I have a confession for you, dear readers: I did not eat meat growing up. It’s not that I was a vegetarian. I ate bologna and hot dogs like they were going out of style. It was more that I had an objection to the idea that my food resembled its “original” form.
I particularly hated stews. I would eat the fluffy dumplings which my Mom would make on occasion and I would rescue peas from my sister’s plate. No way was I eating veal, or beef, or chicken, or lamb.
Fortunately, I have gotten past that sad, restricted time in my culinary life. Now there are few things that I find nicer than lamb stew on a cold night. Or a nice book from the Blythe Girls Series. Do you remember those? They were such wholesome, nice books filled with sweet girls and fortunate accidents. And good food!
They chatted gaily as the dishes of appetizing edibles were placed on the table, and kept up a running fire of laughing comment that amused the poor old man and set him at ease.
A faint color came into his face as he fastened his collar with trembling fingers and, at Helen’s urgent invitation, pulled a chair up to the table.
“Guests first!” cried Helen, and filled his plate with a lamb chop, potatoes, and peas. “You don’t want all the rolls, now do you Margy? Pass them over, that’s a good girl!”
Who doesn’t want to be seated at that table? So when I found a recipe for Irish Lamb and Barley Stew amongst my wall of cookbooks, I knew that I wanted to recreate that cheery, comforting table.
But I’m not Irish. I’m Italian. And I had to Italian-ize the dish a little. Out went the barley for farro. Out went the rutabaga and for parsnips. Out went the cabbage for fennel. The spices were replaced with lots of rosemary.
I think you will agree it is an easy, comforting dish. It also stores very well so you can have leftovers during the week or put some in the freeze for a cold night. Enjoy!
Italian Lamb and Farro Stew
If you want to know more about the difference between pearled, semi-pearled, and whole farro, check out this great article from NPR’s Kitchen Window.
2 lbs lamb shoulder
1 c chopped carrots
1 c chopped onion
1 c chopped fennel
1 c parsnips
3 garlic cloves, crushed
1 1/2 c beef broth
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
3 bay leaves
1 tbsp fresh rosemary, chopped
1/2 c semi-pearled farro
Swirl olive oil into a Dutch oven. Brown lamb pieces, salt, and set aside on a plate. Quickly saute carrots, onion, fennel, and parsnips until they take on some color. Return lamb to pot. Top with broth and remaining ingredients except for farro. Mix gently to flavors are incorporated.
Bring pot up to a boil, then reduce heat to low. Simmer approximately 1 1/2 hours or until lamb is almost tender. Add farro when you think the lamb is about 20 minutes away from being completely fork tender. If you aren’t sure, it is better the lamb to fork-tender and then add the farro rather than over cook the farro. Cook another 15-20 minutes. Adjust seasonings as necessary. Serve.