Irish Lamb and Barley Stew

*Irish Lamb and Barley Stew*
Serves 4

A delicious stew that cooks either on top of the stove or in the slow cooker.

2 TBS olive oil
1 kg (2 pounds) diced lamb shoulder
1 large onion, peeled and chopped
2 medium carrots, peeled and chopped coarsely
2 sticks of celery, trimmed and chopped coarsely
1 large parsnip, peeled and chopped coarsely
1/2 small swede, peeled and chopped coarsely
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
1 litre of chicken stock (4 cups)
1/2 litre of boiling water (2 cups)
200g of pearl barley (1 cup)
4 sprigs of fresh thyme
3 medium potatoes, peeled and chopped coarsely
1/2 of a small savoy cabbage, finely shredded
a handful of flat leaf parsely, coarsely chopped

Heat half of the oil in a large saucepan; cook the lamb, in batches until browned.  Remove from the pan.  Add the remaining oil and heat.  Add the vegetables and cook, stirring occasionally until they begin to soften.  Return the lamb to the pan, along with the stock, water, barley and thyme.  Bring to the boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook, for 1 hour, covered.  Add the potato and simmer for 20 minutes, uncovered, until tender.  Add the cabbage and simmer for about 10 minutes longer, uncovered, or just until the cabbage is tender.  Discard the thyme.  Serve the stew ladled out into heated bowls and sprinkled with the parsley.

Note: if using the slow cooker, brown the meat and vegetables and then put them into the cooker along with the barley, hot stock and water and the herbs.  Cover and cook on low for 4 to 5 hours.  Add the potatoes and recover.  Cook on high for 35 to 40 minutes.  Add the cabbage and cook, uncovered on high for 10 to 15 minutes.