I love the London weather right now, that's to say, cold and sunny: upliftingly blue skies, but the air chill enough to demand comforting stews with a hunks of bread to dip into them. So what better way to introduce that Liverpudlian speciality, Lobscouse. I am afraid I have not one millimetre of scallywag blood in me, more's the pity, but I hope I am still allowed to present my version. Basically, think beef and veg stew, and since I was inspired to make it having seen Margi Clarke's version on Masterchef, I felt I could add barley as she did. This sort of cooking does not rely on precise measuring so please don't get hung up on what size potatoes to use and so forth, and feel free to fiddle. So if you're in the mood for a slow-cooked, meal-in-a-pot (and my children love this) then do as follows:
Peel and chop 3 potatoes and 2 parsnips and peel and slice 2 carrots, and slice 2 leeks. Get out a good-sized casserole or dutch oven and add a tablespoon or two of garlic infused oil then when warm, add 1.25 - 1.5 kilos (around 3lbs) cubed stewing beef (preferably organic) and stir a little, but don't really worry about browning much. Add the prepared vegetables and then 200g (1 cup) of pearl barley along with a couple of bay leaves and pour over 1.5 litres (6 cups) beef stock. I have been using fresh organic beef stock that I buy in vacuum packs in the supermarket. Stir well, add a little worcestershire sauce if you fancy, and then bring to the boil, and when bubbling cover and transfer to a 150C/300F/Gas mark 2 oven for about 3 hours. You can always just let this simmer very gently on the hob, but I find a low oven keeps the heat much more even, and the texture of the meat ends up gorgeously tender.