Lamb and Barley Porridge


Preparation info

  • Difficulty


  • Serves


Appears in


By David Dale and Somer Sivrioglu

Published 2015

  • About

Keşkek is now served at village weddings all over Anatolia, but it originated with the Yörük people (nomadic Turks from Central Asia). For the authentic version, you’d need a brass pot as big as a bathtub, a bonfire, and 200 single men with thick pounding poles. Traditionally, a whole sheep or cow is boiled with pearl barley, then pulled out of the pot so the bones can be removed, then put back in and pounded for about an hour by the single men of the village until it becomes a paste. This recipe is a compromise.


  • 1 kg (2 lb 4 oz) pearl barley
  • 1 lamb neck, about 1 kg (2 lb 4 oz)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 onions
  • 1 tablespoon sunflower oil
  • 3 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Tomato Sauce

  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste (to make your own)
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano


Cover the barley with water and soak for 8 hours.

Cut the lamb neck into four pieces and place in a large saucepan with the barley. Cover with water, bring to the boil and then cook for 1½ hours, or until the barley and meat are tender.

Scoop out the pieces of neck and remove the bones. Shred the meat. Strain the barley and combine it with the meat in a large bowl. Add the salt.

Dice the onions. Heat the sunflower oil in a frying pan over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté for 5 minutes, until translucent. Add the onion to the meat and barley, and pound the mixture with a wooden spoon until it reaches a paste-like consistency.

To make the sauce, melt the butter in a frying pan over low heat. Stir in the tomato paste, salt, pepper and oregano. When it sizzles, remove the pan from the heat.

Serve the keşkek in a big bowl in the middle of the table for people to help themselves. Pour the melted butter over the top and sprinkle on the cinnamon.