Irish stew is a celebrated Irish dish, yet its composition is a matter of dispute. Purists maintain that the only acceptable and traditional ingredients are neck mutton chops or kid, potatoes, onions, and water. Others would add such items as carrots, turnips, and pearl barley; but the purists maintain that they spoil the true flavour of the dish. The ingredients are boiled and simmered slowly for up to two hours. Mutton was the dominant ingredient because the economic importance of sheep lay in their wool and milk produce and this ensured that only old or economically non-viable animals ended up in the cooking pot, where they needed hours of slow cooking. Irish stew is the product of a culinary tradition that relied almost exclusively on cooking over an open fire. It seems that Irish stew was recognized as early as about 1800.
Davidson, Alan. (2006). Oxford Companion to Food. Oxford: Oxford University Press
- 2 tbsp vegetable oil
- 500g mutton or lamb cutlets (bone removed) cut into 5cm chunks
- 2 tbsp plain flour
- 1 kg potatoes, peeled and cut into quarters
- 1 onion, roughly chopped
- 100g leeks, cleaned and finely sliced
- 2 large carrots, roughly chopped
- 750 ml beef stock
- 2 or 3 cabbage leaves, thinly sliced (optional)
- Salt and Pepper
- Heat a tablespoon of the oil to hot. Add half the lamb pieces and brown all over.
- Place the lamb with tongs and place in a casserole, cover with a half of the quartered potatoes, onions, leeks and carrots.
- Add the remaining oil to the frying pan, brown the remaining lamb, add to casserole dish and cover with the remaining vegetables.
- Add the flour to the frying pan and stir well to soak up any fat and juices. Cook on a gentle heat for 3 minutes then add stock a ladle at a time until you have a thick, lump-free sauce. Pour over the lamb and vegetables.
- Add the remaining stock to the casserole dish , cover and cook in the oven for 1 hour.
- Add the cabbage (if using) replace the lid and cook for another hour. Check from time to time to make sure the stock isn’t reducing too much, if it is add a little boiling water. The meat and vegetables should always be covered by liquid. If the sauce is too runny at the end, you can always cook a little longer with the lid removed.
- Season with salt and pepper.
- Serve hot with crusty bread or on rice.