Winter braising: lamb & barley

When the nights are cold, comfort food is the thing. Slow cooked meat, some vegetables, some carbs, all cooked together with herbs and maybe some wine so all the flavours come together and the meat is meltingly tender.

A lamb and barley braise ticks all of these boxes. Everything is cooked together in one pot, so there’s no need for extra vegetables to supplement. Feel free to top this up with what ever winter vegetables you have to hand – potatoes, brussel sprouts, silverbeet, etc. A few chunks of kumara would work too and would add a sweetness that I don’t feature in my version.

I guess this is kind of like an Irish stew, except I’m not Irish and I’ve added wine (also not Irish) and removed the potatoes (very not Irish). I served this in a bowl, with a fork, to eat in front of the fire (or the telly, whichever you prefer).

LAMB & BARLEY BRAISE
(Serves 4 with leftovers)

750g lamb shoulder, cut into 5cm chunks
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp flour
1 cup red wine
2 cups beef stock
1 onion, diced
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
1 stick celery, sliced
2 parsnips, peeled and chopped
2 bay leaves
3 sprigs thyme
3/4 cup pearl barley
1/4 savoy cabbage, shredded
salt/pepper
Handful chopped parsley leaves

  1. Heat olive oil in a heavy casserole dish or large frying pan with a lid over a moderate heat
  2. Add lamb in batches and cook until deep brown. Remove from pan and set aside
  3. Reduce heat and add flour to soak up pan juices. Cook for a couple of minutes, stirring.
  4. Pour over red wine and bubble up, stirring to avoid lumps.
  5. Add stock, herbs (except parsley), vegetables (except cabbage) and barley. Return lamb and any juices to the pan.
  6. Bring to the boil, reduce to a simmer, cover and cook for 1 hour.
  7. Add cabbage and cook for another 10 minutes. Add more stock or water if necessary.
  8. Season to taste and stir through parsley before serving.

Notes:

  • I’ve kept the lamb in quite large chunks as I wanted this to have some texture
  • The lamb is shoulder, which has more sinew, so requires long, slow cooking, but will thicken and enrich the sauce. I have also used leg, which is leaner, and doesn’t require quite as long a cook time. I would halve the cook time for leg meat.
  • The vegetables can be as chunky as you like. Generally I chop them to about a 2cm dice.
  • In this recipe I’ve recommended using beef stock as it is easily sourced. However, the last time I made this, I used lamb stick, made using a leftover bone from a roast. I’ve written a blog about how to make simple stocks here.
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