There’s something so lovely about the memories of your Mother’s stew – it was the warming bowl made with love to protect you from cold days and an empty stomach. We all try to reproduce it, but it rarely seems to be exactly right so we do our best and suddenly our stews become the gold standard to our own families. That’s history, right there..
I have to confess to being a little impatient when preparing meat which has fiddly bits of fat in it, and I often use leg-of-lamb pieces. For those of us who go out to work, leg of lamb cooks much more quickly, but is expensive, and in my opinion is not quite as flavourful when used in stew. I’m going to give you my Mum’s version here, and I won’t mind in the least if you speed it up in your own fashion. Of course like all casseroles, it tastes much better the next day; so if you can manage a long slow cook the day before you need it, you’ll reap the rewards in terms of both taste and price.
- A large oven-proof casserole, with a tight-fitting lid. Or a stove-top casserole or saucepan if you prefer cooking it on the hob.
- a sharp knife
INGREDIENTS: this feeds 6 hungry people..
- 6 lamb Gigot (shoulder) chops – all obvious fat removed. Bones left in, apart from any small rib bones which could detach during cooking.( see NOTES below) and any easily accessible meat removed and cubed.
- 2 large onions, roughly chopped
- I large or two medium sized potatoes per person. See NOTES for a speedier method for cooking the potatoes if you’re short of time.
- 4 carrots, scraped and chopped into chunks – Optional – I had a discussion with the lovely gent in Martin Phillip’s butcher in Saintfield the other day, and as I was explaining my concerns about carrots in Irish Stew, he said ‘too sweet?’ That man gets me..
- a lamb stock cube (optional, the bones add a huge amount of flavour)
- Boiling water, to almost cover
- salt and pepper
- Optional: a sprig of fresh rosemary.
- Peel the potatoes, cut them into decent-sized chunks, and put half into the casserole or saucepan.
- Arrange the bones of the chops and all the meat on top of the potatoes
- Add the onions and carrots
- Top with the rest of the potatoes (see NOTES below)
- Pour over the hot stock or water until it’s nearly covering the contents.
- Season with salt and pepper, add the sprig of rosemary, if using
- Cover with the lid, and place into the oven at 140 degrees fan for 2 hours or so. Or cook on the hob on a low heat – check a couple of times to make sure it’s not boiling – for about an hour
- Test with the tip of a sharp knife to see if the potatoes are fully cooked, then check the meat separately. It should be falling off the bones. Give it an extra hour or two if you can, to really let the flavours mingle.
- Remove the rosemary sprig before serving.
- Serve as it is, or with some wheaten https://eatingforireland.com/recipe/jonnys-nannys-wheaten-bread/ or crusty bread to mop it up.
- Speedier Potatoes – Put the meat, onions and stock into the casserole and get them started in the oven (or the stove top) while you peel and cut up the potatoes as normal. Give the potatoes (plus some water) about 10-12 minutes on full in a microwave to give them a head start. Then add them to the meat etc, and continue to cook as normal.
- Some shoulder chops have little bits of rib bones attached – I don’t like to add these in case anyone chokes, especially children – the rest of the shoulder bones are all in one piece, you couldn’t swallow it if you wanted to!
- Sorry about the rant on carrots in Irish stew – it’s me, not you!! 😉
- Don’t forget that you can add any vegetables you like – root veggies would be the most traditional – so carrots, parsnip, turnips etc – probably not beets, because, you know, colour!! You can also add leeks or celery too of course.
- My local supermarket does Lamb shoulder pieces, which need a little ‘tidying-up’, but which have a great flavour despite having no bones.
- I love the subtle flavour of rosemary in this stew – but it does tend to fall apart. One solution is to chop it really finely before you add it.
- One of the things my Mum did was to cut the second lot of potatoes into thin slices and arrange them on top of the chops/onions etc and brush them with some melted butter, before cooking as before. Then about 30 minutes before serving, she removed the lid so that the top layer became lovely and crispy – we loved it. It also looks very attractive if you’re bringing it to the table.