Lamb neck osso buco with pearl barley + squash risotto

Lamb neck osso buco with pearl barley + squash risotto

A Lot on Her Plate
Helen Cathcart

Lamb neck is a relatively inexpensive cut, but boy does it pack a flavour punch. It’s fatty (read: flavourful), meaty and, being on the bone, takes well to being slowly cooked: the marrow melds with the other ingredients and the bones make their own stock. I suppose this is a sort of frugal osso buco – that wonderful Italian dish of veal shank and Milanese saffron risotto. British lamb is best – usually grass-fed and outdoor reared. Great for a winter or early spring supper, I like to garnish it with a zesty mint gremolata for added lift. You might need to ask your butcher ahead of time for this cut. Get them to slice it into roughly 4 cm thick slices, or use neck fillet if the bone offends you.


Quantity Ingredient
1 tablespoon flavourless oil (rapeseed, groundnut or sunflower), plus extra if needed
1kg lamb neck – 4 pieces with bone in – or neck fillets, (about 4 cm each)
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
1 onion, finely chopped
1 carrot, finely chopped
1 stick celery, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, peeled and left whole
2 bay leaves
2 sprigs rosemary
2 sprigs thyme, leaves picked
1 unwaxed lemon, zested and juiced
8 cherry or small vine tomatoes, halved
or 2 large tomatoes, chopped
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
150ml dry white wine

Mint gremolata (optional garnish)

Quantity Ingredient
1/2 unwaxed lemon, zested
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh mint

To serve

Quantity Ingredient
Pearl barley + squash risotto


  1. Preheat the oven to 160°C. Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil over a high heat in a large, ovenproof casserole dish. Generously season the lamb pieces all over with salt and pepper, then brown them in batches for a few minutes on each side, to nice, deep brown, transferring them to a plate as you go.
  2. There should be quite a lot of residual lamb fat in the casserole, but add extra oil if you need to. Turn the heat down to medium and add the onion, carrot and celery. Cook gently for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until they’re softened and aromatic, scraping up any brown bits from the lamb that may have stuck to the bottom of the pan (discard anything burned).
  3. Add the garlic, bay leaves, rosemary and thyme leaves, lemon zest, and tomatoes and cook for a further 5 minutes, stirring, until it’s all smelling really good. Pour over the lemon juice, add the fish sauce, wine and vinegar and stir so that all the flavours combine, cooking for a further few minutes. Add the lamb pieces back to the casserole, laying them flat. Pour over the wine and 600 ml cold water to cover the meat, and bring the liquid to a boil, then turn down to a simmer. Cover and cook in the oven for 1 hour 30 minutes–2 hours, until the meat is falling off the bone. Cook the risotto when the lamb has been in the oven for 1 hour.
  4. To finish the lamb: when you remove it from the oven, remove the lamb pieces from the liquid with a slotted spoon and transfer to a warm plate. Skim off as much surface fat as you can with a large serving spoon, and reduce the braising liquid for about 15 minutes. At this point you can pass the braise through a sieve if you wish to remove the vegetables. Taste for seasoning, and add a dash of vinegar or squeeze of lemon if you think it needs it.
  5. Mix the gremolata ingredients together in a bowl just before serving and serve the lamb neck on the risotto, with some of the reduced braising liquor poured over, garnished with the mint gremolata (if using).
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