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Heat the slow cooker if necessary, then heat the oil in a frying pan. Sizzle the bacon until crisp, tip into the slow-cooker pot, then brown the chunks of lamb in the pan. Transfer to the slow-cooker pot along with the thyme, onions, carrots, potatoes, stock, bay leaves and enough water to cover the lamb. Cover and cook on Low for 7 hrs.
Stir in the pearl barley and leek, and cook on High for 1 hr more until the pearl barley is tender.
Stir in the butter, season and serve scooped straight from the dish.