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.
- a sharp knife
INGREDIENTS: this feeds 6 hungry people..
- 6 lamb gigot (shoulder) chops – all obvious fat removed. Bones left in,( 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
- 4 carrots, scraped and chopped into chunks.
- 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.
- 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 about 3cms from the top of the casserole, but not completely covering the contents.
- Season with salt and pepper, add rosemary, if using
- Cover with the lid, and place into the oven at 140 degrees fan for 2 hours or so. 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 before serving.
- Serve as it is, or with some wheaten http://eatingforireland.com/recipe/jonnys-nannys-wheaten-bread/ or crusty bread to mop it up.
- 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!
- 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. The best solution is to cut it up 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 as before, then she took the lid off the casserole about 30 minutes before serving, brushed on a little melted butter 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.