Ruminations and recipes from a small kitchen in a big city.


It's raining, so here's the best lamb stew for wet weather.

We came out of the shopping centre with bags of fresh vegetables from the greengrocer (yes, some shopping centres still have greengrocers) and sheets of rain were billowing across the car park, aided by a gusty wind that looked like it was just getting into its stride.

T. dashed to the car and opened it, I followed carrying William, hunching over him to keep him dry. Success. He didn't feel a drop. T. and I were soaked.

The traffic was as heavy as the rain and we splashed home with the heater blasting warm air onto the misty windscreen and someone burbling nonsense on the car radio. I killed the radio and turned off the main road, made a couple of right turns and pointed the car into the driveway in our little dead end street of just nine houses. For me, arriving home in the rain always carries a pleasure that is almost instinctive.

Inside. Wet clothes off, heater on, vegetables unpacked.

Was it really just a couple of weeks ago that we were on the beach trying to get cool, and William made his first long crawl, late in the hot afternoon sun, across the sand to the gentle shallows? Splash, splash.

Lamb shank stew with barley.

(I adapted this recipe from one of the food magazines - can't remember which one - probably eight or nine years ago and I make it several times every winter.)

Brown four lamb shanks in oil after dusting them with salt and pepper. Remove to a dish. Into the browning pan, stir two potatoes cut into half inch cubes, four carrots chopped into half inch discs, a turnip cut into half inch pieces, two quartered medium onions, a bay leaf and a tablespoon of chopped fresh thyme until everything is coated in the oil.

Now put the shanks back in the pot and add about six cups of chicken stock. This is about the time I realise I've started with a pot that's too small and have to hunt through the cupboards looking for the really big one and can't find it and realise it's in the fridge with yesterday's baked rice or last week's cauliflower soup or maybe it's in the laundry full of vegetable peelings for the compost bin or green tomatoes waiting to be pickled for that matter. Then I shout a bit and blame everyone else for losing the pot and then I settle down again and continue cooking. Because you have to eat. I hate losing things in the kitchen.

OK. I've cleaned up the big pot and it's on the stove and we've tipped the stew into it and now we're waiting for it to boil.

While we're waiting for it to boil, we make the barley. Add half a cup of pearl barley to four cups of boiling chicken stock and let it burble away for a little over half an hour, until soft. Easy.

The stew has boiled so we've reduced the heat to an enthusiastic simmer, but not too enthusiastic, and we've stirred it occasionally to let it know who's boss. The we add four more potatoes, quartered this time. The smaller pieces will help thicken the stew while the larger ones should end up just cooked and largely intact. Let's say twenty minutes to half an hour.

Yes, I know, it's a long recipe. We've probably been going over an hour now, not counting searching the place for pots. But it's going to be worth the effort.

And we're almost done, anyway. Simply add the cooked barley mixture to the stew, combine, maybe let it thicken a little more and maybe not.

Place a lamb shank on each plate, spoon stew over and top with lots of chopped spring onions and salt and pepper.

It's cold. So I'll have a glass of red. And afterwards I'll sit in the big comfortable chair in the loungeroom and listen to the rain make its music on the roof of the little white house in the little dead end street with just nine houses.


Kitchen Queen said...

This sounds lovely! I enjoy barley a lot but haven't cooked with it myself yet.

kitchen hand said...

It's dead easy, Kitchen Queen, I cook it quite a lot. Grew up with it in soups and stews.