Lamb Mushroom Barley Soup

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Many people who shop at the Saratoga Farmers’ Market certainly don’t eat the typical American diet. They fill their totes with our vegetables and fruits, add in local dairy products and eggs, choose some baked goods or bread, and select from the variety of meat and poultry, including lamb.

Lamb is a popular meat in many countries, in nearly every country but the United States. The Irish eat approximately 20 pounds of lamb per person each year; the French around 12 pounds; the Saudis 27 pounds; and New Zealanders, a whopping 57 pounds per person.

Contrast this with the minuscule amount of lamb eaten in the United States, less than one pound of lamb per person per year. At the Market, some of the customers must be competing well with other countries for lamb consumption. Surely they are on to something.

Lamb meat contains little marbling compared to other meats, because most of the fat occurs between the muscles and is easily trimmed. The meat itself contains only about 175 calories in a three-ounce serving, and the fat is only about 36 percent saturated.

Lamb is a versatile meat, lending itself to tasty dishes from many cuisines. Think of the French classic, lamb with spring vegetables, or the tagines of North Africa, osso bucco from Italy, Indian curries, Irish stew, and shepherd’s pie. Grilled lamb in summer, or even during a January thaw, is always a hit with the family and friends.

At the Market’s recent “Soup’s On Day,” vendors Mary and Bob Pratt of Elihu Farm brought a simple but tasty lamb soup, using many Farmers’ Market ingredients. This recipe serves at least 10 people; halve the ingredients to serve about five.  The recipe has been adapted from Soups ~ The Williams Sonoma Kitchen Library. 

Ingredients

(Ingredients marked * can be found at the Saratoga Farmers’ Market.)

 4 quarts water

2 Elihu Farm lamb shoulder chops, or 4 medium sized lamb shanks *

1 large package fresh shiitake mushrooms from Zehr & Sons *

(Or 10 oz. baby bella grocery-store mushrooms)

1 cup dried porcini or mixed dried mushrooms

2 carrots, peeled *

2 sticks of celery (In winter try celeriac. *)

2 medium onions *

2 tbsp. canola oil

2 tbsp. butter

2 cups pearl barley

Salt and pepper

Directions 

1) Brown the lamb in a frying pan and add to the 4 quarts of water or stock. (For an even heartier soup, first make a brown stock with some lamb bones.) While the lamb is browning, bring the water or stock to a boil. Add the lamb and simmer for an hour.

2) While the shoulder chops or shanks are simmering, coarsely chop the Zehr’s shiitake mushrooms. Sauté in butter in a frying pan until lightly browned. (They will shrink dramatically in size. Rehydrate with some of the water or stock, and set aside.)

3) Add enough of the water to the dried mushrooms to cover. Let rest for at least half an hour. Spoon out the dried mushrooms and chop coarsely. Pour off the soaking liquid, leaving behind any grit at the bottom, and add to the lamb.

4) Cut the carrots, onions and celery (or celeriac) into quarter-inch dice, and sauté in oil.

5) After the lamb has simmered for an hour, add the barley and chopped vegetables. Simmer for another hour.

6) Remove the lamb, debone, and chop finally. Skim the fat from the surface of the pot, and return the meat to the pot.

7) Add the reserved mushrooms and bring to a simmer.

8) Season with salt and ground pepper.