Lamb shank and barley soup with lots of veggies

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Ask your butcher for some large hindquarter shanks, perfect for this soup.

Lamb shank and barley soup.
Photo: Marina Oliphant


  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 large meaty lamb shanks
  • 50g butter
  • 2 large onions, finely sliced
  • 2 large cloves garlic, sliced
  • 4 medium carrots, halved lengthways and sliced
  • 1 leek, halved lengthways and sliced
  • 2 sticks celery, sliced
  • 1 parsnip, peeled, cut in half lengthways and thinly sliced
  • Sprig thyme
  • 2 large waxy potatoes, peeled and diced
  • 2 litres water
  • ½ cup pearl barley
  • Fresh bayleaf
  • Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 cup fresh parsley sprigs


Heat oil in a large heavy-based pot. Brown shanks on all sides, remove from pot and set aside. Melt butter, then add onions, garlic, carrots, leek, celery, parsnip and thyme.

Cook over low heat for 15 minutes until softened.

Add potatoes and cook for five minutes.

Add water, pearl barley, shanks and bay leaf. Bring to the boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 60 minutes, until shanks are tender and meat is falling off the bone.

Remove shanks and shred meat with your fingers or a fork. Discard bones.

Return lamb to the pot. Season with salt and pepper, add chopped parsley and serve.


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  • Main Ingredients - Lamb
  • Cuisine - British
  • Course - Starter/Entree, Lunch, Main-course

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6 reviews so far

  • Rating: 2 out of 5 stars

    I made this for the family tonight and though we didn't totally dislike it, we found it to be very oily and quite bland.
    I had to add A LOT of salt to give it a bit of a kick, then at the table, I noticed the family adding a lot salt and pepper as well. If I make it again I will use stock instead of water.

    I would also give the lamb shanks a miss next time as well, maybe replacing them with bacon bones or some pancetta. The lamb was too oily for my liking.

    Date and time
    June 24, 2013, 7:36PM
  • Rating: 2 out of 5 stars

    I made this yesterday, based on the positive reviews. Following Mark's suggestion, I made it with stock rather than water.

    I have to say, even with the stock it was very bland - it just has a general slightly lamb-y taste, and all the taste of the vegies gets lost. While there's nothing wrong with it, it certainly isn't a stand out - I wouldn't bother making it ever again.

    LJ Tibbs
    Date and time
    July 07, 2013, 2:02PM
  • Rating: 1.5 out of 5 stars

    What the recipe fails to mention, and this is essential with all meat dishes, is the stock has to be made and cooled, and fat removed before anything else is done. Only then will you get a clean tasting soup with no oiliness or fat. Beef bones have more flavour than lamb shanks anyway. Hint, add all sorts of vegies etc in making the stock and they can be discarded with the fat that forms on top. Clean stock equals clean flavoursome soup.

    soup specialist
    Date and time
    May 03, 2014, 12:26PM
  • Rating: 2 out of 5 stars

    Was going to cook this due to grouse looking pic. After reading the reviews think I'll use the shanks for a curry.

    Date and time
    May 03, 2014, 7:49PM
  • Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

    This soup has been around since Adam was a lad and as a chef I've cooked it for 30yrs. the way my grandmother taught me.
    I'll give you the drum here and the secrets (in capitals) to make this soup sing reverting it to it's original simplicity and glory.

    Leave out the potatoes and leek but double the celery. Use more barley to replace the potatoes and don't brown the shanks (browning meat your going to boil is arty food-porn).

    Sweat the onions and celery in some olive oil and butter (add a little salt/pepper to the mix at the start). Make a few cuts in the washed shanks and throw them in as is. GRATE the parsnip an carrots and add. WASH the barley under the tap in a sieve and add to the pot.
    Add the bay leaves, SMASHED and roughly chopped garlic, then add a cap and a half of Worcestershire sauce and a half teaspoon of Vegemite.
    Cover with water and about half to double the amount again. Bring to boil and simmer for an hour and a half only, skimming off oil etc.regularly.
    Season to taste.

    Leave the meat on the bone for a side dish or cut the meat off and return to soup. Add a handful of chopped parsley for last 5 min. of cooking. Do NOT cook the shanks to "falling off the bone" (tasteless mush).

    Enjoy and enjoy even more if left alone for 24hrs. for the flavours to really permeate!

    Date and time
    May 04, 2014, 3:27AM
  • Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

    I haven't cooked this yet as just came across and read the reviews. I'd advise adding in heaps more thyme at the start plus a whole parsley bunch plus rosemary tied together and fish out at the end - also yes would also do stock and probably chuck some white wine in somewhere along the line as well to get more flavour in there.. I'll review once done!

    Georgie D
    Date and time
    May 11, 2014, 11:03AM

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