As a child my idea of Irish stew was that thick grey gloop that used to come in a tin. When you opened the tin the stew would come out in one piece and stand up in the pot still in the shape of the tin. It really wasn’t good and I don’t want to think about what was in it to make it that distinctive grey colour. Then on a trip to the Isle of Man to visit my family I experienced the real thing. We were at an event with my great-Aunt, it was at a hotel on the promenade and it all seemed very posh to me. I don’t remember the starter or the dessert but I do remember the wonderful bowl of steaming meaty stew that was served as the main course. The meat fell to pieces as I tried to spear it with my fork; the carrots and potatoes were soft and infused with the juices of the lamb and the broth was perfect for soaking up with thick slices of buttery bread. I have tried to replicate this dish many times but have never succeeded. But perhaps as with many things from our childhood that we remember through rose tinted glasses it probably wasn’t that good just as I’m sure that every summer holiday from my childhood wasn’t rain free.
Here is my version of a traditional Irish stew. It is easy to prepare and cook and if there is any left it freezes well for up to 3 months. Enjoy with a side of peas and cabbage, some crusty bread and a bottle of red.
- 500g lamb neck fillet – trim off any thick pieces of fat or sinew and dice into 2cm pieces
- 2 onions – thickly sliced
- 6 carrots – sliced on the diagonal into 2cm pieces
- 3 waxy potatoes – sliced into 2cm chunks
- 4 turnips – quartered
- 4tbsp pearl barley
- 1 sprig thyme
- 1 bay leaf
- 1.5l lamb stock
- Salt & pepper to season
- 1 tbsp parsley
Put everything except for the potatoes and salt & pepper in a large pot. Cook the stew on a very low heat for 1 ½ hrs.
Add the potatoes by placing them on the top of the stew, do not stir in. Cook for an hour.
Season the stew with the salt & pepper and top with the parsley. Serve on its own or with some hot buttery soda bread and green vegetables.