Lamb & Barley Stew with Dried Figs, Olives & Gruyère Toasts



Lamb & Barley Stew with Dried Figs, Olives & Gruyère Toasts

A stew cooking slowly in the oven makes a winter day a whole lot nicer. To offset the gamey richness of lamb, we like to cook it with salty Kalamata olives and sweet dried figs. The fig seeds add a crunchy counterpoint to the tender meat. Taking a page from French onion soup, we serve this stew with golden-brown Gruyère cheese crostini. They’re one of those easy touches that can make a dish special, and they’re a nice accompaniment for all kinds of hearty soups, stews, and even salads.

Lamb & Barley Stew with Dried Figs, Olives & Gruyère Toasts


1 cup pearl barley
4 lb boneless leg of lamb, cut into 1-inch pieces
Kosher salt
1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 cups peeled and diced carrot, cut into medium dice
2 cups diced celery, cut into medium dice
2 cups diced yellow onion, cut into medium dice
6 cloves garlic, sliced
1⁄4 cup tomato paste
1 bay leaf, 1 star anise pod, and 1 small cinnamon stick, tied in a sachet
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
2 1⁄2 cups dry red wine (such as Syrah or Malbec)
4 cups lamb or beef stock
2 cups peeled and diced parsnip, cut into medium dice
2 cups peeled and diced rutabaga, cut into medium dice
1⁄4 cup dried figs, stemmed and halved lengthwise
1⁄2 cup Kalamata olives, pitted and halved
1 baguette, cut into slices about
1⁄2 inch thick
1 cup grated Gruyere or Swiss cheese


Preheat the oven to 300°F. In a medium bowl, combine the barley with water to cover and set aside.

To cook the stew: Heat an 8-qt pot over medium-high heat until hot. Meanwhile, pat the lamb dry with paper towels and season generously with 2 tablespoons salt and the pepper. Add 4 tablespoons of the oil to the hot pot and, working in batches to avoid crowding, brown the meat on all sides. As each batch is ready, transfer to a bowl.

When all of the lamb is browned, reduce the heat to medium and add the remaining 2 tablespoons oil, the carrot, celery, onion, garlic, and 1 teaspoon salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 6 to 8 minutes, until the vegetables are well caramelized. Add the tomato paste and cook, stirring constantly, for about 1 minute. Add the sachet, thyme, and a pinch of salt, then pour in the wine and cook for about 5 minutes, until reduced by half. Add the stock and the reserved browned lamb and any accumulated juices and bring to a simmer, skimming off any foam that forms on the surface. Cover, transfer to the oven, and simmer for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until the meat is tender.

Remove the pot from oven and let stand for about 5 minutes, until the fat rises to the surface. Using a ladle, skim off and discard the fat.

Drain and rinse the barley. Add the barley, parsnip, rutabaga, figs, and olives to the pot and bring to a simmer over medium heat on the stove top. Skim off any additional fat from the surface, then re-cover the pot and return it to the oven for about 35 minutes, until the barley is soft.

Remove the stew from the oven, scoop out and discard the sachet, and taste and adjust the seasoning if needed. Re-cover to keep warm.

To prepare the crostini and serve: Raise the oven temperature to 350°F. Arrange the baguette slices on a sheet pan and top with the cheese, dividing it evenly. Place in the oven for about 6 minutes, until the cheese melts and starts to brown. Transfer the crostini to a serving platter.

Reheat the stew if needed, then serve accompanied with the crostini.