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Irish Stew




Lately I have had a hankering for a lamb stew.  Lamb was not something I had really eaten until I moved over here to the UK. My one and only experience with it had been one time when my mother cooked lamb chops. They smelled like burning mittens when they were cooking. None of us liked them.  My ex also was not fond of lamb, so it wasn't anything I had much experience in tasting or cooking.


For our wedding meal, the members of our church congregation took us out to a pub for supper and we could order anything we wanted from the menu.  There was Roasted Saddle of Lamb on the menu and so I decided to throw caution to the wind and I ordered it. It could have gone so badly, but happily it didn't.  I fell in love with lamb right then and there and I have been enjoying a loving relationship with it ever since!


This stew that I am showing you here today is a very simple one, but when you think about it, traditional Irish food is really very simple.  There is a great history of poverty in Ireland for its people.  They would not have had meat very often, and in fact, the potato was their main form of sustenance through the years.  They learned to cook simple foods and make them taste really good.  This is a simple stew that uses simple ingredients and I don't mind telling you, it is the most delicious stew I make.  We both love it.


I used diced leg of lamb for this the other day.  I picked it up at the local butchers and had them trim all of the fat from it that they could.  This is then quite simply browned in a bit of oil.  I put the lamb on to brown while I am prepping the vegetables.  That way I tend to forget about it, which means it gets nicely browned without me worrying it every few minutes and stirring it about. (One of the secrets to any good stew made with red meat, is in a good and proper browning. The meat won't brown nicely if you keep moving it about.)



The vegetables used are simple.  Carrots. Celery. Onion. Potatoes. That's it. Nothing more and nothing less.  I used lamb stock cubes to make the stock.  Lamb stock is not normally something I keep in the freezer.  If you can't get lamb stock, feel free to use chicken stock.


You will want to brown the meat really well . . .  so you get all of those caramelized lamb juices to flavour the stew with.  There is really no other flavourings, save salt and pepper.  I add a couple of sprigs of thyme, but traditionally there would have been no herbs added.


Once you get the meat nicely browned, you add the chopped vegetables and you sweat them for a bit in the drippings from having cooked the lamb.  More flavour.  Don't discard any of those drippings.  They are what's going to give your stew it's flavour and colour.


Once you have sweated and lightly caramelized the vegetables, throw in the sprigs of thyme and return the lamb to the pot, along with its juices.  Again  . . .  flavour, and every little bit counts. This gets covered in stock. 


At the last you cover the top of the stew with thick slices of potato. You can keep the potato in rounds if they are small, or cut them into half moons if your potatoes are larger.   A light seasoning with salt and black pepper, and dotting with butter,is all you have left to do.  Just tightly cover it and then bake it in a slow oven.  Your oven will do the work, and you will be rewarded at the end with probably one of the tastiest stews you would ever want to eat!  Crusty bread  is a must to soak up all those lovely juices!




*Irish Stew*
Serves 4
This is quite simply delicious. 

1 pound lamb stewing meat, cut into cubes
2 TBS light olive oil
2 large carrots, peeled and chopped
2 sticks celery, peeled and chopped
1 large onion, peeled and chopped
2 sprigs of thyme
salt and black pepper
1 1/2 pounds potatoes, peeled and sliced into thick rounds
(cut into half moons if the potatoes are largish)
600ml lamb stock
1 knob of butter
chopped parsley to garnish if desired




Preheat the oven to 165*C/325*F/gas mark 3.

Heat a medium, heavy bottomed flame proof casserole (with a lid) over medium heat. Add half of the oil and heat.  Once the oil is heated, add the lamb and brown, over medium heat until well browned. Working in batches if necessary. Remove the lamb from the casserole and set aside. Add the vegetables and the remaining oil.  Cook, stirring occasionally, over medium low heat, until they have begun to soften a bit.  Return the lamb to the pot along with any juices.  Season with salt and pepper.  Add the sprigs of thyme. Pour over the lamb stock. Lay the potatoes on top covering and pushing them down a bit into the stock.  Dot with butter. 

Cover tightly.  Bake in the heated oven for 2 hours, until the meat is beautifully tender and all of the vegetables are cooked, uncovering the casserole for the last fifteen minutes to lightly brown the potatoes.  Spoon out into heated bowls to serve. Sprinkle with parsley if desired. Crusty bread goes well.



Because there are only two of us we had plenty of leftovers to enjoy the day afterwards.  There is a special magic that happens with soups and stews in that . . .  after being left overnight in the refrigerator, they always taste even better. Its a delicious alchemy that I don't comprehend, I only know is that it always happens.  This would be the perfect dish for you to cook to celebrate Saint Patrick's Day.  It would go down really well with some crusty soda bread for the main dish, and finishing off with a nice slice of my Irish Apple Cake along with some custard for dessert.  That's Saint Paddy's well sorted! Ithe sásta!! Sláinte!!




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Marie Rayner
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4 comments:

  1. I have made many beef ones even pork ones but never lamb..I never seem to buy it..looks good!!

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    Replies
    1. Oh, Lamb makes such a beautiful stew and its so delicious Monique! You need to try it! You won't be sorry! xo

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  2. Sounds delicious...but what temperature for the oven?

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    Replies
    1. Hi there! It does say in the recipe, 160*C/325*F/ gas mark 3. I hope you will try it. It's delicious! Happy Saint Patrick's Day!

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