Got Stew?

It’s my opinion that you learn a culture through the food and the language. Well my language skills aren’t as good as some but my cooking skills are better than average. So when a reader, Sophie from Australia, asked me to share a recipe for Irish Stew I took advantage of the learning experience. It turns out that as far as I could discern that almost every country on this earth has some version of stew in their culinary repertoire.

iCookMake it Stout!

A stew is typically prepared with some form of meat and vegetables cooked in liquid and served in the resulting gravy. This is kind of a broad interpretation leaves a lot of room for the creative nature of mankind. Here in Kentucky there is a stew commonly served called Burgoo and it is typically made with wild game and root vegetables. It’s generally prepared communally and is similar to Irish or Brunswick stew. I hear there is even a Burgoo festival held outside of Lexington, Kentucky.

Irish stew is traditionally prepared with lamb, carrots, potatoes, and barley. The recipe today is seasoned with salt, pepper, thyme, chicken stock and stout. Yes, I said stout which is a dark full bodied ale made with roasted Malt or Barley. As the stew cooks, all these ingredients impart some flavor to the resulting dish.

Bread on the side

iCookNow that you have prepared a delicious and hearty stew, what do you serve with it? Well that depends on the stew. Most stews are a stand-a-lone meal so all you really need is some form of bread to soak up the gravy left in the bowl. In these parts, it’s typically corn bread or corn muffins. We also make a version of fried corn bread called Hoe cakes which also work well in this example.

Irish stew could be served with corn bread but I think a better pairing would be some Irish Soda Bread.  Soda bread is fairly easy to make and you don’t have to worry about yeasts. The soda is your leavening agent so you don’t have to wait long before baking. You can prepare the stew and while it’s simmering, whip up a batch of Irish soda bread. 

Thanks to my readers for some of the recent suggestions. Please keep them coming. Next week, I think we are going for a bit of Indonesian flavor with coconut rice and chicken. Live, Laugh, Love and Eat Well.

Irish Stew


Serves 6

Prep time: 45 min

Total time: 2 hr 45 min

  • 4 LBS lamb shoulder, cubed (I used leg of lamb and trimmed out the sinew)
  • 1 ½ tsp kosher salt
  • ½ tsp fresh ground black pepper
  • ¼ cup vegetable oil
  • 24 pearl onions, peeled, root ends trimmed (I substituted 1 large chopped onion)
  • 2 medium carrots, cut into ½ inch pieces
  • ½ cup dried pearled barley (look in the rice and grains section of the grocery)
  • 3 cups chicken stock or water (use stock for richer flavor)
  • 2 cups of Stout (I like Guinness)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 TBSP chopped fresh thyme leaves (I used about 1 ½ tsp dried thyme leaves)
  • 12 new potatoes, cut in half (I like red potatoes for this dish)
  • ¼ cup finely chopped parsley for garnish
  • 1 TBSP finely chopped fresh chives for garnish

Heat a 12-quart pot with a lid over medium high heat and add the vegetable oil. Working in small batches, sauté the lamb until golden brown. Set aside. Add the onion, carrots, and barley to the pot.  Stir to coat, about 1 minute. Add the chicken stock, stout, bay leaf, and thyme to the pot. Return the lamb to the pot, place the potatoes on top and bring to a simmer. Cover and cook for 1 ½ to 2 hours or until lamb is fork tender.

Season with salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with parsley and chives and serve with Irish Soda Bread.

Irish Soda Bread

  • 2 cups whole wheat bread flour
  • 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour, plus some for dusting
  • ½ cup old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 2 TBSP brown sugar
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 3 TBSP unsalted butter, cold
  • 1 ½ cup buttermilk
  • 1 egg

Preheat oven to 350F. In a large bowl, combine the flours, oats, brown sugar, salt, baking soda and baking powder. Grate the cold butter into the dry ingredients and blend by hand until the mixture resembles cornmeal.

In a small bowl, whisk together the buttermilk and egg. Use your hands to mix the wet and dry ingredients together until a dough can be formed into a ball.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 5 minutes until soft and elastic. Shape the dough into a round loaf, about 6 inches in diameter. Place on a parchment lined baking sheet. 

Dust the top of the loaf with flour. Use a sharp knife to cut an “X” into the dough, about half the depth of the loaf to within 1 inch of the edge. Bake for 45 to 50 minute or until sounds hollow when the bottom is tapped.