In a Stew—Cooking up a Storm

What a blessing to have some ideas for a different kind of stew—a beef stew with julienned celery root, barley, and mushrooms—not the usual and, oh, so good!

Well, it’s a blessing to me because I’ve been stuck in a rut in the matter of  stews, remembering only the basic dish my Mom prepared when I was a child in Terrell, Texas. The excellence of Dale’s new creation inspires me to think more broadly. See what you think.                                                                        [RuthAnn]

Dale in his Kitchen

Dale’s World:

Beef Stew with Barley, Mushrooms and Celery Root

The clouds were a deep Prussian blue and the temperature was dropping. It looked like snow! That’s always my cue for a hearty soup or stew.

At the grocery store I had picked up some celery root. It would add a nice flavor to the stew, similar to parsley and celery. If you have never used it before, look for an ugly brown globe a little (sometimes a lot) larger than an apple. It is becoming more available in stores so you won’t have much trouble finding it in large supermarkets. If your store doesn’t have it, however, substitute green celery and a little chopped parsley.


You will Need:

Interesting ingredients

1 to 2 lb. of Beef Stew meat                        1/3 cup diced Onion

Canola Oil                                                    1/3 cup quick cooking Barley

3 Tablespoons Butter                                    ½ cup of sliced Mushrooms

3 Tablespoons Flour                                      3 cups Beef Stock

1/3 cup julienned Celery Root                      2 Tablespoons Tomato Paste

1/3 cup julienned Carrots                               1 Tablespoon Red Wine Vinegar

Salt and Pepper                                               Parsley


  1. Cut the meat into bite sized pieces. You can use most any kind of beef. I had a small piece of sirloin in the freezer, so I used that.
  2. Peel the celery root and carrots, then julienne.
  3. Dice the onions.
  4. Slice the mushrooms.
  5. Pinch off little sprigs of parsley for the garnish.


  1. Pour a little canola oil into the soup pot and brown the meat. Remove the meat and any meat juices from the pot after you have browned it.
  2. Add the butter and flour to the pot and make a brown roux.
  3. Add the celery root, carrots and onion to the roux and cook for one minute.
  4. Add the beef stock. You can use homemade stock, canned broth or bouillon. Stir and let it thicken.
  5. Add the mushrooms, barley and the meat.
  6. Season with the tomato paste, vinegar, salt and pepper.
  7. Simmer for one hour.
  8. Adjust the seasonings and add more water if the stew had thickened too much.
  9. Divide between four bowls and garnish with parsley sprigs.

Great for a Winter Night

Food for Thought:

All in a Stew

Seeing the possibility of tasty stews I’ve never imagined before, I’ve decided I’m going to experiment with those I found in my Christmas gift cookbook: Tastes of Liberty: a Celebration of our Great Ethnic Cooking.

The cookbook contains the recipe for French Bouillabaisse which includes saffron and orange rind and fennel leaf. Then there’s an Iberian stew that features Walnut sauce. The cookbook also contains Porkolt an Eastern European stew utilizing sweet Hungarian paprika, green pepper, butter and boneless pork. There’s fun cuisine ahead!

Just as there are many varieties of stews, so there are myriad meanings for the word, “stew.” You know how sometimes we get in a stew? A person becomes agitated, angry or anxious. The question is how to keep the stew from turning into something that explodes and hurts others, how to rediscover God’s peace.

In the award-winning novel Jayber Crow, the conservationist and poet, Wendell Berry, shows how elders in a small rural farming area all begin to get in a stew. Troy, an ambitious young husband of their stock, decides to made a fortune by using modern techniques: buying machinery on credit, planting recklessly and beginning to deplete the once well-tended land.

All his adult life, Troy’s father-in law, Athey, had tended his farming acres in the old way, loving, it and nurturing it, using only farm animals for tilling. But his son-in-law Troy showed no respect or deference to his father-in-law’s successful stewardship of the land. “You’re out of date, old man.”

Well, as you might guess, the men of the township of Port William took up a grudge for Athey, their old and respected friend.

How to prevent a stew from turning into something ugly is the question. Perhaps the best remedy for keeping a stew from turning into a deep-seated bitterness is time with the Master who once said, “Peace be still,” to a raging sea, and saved the lives of his friends.

Retreating for a day or two at a Retreat House where they practice silence, helps me realize His peace is always waiting for me, bringing perspective, convicting of sin, and holding out a huge gilded bucket of forgiveness.

A  gem I remember from a recent retreat is Elizabeth-Anne Vanek’s challenge in her book From Center to Circumference: “Learn to make God the subject of your prayers, not the object.”

IN other words, come to him thinking of His needs, and His heart. He longs for our fellowship, and it makes Him full of joy when we seek him. So often our prayers consists of pouring out request after request, need after need without any stopping to listen.

“Come to me and let me love you and give you peace,” God says.  “Let me help you to see the spark of my image even in the one who wronged you. Dip into my bucket of forgiveness.”  Amen Lord, You know what we need. [RuthAnn]

Folk Story:There are so many unusual meanings of the word stew, I thought it would be fun to look at them in story form. Just for a lark:

                                      The Stews of a Common Life

Shan Shan was dicing vegetables for her weekly stew and asked her husband Li to run out to the pond and catch her two medium sized fish. Li loved fish stew, especially the way his good wife made it. She was the possessor of gourmet secrets in the use of herbs and spices that caused their friends and enemies to marvel.

When Shan’s Shan’s friends were entertaining guests, they usually turned aside to her  for advice, especially on the entrée. And often they bought fish from Li’s  stew, the one pond in the area that could be counted on for fresh fish for the table year around.

But when Li arrived at their stew near the backyard vegetable garden, he realized that today was not going to be the good day he hoped. This morning start was all wrong. The fish, his precious, carefully fed fish were all dead in the water, already stinking up their backyard. What enemy could have done this?
He stormed into the kitchen to inform Shan-Shan of the bad news. His gentle wife tried to soothe him. “We will have a good stew still,” she said. You wait and see; I will use my new hot spice and add some dates. Oh, and I could even cook up some rice noodles to go with it. It will make  you very happy.”

But Li  was agitated, anxious, in a regular stew to uncover who had sabotaged his pond. In his frustration he immediately thought of three people whom he considered his enemies. He wrote the three names down and fumed.

He would make the journey to their homes and confront each of them, and the ones who got in the greatest stew about it, he would scratch off the list. The guilty man would try, he reasoned, to be non-chalant.

He tugged his boots on and stomped out of the house. He found Kang, his first enemy, brewing tea. Kang stewed his teas for 30 minutes, and drinking the strong brew was possible only if you were determined to  be in his  good graces. But this wasn’t the man who had poisoned Li’s fish,  because Kang swore and cried out in anger that Li would think he would be such a minor person as to do such a thing.

The second enemy was stewing in his home-built sauna, and it took awhile for him to towel off and regain his normal body temperature so he could focus on Li’s complaint. “Why, someone killed my dog last night and my best ox seems to have such bad stomach cramps that he refuses to work. It must be Hue. (This was Li’s third enemy.) Hue is angry with me as he has been with you for a long time. I will go with you and we will force him to make restitution.

But when Li and his second enemy reached the third enemy’s house, the house was closed up and the garden full of weeds. They convinced each other that the third enemy had cleared out so he could save face. This plunged Li and his second enemy into an even worse stew because they were deprived of the joy of revenge.

The second enemy went off to visit the dens and stews (brothels) of the metropolis and Li returned home, fell into bed and slept until time for supper.

His wife berated him for stewing lazily in his bed, and he was suddenly afraid that ShanShan might not give him any of her good stew.

But Shan-Shan was full of grace: She had a Christian friend she spent a great deal of time with.

“Shalom, good husband. God give you peace.” And she invited him to a table freshly lit with flowers and candles, and after  a short thankful prayer, Li ate the best vegetable stew he’d ever tasted. The stews of his wife were gems to be celebrated.         [RuthAnn]

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