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Lentil and Barley “Shepherd’s” Pie

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Lentil and Barley “Shepherd’s Pie 

By Diana Earnshaw

Serves 3 hungry people with green veg on the side.

Pot Barley

The history of cultivated barley dates back around 10,000 years around the Middle East. As barley is tolerant of the milder UK climate, it has been grown here for around 5,000 years. First grown as cattle fodder, it then gained popularity as a fermented drink (barley beer) and then as a food crop.

When cooked properly, pot barley has a chewy texture (pearl barley less so but it also has less flavour and nutrients) and pleasant nutty flavour. As with all grains, it is best to soak it overnight but preferably up to 24 hours. This helps neutralise the “antinutrients” (the substances contained in seeds to prevent overconsumption by birds and animals before germination) contained in the outside of the grain and makes it easier to digest. When assessing how much is needed, remember that one cup of barley will make three cups after cooking.

Rinse the grain. Soak in water overnight then rinse again. Simmer in three times the volume of broth or salted water to barley, for around 40 minutes until the desired texture is reached and most of the water has gone. Serve as a base for a curry or casserole or leave to cool and create a salad in a similar way to tabbouleh. Or just serve it as an accompaniment to a meal with a good knob of butter and some fresh herbs. Why not cook double the amount you need, cool and freeze for another time?

Barley contains minerals such as selenium and phosphorous, B vitamins and lots of fibre.


  • 1¼  cups water
  • ½ cup red lentils
  • ¼ cup pot barley
  • 1 grated carrot
  • 1 medium onion finely chopped
  • Knob butter or tablespoon olive oil*
  • 1 cup chopped tomatoes
  • Herbs of choice
  • Salt and pepper
  • Mashed potatoes and grated cheese* for the topping

*Use olive oil and omit cheese for vegan option


  1. Cook barley and lentils together until soft.
  2. Sweat the carrots and onions in the oil or butter until soft, then add tomatoes and simmer until reduced a little.
  3. Add herbs, salt, pepper and the barley mixture. Stir.
  4. Put into a pie dish.
  5. Top with mashed potatoes and grated cheese.
  6. Bake for ½ hour at 180 degrees until browned.

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