According to Theodora FitzGibbon, the undisputed diva of Irish cooking, “the pure flavour [of Irish stew] is spoilt if carrots, turnips or pearl barley are added, or if it is too liquid. A good Irish stew should be thick and creamy, not swimming in juice like soup.” Most modern recipes, however, call for carrots, and in many Irish pub versions, the Irish stew usually includes carrots along with turnips. Originally, Irish stew was made with mutton and cooked for hours to tenderize it “(no farmer would be so foolhardy as to use his lambs for it).” Nowadays, mutton is harder to find, and lamb is usually used, which makes it possible to cook the stew in less time. Sometimes (though not in a traditional recipe) bacon is added and the lamb is browned in the bacon fat before adding the other ingredients. There are lots of potatoes in Irish stew, as they are used to thicken it, however, it is easier to mix a can of condensed French onion soup with flour and stir it in; it enhances the flavor and there’s no need to mash some of the potatoes and mix them with the broth.
The following Slow Cooker Irish Stew, adapted from a recipe in Theodora FitzGibbon’s classic cookbook, “A Taste of Ireland,” is made in the slow cooker so that hands-on time is minimal. The lamb chunks are browned in bacon fat before layering in the slow cooker, but purists can skip this step – the bacon adds a rich flavor. Potatoes, onions, and optional carrots are layered with the lamb; fresh thyme and parsley are the only flavorings except salt and pepper. Serve the stew with freshly baked Irish Oatmeal Potato Bread if there’s time, or with delicious Irish Soda Bread to dip in the rich gravy. Salad is optional but very nice.
3 slices bacon, chopped, (optional)
3 pounds lamb shoulder, sliced 1/2 inch thick and cut into cubes - fat removed
3 pounds potatoes, sliced into 1/4" slices
1 tablespoon fresh thyme, finely chopped
1 tablespoon fresh parsley, finely chopped
salt and freshly ground pepper
2 large onions, peeled and sliced
3 carrots, sliced, (optional)
1 cup water
2 teaspoons beef bouillon granules or paste, (optional)
1 10 3/4 ounce can condensed French onion soup
1/4 cup flour
1/4 cup water
- Cook the bacon, if using, in a large skillet until crisp.
- Remove the bacon from the skillet and brown the lamb chunks in the bacon fat; if not using bacon, skip this step.
- Layer half of the potatoes in the bottom of a 3-5 quart slow cooker.
- Sprinkle with half of the thyme and half of the parsley.
- Sprinkle with a generous amount of salt and pepper.
- Spread half of the lamb cubes over the potatoes, add salt and pepper, and top with half of the sliced carrots (if using), and half of the sliced onions.
- Mix the water and beef bouillon, if using (Ms. FitzGibbon just uses plain water) and pour over the onions.
- Cover the slow cooker, turn to the low setting, and let cook 4-6 hours, or until the vegetables are tender.
- Mix the soup, flour, and 1/4 cup water in a gravy shaker until no lumps of flour remain; stir it into the stew.
- Let the stew continue to cook 15 minutes or until thickened.
Amount Per Serving
Calories 410 Calories from Fat 107
Percent Total Calories From: Fat 26% Protein 29% Carb. 45%
Nutrient Amount per Serving
Total Fat 12 g
Saturated Fat 4 g
Cholesterol 84 mg
Sodium 294 mg
Total Carbohydrate 46 g
Dietary Fiber 2 g
Sugars 0 g
Protein 30 g
Vitamin A 4% Vitamin C 42% Calcium 0% Iron 25%