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.
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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.
More Traditional Irish Recipes
Try these recipes the next time you want to try some traditional Irish food, definitely save this for St. Patricks Day.
- Colcannon – A traditional mashed potato recipe made with cabbage or kale.
- Boxty – A potato pancake similar to a latke.
- Irish Stew – Lamb and potato stew, hearty and tasty.
- Irish Soda Bread – A dense, easy bread that bakes quickly without the need for rise times.
- Champ – Another amazing mashed potato recipe with green onions, buttermilk, butter and cheese.
- Haggis Neeps and Tatties – Although not originally an Irish food, I first ate this in Dublin so I thought you would like to explore this Scottish traditional recipe.
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
If you love soup as much as I do and need to feed a crowd, check out Cocido Madrileno Recipe for inspiration.
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