Irish Lamb Stew with Pearl Barley

By Clodagh McKenna | March 13, 2015
This is one of my all-time favorite comfort foods. I grew up having this exact recipe once a week, and I would imagine the same goes for most Irish people. We all have our own variations of Irish stew and, when cooked right, this dish is so delicious. Make a very well-flavored stock, use good-quality lamb, and thicken the casserole juices to make a gravy. It’s a fantastic mid-week supper for the whole family. It can be made the night before and reheated.


For the stew
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 pounds boneless lamb for stew, cut into chunks
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 carrots, peeled and cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 4 onions, peeled and cut into thin wedges
  • 6 waxy potatoes, peeled and cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 1/2 cup pearl barley
  • 2 sprigs of thyme
For the stock
  • 1 lamb bone
  • 1 carrot
  • 1 onion
  • 2 peppercorns
  • 1 bouquet garni
For the roux
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour


Serves 6

1. First make the stock: Place all the ingredients in a saucepan with 2 quarts cold water. Bring to a boil and then simmer for as long as possible to bring out the flavor, 2 to 3 hours if you can. Strain the stock and set aside.

2. Preheat the oven to 300°F.

3. Place a casserole dish over high heat, melt the butter, and add the lamb. Season with salt and pepper and stir until it is a nice brownish color. Transfer to a plate and repeat the process with the vegetables, before also transferring them to a plate.

4. Spoon all the vegetables, the lamb, and the pearl barley into the casserole dish, placing the potatoes on top (you do not want them to get mushy). Remove all the leaves from the thyme stems (discard the stalks) and add them to the dish. Cover with the hot lamb stock and place in the oven for 1 1/2 hours.

5. While the lamb stew is cooking, make a roux: Melt the butter in a saucepan and beat in the flour, until it forms a paste. Once the casserole has cooked, ladle the juices from the stew into a saucepan and slowly beat into the roux. Cook, stirring, until thickened and smooth. Then pour the thickened gravy back into the stew before serving.

Excerpted from Clodagh’s Irish Kitchen, A Fresh Take on Traditional Flavors by Clodagh McKenna. Published by Kyle Books. Photography by Tara Fisher.

  • Irish lamb stew