|Leprechaun gnome hiding in mug|
As I wrote yesterday, when looking at a new recipe, most particularly one from a specific ethnicity, I try to get all the information about the background as possible before actually creating a recipe. I may or not accede to all the strictures, but I make my decisions from an informed standpoint. Hopefully. Again, looking up traditional recipes and background, I learned that firstly, the traditional meat is mutton. The peasant Irish would have kept the sheep until other uses were no longer viable (milk, wool) and then the animal might be butchered, and voila, mutton. Nowadays, mutton is hard to come by, so the most selected meat to use is lamb shoulder. I only had access to what is available in my freezer. Either I cut up another leg of lamb, or use the stew-type cut called chislic in these parts. Unfortunately, chislic comes with an excessive amount of fat, so I spent time cutting as much off as possible.
In general, recipes for Irish Lamb Stew abound. There are recipes from many famous chefs as well as others like me, writing a blog and learning. Many of the recipes I read online called for using a dark beer such as Guinness Stout for some, if not all, the cooking liquid. I thought, "What a great idea!" And then when I came to read some admonitions about what an Irish peasant may have done long ago, using beer in their stew was absolutely not done. Much like with using butter in the Soda Bread, where the thought was that they'd rather slather butter on the finished bread than waste it in the recipe - the same goes for beer. Beer in the stew? Heavens no, they would rather drink it, when available. It seems that a true authentic Irish stew is made with mutton, onions, potatoes and water. The additions of barley and/or carrots is argued to give the "wrong" flavors. Oh well. While I like to adhere to basics as much as possible, I do like carrots and barley, so I opted to use them.
|Irish Lamb Stew and Brown Bread|
This required browning, and the only oil I keep is olive, which I do not believe would give a traditional flavor, much as I love olive oil! Browning in butter would just burn the butter, so I scrapped that idea. Instead, I used bacon fat. Maybe not traditional, but then neither is browning! One thing that occurred while browning the dredged meat: a LOT of fond. It was so dark, though not - quite - burned, that when I added in a bit of water to loosen it up, it created the most beautiful, and beautifully fragrant, base for the stew. I added onion and garlic to this mixture and stewed them for about 20 minutes while prepping the other ingredients. The whole pot, once assembled, smelled heavenly.
|Nicely thickened Irish Stew|
I had planned to make a small pot of lamb stock to use as the liquid in the stew. And then I forgot. I had one bone from a leg of lamb just waiting in the freezer, so I pulled it out this morning and set it in a 375 degree oven for an hour to brown it. This bone I set into the center of the stew pot, to hopefully also lend its magical flavors. I am anticipating a wonderfully redolent pot of stew for dinner tonight, with some flavorful Brown Bread alongside.
|My Irish Lamb Stew|
Irish Lamb Stewserves 6 to 8
2 pounds lamb shoulder meat, or other lamb stew meat
1/2 cup flour, for dredging
1 teaspoon salt
few grinds of pepper
2 tablespoons bacon fat, or other oil
1 cup water or beef stock
1 large onion, cubed
1 - 2 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups celery, sliced
1 1/2 cups peeled, sliced carrots
1/2 cup chopped parsley
1/4 cup long-cooking barley
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves, chopped
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon salt
more pepper if desired
5 cups water or stock
2 pounds potatoes
Too many ingredients? Maybe. This stew suited my husband and me just fine, regardless.
My passion is to teach people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and help pass along my love and joy of food, both simple and exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. I would love to hear from you, to help me continue my journey to explore diverse culinary experiences and hopefully to start you on a journey of your own. Join me at A Harmony of Flavors Website and Marketplace, Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.