I love soup all year long but in the Winter when it starts getting colder, I really crave this traditional thick and hearty Irish stew with lamb. The potatoes and carrots & lamb swimming in the thick gravy is a stick-to-your ribs kind of comfort that really warms you from the inside.
This authentic stew is quite healthy in a cooked-from-scratch kind of way. There are only a few ingredients in this easy recipe and it stews for up to 2 hours, making a stew with very tender meat and thick gravy. This recipe can easily be cooked in a crockpot or slow cooker.
Why Is Irish Stew Traditional?
Traditional Irish Stew is an invention out of frugality. As early as 1800, the Irish have been making some sort of mutton stew when the sheep were no longer needed, usually because of a drop in the fleece market. Sheep are cute pets but expensive to feed over the Winter if they are no longer economically viable. Mary’s little lamb
becomes Sunday dinner goes off to live in another pasture.
As with most traditional folk recipes, the recipes varied from house to house, depending heavily on what was available more than from personal tastes. Mutton and root vegetables were common to all recipes, the aromatics changed a bit as did the method for thickening the stew.
There are common techniques for how Irish stew is made. A large soup pot is used and either all of the ingredients are dumped in all at once or the French method is used by searing the meat first on high heat, then adding the rest of the ingredients.
By searing the meat first, you can take advantage of the Maillard reaction where the proteins in the meat react to the high heat and leave a ‘fond’ on the bottom of the pan. This fond can be carefully cultivated into a flavorful addition to any recipe. In this recipe, the meat is removed and the vegetables are added to ‘de-glaze’ the pan, followed by the addition of the remaining ingredients. The 2 hour stew time allows the flavors to fully develop ant the meat to tenderize.
Parsley and/or thyme seem to be common herbs in most recipes and only salt and pepper are used for the spices. This is a stew where the vegetables and lamb are the real stars. The addition of turnips or cabbage can further add flavor with the absence of spices.
While mutton or lamb is the traditional meat for Irish Stew, some people prefer beef.
This stew is a clean eating, close to the earth recipe which makes it very healthy in my honest opinion.
What Sides To Serve With Irish Stew?
My favorite side for any soup or stew is a good bread. For traditional Irish stew I like to serve with soda bread, it’s a good, authentic match. I like soda bread either fresh from the oven with a knob of real, salted butter or toasted with a smear of real, salted butter.
You can also serve this with traditional Irish Colcannon, for the recipe click here!
Common sides include biscuits, brussel sprouts, cabbage or buttered noodles with parsley.
What Wine To Serve With Irish Stew?
If you aren’t going with Guinness Stout, an option could be a robust, red wine.
My favorite reds for a dish like this include Chianti (Colli Senesi a Sangiovese), Syrah (Northern Rhone), Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Malbec. I have read that a Southern Italian Aglianico is good with this too, I just haven’t had that wine before. If you have, let me know how this would go with Irish stew by leaving a comment below. We all want to know!
For Italian wines I look for the DOCG or DOC label around the neck of the bottle. These wines meet a stricter criteria and are usually very good. I go for the $15-$30 range with these wines. One exception are some of the Tuscan wines that have the IGT classification, known as the ‘Super Tuscans’, they would normally meet the strict criteria but have opted for a lower classification in order to be able to experiment more.
As for Malbec, there hasn’t been one costing over $12 that I haven’t liked.
With Chianti, Merlot or Cabernet, I am open to suggestions on how to choose one. Do you have a method for choosing one of these wines that has been helpful? If so, please leave a comment. Let’s take the mystery out of choosing a wine together.
I hope you enjoy this easy and healthy Irish recipe. Do you have a favorite Irish food or beer?
“May your pockets be heavy and your heart be light,
May good luck pursue you each morning and night.” -Irish Blessing
Traditional Easy Irish Stew Made Easy & Authentic with Lamb. This hearty stew with a thick gravy sauce can be made in a slow cooker or crockpot, perfect for dinner on a cold Winters’ day. Make this for the family or for a crowd, this recipe easily scales up or down.
- 1 lb lamb (I used shoulder blade), cut into bite sized pieces, including any bones
- 1 large white or yellow onion, peeled and sliced into large rings
- 2 large carrots, chopped into bite sized pieces
- 2 celery stalks, cut in half
- 3 cups of chopped red or waxy potatoes, cut into bite sized pieces
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 tsp of fresh thyme (may use 1/2 tsp dried)
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp black pepper
- 4-6 cups of water
- 1/4 cup of potato flakes (instant mash potatoes)
- green onions, parsley or chives
- In a large soup pot, add oil and heat over medium-high heat. Add lamb and sear on each side, remove from pot and set aside.
- In pot, add onions and carrots, stirring vigorously while scraping the bottom of the pan. Be careful not to burn the fond on the bottom, if it seems like it might burn, add some water to help scrape the brown bits.
- Add the remaining ingredients except the potato flakes, reduce heat to low and simmer for 1.5-2 hours, until meat is tender. Some cuts of meat are tougher than others, may need to stew longer. Shoulder meat is more tender than leg of lamb.
- Remove celery stalks, bay leaves and bones, discard.
- Add potato flakes and simmer 5 more minutes. Garnish and serve with Irish soda bread.
- May substitute other meats, lamb is traditional.
- Other options for thickening stew include making a slurry with cornstarch/water, flour/water, tapioca flour/water and adding at the beginning of the simmering step.
- Adding cabbage or turnips can add a different flavor profile but is still traditional in Irish cooking.