For me what makes Irish stew Irish is first of all the lamb. And while many stews use root vegetables, for an Irish stew you'll want some parsnip or turnip in there. Add the Worcestershire sauce and some ale and you've got it. Don't forget lots of potatoes.
My secret to a great stew is keeping the vegetables out for the first half of the cooking. That way you get the long, slow cooked flavor and tenderness in the meat and broth, without mushy vegetables. You can do this on the stove if you prefer, just keep the stew at a low simmer.
Oven to 325
1 lb lamb, cut in bite sized pieces
1 to 2 Tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, peeled, halved and thickly sliced
3 cups beef stock
1/2 bottle of beer or ale
1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
2 bay leaves
salt and fresh pepper
2 or 3 parsnips, peeled and sliced
3 or 4 small or 2 large carrots, peeled and sliced
4 red skinned potatoes, peeled, halved and thickly sliced
- Heat the olive oil in a heavy bottomed stew pot over medium high heat and brown the lamb on all sides. Do this in 2 batches. Remove the lamb and set aside.
- Brown the onions in the same pot with the lamb drippings.
- Add the meat back into the pan along with the stock, beer, bay leaves, salt and pepper. Bring up to a simmer.
- Cover the pot and put in the oven for an hour.
- Add the vegetables to the pot along with sprigs of fresh thyme tied in a bundle (or pick off the leaves). There should be enough broth to almost cover the vegetables. If not, add more stock or water. Cook for another hour.
- Check seasoning and serve with lots of fresh chopped parsley.
My version of Irish stew does not have a thick sauce, but there is a lot of it. Do as the Irish do and smash some of the potatoes as you eat to sop up the rich broth. I don't love soda bread, which is often paired with a stew like this, so I'm going to serve ours with savory scones...recipe to come.