Thursday 8 October 2009

NCR: Bean, barley and tomato stew

This month’s theme of one of my favourite blog events, No Croutons Required, is the store cupboard. Jacqueline (and Lisa) have challenged us to avoid the temptation of popping out to the shops for food and use whatever is in fridge and pantry to make a vegetarian soup or salad. I was inspired to use up the beans and barley left from the hearty baked beans and chulent I have made lately.

Living, as I do, with the shops only 5 minutes by shank’s pony and needing to get out of the house for a walk each day, I found the idea quite tough. I remember talking to a taxi driver in Darwin last year about his emergency cyclone pack. When I was little and had never seen snow, I thought the idea of being snowed in very romantic. Now the idea of being stuck in the house due to snow (or a nuclear war or deathly pandemic) seems far less desirable. I have images of a cupboard filled with tins of baked beans and no fresh green vegetables in sight. That was what I thought of when Jacqueline set the store cupboard challenge.

I suspect she was referring to a more prosaic problem: our time-poor lives that find us too busy to get to the shops. It is quite a skill to arrive home after a busy day and whip up dinner with what is at hand. I have days when there is so much food that needs to be used, it seems wasteful to buy more and so I make do.

So this week when I found myself too busy to buy food because I was shopping elsewhere, I decided it was time to rise to the challenge. I used only longterm residents of the kitchen and some kale that my mum had picked for me from her garden. (Of course in the event of swine flu keeping us house bound I am not about to nip down to my mum’s place but if it was wartime when we had to rely on kitchen gardens, then just maybe I might!)

I made what was meant to be a soup but is really a stew because it is so thick. Barley just soaks up water like there is no tomorrow. (Definitely not an ingredient to cheer you up in the event of a nuclear holocaust.) I did consider adding more water so it was more soupy but I hope Jacqueline will be gracious host and understand it is a very thick soup that can be much more watery if desired.

I was pleased that without the kale, which was a mere frill, the stew could be made with non-perishables if you used onion powder, garlic powder and stock powder. I had fresh so I used it.

It is also not a meal to whip up quickly because soaking is required. But if, like me, you forget to soak the beans the previous night and you wake up remembering what you meant to do, you can put them in a bowl of water to soak when you first rise in the morning. Mine seemed ok after 4 hours of soaking but I left them for 8 hours as Rose Elliot suggests.

The verdict from E was very positive. Well, he said he liked it much better than the chulent. I thought it very tasty and hearty. I would like to try cooking it slowly in the oven (or, if I had one, in a slow cooker). The first night we had it with some grated cheese but I felt we needed a few more veg so the second night I served it with broccoli and cherry tomatoes. Delicious!

On a more newsy note, I had thought about a special post for my 500th post but I just noticed I have already posted 501 posts. Maybe I will wait til the 600th post! I have also recently joined the new Planet VeGMeL edited by Steph and Danni. I had never heard of planets before but the idea is an interesting one of reading feeds at one url for a collection of blogs, in this instance it is Melbourne vegan blogs. My blog is not vegan but I do like to have vegan food in my diet and to read about other vegan cooking. Check it out at if you are interested in such things.

Bean, barley and tomato stew
Serves 4-6

  • 250g lima beans
  • 100g cannellini beans
  • 250g pearl barley
  • 3 small onions, chopped
  • 1 bulb garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 litre stock
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 x 400g tins of diced tomatoes
  • ½ cup red wine
  • 1 tbsp maple syrup
  • ½tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp seeded mustard
  • 1 bunch of kale, chopped

Soak the beans for at least 8 hours or overnight. Drain beans, and put in a stockpot with the remaining ingredients, except kale. Bring to the boil and then simmer covered on a very low heat for about 1 hour or until beans and barley are soft. Add more water if necessary. When the stew is cooked turn the heat off. Add the kale, put the lid back on and leave for about 30 minutes to let the kale cook with the heat of the stew. Stir before serving.

On the Stereo:
Embers: Current 93


  1. Johanna, this looks heavenly! I love how you added the bit of maple syrup - it sounds perfect with the nutty barley... I absolutely adore thick soups/stews, so I'm very psyched about the gloriously hearty texture of your stew!

    P.S. You inspired me to fix cholent last night!! :-) Thank you! :-) I just wrote a post about it - I hope you don't mind that I cited you as the source of inspiration... :-)

  2. Happy 501st post! A milestone to be proud of, even if it's not neatly rounded.

    And welcome to Planet Vegmel, I'm glad there's another vegetarian on board. :-)

  3. Thanks Astra - I love my stews and soups to be thick too - and am so pleased you were inspired to fix cholent - may it bubble on your stove for many evenings to come!

    Thanks Cindy - am really enjoying planet vegmel despite my love of cheese :-)

  4. Wow--501 posts?! Congratulations! That is quite the milestone. :)

    The stew looks great as well--I think I'd prefer the thicker version too. And I've checked out that planet. Interesting idea!

  5. 500 posts! That is crazy!! I can only aspire to such prolific-ness.

    What an excellent look stew/soup. Hearty AND healthy. The two qualities I look for in a wintry meal. I am having a hard time with this no croutons required as well. Need to put on the thinking cap.

  6. Can I just say that that's an amazing dinosaur kale plant? Wow! Today was the first day that it started to get chilly enough in Berkeley to start contemplating mittens and stews and winter vegetables. I'll pass this recipe on to Do -- hearty stews are his favorite food of all time.

  7. Am I the only idiot in Melbourne who can't find kale at the shop??
    Or is this why you grow it?

  8. thanks joanne - it is a healthy way to fill yourself up in winter

    Thanks Neen - I am a little sad to be saying good bye to hearty stews as summer looms - although our cool weather is hanging in for a bit still

    Thanks Niki - the best place to buy kale in Melbourne (in the inner north) is the fruit and veg shop near the corner of lygon and elgin streets - it has very good produce - but there are some fruit and veg shops that sell it in coburg and I am sure there are other places if you look hard and ask around - it is worth the effort

  9. and thanks ricki - yay for thick soups!

  10. That stew looks so rich and thick and like it would really stick to your ribs-lovely stuff!

  11. Thanks for your continued support and this tasty entry. I do enjoy thick soups too! Just perfect as the cold weather sets in here in Canada.

  12. what a hearty and wholesome stew. I'm always looking for new ways to add nutty barley pearls to dishes. thanks Johanna x

  13. I also live in Melbourne and can't find kale anywhere. Has anyone found a place that sells it in the south east?

  14. Hi Anonymous

    I live in Melbourne's northern suburbs - they sell it at the vic market and also at the fruit and veg shop on the corner of lygon street and elgin st

    I would suggest checking the prahran market but I am not sure it is the season for it right now as I think of it as winter veg (though my pot of kale is looking quite leafy right now so maybe I am wrong)


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