I love cooking lamb stew (or stew of any kind for that matter). The scent of the bubbling meat stock on the kitchen stove warms my insides as soon as I walk in the door from doing farm chores. I chop all the veggies in the morning after breakfast and begin the stewing process. After lunch, I add all the extra veggies that I have already cut up and cook the stew until the veggies are just done. I let the pot sit and cool on the stove to develop the flavor. It is always better the second day.
Traditional Irish lamb stew does not contain any vegetables but potatoes, onions, and leeks. I’m not a traditional girl so I add some great winter storage root crops including carrots and turnips. They add an interesting texture to the stew and a bit of color since it can verge on mushy and brown.
Potato Notes: It’s nice to use a mix of both a floury potato (traditional bakers including Russet and Idaho) and a waxier potato (Yukon Gold and small reds). Add the floury potatoes in the beginning of the stew. They will fall apart and make the sauce thick. I add the waxy potatoes with the rest of the vegetables and only cook them until they are just done so they will hold their shape.
I use lamb stock as my liquid but I’m a sheep farmer and frequently have leftover bones to cook up a good flavorful stock. You can substitute water or beef or chicken stock for your liquid. A bottle of Guinness might add an interesting flavor. Feel free to use more lamb if you want a meatier, chewier stew. The small amount of meat in this recipe will give great flavor but if you’ve got a house full of die-hard carnivores, use at least 2 pounds of lamb.
What You Will Need to make Irish Lamb Stew for 6 people:
1 to 1 1/2 lb. Leyden Glen Farm lamb stew meat or 1/2 lamb shoulder (bone-in)
2 small to medium onions
1 1/2 lbs. potatoes (see potato notes above)
1 small to medium turnip
salt and pepper
2 T. olive oil
16 oz. water, lamb stock or beef stock
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1 bay leaf
Chop the onions. Heat the 2 tablespoons olive oil in a soup pot and brown the onions until translucent. Remove and reserve the onions leaving a bit of the juice in the bottom of the pot. Add the lamb and brown. Add salt and pepper. Remove the fat if your lamb is too fatty. The fat from the lamb will add flavor but too much isn’t pleasant.
Step One: Peel and dice the potatoes. I like to dice the floury potatoes small and leave the waxy ones in larger chunks. When the lamb is brown, add half the potatoes (use the smaller floury potato dice) and the reserved cooked onions. Add your liquid of choice (water, stock or beer) and dried thyme and bay leaf. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a very low simmer. Cook for 1 1/2 to two hours. It may be necessary to add more water to avoid scorching. By the end of the cooking time, the potatoes should have disintegrated and become the thickener for the stewy-sauce. If they haven’t, use a potato masher and squash them down to thicken the stew.
Step Two: In the meantime, peel the carrots and turnips. Cut into chunks about an inch square. Add the remaining waxy potatoes, carrots and turnips to the stew and cook until the newly added vegetables are to your liking. A half hour usually does it for me. Some people like their veggies more whole and crunchy and some like them mushier. You decide!
Crock Pot Instructions: If you want to use a crock pot, throw all Step One ingredients into the crock pot and cook until the meat is tender. On top of your stove, cook the remaining vegetables in water until they are as you like them. Drain them and set aside. About 1/2 hour before you are to eat, add the cooked veggies to the crock pot, turn it to high and finish it all up.
For either version: Correct the seasonings and if you have time, let the stew sit overnight to develop the flavor. A sprinkling of chopped parsley adds a nice bit of color and will make your stew more appealing. Serve with a green salad, a loaf of crunchy bread and a pint of Guinness.