Citizens, attend and pay close heed:
THE IRISH ARE COMING!
Yes, the Irish care not for our self-declared “week of World pasta” and clamor for their deserved non-pasta cuisine recognition on this holy day of St Patrick!
So, out of proper respect, TFD Nation shall comply!
The classic Irish Stew (Stobhach Gaelach in Irish Gaelic – properly pronounced here) is a most appropriate recipe to share today, when everyone is suddenly Irish – but so few fail to comprehend the important traditions of this near-sacred dish!
As noted by Niamh Shields in an article on Metro.co.uk, these are the unforgivable sins when trying to make a proper Irish Stew:
1. You are using beef. No! Drop it and walk away. Irish stew is all about the lamb.
2. You are using diced lamb. Again, no. Lamb chops are what you want to use. You need those lovely bones to give your stew extra flavour. Alternatively, a good flavoursome cut that tastes better with long cooking, like neck, will do well too.
3. You are putting Guinness in it. No, no, no. Do put Guinness in a beef stew but not in an Irish stew. Just don’t do it.
4. You are putting garlic in it. Dear God, why? This is not an Italian stew, it is an Irish stew, and as much as I love garlic, it has no place here.
5. You aren’t cooking it long enough. Allow at least an hour and a half of cooking to let all of the flavours come through. Drink that Guinness you were going to put in it while you wait.
Citizens, I would also add that true Irish Stew isn’t thickened, it is more akin to a soup than a stew when properly made!
So – prepare for the wearing o’ the green, bring honor to the Saint who drove the snakes from the Emerald Isle and “Beannachtaí Lá Fhéile Phádraig daoibh go léir” (translation: All of the Blessings of St Patrick’s Day to you and yours)!
Battle on – The Generalissimo
1.5kg lamb chops on the bone, excess bone cut off by butcher
Small knob of butter
1kg carrots, peeled and chopped into chunks
1kg potatoes, peeled and cut into good size chunks
4 leeks (TFD preference), white party only, cut in ½ lengthwise, rinsed to remove sand and sliced or 4 medium onions, cut into pieces (the traditional choice)
3 cups stock – lamb stock is ideal, chicken or beef stock is acceptable
2 Bay leaves (a TFD addition and totally optional)
a sprig of thyme for cooking
A sprig of rosemary (a TFD addition, leave it out for traditionalists!)
chopped fresh parsley to garnish
sea salt and fresh cracked pepper to season
Brown the lamb chops over a medium heat in a large oven-safe (cast iron preferred) pan in the butter, and put to the side.
Sauté the leeks or onions in the fat left over from frying the meat.
Pour half the stock into the pan, turn the heat up as high as it will go and scrape the pan as the stock boils to get all the meat juices. Pour both portions of stock over the meat and onions/leeks, add the bay leaves, the optional Rosemary and the thyme. Season with a little salt and pepper. Cover and put in the oven for about 45 minutes to one hour.
Meanwhile, peel the potatoes and cut medium sized potatoes into three pieces, large ones into 4 or 5 pieces.
Remove the stew from the oven. Add the carrots, mixing them in well with the meat, then lay the potatoes over the top of the stew. Return to the oven and cook for another 45 minutes or so – check whether it is done by testing if the potatoes are cooked through.
Before serving, remove and discard the thyme and the bay leaves. Pour off the cooking liquid and leave to stand for a few minutes. This will bring the fat to the top and allow you to remove it.
You can easily do this by putting it in a bowl and laying double sheets of kitchen paper gently over the surface. They soak up the fat very well. It may take 3-4 goes to get it all away, depending on how fatty the lamb was.
Return the defatted liquid to the stew, mix the potatoes into the rest of the stew and stir in a handful of roughly chopped parsley. Return to the oven for about 10 minutes.
Note that the sauce is not thickened – if you get a stew with a thickened sauce, it may be very nice but it’s not Irish Stew!
There are two ways people deal with this delicious liquid on their dinner plate – some people mash some of the potato into it to thicken it, others leave it till the end and then mop it up with some bread.
Season to taste and serve with minced parsley on top.