This is basically the way I make Irish stew except that this version contains barley instead of potatoes, and it’s served with a herbal sauce (a little like salsa verde). You can cook the lamb on the hob rather than in the oven, but the oven seems to give a deeper flavour. This is one of the cheapest dishes I make – scrag end of lamb is so inexpensive – but it’s balm to the soul, deeply savoury and soft.
Prep time: 15 minutes | Cooking time: 2 hours 30 minutes
- 2½ tbsp olive oil
- 1kg scrag end of lamb
- 2 celery sticks, 1 halved and 1 diced
- 6 large carrots, peeled, 2 left whole, the others chopped into large rounds
- 2 large onions, 1 halved, the other finely chopped
- Handful of parsley stalks
- 200ml dry white wine
- 150g pearl barley
- 2 bay leaves
- About 6 sprigs fresh thyme
For the relish
- 35g mixed parsley and mint leaves
- 1 garlic clove, chopped
- 1 tsp Dijon mustard
- 1 tbsp capers, rinsed of salt or brine
- 7 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
- Juice of ½ small lemon
- Preheat the oven to 160C/150C fan/gas mark 3.
- Heat 1½ tablespoons of the oil in a large heavy casserole. Fry the meat all over – in batches – seasoning as you go, and lift it on to a plate once coloured. Add the halved stick of celery, the 2 whole carrots, the halved onion and the parsley stalks to the casserole dish, then return all the meat too. Add the wine and 800ml water and bring to a simmer. Cover and cook the meat in the oven for 90 minutes. The lamb should be falling off the bone by then.
- Remove the meat and take it off the bone, being careful not to get any little shards of bone in the mixture. You can also remove the fat from the lamb if you prefer not to have it. Discard the bones and the cooked vegetables.
- You need to skim the fat off the top of the cooking juices. You can do that by adding ice cubes – the ice will drive the fat to gather on the top – or you can do it by putting the cooking liquid in a glass jug and removing the fat you can see at the top. Rinse out the casserole dish.
- Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in the pan and sauté the chopped onion until soft. Add the chopped celery and the chunks of carrot and fry for a couple of minutes. Pour on the degreased cooking liquor and add the barley, bay and thyme. Bring to a simmer and cook the fresh vegetables and barley on the hob until they are soft, about 30-40 minutes, and the mixture is thick. If it’s too thin just keep cooking and the liquid will reduce. If the mixture is too thick then add more water. Stir in the meat that you removed earlier and taste for seasoning.
- Make the herb relish by whizzing everything in a food processor. Taste for seasoning – it will be quite strong but that’s OK as it will be balanced by the barley and sweet carrots.
- Heat the stew through and serve it with the relish.