St. Patrick’s Day is coming up fast, so I thought I would write a recipe for Irish stew. Stewing is an ancient method of cooking meats that is common throughout the world. However, the Celts did not possess their first bronze cauldrons (copied from the Greeks) until the beginning of 7th century BC. After the Celtic invasion of Ireland, the cauldron (along with spit, which stew is cooked over the same open fire) became the dominant cooking tool in ancient Ireland, ovens being practically unknown to the ancient Gaels. The root vegetables and meat (originally goat) for the stew were then all in place. It may be important to point out that potato was not included in the original Irish diet; they weren’t brought over from the Americas by the early the European explorers until the 15th century AD.
Stew is another great make-in-bulk recipe that can be easily frozen portioned out in freezer bags for those lazy to cook nights. Eat it with a nice chunk of bread or served over steaming mashed potatoes for a heartier dish. Some purists maintain that the only ingredients of an Irish stew should be muttonchops or young goat, potatoes, onions and water. Other people will say you can add such ingredients as parsnips or carrots and pearl barley for example.
Serves about 6 people
2 medium-sized onions, chopped
Oil, for frying
1 sprig dried thyme
2 1/2 pounds best end of lamb neck, cut into large pieces
7 carrots, chopped lengthways into 2-inch pieces
2 tablespoons pearl barley
5 cups chicken stock, recipe follows
Salt, preferable sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 bouquet garni (parsley, thyme, and bay leaf tied with kitchen string or tied in a cheesecloth like a purse)
12 medium potatoes
1 bunch parsley, leaves finely chopped
1 bunch chives, chopped or left whole depending on garnish preference
In a large heavy-bottomed saucepan, cook the onions in oil and butter, on medium-high heat until they are translucent. Add the dried thyme and stir. Add the lamb and brown on a high heat to seal in juices. Add carrots, and pearl barley. Pour in the chicken stock so that it almost covers the meat and vegetables. Season with salt and pepper, and add Bouquet garni. Cover and cook on low heat for 2 hours, being careful not to boil. Place potatoes on top of the stew, cover and cook for 30 minutes until the meat is falling beautifully off the bones and the potatoes are fork tender.
Serve the stew in large flat soup bowls, and place a pad of herb butter over the potatoes and let it melt into the stew or garnish with parsley and chives.
1 Chicken carcass or 2-3 pounds of legs and wings bones and joints
2Tbls olive oil
3 carrots, roughly chopped
3 stalks celery, roughly chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Preheat the stockpot. Combine vegetables in a large heavy-bottomed saucepan with a little oil and brown vegetables and bay leaf. Add the chicken and water until it is just covering the chicken. Bring to boil and gently simmer for approximately 30 minutes, so not stir. Then let it cool down and skim off the fat and strain out vegetables and meat
1 stick butter
1 small bunch parsley, finely chopped
1 small bunch chives, finely chopped
1 sprig thyme
Place butter in a mixer and blend until smooth. Add herbs and mix until all is well combined. Form into a log using plastic wrap and slice into desired sizes.
Photos courtesy of Getting images