Lamb with pearl barley, root vegetables and port gravy


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This dish, using succulent shoulder of lamb which has been braised slowly, over many hours, and then picked by hand (once cooled), then rolled and wrapped in cling film, 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.

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.




Lamb shoulder

Celeriac purée

Pearl barley

  • 250g of pearl barley
  • 600ml of lamb stock, there should be enough leftover from braising the lamb, but keep some extra stock handy just in case
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 bunch of parsley, finely chopped
  • 1/2 lemon, juiced
  • 1 knob of butter

For the root vegetables

For the gravy

To finish

To begin, brown the lamb all over by searing it in a splash of oil in a large stock pot. Remove, then do the same with the onion, carrot, celery, thyme and rosemary. When they begin to soften, add the garlic and a squeeze of tomato purée and cook for a minute or two. 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 it's submerged in the cooking liquor, adding a little water if necessary. Bring the heat up so that everything gently simmers, cover with foil or a lid and cook for 2 1/2 to 3 hours. Leave to cool 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 nice 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 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
The next day, make your celeriac purée. Add the celeriac to a pan and cover with water. Bring to the boil and cook the celeriac over a medium-low heat for 10 minutes, or until it softens. Drain and tip into a blender, adding the cream, and blitz until smooth. Season to taste and set aside to reheat when ready
About 45 minutes before plating up, take the lamb out of the fridge to come up to room temperature
For the pearl barley, gently fry the onion in a pan until soft then add the pearl barley. Pour in the lamb stock, bring to the boil and gently simmer until all the lamb stock has been absorbed. Stir in the parsley and lemon juice right at the end of cooking
For the gravy, place the onion in a pan with a splash of oil and put on a hob to soften. After 5 minutes, add the thyme and stir through, then pour in the port and reduce by half. Pass through a sieve into a clean pan to remove the thyme and onion, then add the lamb and veal stock, place back on the heat and keep reducing until it thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon. Right at the end, add a knob of butter for bit of sheen
Preheat the oven to 180°C/gas mark 4
Parboil the carrots and parsnips in some boiling water for 5 minutes, drain then spread in a roasting tin. Season with oil and salt and roast in the oven for 20 minutes
Unwrap the lamb log and cut into even portions using a sharp knife. Place a frying pan on the hob with a splash of oil and fry off the portions so the outside becomes crispy all over. Heat through in the oven for another 10 minutes with the root vegetables
To plate up, spoon some celeriac purée into the centre of each plate, add some pearl barley to the side and place the lamb on top. Add the roasted carrots and parsnips and drizzle over a generous helping of port gravy. Finish by scattering a pinch of mint over the meat
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