ʽʽHi, I’m Benjamin Nunn – critic, gourmand and author of Ben Viveur. I like to eat and drink. And cook. And write.

You might have read me in an in-flight magazine, or a beer publication, but here on my own blog I'm liberated from the editorial shackles of others so anything goes.

I deal with real food and drink in the real world, aiming to create recipes that taste awesome, but which can be created by mere mortals without the need for tons of specialist equipment and a doctorate in food science. Likewise, I tend to review relaxed establishments that you might visit on a whim without having to sell your first-born, rather than hugely expensive restaurants and style bars in the middle of nowhere with a velvet rope barrier, a stringent dress code and a six-month waiting list!

There's plenty of robust opinion, commentary on the world of food and drink, and lots of swearing, so look away now if you're easily offended.

Otherwise, tuck your bib in, fill your glass and turbo-charge your tastebuds. We're going for a ride... Ben Appetit!

Saturday, March 3, 2018

Transitional Lamb

If you were planning to check some news site or other after reading this post, I'll save you the trouble.


Snow. Snow. Snow. 

Lots of snow. It's cold out there, the schools are closed, the footies off and some opticians are trapped on the M75 for 137 hours in an Austin Princess with no heating, blankets or wine. That sort of thing. And there's absoluely fuck-all else going on in the news. Trust me on this one.
I think we're on an 'Amber' weather warning right now - Red basically means that you and everyone you ever cared about are already dead, while the Yellow warning just means you have to watch out for uriney snow. so Amber is probably about right.

So, how about a recipe then?

Oh, go on then.

It's supposed to be Spring now, and the edible manifestation of this season, apart from the Spring onion, obviously, is Lamb. Litlte lambs, gambolling gaily from pasture to plate.

Transitional Lamb

But as it's still so fucking cold and snowy, you'll likely be wanting something warming and hearty though, so here's a simple idea for a Lamb dish that rather elegantly marks the passage from Winter to Spring.

This sort of thing is great to eat when it's snowing out, but you've barred the door, chucked another log on the fire and told the outside world to shit the fuck off.

(Obviously it would be more 'Springy' if it used Spring onions, but I think I know enough about food to realise that shallots are a far better idea. Never let attempts to be clever get the better of flavour..)

Transitional Lamb

A very, very slow cooking hotpot style recipe that cannot be rushed. Pearl barley may never be fashionable but it absorbs flavours in a way that rice and pasta can only fantasize about.

Using more liquid (or less barley) will result in an equally hearty stew/soup dish, if that's how you want to play it.

Ingredients: (makes four generous bowls)

Lamb, about 1 lb, in large chunks (I used a mix of leg and shoulder)
Lamb bone(s), for the pot
That's your lot...
Shallots, 10-12, peeled and halved
Baby carrots, about 15-20
Pearl barley, about 1/2 lb

Strong stout, 1/2 pint
Vegetable stock, 1 pint

Oil, for frying

Celery salt
Garlic pepper
Worcsestershire sauce


Season the lamb with celery salt, cumin and garlic pepper - larger pieces of lamb are better than bite-sized here, and it's all going to fall apart eventually anyway.

 Gently brown the lamb in a little oil, but be sure not to overcook it, then transfer to a large casserole, along with the shallots and any lamb bones you have.

Deglaze the pan with the stout, and add Worcestershire Sauce and Tabasco. Add the stock and herbs and bring it to simmering point, stirring it fairly vigourously.

(I used a really big 10% Imperial stout - if you're using a weaker beer you might want to make the stout-stock ratio closer to 50-50).

When you pour the liquid into the casserole, make sure the lamb is more or less completely covered - any exposed bits might dry out. It matter less if the odd shallot pokes its glans out over the top of the herby pool.

Put the lid on the casserole, and leave in the oven on a low heat (about 75C) for at least 2-3 hours, ideally longer, adding the baby carrots after about an hour and giving it a gentle stir.

A warming pot of loveliness
45 minutes to an hour before serving, add the pearl barley - with a little extra boiling water if it doesn't look like there is enough liquid. As I say, you have a couple of options here - either allow the liquid to more or less reduce altogether, or keep it stewy. Either way is good.

Once the barley has absorbed enough liquid (and flavour, it's an absolute legend at absorbing meaty, herby flavours) it's ready to eat. The lamb should be falling apart by now.

Sprinkle with a bit of parsley and you're good to go. You don't really need anything else to enjoy this - just a big, piping hot bowlful and maybe a drop of Imperial Stout or strong Winter ale.

Ben Appetit!

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