Darina Allen’s Ballymaloe Irish Stew

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Ballymaloe Irish Stew

Another classic one-pot dish. The recipe varies from region to region—in Cork, carrots are a quintessential addition, not so in parts of Ulster. Pearl barley is another favorite option, originally added to bulk up the stew. You’ll need to add extra stock (1 1/4 to 2 1/2 cups) if you include it, as it guzzles liquid, but it becomes deliciously plump and flavorful.

Serves 4 to 6

  • 3 pounds center-cut lamb leg steaks, no less than 1 inch thick
  • 8 medium or 12 pearl onions, peeled
  • 12 baby carrots, peeled and cut into large chunks
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons dry pearl barley (optional)
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 1/2 to 4 1/4 cups homemade lamb stock or water
  • 8 to 12 large potatoes, or more if desired, peeled
  • 1 thyme sprig
  • 1 tablespoon roux (see below—optional)
  • 1 tablespoon freshly chopped parsley
  • 1 tablespoon freshly chopped chives

For the roux: 

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) salted butter
  • 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour, or 1/3 cup cornstarch and 1/3 cup rice flour for a gluten-free roux

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F, if you plan to finish cooking the stew in the oven.

Cut the lamb steaks in half and trim off some of the excess fat. Set aside. In a heavy skillet, render the lamb fat over gentle heat (discard the rendered-down pieces).

Toss the meat in the hot fat in the pan until it is slightly brown, then transfer to a Dutch oven. Quickly toss the onions and carrots in the fat, and the pearl barley if using. Build up the meat, carrots, and onions (plus pearl barley if using) in layers in the pot, carefully seasoning each layer with freshly ground pepper and salt. Deglaze the skillet with the lamb stock or water, bring to a boil, and pour into the pot. Lay the potatoes on top of the stew (they will steam while the stew cooks). Season the potatoes, add the thyme, and bring to a boil on the stovetop. Cover with a wax paper lid and the pot lid. Transfer to the oven or let simmer on the stovetop until the lamb is tender, about 1 1/2 hours.

Make the roux: In a saucepan, melt the butter and cook the all-purpose flour or cornstarch and rice flour in it for 2 minutes over low heat, stirring occasionally. Roux can be stored and used as required or it can be prepared on the spot. It will keep for at least 2 weeks in the refrigerator.

When the stew is cooked, pour off the cooking liquid, degrease, and reheat in another saucepan. Thicken slightly by whisking in the tablespoon of roux. Check the seasoning, then add half the freshly chopped parsley and chives. Pour over the meat and vegetables. Bring the stew back up to a boil and serve from the pot or in a large ceramic dish sprinkled with the remaining chopped herbs. Serve in deep plates with lots of good Irish butter.

Reprinted with permission from “Simply Delicious: The Classic Collection” by Darina Allen. Published by Kyle Books. 



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