Lamb and barley

Lamb and barley

The Sunday Night Book
Patricia Niven

Pearl barley is one of my go-to comfort ingredients, perhaps because the aroma of cooking barley reminds me of the barley water of my childhood. Every now and again, I still make a batch using the soaking water from barley, and it goes down a storm with one and all. If you’re so inclined, set aside the soaking water when you drain the barley; it will keep for a few days in the fridge. Lamb is the obvious pairing with barley, but a vegetarian version with leftover cooked vegetables works just as well – in which case, I might crumble some feta on top.


Quantity Ingredient
200g pearl barley
2 tablespoons sunflower or grapeseed oil
30g butter
1 large leek, washed, trimmed and sliced
2 carrots, peeled and cut into 2 cm chunks
1 small swede, peeled and cut into 2 cm chunks
2 garlic cloves, crushed
200ml white wine
600ml vegetable stock
250g leftover cooked lamb, shredded
couple of sprigs mint, chopped
small handful flat-leaf parsley, chopped
sea salt
black pepper


  1. Rinse the barley, then leave to soak for at least 20 minutes.
  2. Heat the oil and half the butter in a large heavy-based saucepan over a medium heat. Add the leek with a pinch of salt and cook gently for about 5 minutes until starting to soften. Add the carrots, swede and garlic and cook for a few minutes, stirring to prevent sticking. Drain the barley and add to the pan. Cook for a minute or so, then add the wine and cook, stirring, until it has been absorbed. Pour in the stock and simmer, stirring from time to time, until the barley is tender. This will take about 30 minutes – top up with hot water if the stock is all absorbed before the barley is soft.
  3. When the barley is nearly done, add the lamb and allow to heat through.
  4. Take the pan off the heat before stirring in the rest of the butter and seasoning with salt and pepper to taste. Leave to sit, covered, for 5 minutes, then stir in the herbs and serve.
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