Lamb with pearl barley, root vegetables and port gravy

This post first appeared on the Great British Chefs blog back in March and as such, is slightly of date of date season wise. But it's a good 'un, so I wanted to also post on here.

This dish, using succulent shoulder of lamb, which has been braised in some stock, with vegetables and herbs, slowly, over many hours and then picked by hand (once cooled), then rolled and wrapped in clingfilm, left in a fridge overnight, and then unwrapped the next day and pan-fried to create a crispy outer coating, and then roasted for a further 10 minutes, in a hot oven, to ensure even cooking, might not be the simplest approach. But if you want to wow your friends and family this coming Easter with an alternative take on that traditional Sunday roast, then it is well worth taking the time with this one.

I use the wow word with confidence here because I have made this several times for my own friends and family now and have witnessed first hand, much licking of fingers and plates. So I know it is good and as such, I proudly call this one of my signature dishes.

Except it's not really a signature dish because I discovered the technique in Jason Atherton's Gourmet Food for a Fiver. I also pinched his celeriac purée too. But I have put some of my own original flourishes to this dish. Namely the pearl barley and the port gravy, which both benefit from the intense lamb stock that results from the initial cooking. In the past, I have simply relied on rummaging through the freezer to see what benign, frozen, yellowish lumps of carcass liquor (i.e. long forgotten chicken stock) I’ve got stored away as a base for the braise.

However, this time around, I used some powered lamb stock from Essential Cuisine to kick start proceedings. Boasting a strap-line of producing ‘professional cooking stocks for the home chef,’ the general thought process for using it went along the lines of “I wonder how more lamby can this lamb dish be?” The likely response being “None, none more lamby.” Although you would have to be a fan of Spinal Tap to get that joke.

Did this all lean towards lamb overkill though? No, not at all. In my opinion, using this rich, tasty stock really broadened the overall savoury quality and countered any cloying sweetness that may have been apparent before. Especially in the port gravy, where I also snaffled in a glug of veal stock, the professional chef’s favourite.

Full of heartwarming vitality, comfort and wonderful, healthy fibre, you might say that this is really something you should eat on a cold, winter's day and oversteps the mark season-wise. But I say nay, this can be dish with its feet firmly planted in verdant spring. Just replace the roots with new vegetables such as purple sprouting broccoli, watercress or asparagus, which will be in abundance soon.

But maybe don’t leave out the creamy celeriac. That really goes well with the lamb. As does everything else. In fact, don’t change anything. It is my signature dish after all. 

(And partly Jason Atherton’s).

Lamb with pearl barley, root vegetables and port gravy


1 large shoulder of lamb bone in, approx 1.2 kgs
2 onions, roughly chopped
2 carrots, roughly chopped
2 sticks of celery, roughly chopped
Half a bulb of garlic, chopped
Few sprigs of thyme and rosemary
Tomato puree
Half bottle of white wine
1 litre of Essential Cuisine Lamb Stock
Oil, for browning

For the pearl barley

250gm pearl barley
600mls lamb stock (should be enough left over from the braise or make up some more using Essential Cuisine lamb stock)
1 onion, finely chopped
Large bunch of parsley, finely chopped
Juice of half a lemon
Knob of butter

For the celeriac puree
1 large celeriac, peeled and diced
100 ml cream

For the root vegetables
6 carrots, chopped into large batons
6 parsnips, halved

For the gravy
500mls Ruby Port
300mls Essential Cuisine lamb stock
300mls Essential Cusine veal stock
1 onion, sliced
2 sprigs of thyme
Salt and pepper
To garnish
1 tbsp of chopped mint leaves


First brown the lamb all over by frying in little bit of oil in a large stock pot. Remove and then do the same with the onion, carrot, celery, thyme and rosemary. When they begin to soften, add the garlic and tomato sauce and cook for a minute or two, then add the wine and reduce right down.

Pour in the stock and bring to the boil. Return the lamb to the pan and make sure its submerged in the cooking liquor, add water if necessary. Bring the heat so that everything gently simmers, cover with foil or a lid and cook for 2 and half to three hours. Leave to cool and then remove the lamb, reserving the cooking liquor.

Pull the meat apart with your fingers, removing the bone and any gristle and fat so that you just have the slivers of meat.

Lay a triple layer of cling film on the worktop and spoon the lamb along one end to form a log. Roll up the lamb tightly, twisting the ends and chill overnight.

Strain the reserved liquor and leave that in a bowl in the fridge overnight. All the fat from the lamb will rise to the top and solidify, which will make it easy to remove, leaving behind the clear stock.

Next day, make your celeriac puree by placing into a pan with a covering of water. Bring to the boil and then cook the celeriac over a medium-low heat for 10 mins or until it goes soft. Drain and tip into a blender, adding the cream and blitz until smooth. Season to taste then put to one side and reheat when ready.

For the pearl barley, gently fry the onion in a pan until becomes soft and then add the pearl barley and then add the lamb stock. Gently simmer until all the lamb stock is absorbed and then add the parsley and lemon juice right at the end and stir through.

Parboil your carrots and parsnips in some boiling water for five minutes, drain and then roast in the oven (preheated to180C) for 20 minutes.

For the gravy, place the onion into a pan with a splash oil and put on a hob to soften. After 5 minutes add the thyme and stir through and then pour the port into a pan and reduce by half. Sieve into a clean pan to remove the thyme and onion, then add the lamb and veal stock, pace back on the heat and keep reducing until it thickens and coats the back of a spoon. Right at the end, add a knob of butter for bit of sheen.

For the lamb, about 45 mins before plating up, take the lamb out of the fridge to come up to room temperature and then unwrap and cut the lamb log into even portions. Place a frying pan on the hob with a splash of oil and fry off the portions so the outside becomes crispy all over and cook through in the oven for another 10 mins.

To plate up, spoon the puree in the centre of the plate, spoon some pearl barley to the side and place the lamb on top. Add the roasted carrots and parsnips and drizzle all over a generous helping of port gravy. Finish by scattering a pinch of mint across the meat.


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