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  • Recipe Room  »  French-style lamb and barley stew



    • 1kg boneless shoulder of lamb, cubed
    • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
    • 2 onions, chopped
    • 2 large garlic cloves, peeled and squashed with the back of a knife
    • 1 teaspoon sugar
    • 1½ tablespoons plain flour
    • 2 large sprigs of rosemary
    • 1.1 litres chicken stock
    • 2 teaspoons tomato purée
    • 100g pearl barley
    • 2 tomatoes, chopped
    • 3 carrots, cut lengthways and chopped into chunks
    • 2 leeks, sliced into 4cm chunks
    • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

    Lamb Barley Stew thumbnail

    French-style lamb and barley stew

    Barley has had many uses in many countries, and in parts of Europe including Scotland and Ireland there is a tradition of adding pearl barley to stews, soups and casseroles to make a little go a long way.

    Aside from the frugal aspect of cooking with barley, I also enjoy the balance it gives, counteracting the richness of the meat and adding extra body to the gravy. If you don’t fancy cooking any extra veg, the stew is a great one-pot meal. I like it served with buttered greens.


    Preheat the oven to 150°C/140°C fan/gas mark 2. Season the lamb. Heat the oil in a large, oven-proof, heavy-based pan and gently sauté the onion for 8–10 minutes.

    Transfer to a bowl using a slotted spoon. Then, over a high heat, brown the lamb cubes thoroughly all over, removing to a bowl while you cook the next batch.

    Put the onion and lamb back into the pan along with the garlic and sprinkle over the sugar. Toss in the hot fat to colour, add the flour and stir gently over the heat. Throw in the rosemary, pour in a little of the boiling hot stock and scrape all the sediment from the bottom of the pan.

    Add the tomato purée and cook for a minute. Add the remaining stock and a good grinding of salt and pepper and bring to the boil, then cover and transfer to the oven.

    After an hour, stir in the pearl barley, chopped tomatoes, carrots and leeks and bring back up to the boil before returning to the oven for a final hour or until the barley and meat are soft.

    Ideally let cool, then, using a spoon, skim the fat off the top of the casserole, before gently reheating. Or, if you wish to serve the stew straight away, just leave to settle and try to remove as much of the oil on the surface as possible.

    Amazing Grains cover image

    Amazing Grains by Ghillie James. Published by Kyle Books, priced $39.95. Photography: Jonathan Gregson. 

    Submitted by
    Ghillie James

    Tips and Tricks

    • The lamb used in this recipe could be neck fillet, shank middle neck or boneless leg – you will just have to adjust the cooking time to suit the cut. Adding sugar is a tip I found in a number of French recipes for navarin of lamb – it gives the lamb a wonderful colour and slightly caramelises it, too.

    • You can make the stew up to the point of adding the barley and vegetables on day one, then the following day bring it up to a simmer on the stove before adding the barley and vegetables and finishing off in the oven for a further 1–1½ hours.

    • Stews are leftover-friendly meals – you can experiment by replacing these vegies with whatever you have to hand, including things which have seen better days but are fine to eat. You can also substitute the pearl barley with wheat berries, pearled spelt or even orzo pasta.

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