Irish stew is the national dish of the Emerald Isle. It came about in the 18th century, invented by poor Irish farmers who, in times of famine, had little else to eat but potatoes and mutton, cut from sheep that were too old to produce wool, milk, or anything else of value.
Using just these simple ingredients, these resourceful folk produced a hearty and delicious dish whose virtues were extolled in a ballad from the 1800s, “Then hurrah for an Irish stew / That will stick to your belly like glue.”
Some traditionalists may insist that a real Irish stew should consist of nothing more than meat and potatoes, but this recipe takes advantage of the comforts of the modern era and adds a few more ingredients. Instead of mutton, you’ll be using beef—a well-marbled cut is ideal, as the fat makes the stew more flavorful, and the beef will become nice and tender as it cooks. And, in addition to some extra vegetables for taste (and nutrition), you’ll add a splash of extra stout Guinness, to make the stew just a little more Irish.
1 1/4 pounds well-marbled chuck beef stew meat, cut into 1 1/2-inch chunks)
3 teaspoons of salt (more to taste)
1/4 cup olive oil
6 large garlic cloves, minced
4 cups beef stock or broth
2 cups water
1 cup of Guinness extra stout
1 cup of hearty red wine
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon dried thyme
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
2 bay leaves
2 tablespoons butter
3 pounds russet potatoes, peeled, cut into 1/2-inch pieces (about 7 cups)
1 large onion, chopped (1 1/2 to 2 cups)
2 cups 1/2-inch pieces peeled carrots and/or parsnips (3 to 4 carrots or parsnips)
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
- First, brown the beef. Dust the pieces with a teaspoon of salt while you heat the olive oil in a large thick-bottomed pan on the stove top at medium-high heat. Pat the beef with paper towels until dry and place in the bottom of the pan. Don’t stir—let each piece become well-browned on one side, then use tongs to flip them over. You’ll need to do this in batches to avoid crowding; the beef won’t brown properly without space left between each piece. Place each browned piece on a plate to the side once you’ve finished. The browning process will leave a residue on the bottom of the pan—leave it, as it adds to the flavor.
- After all the beef is browned, place it all back into the pan, along with the garlic. Sauté for about 30 seconds, then stir in the beef stock, water, red wine, tomato paste, sugar, thyme, Worcestershire sauce, bay leaves, and Guinness (the recipe calls for 1 cup; dispose of the rest of the bottle as you please).
- Heat the mixture until it begins to simmer, then reduce to the lowest setting. Cover the pan and let it cook for 1 hour, stirring occasionally.
- While the stew simmers, grab a separate pan and melt the butter over medium heat. Mix in the onions and carrots and sauté for 15 minutes, or until the onions become golden. Once you’re finished sautéing, turn off the heat and put the vegetables to the side until the stew is finished simmering.
- After one hour of simmering, add the onions, carrots, and potatoes to the stew mixture. Toss in the black pepper and two teaspoons of salt. Simmer for an additional 40 minutes, uncovered, or until the beef becomes tender. Discard the bay leaves and remove excess fat from the stew with a spoon while tilting the pan.
- Add parsley, salt, and pepper to taste, and serve, or refrigerate for later.
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