Simple Lamb and Barley Stew


Lamb is seared and then cooked with barley and vegetables, that are authentic in name, but are modern and more substantial domestic versions of very different ancient ingredients.

This is a very simple, but delicious dish that means to simulate the kinds of things the earliest farmers along the Euphrates River and the East Mediterranean Coast might have eaten.

2 lbs lamb stew meat 
1 cup whole grained barley (not pearled)
1 large or 2 smaller onions,sliced
1 leek, top and bottom part, sliced
3-4 carrots, large dice
1 turnip, large dice
1/2 head of garlic (6-7 cloves)smashed
3-4 tbsp. ground coriander, cumin, and mustard seed, equal parts mixture
1 bunch mint chopped, 1 bunch scallions sliced, 1 bunch carrot tops or parsley chopped
Yogurt to finish

  1. Season the lamb with salt and spice mixture, then brown in a large pot over high heat until all sides have nice color.
  2. Take out the lamb and set aside. Turn down the heat to medium. Add onions and leak to the pot and stir to scrape the brownings up and deglaze the pan. When onions are starting to soften, add barley, carrots, and turnips, and enough water to just cover, then add the lamb back in.
  3. Bring to a boil, then immediately turn down the heat to a simmer until everything is cooked, about an hour. (If lamb is still tough, take it out and roast it in the oven until it’s “pull apart” tender).  Tear the meat into pieces and add back to the pot.
  4. Turn off the heat and add the fresh mint, carrot tops, and scallions

In the Ancient World, meat was a luxury few could afford, as it’s more economical to keep and use an animal than to kill it for it’s delicious remains. Thus this dish represents either that of an elite, or the very very specialist of occasions for regular folk.

The choice of veg is inspired by Mesopotamia and the Levant, especially the leeks, but this is a dish basic enough to fit into any era following the Neolithic and the invention of farming, up to the current day.

Lamb goes back in with the veg and barley, and then simply water. No fortified stocks for us. The raw root vegetables, onions, and par cooked lamb will bring more than enough flavor to the liquid that it’s silly to add chicken stock or something like it.

Now to simmer and wait. . . .


Finishing garnish.  Don’t want to add this until the very end, so it maintains its full and fresh flavor.  The herbs take what’s a very simple spiced lamb and barley stew, and bring some life into it.

If the meat doesn’t pull apart like below, you need to take it out and roast it on a baking sheet until it does. Then add it back to the stew and mix in.

It’s ready! Top with Yogurt and enjoy.


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