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Prepare to the end of step 3 up to 2 days in advance and chill, or freeze.
Heat 1 teaspoon of oil in the slow cooker, or in a nonstick frying pan if your slow cooker doesn’t have a sear/sauté function. Fry the beef pieces in batches until browned, about 5 minutes. Remove from the pan and set to one side. Use another teaspoon of oil, if needed, to fry the rest.
Heat another teaspoon of oil and add the onion, celery and carrot chunks to the pan. Fry for 10-15 minutes until the onions are translucent. Return the beef to the pan and add the chicken stock, bay leaves, and some seasoning. Add to the slow cooker, if you used a frying pan, and cook for 2-3 hours on low.
Remove the carrots – enjoy them as a cook’s perk, or eat them on the side; add the pearl barley. Cook for 2-3 hours until the barley and beef are tender. Add a little water if it looks dry. Fry the mushrooms in a teaspoon of oil in a frying pan on high for 3-4 minutes. Season; add to the stew for the last 15 minutes.
For the gremolata, mix the ingredients together in a small bowl, and scatter it over the beef and barley to serve.
OVEN COOKING: Cook for 1-1½ hours at 140°C, fan 120°C, gas 1 in step 2, and a further 1-1½ hours after adding the pearl barley in step 3.