Slow Cooked Lamb, Butternut Squash and Barley Stew

It's like a hug in a bowl...

It’s like a hug in a bowl…

Winter has certainly arrived, and it has been rather miserable so far. As much as it can be depressing, I find that Winter often proves to be my favourite month. I just love those white-out, frosted mornings; those days where you put on layer upon layer topping it all off with a scarf, a hat and gloves. Those days where the inevitable is having to model the pink nose and cheeks look, where you pant and pant away just so you can watch your breath disperse into a misty cloud. Yes, I am romanticising the seasonΒ into something its not; let’s face it, so far this year its been a drizzly, mild, ultimately pathetic excuse of a Winter. At least that’s the case in England. To be honest it does make things slightly easier for me at the minute, as there is nothing I hate more than defrosting the car. What an effort!! My mornings are earlier enough as it is, so I can be thankful for the fact that I haven’t yet needed to wake up even earlier to stand out in the cold with a can of de-icer. There always a silver lining, right…

Winter is for hibernating. The shorter days naturally amount to people spending more time inside, avoiding the darkness and the cold. Instead we sit by our open fires, we read, we catch up on the latest TV series, and we eat. Food is an incredible source of comfort for me during the winter months; obviously it has a lot to do with Christmas, the game season, the abundance of root vegetables, generally everything to with the culmination of some of my favourite foods. This weekend I was in desperate need of a heart-warming bowl, something of sheer comfort to beat those winter blues. I’d work the longest shift known to man on Friday; the morning started out in Thirsk for the local Fine Food Awards, and then in the afternoon I moved on to cook at Newby Hall, near Ripon. The day counted up to 15 1/2 hours of cooking. So I was exhausted come Saturday and in need of a little tender loving care. Recently the Hairy Biker boys featured a Scotch Broth recipe on their TV programme, and it got me dreaming of delicious lamb stews. I thought I’d tweak their classic recipe by centring my versionΒ with some butternut squash, a sweet vegetable to cut through the fattiness of the lamb, and I also added some fresh herbs for extra flavour. I decided to accompany the stew with some fresh sourdough bread, bought at a beautiful local artisan bakery, so to balance out the carbs I chose to exclude potato and to bulk out the stew with a bit more barley. Two hours on the hob and the results were divine. Tender, melt in the mouth chunks of lamb, sweet cubes of butternut squash, fluffy beads of barley. It was like a warm hug in a bowl!! And the left overs were made into a delicious soup. Success all round really.




Serves 4

  • 600g of lamb neck steaks, cut into chunks
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 2 tbsp of sunflower oil
  • 6 medium shallots, cut into chunks
  • 3 medium carrots, cut into chunks
  • 2 sprigs of rosemary
  • 2 sprigs of thyme
  • 1 litre of chicken or lamb stock
  • half butternut squash, cubed
  • half sweetheart cabbage, finely chopped
  • 150g pearl barley
  • 2 big handfuls of peas
  • handful of mint, chopped
  • handful of parsley, chopped
  • Zest of 1 lemon, juice of half the lemon
  • salt and pepper




  • On a medium heat add the oil, garlic and lamb into a pan and gently brown the meat. Then add the carrots and shallots, letting them cook with the meat for 2-3 minutes. Throw in the rosemary and thyme, on the stem if you think they are large enough to remove later on. Finally add the stock and let the pan gently simmer on a medium heat. Continue to stir the ingredients every now and again, adding extra water if necessary.


  • After approximately 1 hour and 15Β minutes add the chopped butternut squash.
  • After another 15 minutes add the pearl barley. The water will absorb significantly at this stage, so keep an eye on the pan in case extra water is needed.
  • Within the final ten minutes of cooking time add the diced cabbage, peas, chopped herbs, lemon zest and juice.
  • Serve hot in large spoonfuls alongside fresh bread. ENJOY!