Ballymaloe Irish Stew

In her Ballymaloe Cookbook (1977), Myrtle Allen discusses the question of carrots in the Irish Stew – everyone she asked says they did put them in. Her mother did, as did everyone in Shanagarry. It seems to have been common practice in the south and Myrtle noted that they were used as far north as Tipperary. She continues: ‘Originally, we made Irish Stew by putting alternate layers of onions, carrots, potatoes and meat in a pot. It was seasoned, covered with water and stewed gently for 2 hours. Very simple and enjoyable.’ Later on when my children were small, a good woman called Madge Dolan came to cook for us and brought us a new and better version, which is the basis of our current recipe.

Cut the chops in 2 or 3 pieces, if large, and trim off some of the excess fat. Place the trimmed-off fatty pieces in a heavy pan and cook over a gentle heat so that the fat runs out. Discard the solid bits that remain.

Peel the onions and scrape or thinly peel the carrots (if they are young, you could leave some of the green stalk on the onion and carrot). Cut the carrots into large chunks, or, if they are young, leave them whole. If the onions are large, cut them small; if small, they are best left whole.

Toss the meat in the hot fat in the pan until it is slightly brown. Transfer the meat into a casserole, then quickly toss the onions and carrots in the fat. Build the meat, carrots and onions up in layers in the casserole, carefully seasoning each layer with pepper and salt. Pour the stock into the pan, stir to dissolve the caramelised deposits and pour into the casserole. Peel the potatoes and lay them on top, so they will steam while the stew cooks. Season the potatoes. Add a sprig of thyme and bring to the boil on top of the stove. Cover and transfer to a moderate oven (180ºC/350ºF/Gas Mark 4) or allow to simmer on top of the stove until the stew is cooked. This will take about 1–1 1/2 hours, depending on whether the stew is being made with lamb or mutton. The meat should be fork tender and almost falling off the bone.

When the stew is cooked, pour off the cooking liquid and skim off the fat. Reheat the liquid in another saucepan. Slightly thicken it with a little roux if you like. Check the seasoning, then add the chopped parsley and chives and pour it back over the stew. Bring it back up to boiling point and serve direct from the pot or in a large pottery dish.

Serves 4–6

Download the the Ballymaloe Irish Stew recipe as a PDF

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