Friday, June 13, 2014

Lamb, bean and barley soup

I am sure there is a version of this recipe for every village around the world that keeps sheep - it was certainly a big part of the British Isles' culinary delights when I was growing up - just with different names (not that Brixton in south-east London was a village that kept sheep, the odd goat maybe, but you get my drift!).  In our house it was known as 'white stew' - because of the barley, onions, leeks and turnips - very pale looking, but delicious and hearty never-the-less and made with the cheapest, tastiest cuts of lamb - something on the bone. This very British of dishes crops up in all parts of the country as Scotch broth, Lancashire hot pot, Irish stew and Welsh lamb broth - cheap, hearty non-nonsense food.


Since venturing further afield I have found versions of this dish cropping up all over the place; in rural France, northern Italy, the Middle East and Greece. And, I suppose that this one is a rustic mix of all of those I have tried and enjoyed.

The evenings are drawing in, the nights are getting colder so it's time for a winter warmer - a really hearty soup.

This one came about because I was looking after my son's dog while he was away working. Groover arrived with his bed and a bag of fresh 'lamb off-cuts'.  Further investigation revealed a couple kilos of prime lamb - neck chops - the best cuts for making casseroles and soups, and yes folks, this is what I made  my soup from - the dog bones - just don't tell my son!  Groover did get the scraps though - and a big bowl of soup.  You might as well make a lot because it takes a while to cook and the leftovers will freeze really well.

Ingredients
1 kilo of lamb neck chops - best end of neck or neck rosettes.
1 cup of borlotti beans, soaked overnight
1 cup of chick peas, soaked overnight
3/4 cup pearl barley
1 large brown onion, chopped finely
1 leek, white part washed and chopped (optional)
2 sticks of celery, chopped
3 carrots, peeled and chopped
2 potatoes, peeled and chopped (waxy kind best)
1 bunch fresh parsley (click here to find out why parsley is so good for you)
Salt and pepper

Method
Trim meat of any fat.
Place with other ingredients (except parsley) into a large stewing pan and cover with water.
Bring to boil and skim off any scum.
Simmer slowly for about 3 hours.
You may need to top up with a little more water as the barley and beans swell.
When it is cooked take the meat off the bones and return to the soup.
Add the chopped parsley.
Optional extras; swede, turnip and fresh peas, and a squeeze of lemon juice before serving.

TOP TIP:  After you have cooked it, if you put it in the fridge over night, the fat will rise to the surface and becomes really easy to remove before you re-heat it.

Groover, he doesn't look deprived does he?


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