Slow-cooked Irish stew

Slow-cooked Irish stew

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(26 ratings)

Prep: 20 mins Cook: 8 hrs


Serves 6

Middle neck or scrag end of lamb are flavoursome cuts and perfect for braising. This traditional casserole contains filling pearl barley, too

Nutrition and extra info

  • Freezable
  • Easily halved

Nutrition: per serving

  • kcal673
  • fat39g
  • saturates16g
  • carbs40g
  • sugars11g
  • fibre7g
  • protein40g
  • salt1.4g
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  • 1 tbsp sunflower oil
    Sunflower oil

    Sunflower oil

    Sunflower oil is made from pressing sunflower seeds and extracting the oil. It's usually…

  • 200g smoked streaky bacon, preferably in one piece, skinned and cut into chunks
  • 900g cheap stewing lamb like middle neck or scrag (ask at your butcher counter), cut into large chunks



    A lamb is a sheep that is under 1 year old; between 1 and 2 years old you will find it sold as…

  • small bunch thyme


    This popular herb grows in Europe, especially the Mediterranean, and is a member of the mint…

  • 3 onions, thickly sliced



    Onions are endlessly versatile and an essential ingredient in countless recipes. Native to Asia…

  • 5 carrots, cut into big chunks



    The carrot, with its distinctive bright orange colour, is one of the most versatile root…

  • 6 medium potatoes, cut into big chunks



    The world's favourite root vegetable, the potato comes in innumerable varieties. A member of…

  • 700ml lamb stock
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 85g pearl barley
  • 1 large leek, washed and cut into chunks



    Like garlic and onion, leeks are a member of the allium family, but have their own distinct…

  • small knob of butter



    Butter is a dairy product made from separating whole milk or cream into fat and…


  1. 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.

  2. Stir in the pearl barley and leek, and cook on High for 1 hr more until the pearl barley is tender.

  3. Stir in the butter, season and serve scooped straight from the dish.

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Comments, questions and tips

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Iryna Stegniy's picture
Iryna Stegniy
27th Feb, 2020
It is a really easy and nice dish. I cook it regularly. I just add everything to the slow cooker and go to work. And in the evening, my family and I have a tasty and healthy dinner! My menu for St Patrick’s Day
22nd Jan, 2019
A little bland, but I guess you can add salt and pepper to your liking. I must have a huge slow cooker as I still had loads of space at the top! Found that it coated my mouth a bit with the fat, but I think that's the nature of the lamb. Was yummy this is a winner in my house, proper good food on a cold night
13th Jan, 2019
Lovely. Stuck to the recipe and it worked very well. The gravy is thin (it’s supposed to be) and delicious mopped up with buttered soda bread (recipe on this website). You do need a larger (6 litre) slow cooker for this. We have loads left over after feeding 4 adults and 4 children.
2nd Jan, 2019
This was lovely, I used beef and beef stock rather than lamb. For those who had trouble with the consistency being too liquid make sure you use 'Floury' potatoes as the extra starch in these thickens the gravy, Also, if you are not using barley reduce the liquid as again the barley thickens the gravy, mine was quite liquid until I added the barley. Like all stews tastes better the next day but there is definitely enough to feed more than 6 people.
12th Oct, 2018
Really nice and really worth waiting 8 hours for. Very tasty.
15th Mar, 2017
I found this a bit bland, but then I suppose Irish stew traditionally was a cheap dish, not a gourmet delight. I ended up using 3 lamb stock cubes and then a beef one too, to try and give it more flavour. Also put some cornflour in near the end as it was too watery. It did however taste nicer the next day when I had it for lunch. I've got a large slow cooker and it only just about fitted - you could halve the recipe if cooking for only 3 or 4 people. It says it feeds 6 but I think you could easily get 8 out of it as it stands.
22nd Sep, 2017
How much water did you put in it? I don't like stews watery how could it be thickened?
17th Mar, 2019
Add some floury potatoes to the recipe. They will break down when cooking and thicken the recipe nicely. I add c. 2 decent sized flurry potatoes in with the waxy ones.
17th Apr, 2016
This was lovely although I had to change the method a bit because my slow cooker wasn't big enough to fit everything in. I left out the potatoes, leeks and pearl barley while the rest cooked in the slow cooker for 8 hours. The next day I transferred everything from the slow cooker to a casserole and added the potatoes (having boiled them for 10 minutes), leeks and pearl barley. The oven was about 150 and the last 30 minutes I left the lid off to slightly colour the stew. Delicious.
27th Feb, 2016
This was so tasty, I made it for my sister who had been poorly and she cleared the bowl! I added 3 cloves of garlic and ground pepper to the recipe for extra flavour.


22nd Sep, 2017
With it being in the slow cooker how much water do you need? I don't like stews runny, how could it be made less watery? Thankyou.
6th Oct, 2014
Would you be able to substitute Quinoa for the pearl barley to make it gluten free - would that work?
22nd Mar, 2017
A good base recipe and very adaptable. I used what I had in the cupboards instead of buying new ingredients. So I halved the recipe to cook for 4. Used beef instead of Lamb. Changed lamb stock to vegetable stock. Added 3 pimento allspice seeds, salt and pepper to taste. Changed barley seeds to a can of pale lager. I had no slow cooker, after boiling in a pot, reduced the heat and simmered in low heat for 2-3 hours or until the beef was soft. Tasted great!
2nd May, 2016
Judging by the comments about there being too big a quantity to fit in the slow cooker I decided to halve the ingredients. I have a 3.3 litre slow cooker and even with half the ingredients it was full so would recommend checking the capacity of your slow cooker first. Also, I added a couple of sticks of finely chopped celery to add more flavour and finished with a few teaspoonfuls of instant lamb gravy granules to thicken the gravy slightly. Very moreish!
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