Irish stew

Knock knock!
Who’s there?
Irish stew.
Irish stew who?
Irish stew in the name of the law!

Apologies. I had an overwhelming desire to share one of my favourite childhood jokes from the classic Ha Ha Bonk Book. Whenever Irish stew is mentioned, I hear the joke in my head. Right, so now I’ve got that out of my system, on with the food…

I was recently inspired to experiment with mutton after reading a couple of newspaper articles. So after stocking up the freezer with various cuts, my first foray into cooking this delicious but much-maligned meat saw me creating a wonderfully aromatic mutton curry.

Next I wanted to try something a little more traditional. And what could be a more traditional use for mutton than Ireland’s national dish, Irish Stew?

I found the recipe below in the rather wonderful The Silver Spoon cookbook. I know, I know. Slightly strange to turn to the Italians for an Irish dish, but I love the fact you can look up any ingredient in The Silver Spoon and you’ll find what to do with it.

What immediately struck me was just how simple this recipe is. Apparently purists use only mutton, potatoes, onions and water, and perhaps a few herbs. It was hard to resist the temptation to add just a little something, even if it were just a couple of carrots. But resist I did, and good job too as it really doesn’t need anything else.

Despite the mutton having quite a strong flavour (it’s almost gamey), the whole family really liked this dish and so I will be cooking it again.

If you can’t get hold of mutton, try using lamb instead.

Irish Stew

Serves 4

800g mutton, cut into cubes
800g potatoes, thinly sliced
3 onions, thinly sliced
1 tbsp chopped thyme
2 tbsp chopped flat leaf parsley
1 bay leaf
salt and pepper

In a large casserole arrange alternate layers of mutton, potatoes and onions, seasoning each layer with salt, pepper and herbs as you go. Add the bay leaf and pour in just enough water to cover.

Bring to the boil over a high heat. Cover, lower the heat and simmer for 1¼ hours until tender. (Or, like me, leave in the bottom oven of the Aga for an afternoon.)

And that’s it. Couldn’t be easier. Enjoy with a big hunk of buttered bread.

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