Irish Stew

Irish Stew is one of the most widely known of Irish country dishes. It is ideal for a warming nutritious dish for young people coming home from school, hungry and tired in this season of early Spring. The meat used was originally mutton or older sheep which required long slow cooking to tenderise the meat. To day we use meat from the shoulder or neck of lamb. Kid was also used. Stewing beef is now also used and when used it is browned quickly on a hot pan to seal in the juices. This is not as traditional as the other meats. Basically Irish stew is made with the cheapest and most readily available ingredients, meat, onions potato. Many people also add sliced carrots to the stew, but these are thought not to have been part of the original ingredients but they also add flavour. I also enjoy the flavour of leeks and celery in the stew so go ahead use the vegetables that are easily available. Irish Stew was traditionally served with wild mushroom ketchup, pickled red cabbage and white soda bread. A glass of porter is the recommended beverage to complement the stew.

Ingredients

1kg / 2lbs of rack or shoulder of lamb
4 large onions
2 leeks washed and cut into 1"rings
sticks of celery cut into 1/2 pieces
1 tablespoon of garlic chives chopped
1kg / 2lbs of potatoes
1 tablespoon of chopped parsley and fresh thyme
1small sprig of rosemary
Salt and freshly ground pepper
400ml / 1pt cold water or light lamb stock
To garnish:
chopped fresh parsley and julienne of carrots

Method:
Wipe meat and remove fat and gristle from meat Wash and peel potatoes. Slice two potatoes into thin slices. Keep the remainder whole or cut in two if too big. Remove skin from onion and slice into narrow rings. Prepare other vegetables by washing and slicing into narrow strips. Lightly grease a heavy based saucepan with oil to prevent ingredients sticking to the base. Line the base with the sliced potatoes. Top this with a layer of prepared meat then add a layer of onion rings, leek and celery. Tie herbs together in a bouquet garni and place on top. Continue with the layers finishing with the herbs. Add stock or water and bring to the boil and simmer gently for one hour.
Top with the potatoes and simmer again until the potatoes are cooked approx. 20 minutes. The liquid should be reduced by half to resemble gravy.
Alternatively the stew can be cooked in the oven at 160C/325F/Gas mark 3. This will take about 2 hours to cook. Cover the dish for the first 1/ ½ hours and then remove the cover to brown the potatoes for the last half an hour.

To serve:
Serve on a plate or large soup dish with the meat in the centre topped with the vegetables and surround with the potatoes. Pour some liquid over and garnish with parsley and julienne of carrots and white soda bread to mop up the juices.

Julienne of carrots
Wash skin and cut carrots in 2" lengths. Cut into even sized batons. Put into boiling salted water and cook until still crunchy about 3 minutes. Drain. Toss in melted butter and serve with the stew.



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