AUTHENTIC IRISH STEW
In a Dutch oven or large heavy pot, heat bacon drippings or oil over moderate to high heat; add beef and brown thoroughly, all sides, stirring frequently. Drain off excess fat. Add 8 cups water and bay leaf. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook, covered for 1½ to 2 hours, or until beef is fork tender. Add carrots, celery, onions, potatoes, green beans, and barley. Continue to simmer, partially covered, for 30 to 40 minutes or until vegetables are fork tender.
Blend about ¼ cup cold water into 2 tablespoons flour until smooth; stir flour mixture into stew (if a thicker stew is desired, add 1 to 2 tablespoons additional flour and 2 additional tablespoons cold water to paste). Continue to cook, stirring frequently, until stew is slightly thickened and bubbly hot. Adjust seasoning to taste.
Variation: Add 2 sprigs fresh thyme to stew during cooking; remove stems before serving.