Barley, soaked several hours or overnight (1 cup)
Lamb with bones (or not)*
Butter or other fat for the pan
One medium onion
Salt, pepper, garlic, herbs, vinegar
Celery, one rib
Leek, one medium
(Turnip or rutabaga)
Parsley for pretty
1. Brown a package of lamb neck bones or lamb shanks* slowly butter in a big heavy pot. Toss in a coarsely chopped onion and move it around the bottom of the pot while the meat browns. Cover the meat with a quart or so of broth or water. Add a dash of vinegar, salt and a few whole peppercorns, a couple whole cloves of garlic, and herbs such as thyme, bay, and rosemary if you have them. Cover and simmer for an hour, then toss in a rib of celery, chopped, and a leek, cut lengthwise and washed to get the grit out, then chopped. Cover and continue to simmer for another hour or more until the meat starts to fall off the bones.
2. Meanwhile in small pot, cook a cup of presoaked barley in two cups of water and set aside to add at the end. (Traditionally the barley’s cooked in the broth, but I find it soaks up all the liquid and the result is porridge–but you might like that.) Purple or hulled barley will take longer to cook than pearled barley.
3. Add a couple chunked carrots (and a rutabaga or turnip if you like) and cook 10 minutes more.
4. Remove the meaty bones to a cutting board and when they’re cool enough to handle, pull off the meat, cut it into hunks, and return it to the soup.
5. Add some large dice firm-fleshed potatoes and cook 15 minutes more.
6. Put in as much of the cooked barley as you want and correct the seasoning.
7. A generous sprinkle of parsley is nice as a garnish, or even cilantro or basil.
I prefer to make this soup starting with some bony pieces of meat, like neck bones or shanks because bones make a good broth. Boneless stew meat will work too, but in that case broth instead of water is essential and it won’t need to cook so long. If you have leftover roast lamb, you can save a lot of time by using that. This soup is also delicious made with beef–short ribs or cross-cut shanks are good.
Original Recipe submitted by Eleanor