You don’t need to be in Ireland to enjoy this flavorful, traditional Irish Stew recipe.
And it doesn’t need to be St. Patrick’s Day, although it would be uniquely appropriate for that evening meal. You can enjoy this classic Irish dish anywhere and anytime.
Here’s some information you might find interesting, along with recipes you can use if you’re inspired to make it yourself.
Sometimes the quickest way to learn a new recipe is to see it on video. Ed's version is not exactly the same as the recipe below, but as we like to say - variety is a good thing! Please enjoy the video, then let us know what you think!
Some would say a traditional Irish stew recipe consists of whatever leftovers are available, but technically that’s untrue.
Traditional Irish stew is a flavorful, hearty but simple meal typically consisting of lamb, potatoes, onions and other ingredients. A bit of parsley or turnip is often tossed in.
Irish stew has always been based on lamb/mutton, potato and onion. These were the ingredients that were cheap and available to Irish farmers who based their living on sheep and root crops.
Sheep have always been a big food source in Ireland, and before the Irish potato famine, potatoes were the island’s main food crop. So, this meal evolved out of the specific foods that were widely available, even to the poor.
Food was often scarce, and it was necessary to use trimmings that would otherwise be discarded (neck bones and so forth) to make the stew. If simmered long enough, the shreds of meat on these trimmings created a delicious stock.
The stock was thickened and made tastier and more filling by adding potatoes and onions. If they were available, carrots, turnips, parsnips, parsley and/or barley were tossed in for additional flavor and nutrition.
Stew is eaten in other countries, of course, but the use of lamb or mutton is what makes this type so uniquely Irish. In many other countries – such as the United States, for example – the stew meat is typically beef.
In the old days, stew was cooked in cauldrons hung over open fires - the Irish poor didn’t have fancy stoves or ovens. Its ingredients are boiled and then simmered slowly for hours to soften and remove the meat from the stringy, tough mutton or lamb necks.
Some recipes have transformed this traditional poor-man’s dinner into something much more elaborate than ballymaloe. In fact, some recipes create such a savory delight that they almost bring this dish into the world of gourmet food - almost.
And some versions substitute a different meat for the lamb or mutton. Those versions might be delicious, but without the lamb or mutton, they’re not the traditional Irish version.
Essentially every Irish household has its own recipe, but here are three to choose from. The first creates a traditional ballymaloe for 6 and takes about 2 hours from start to finish.
Adding some Guinness stout to the broth alters this Irish stew recipe's flavor and makes it less traditional, but it certainly creates a delicious meal.
Serve with Irish soda bread (to mop up the stew’s stock) and a pint of Guinness.
One of the easiest and most enjoyable ways to live your Irish side is
to serve Irish food. We have many, many more Irish recipes for you to explore in our section on Irish food recipes!
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