Masterfood minced chilli

400g tinned tomatoes

1 1/2 cups beef stock

1 cup pearl barley

1/2 cup craisins

parsley, to serve

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 160C. In a cast iron or other oven-safe pot with a tight lid, heat half the oil over medium-high heat on the stove, and brown the beef in batches and set aside.
  2. Heat remaining oil over low heat. Add onion and carrots, and cook for 10 minutes, until softened. Stir in garlic and chilli, and mix for 1 minute to combine.
  3. Add beef, tomatoes and stock, and bring to a simmer. Transfer to oven and cook for 1 hour.
  4. Add barley and craisins, and bake for another hour, stirring occasionally to avoid the barley from sticking. Top with another half cup of water as you go, if necessary. (I found I don’t need to, but ovens are fickle and yours may vary).
  5. Either serve immediately, or allow to come to room temperature and then refrigerate. Reheat gently over a medium heat, topping with more water/stock if you find it dries out as it reheats. Garnish with parsley to serve.

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Curried Lentil and Tomato Stew

I’m still feeling the effects of Maypril (with all the family birthdays plus Easter in this period, hubby and I long ago decided to combine the period from the end of March to beginning of May into one big, expensive conglomerate of cake), and am also in the middle of school holidays, which means my routine has been shot to absolute bits. As a bit of a creature of habit, I’m really yearning to get back to my “New Normal” – that is, the routine that I know allows me to eat a balanced and delicious diet (with room carved our for treats of course!) at regular times, stay active, and control my nutritional intake, while maintaining my weight. While this month has not been a disaster in the sense that I didn’t magically regain 53 (or any) kilos like I felt I surely would, I still haven’t been eating well, and I can feel “old Michelle” issues coming – I’m not sleeping well, I feel bloated, and I’m starting to run out of steam. I know I say that it’s all about Calories In Calories Out, but at this stage of the long-term game, it’s really not. Not every calorie is made equally, and you can’t eat 500 calories worth of chocolate and expect to feel the same as when you eat 500 calories of high quality protein, veggies and wholegrains. Trust me, I know this from experience!

Except for my husband’s birthday next week, I’m all out of Maypril madness so I’m back on track, and so, so happy about it! This is how I know this is a true, permanent lifestyle change for me – fun is fun, but it’s only fun for a very short while. Then I’m itching to go back to New Normal, and don’t feel the slightest bit deprived. New Normal is liberating, and it’s something I jealously guard. I refuse to give it all up for a lifetime of bloat and regret. But then, I also refuse to give up cake, so it’s all a big, mindful balancing act.

Throughout the past four weeks, it’s been lunches that have been the most difficult thing for me to plan. So to mark getting back to New Normal, I meal prepped lunch for the next couple of days. With how much rich, fatty food I’ve devoured lately, a light vegetarian option was absolutely needed, and this stew, adapted from Smitten Kitchen, who adapted it from Ina Garten, who probably adapted it from another recipe that mine doesn’t even faintly resemble (like culinary Chinese Whispers!), fit the bill perfectly. It’s simple to make, low calorie (175 calories), packs a punch, freezes well, costs almost nothing to make, and chances are that you won’t even have to go to the shop, as it’s a meal of staples (you absolutely can use tinned tomatoes, in fact SK’s recipe calls for them. I only used fresh because I have too many and they’re starting to turn). This recipe serves 4, but you can adjust the ratios to make more or less. Four is great though, as it’s the whole can of lentils, so no waste.

Ingredients

3 second spray olive oil

1 brown onion, diced

3 carrots, diced

1 tsp minced ginger

2 tsp minced garlic

6 small tomatoes, finely diced

Small pinch sea salt flakes

1 cup drained tinned lentils

2 cups vegetable stock (chicken stock works well, too)

1 heaped tsp curry powder

1 tsp dried basil

Pepper, to serve.

Method

  1. Heat oil in a saucepan, sweat onion and carrots over a medium-low heat for 5 minutes. Reduce heat to low, add ginger and garlic, and cook for 2 minutes.
  2. Add tomatoes, salt and lentils, mixing to combine. Cook for 3 minutes until tomatoes soften.
  3. Add stock, curry and basil, and bring to the boil. Reduce heat back to low and cook for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until thick and stewed.
  4. Serve with cracked pepper.

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