Traditional Irish Stew recipe
There’s nothing more meat-and-potatoes than a traditional Irish stew. In fact, that’s pretty much all there is to the recipe: lamb and potatoes. It’s easy, hearty comfort food–maybe not elegant, but honest and straightforward. I asked my Irish friends for traditional dishes they associated with St. Patrick’s day. This family recipe comes from Isolde O’Neill, and she describes it as “simply delicious!”
As good as it is, this dish is often treated badly. On the Internet especially, you’ll find recipes that use beef (wrong–it must be lamb) or Guinness (no–use water or, if you must, stock). Others add tomato paste, garlic, or even hot sauce to tart it up. These may all make for tasty stews, but they aren’t traditional Irish stews. As well, in an Irish stew the meat is not browned and the stock is not thickened, so the result is soupier than we’re used to.
Our tastes have moved far in the last generation to food that’s boldly flavoured, complex, garlicky and spicy, so a recipe that is none of those things is almost radical. Honest old-fashioned cooking is now exotic cuisine.
What will you be eating and drinking on St. Patrick’s Day?
Traditional Irish Stew
2 lbs lamb shoulder arm chops (1 kg) (See Tip below)
8 medium Russet potatoes, peeled and quartered
1 large onion, thinly sliced
1/2 tsp salt (2 ml)
1/2 tsp pepper (2 ml)
1 sprig thyme
3 tbsp chopped parsley (45 ml)
1. Trim excess fat from the chops. Cut into 2 or 3 pieces each. Peel the potatoes and cut into quarters. Slice onion thinly.
2. Place half the potatoes in a large pot or Dutch oven. Layer the meat, onion, salt, pepper, and thyme on top, then cover with remaining potatoes. Add just enough water to barely cover potatoes.
3. Cover pot with a well-fitting lid and bring stew to a boil over medium heat. Reduce heat and simmer for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, or cook in a preheated 330°F (170°C) oven for 2 hours.
4. Scatter parsley over stew and serve. Serves 6-8.
The original recipe calls for gigot lamb chops, which is the Irish term for shoulder arm chops. It’s the foreleg, cut across the bone. My butcher didn’t have any of the chops on hand, but he had a young lamb forequarter (foreleg, shoulder and neck), which he cut into cubes for me. Just as Alice of the Brady Bunch knew, it really is worth making friends with your butcher.