Vegetarian Lamb Stew – No, Not Yet.

Did I tell you? I’m a vegetarian. I plan to move on to full vegan next. After that, I will live only on pulses until my last pulse.  There is only one little bit of weaseling in this. It’s all just “not yet”. Are you a little disappointed in me? Have I lied to you? Or, is it OK to really pump up one (good) aspect of what you do while you weasel the more important (bad) stuff you do?

Let me give you an example. Here in Ireland, we are lucky to be ‘served’ by a number of large supermarket chains. They all have CSR missions that include convincing us that they are really doing something about their gross overuse of plastics in their supply chains. They run ad campaigns, they put up notices (plastic ones) and they make commitments to do stuff by long after the time that I will be pushing up microplastic infused daisies.

All of this could be construed as commitment. That is if it weren’t for the weaseling. It’s a small thing. It’s the use of the “Not yet recycled” on rafts of their packaging. Imagine if we found this acceptable in other aspects of life. The groom who is sober for the wedding ceremony. The new mother who had put the seat belt on the child seat. The guy in a senior, high profile public position who had paid me the money he owes me. All are totally unacceptable when tied to “not yet”. (The third one is a story I will tell. But, just “not yet”.)

So, here’s my “Not Yet” Vegetarian Lamb Stew With Barley. I encourage you to not put it off. Don’t be like a supermarket weaseling, do it now.


  • 1.5 kilos/3lb of cubed lamb shoulder. (See side note on lamb cubes below.)
  • 150 gms of bacon lardons
  • 150 gms of barley
  • 5 stalks of celery
  • 5 carrots
  • 3 large onions
  • 500ml/1 pint of good chicken or vegetable stock
  • 3cm/1 inch pf root ginger
  • 3 bay leafs
  • 1 teaspoon of smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon of sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon of black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon of flour for dusting

Side note on lamb cubes: Ask your butcher to do the work for you on a shoulder. If your butcher tells you that he is not yet doing this, he probably just wants to sell you the stuff in the cabinet. This is not yet acceptable in my book. We want nice big chunks, not bone scrapings and lamb fat.

Those are decent sized chunks. I have a great relationship with my butcher.

Add the pepper and flour to a large bowl. Toss the lamb chunks to coat. Heat a little oil in a large casserole dish/Dutch oven. Add the lardons and fry until they get a bit crispy.

I can’t resist a picture of bacon frying. Not yet anyway.

Remove and reserve. Add the lamb and brown it on all sides. Do this in batches or you will overwhelm the cooking and the lamb will stew rather than fry. Reserve the lamb with the bacon bits.

The large lamb chunks are essential to this dish.

While the lamb is browning, peel and slice the carrots and onions, wash and slice the celery. This is a chunky, hearty stew and the vegetarians amongst us will want to see nice tasty chunks sticking out of the gravy. Chop the ginger up nice and small.

All the veg and ginger go in to the casserole. Lots of colour is a good thing.

Add the vegetables, ginger and a small amount of the stock to the casserole. Turn the heat down and sweat the vegetables for about fifteen minutes covered and then about ten minutes or so uncovered. This to firstly soften the vegetables and then to concentrate the flavours.

Barley makes for a great pouring subject. I can’t resist the shot.

Add back the meat and then add the stock, paprika, salt bay leafs and barley. Give this lot a good stir. Bring it to a gentle boil before removing it from the stovetop and placing it in a 170ºC/340ºF oven for three hours. Add some water if you need to. The barley absorbs a lot of it and we want to end up with a nice thick stew.

The bits of parsley were tasty with this. I can’t recommend it enough.


I served mine with some mashed potatoes and a sprinkling of parsley. Neither are essential but both are lovely additions to this delicious dish.  In fact, it’s meals like this that convince me to turn vegetarian, just not yet….

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Latest comments
  • Ha, I am not yet a vegetarian either. Love the use of barley (and ginger) in this … a proper rib-sticking stew and I mean that in a good way. I agree with you on the supermarkets’ use of plastic, it drives me crazy. Who needs a swede to be shrink-wrapped? Are you going to name and shame the person who hasn’t paid you (yet)? Lx

      • I had a similar problem a while back over a piffling £50. It was the principle of the thing, I dug my heels in too. xxx

  • Unless I’m completely losing the plot, which is entirely possible, there’s no barley in the ingredients list! Not that I’d use it – my mother’s lamb and barley stew was the stuff of nightmares and I can’t even look at the stuff now!

  • Elyss the barley is in the list – just not yet!

    Will have to try this as the weather is starting to turn. All the plastic does my head in. Some allow you to bin the plastic after the checkout. But why have it in the first place?! One day when rhe kids are in school I’m going to rock up with all my (plastic) containers and bin all the plastic.

  • That’s my kind of stew, especially with the paprika.
    IMHO the lamb eats grass and is therefore made of grass, similar to bellota ham having a high concentration of oleic acid (the main constituent in olive oil).

  • This is one of those intensely nostalgic and classic recipes that confirm to me that nature did not intend me to be a vegetarian. The gorgeous lambiness pervades everything, and a plate of barley and veg does not make my taste buds rejoice in the same way.

  • I found it interesting how many people are talking about turning vegetarian, some even vegan. I am talking about it too, and I believe all things lamb, like this stew make perfect vehicle for converting; not just yet…

  • Looks yummy, this is making me hungry. Am going to try this. I’m a great fan of stews …

  • Sheep are vegetarians, so all lamb is vegetarian lamb. Another great post. Love the barley shot.

  • You got me for about 3.5 seconds! 😉 I need to smart up… and also start really working on those pouring shots…. I adore them!

  • You are hysterical. Great lamb dish. The ginger surprised me.

  • The day you become vegetarian I’ll eat my boots, as a famous European saying goes in more than one language 🙂 ! That said this meat eater also consumes more fish and ;legumes and even forgets to put meat in some of her dinners these days . . . and it works fine !! Love the barley, and the ginger and could eat lamb most days of the week . . . and am glad they do eat grass rather than endless bags of tampered grain fodder . . .

  • Your choice of ginger and smoked paprika are an interesting addition to your stew that I wouldn’t have thought of…nice.

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