With Winter well & truly taking hold – it has been a week of dragging out the woollen scarves, hats & coats, along with feeling the need for lots of tummy warming comfort food filled with taste, texture & wholesome goodness! When I think of those things, the first recipe I think of is my Mum’s Lamb Shank & Barley Soup.
I am lucky that I have the kind of mum who loves to cook & who had always put a lot of effort into making dishes that are packed with flavour & goodness. I know it’s where I get my love of food too – we ramble on together about recipes all the time over endless cups of tea & little people demands. Packed with flavour from the richness of grass-fed lamb from my local butcher, the earthiness of herbs & vegetables & textured with barley & red lentils, this soup is really more like a stew & it is delicious!
Of course, I haven’t always been so complimentary of this soup & many of mum’s other recipes – as a child I used to shun anything vegetable related, so this was a big nose screwer-uperer for me. Poor mum, she had it hard with four scally wags who hated their veggies! She was never deterred though & kept right on serving them up to us. We used to think we were clever & sneak handfuls of peas down a hole in an old couch we had. Years later, I still had this idea I was clever & bought it up with mum – she laughed, shook her head, sighed & said, “I know love. Who do you think used to vacuum out the back of the couch? It would have collapsed if I’d not known & left all vegetables you kids stuffed in there!”. Oh yeah … hadn’t thought of that, had I … maybe not so clever after all!?! 🙂 Now that I’m grown & facing the same vegetable phobic phase with my own children, I understand mum’s gentle sigh & my own vow to persist with serving them up vegetables even if they don’t always get eaten. It’s like a right of passage for all parents & children I think – don’t you?
This soup has a mosaic of vegetable colour & texture, is rich & robust flavoured from the lamb & has bursts of freshness from the herbs. The barley & lentils add depth & gives a warm heartiness that turns it almost from soup to stew it is so thick & chunky! While it does take a time to make, about two hours, this is a one pot dish, that only requires the occasional stirring at each stage, making it easy to prepare & quick to clean up after. Now that’s my kind of recipe!! For lunch or dinner, this gorgeous Lamb Shank & Barley Soup will have you feeling full & satisfied, relishing each mouthful as it hits your taste buds & warms your tummy on those cold wintery days.
Now if I can just convince my children of all that …
Here’s how it goes;
- 2 lamb shanks
- 1 lamb neck or 4 neck rosettes
- 1 cup barley
- 4 cups water or low salt vegetable stock
- 4-6 bay leaves
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1 parsnip
- 1 turnip
- 1 swede
- 1 - 2 celery sticks
- 1 - 2 medium carrots
- 1 leek
- 1/2 head cauliflower
- 1/2 head broccoli
- 1/2 zucchini
- 1/4 pumpkin
- 1 cup red lentils
- 3 tablespoons of tomato paste
- 2 - 3 teaspoons dried oregano
- 2 - 3 teaspoons dried thyme
- 1 - 2 teaspoons dried basil
- 1 - 2 teaspoons sweet paprika
- 1 tablespoon fresh rosemary
- 1 tablespoon fresh parsley
- Salt & Black Pepper to season
- In a large stock pot place lamb shanks, neck, bay leaves, barley & crushed garlic cloves
- Cover with water or vegetable stock (use a low salt stock - otherwise taste may be too salty)
- Bring to the boil
- Reduce to low heat & simmer until meat starts to pull away from bone (about 1 1/2 hours)
- Dice the vegetables - these can be a small or chunky as you like, I make them about 1cm or so dice.
- Rinse & drain the lentils
- Allow the meat to cool slightly in the stock pot.
- Skim any excess fat from the top - if your meat is well trimmed there may not be much, so don't get too concerned about it.
- Pick off any remaining meat & remove the leg bones - it should pull away fairly easily if cooked, if not, leave it in & get the bones out at the end.
- Add the vegetables, dried herbs, lentils, tomato paste.
- Stir & add just enough water to cover the soup mix.
- Bring back to the boil, return to low heat & simmer until vegetables are soft, about 25 - 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Remove the neck bones & bay leaves.
- Add fresh herbs & season with pepper & salt.
- This soup can be served immediately, stored in an airtight container & refrigerated for up to 3 days, or frozen for up to 6 months. It is a great freezer companion for meals in a hurry after a long day!!
- Serve with grilled cheese on toast or cheesy garlic bread!
- If you want a gluten-free version you can use brown rice - just keep in mind that rice is very absorbent, so extra water is needed during the cooking process.
- I haven't tried this, but I think it would also work really well with quinoa instead of barley - using same cooking method.
- As always, don't feel bound by the vegetables I have used here - they are what I had on hand - you can use almost anything you like, just remember to use some root vegetables for depth & texture.
I hope you like this as much as we do!
What’s your favourite Winter warmer? Would love to hear about it!
Cook! Eat! Enjoy!