By Aine Carlin | September 19, 2011

Photo: Aine Carlin

An unfathomably underused ingredient, pearl barley, is a wonderfully versatile inclusion to any meal. Cheap as chips with a magnificently meaty texture, it surprises me that many people don’t eat it more often. Not only does it bulk out any casserole but it also lends a chewiness that many might feel lacking in a vegan version. Personally, I can’t think of a better, healthy, wholesome addition. That awesome texture and nutty taste will certainly ensure this Meatless Monday meal is the most sought after one of the week.

The thyme lends a necessary deep, earthy flavor, which is most welcome when the weather turns and salads give way to oven and stove top one-pot wonders. I need recipes like this up my sleeve when times get busy and I want to avoid too much washing up – perfect for a dreary Monday evening!

What I also love about this stew is that it tastes even better when reheated the following day and because this recipe makes a reasonably large batch, that’s Tuesday’s dinner sorted too. Bonus!

Substantial enough to eat by itself, it would also benefit from being served with a hunk of freshly baked bread – a great way to mop up all those delicious juices. Whichever way you decide to eat it, I promise you’ll not be disappointed.

Without a doubt, this stew is the ultimate comfort food for the fall – a meal to nourish belly, brain and spirit alike.

Photo: Aine Carlin

Aine Carlin is a vegan blogger who specializes in vegan recipes. She also has a keen interest in vegan fashion and is currently training to be a stylist where she hopes to promote cruelty free clothing and beauty. You can find more of her vegan recipes and vegan friendly fashion over at www.peasoupeats.com


  • 1 onion
  • 2 carrots
  • 1/2 head cabbage
  • 2 large sweet potatoes
  • 1 cup pearl barley
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 6 sprigs thyme
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1 heaped tsp vegan vegetable bouillon
  • 1 tbsp red wine vinegar (vegan)
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 tbsp oil
  • salt and pepper


1. Heat the oil in a heavy bottomed pan.

2. Roughly cut the onion into largish pieces. Add the onion to the pan, dried herbs, season, stir and cover.

3. Mince the garlic cloves, take the leaves off the thyme stalks and finely chop. Add to the pan along with the sugar, stir and allow to soften on a medium heat without covering for several minutes ensuring to stir often.

4. Pour in the red wine vinegar and turn the heat up slightly to let it cook off.

5. Peel the carrot and cut into large chunks. Add to pan with the freshly chopped thyme and salt & pepper. Cover, turn down heat and allow to soften for five to ten minutes.

6. Roughly chop the cabbage and add to pan. When it softens and begins to wilt add the pearl barley, sprinkle in the vegetable bouillon and completely cover with cold water. Bring it to a boil and then reduce to a gentle simmer. Cook for an full hour, topping up with water if it becomes to dry - the pearly barley will rapidly absorb any water you add.

7. Peel and chop the sweet potato into large pieces.

8. In the final twenty minutes of cooking add the sweet potato, season generously and cook until soft - careful not to overcook the sweet potato, as you want it to retain bite and texture. Season and serve.

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