Vegetable and pearl barley stew with dumplings

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I cannot rave enough about the wonder that is pearl barley. It’s cheap (approximately 40p per 500g here in the UK), healthy, and filling, and I could personally devour its chewy goodness by the bucketload. If you’re looking for a new year alternative to your usual rice or pasta, I definitely recommend giving it a try – particularly in this warming, hearty winter stew.

I’m a vegetarian, so I stirred through some Quorn chicken style pieces. However, I’m sure this would work just as well with the real thing. If you’re a meat eater, switch out the veg stock for chicken stock and stir through some bacon lardons for an extra salty, savoury touch.

Ingredients

Stew

1tsp olive oil
2 large carrots
2 onions
4 sticks of celery
1 large leek
1 small turnip
200g mushrooms
2 cloves of garlic
100g pearl barley
200g Quorn (or chicken)
1 small glass white wine
900ml vegetable stock
1 bayleaf
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp black pepper

Dumplings

50g plain flour
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
25g suet

Method

Finely chop half an onion, half a carrot and 2 sticks of celery and fry in the olive oil for 5 minutes until soft.
Stir in the pearl barley and cook for a further minute.
Add the white wine, stir and reduce for 3-5 minutes until the wine has been absorbed.
Top up with 300ml of the vegetable stock and simmer for a further 30-40 minutes until the pearl barley is tender. Drain the liquid into a bowl and put the pearl barley to one side.
Chop the remaining onion, carrot and celery into large, chunky pieces, along with the leek, turnip and mushrooms. Add to a large saucepan and cook for around 5 minutes until the vegetables begin to soften.
Crush the garlic cloves, add them to the vegetables in the pan and cook for a further 1 minute.
Pour over the remaining 600ml vegetable stock, add the bayleaf, dried thyme and pepper, stir and simmer for 40 minutes.
While the vegetables are bubbling away, make the dumplings. Add the flour, salt, baking powder and suet, and gradually add cold water until the mixture forms a sticky dough.
When the 40 minutes of simmering is up, stir through the Quorn/chicken and the cooked pearl barley and cook for 5 minutes until warmed through. Then pull the dumpling dough into 8 equal sized pieces, dot them across the top of the stew and cover, cooking for 20 minutes until the dumplings are puffed up and fluffy.
Serve in deep bowls and enjoy!

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