We think of the traditional Irish menu of corned beef and cabbage, but Irish Stew is just as grounded in the culture. Ireland is not a huge nation, and keeping sheep makes sense in their economy of conservation. You can buy lamb at Sprouts in Tucson, where the meat is clean and reasonably-priced.
I would not buy a leg of lamb and cut it up for this recipe, because the cost would be prohibitive. The best thing to do is buy lamb shoulder chops, which are not particularly tender, and cut them into stew meat. Any bones that come along with the chops can be put into purified water and cooked for a couple of hours to make something of a lamb broth, by the way.
To give the stew an Irish air, you can find baby red potatoes and cook them whole in the stew, and they will come out at pretty much the same time as chunked carrots if you cut them about the same size. Aside from that, you are going to need to chop an onion and you are just about there! Lamb Stew, or Irish Stew, can be as simple as the classic beef stew. When you cook it you can also augment the lamb broth (or chicken or vegetable broth or plain water) with beer. Get as classy as you like for that--an Irish brand or dark beer or stout or whatever you like. In cooking with beer, follow the wine guideline: don't cook with any beer that you would not like to enjoy by itself from a glass.
Do not overcook red potatoes because their cheerful pink exterior can degenerate into gray--like cooked red onions--the longer they are in the heat. This is the reason why I don't cook with red onions myself. I consider them to be much better in sandwiches and salads. I keep pricking the little potatoes to be sure that I get them off the boil as soon as they are tender as well.
Stews are so simple, basically, that most of them can be made in a slow cooker. For that reason I am providing a recipe that will save power and, in the case of Southern Arizona, keep the kitchen cooler because we don't have to turn on the oven.
SLOW COOKED IRISH STEW
2-1/2 cups lamb or chicken broth
3 carrots, scraped and sliced
2 onions, diced
1 pound baby red potatoes, whole and unpeeled
2 pounds lamb neck pieces or shoulder chops, trimmed
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
finely chopped parsley, for garnish
Place the broth into a saucepan and bring it to a boil, or use the hot broth that you have prepared. Put all the vegetables in the slow cooker; arrange the lamb on top.
Add the boiling stock, salt and pepper to taste. Cook for 3-1/2 to 4-1/2 hours on HIGH or 7 to 9 hours on LOW. Taste for seasoning before you serve.
A traditional accompaniment to this recipe would be Irish Soda Bread, which we will look at soon in an upcoming article.