Beef up English roast with wheat berries

August 12, 2018

Adding wheat berries to your English roast not only adds flavor but can be a starchy addition to most meals.

If you haven’t noticed by now, I cook and eat seasonally most of the time. Unless, that is, I come to the ends of my world sick of the harsh weather and I find rushing the season a bit by grilling outside somehow helps get me excited for the eventual transition into spring and summer. It’s rare that I’d go for a stewed soup or anything lengthy in cooking time during the summer months. But this dish was inspired by two things: the harvest of a fresh crop of wheat berries and my momma.

Years ago, whenever we became ill, we knew we were staying home from school and we’d be showered with extra attention and care in the way of soup and grilled cheese, as long as our tummies allowed. I can remember hating the idea of being away from friends at school but happy to see Mommy be so loving and concerned. And in comes the inspiration from my mom, who, when I was a kid, used to make this soup with a grilled cheese sandwich.

I’m pretty sure we’ve all gathered a few memories like this, but she calls this her thing, so I’m going with it. For the longest time, I had no idea what the chewy little morsels were I had found floating around in the vegetable soup. They were delicious and it didn’t occur to me to ask. I accepted it was healthy and trusted she knew how to satisfy my soul with a warm steamy pot of this brewing while I spent time in front of the television healing from whatever ailment had me down.

It wasn’t until I was a mother myself that I learned those tiny chewy dots were not pasta even though it was starchy but rather wheat berries that held up and added a bit of heartiness to the brothy concoction. I would visit the Mennonites in Tennessee when I was a young mother while gleaning a wealth of knowledge and one of the ladies showed me the wheat berries they harvested that fall. Not only did they grind the berries for flour to make bread, they included it in soups and even breakfast cereals for their family.

I was excited to finally discover the mysterious starchy pearls that mom had thrown in the soup she’d serve us when we were sick. This stew/soup I’m making is an undated version of what my mommy made us, but with a twist of course — a twist of a corked bottle of white wine. I am slow-cooking this big chunk of English roast in Crock-Pot, and guess what: You can throw in all the ingredients at once and come back to it in the evening when it’s all finished.

The wheat berries are sturdy and can stand against the slow, continuous heat. Plus, the meat will tenderize and fall apart at the touch of a fork. If the water has cooked down too much, just add a little water. This is a meal worth trying even in the hot summer month of August. The house smelled so inviting and delicious. And if ever a smell could be a lullaby, this one is it. I ate a bowl immediately and fell asleep shortly after. You won’t be sorry you made this one.


1 English roast

1 cup white wine

1 quart water

1 28-ounce jar of diced tomatoes

1 bay leaf

/3 teaspoon onion powder

1/3 teaspoon garlic powder

1 red onion chopped

1 1/3 cups whole wheat berries

1/3 teaspoon salt

In a large Crock-Pot place all the ingredients and set on high and cook for at least 6 hours — 8 is even better. Then serve and enjoy.

Janet McCormick is the owner of Let’s Eat Cafe in downtown Huntington. More of her recipes can be found at http://www.10-minutemeals.com.

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