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October 8, 2007

Filed under: Uncategorized — ros @ 7:07 pm

Our new flat has some good points and some bad points.

There are a few teething problems. We still need to have our washing machine repaired and the central heating is broken, but the only real annoyance is the journey to work. When I decided to take the flat, I looked at a map and thought the walk to school looked  reasonable. It was only a touch longer than my previous walk into college. However, nobody told me about The Hill.

Most people may call it Highgate Hill, but i think of it as Highgate Mountain. It makes up little more than ten percent of my journey but takes about a quarter of the time. On my first morning I stopped, astounded just after Archway station as I faced the 35 degree incline in front of me. The first thing our Head Master said to me after I staggered into the common room that morning was “Are you alright? You look like someone who’s just come up The Hill!” 

I’m seriously considering getting a skateboard to speed up the journey home. 

On the plus side, the flat is conveniently placed so I can walk to Borough Market within 40 minutes (or bus it there in fifteen). In the case of that journey, there’s no crazy hill to slow me down. So, while i miss Kensington Whole Foods, my foodie cravings are satisfied by the Borough stalls, which is where I got myself some of Farmer Sharpe’s mutton neck.

It might seem  a bit silly to be buying slow-cook meats when I’ve got so little time in the evenings, but the advantage of this cut is that you can leave it in the oven for a few hours while you get other things done. In fact, to make good use of some mutton neck, all you need is a root vegetable or two, some herbs and some pearl barley.

Mutton Neck and Pearl Barley Stew

Serves 2 generously

  • 400g mutton neck, cut into bite sized cubes
  • 1 carrot, sliced
  • 1 medium parsnip, sliced into rounds
  • 1 small leek, thinly sliced
  • 2 large cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 handfuls pearl barley
  • 2 sprigs of rosemary
  • leaves from 2 sprigs thyme
  • 150ml lamb or vegetable stock
  • 100ml dry white wine
  • mashed potato to serve
  1. Preheat your oven to gas mark 3.  
  2. Get a frying pan really hot and brown the cubes of meat. Transfer to a casserole dish.
  3. Turn the heat down and gently fry the leeks and garlic until they are soft. Add these to the casserole.
  4. Soften the parsnips and carrot in the pan for a couple of minutes and add these to the casserole with the herbs and barley. Cover everything in the casserole dish with the stock and wine, stir the mixture to evenly distribute the ingredients, cover the casserole dish and place it in the oven for two and a half  to three hours, stirring the mixture occasionally. 
  5. Serve with mashed potato and cabbage.


Can you believe it? I wrote a recipe which only involved five steps!

This was my first attempt at what I’d call ‘proper cooking’ since I started at Highgate. Everything else in that first week had been rushed pasta jobs and take-aways. It was really good to finally have some decent food inside me again.

This was proper comfort food. After three hours, the meat will literally melt in your mouth.  The pearl barley absorbs  the juices of the casserole so you end up with a very thick gravy, which has taken on the wonderfully rich flavour of the mutton.  Mashed potato is the perfect accopaniment to this, mixed up with the barley and delicious gravy from the casserole.

Some people find mutton a little fatty, but this can be partially overcome by cooking this as a stew on the stovetop and skimming off the fat as it rises to the surface. Although this dish takes a long time to cook, it requires no attention so you can get on with other things as it sits in the oven. Lucky for me, as I had a fair bit of marking to do that day!

This will probably become a regular appearance on our dinner table this winter. if you can get your hands on some mutton or lamb neck, it is well worth a try. 


  1. Motorised shopping trolleys will be the next big thing. They will far outstrip the Sinclair C5 (it wouldn’t take much) and will not look out of place on The Hill! Maybe not, but how about a slow cooker? An easy reward, a slow cooked dinner after all that exercise but without the 3 hour wait after you’ve got in.

    Comment by Amanda (Little Foodies) — October 8, 2007 @ 11:16 pm

  2. Great winter food. Slow cookers are great, although you have to brown the meat in something else, so there’s more washing up. The other way forward is to make the casserole the day before you want it (or a couple of days), put it in the fridge. This has the advantage that you can peel off the fat in one easy go, because it will have solidified at the top. And the flavours have a chance to intensify.

    So glad you’ve settled in enough to feel you’ve got time to cook

    Best wishes

    Comment by Joanna — October 9, 2007 @ 12:02 pm

  3. Hi Ros,

    Your story really amuses me because I remember driving up highgate hill one time when I had the window down and I got a huge bit of grit in my eye while going up the steep incline. I started to seriously panic because I was in agony and literally couldn’t see out of one eye. It took me half an hour to get the grit out while badly parked by the side of the road. Bad memories of Highgate Hill! Not to put a downer on your casserole of course, which looks and sounds like my cuppa tea. Don’t you just love the way pearl barley soaks up all those flavours. I had mash potato with my lunch at work today. Here in Spain and also typically in France they use insane amounts of butter, I think it was something like 50:50 potato:butter. You know when it’s really glossy like that it’s gonna be so bad for you.

    Comment by Trig — October 9, 2007 @ 5:58 pm

  4. Hey Ros,

    My boyf. used to live near highgate and the first day he started cycling he said The Hill nearly killed him. Avoid at all costs!

    I’ve never cooked with pearl barley, but this looks perfect. And only 5 steps! Good to hear you’re settling in nicely.

    Comment by Schmoofaloof — October 12, 2007 @ 11:14 am

  5. Highgate is lovely - but I don’t envy you The Hill! On the bright side, at least you don’t have to climb The Hill at the end of the day :) The stew looks gorgeous and perfect for the chilly weather we’re having…

    Comment by Jeanne — November 15, 2007 @ 3:32 pm

  6. I have just preparing this dish, i’ve never done a stew before and found this by chance, it’s sitting in the fridge at the moment ready to cook a little later, I was quite amazed that i could get everything from my local supermarket, even the lamb neck, although the pearl barley did take some looking for.

    will let you know the results later

    Comment by stu — March 6, 2009 @ 1:39 pm

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