Don’t let the word stew fool you.
This is not a bowl to enjoy cosily by the fireside, this is a light and springy bowl to enjoy in the last few moments of sun in the garden over a glass of cold wine.
The flavour profile is quite tangled, but in the best way.
The hot mustard is calmed by the sweet honey, both bolstered by the thyme and garlic spiked broth but it’s the roast lemons, with their sweet and sour scorch, that bring edge and piquancy to this dish.
When you roast them, their bitterness is almost candied but they still retain a sourly cheek sucking pinch, so when you spoon them around your bowl, they infuse the stew with an intense. honeyed tang.
I became obsessed with this sprightly character of a bowl when I was giving my cupboards a go-through when my vegan friend came over one day, and was something I could calmly pull together while she sat on my kitchen countertop and put the world to rights with a glass of wine.
But then she reminded me that honey is not vegan so, I pivoted and made a version of this using 100% maple syrup in place of the honey and found it equally as good, so this can easily be made vegan for those who need it.
However, if you can’t be bothered to go down the roast lemon route, you could just squeeze a little lemon juice into the stew at the end. It will taste sharper than the inclusion of the roast lemons, but it’s a welcome tang rather than an invasion.
But if you want to go full-throttle lemon but not roast them, you could finely chop some preserved lemons instead and add them to the stew instead.
Serves 4 – 6
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 clove garlic
Enough fresh thyme to give you a teaspoon’s worth
1 x 240g can chickpeas
150g pearl barley
2 litres vegetable stock
2 teaspoons hot English mustard
1 teaspoon honey
150g frozen peas
2 – 3 spring onions
A handful of fresh parsley – chopped
- Preheat the oven to 190°C.
- Slice the lemon into thin slices and lay them flat on the roasting tray. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil and sprinkle over a generous amount of salt. Leave to one side while you start on your stew.
- Slice the courgette into half-moons, by that I mean one long slice down the centre to split it in two and then diagonally down to create a handful of slices, and then warm the remaining tablespoon of olive oil on a medium heat in a large pot that comes with a lid.
- Add the courgette into the pan, add a little salt and pepper, the thyme and grate in the garlic with a fine grater. Cook the courgette for 5 – 10 minutes so that it starts to soften.
- Drain the chickpeas and add them to the pot.
- Tip the pearl barley into a sieve or colander and suspend it under some running tap water, just to rinse off a little of the starch. Not an essential step but not rinsing the barley first will give your stew a thicker consistency. Add the barley to the pot.
- Pour in the vegetable stock along with the mustard and the honey and bring the pot to the boil. Turn the heat down low, bring the pot to a simmer and clamp on a lid.
- Now add your tray of lemons into the oven and leave both lemons and stew to do what they need to do for 35 minutes but take the lemons out of the oven around the 20-minute mark once they are golden and caramelised, charred in some parts. Leave them on their tray on the countertop until you serve.
- Tip the peas into the stew pot, put the lid back on and cook for a further 5 – 6 minutes.
- Take the pot off the heat, remove the lid and let stand for 5 minutes just to cool.
- Serve in bowls with some freshly snipped spring onions, a dousing of fresh parsley and a few slices of the roasted lemon.