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Heat 1 tbsp of the sunflower oil in a large frying pan set over a medium-high heat and sauté the onions, stirring frequently, for 8-10 mins, until soft and translucent. Add the garlic and cook for a few minutes, until soft and fragrant. Sprinkle over 1 tbsp sugar and continue to cook for 2-3 mins, stirring frequently, until the garlic and onions are golden. Tip onto a plate and set aside.
Wipe the pan with kitchen paper and add the remaining oil. Season the cubed brisket with plenty of salt and pepper, and brown in batches, for 5-10 mins, until browned on all sides. Transfer the browned beef to a second plate or bowl.
Now, layer up the ingredients in a slow cooker. First, add the vegetables (including the cooked onions) in the base, then the beans and barley (give the dish a shake so that they fall into the gaps) and finally the browned beef.
Pour 250 ml water into a large jug and stir in the date syrup or honey, both paprikas, tomato purée, onion granules, 3 tsp salt, plus a good grinding of black pepper. Whisk well to combine. Pour over the beef and vegetables in the slow cooker. Top up with enough water (we added 1.5 litres) to just cover the contents – do not stir.
Set the slow cooker on low and leave to cook for 10-12 hrs until the meat and vegetables are tender, the beans soft and the gravy looks thick and stewy. Check the seasoning and add more salt and pepper if required, before serving piping hot.