Happy Saint Patrick’s Day! I confess I don’t know a lot about the real dishes of Ireland; the dishes people grew up eating around their family tables. I only know that around here, people eat corned beef and cabbage and drink copious amounts of Guiness Stout. In order to do something a little more authentic than four leaf clover shaped cookies, I consulted my fabulous and too-far-away friend, Elisha Clarke on some of her favorite Irish dishes. Elisha was born and raised in Ireland and TODAY is her birthday! I very much feel the luck of the Irish because I know her! She is an amazing photographer and I hope one day I can go hang out with her in Ireland and see first hand the beauty she gets to photograph every day.
When I asked her about dishes she grew up loving, she listed five or so and Irish stew actually wasn’t one of her favorites, haha. But then she sent me a link to a cute, Irish celebrity chef doing this stew on Jaime Oliver’s show and he made it look so simple and delicious, I had to try it! It came together easily and as it cooked for over an hour, I had time to relax with my family! As I took the first bite, I was immediately transported to my own dining table as a child. My mom made beef stew quite often and would let it simmer on the stove while we were at church. I always loved it and she served it with saltine crackers that we’d crush up into our stew. Tasting this very similar Irish lamb version made me smile – thousands of miles separate the humble meals of working class Americans and working class Irish, yet we are instantly connected by a warm meal. Elisha mentioned that her country has very poor origins and so therefore, the traditional dishes are very humble in nature. I think all the best dishes in any culture originate from people making the best of what they have been given. My family did it, Elisha’s family did it, and if I were to guess, I’d say that probably most of you could relate to that story, as well. A simple bowl of warm stew on a cold evening can comfort and connect family and friends, no matter how far apart.
Irish Lamb Stew*
2 TBS vegetable oil
2lb 3oz lamb shoulder, trimmed and cut into 1 inch chunks (could also use beef chuck roast)
2 onions, peeled and roughly chopped
3 celery stalks, trimmed and sliced
1 bay leaf
4 large carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
4 1/2 cups beef stock
2 lbs potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch slices
3 TBS butter cut into small cubes
salt and ground black pepper to taste
slices of country bread, to serve
Place a large, flameproof casserole pot over a high heat, add 1 tablespoon of the oil and brown the lamb pieces in two batches. Remove and set aside on a plate. Reduce the heat to medium–high, add another tablespoon of oil and fry the onion, celery and carrot for 4–6 minutes or until the onions have softened.
Preheat the oven to 325F. Return the meat to the pot, along with the bay leaf and stock, season with kosher salt and ground black pepper and bring to the boil. Remove from the heat and push the slices of potato down into and across the top of the stew, dot with the butter and give a final seasoning of sea salt and ground black pepper. Cover and place in the oven to cook for about 1½ hours or until the meat is tender, then remove the lid and cook for a further 10 minutes until the potatoes have browned.
Serve the stew in deep bowls with crusty, buttered bread to mop up all the juices! Happy Saint Patrick’s Day!
*minimally adapted from Donal Skehan’s beautiful recipe