The challenge: Everything I make in the slow cooker turns into mush.
Our solution: Choose ingredients wisely, understanding that some simply aren’t meant cook that long—especially delicate vegetables and many lean, boneless cuts of meat and poultry. Here, whole-grain hulled barley works perfectly, cooking to a pleasantly firm, chewy texture after eight hours. Pearled barley, however, would not fare so well, bloating to a mushy, unappealing texture. Also, strategize: Stir in any delicate ingredients or ones that you want to make a textural impact at the very end. For example, herbs go in at the end here to stay pungent, as well as raisins, which retain some chew.
How to Make It
Combine stock, onion, barley, apricots, tomato paste, salt, cumin, coriander, red pepper, garlic, and cinnamon sticks in a 5- to 6-quart slow cooker.
Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high. Cook lamb in 2 batches, turning occasionally, until browned on all sides, about 8 minutes. Add browned lamb to slow cooker. Cover, and cook on low 8 hours. Discard cinnamon sticks.
Turn off slow cooker; stir in cilantro, raisins, and lemon juice just before serving.