Monday, 2 January 2012

My Irish Stew

And so it begins...

I want to start my blog with a recipe that’s true to the place where I am working, that’s simple yet versatile because that is how I would like to work. I want to create food that represents its context and celebrates our local producers. This is the food of the people and as chefs it is our job to interpret these dishes and hopefully herald a revival of Irish cuisine. As a culture we are inclined to emphasise the liquid aspect of socialising and have slowly begun to forget our culinary heritage. Brought about by the ease of travel and transportation of goods, the dialogue between our native ingredients and those of other countries is something to be praised, however, I believe it is our own ingredients and dishes that should be pushed to the forefront.

Looking outside I think that the current weather situation warrants a dish like this, something comforting, something warming. This serves 2-3 people depending on how hungry you are, so adjust the measurements to suit your needs.

However cliché you might think it is to start a food blog based in Ireland on Irish stew, this truly is one of our national dishes but many people actually don’t know how to make it. It must be made with lamb and must include potatoes and onions. Anything else you add afterwards makes this dish your own. Here I’ve added carrots for their wonderful sweetness and pearl barley which helps enrich the liquid and adds a nice textural quality to the dish.

Enjoy making this dish! After all, cooking is an essential life skill. If you can’t feed yourself, well then, you’re kind of screwed! Having to resort to eating fast and convenient food the whole time will no doubt lead to you becoming a fat homogeneous mess and nobody wants that! So all I can say is get cooking and enjoy the learning process as it will stand to you in years to come!

My Irish Stew

You will need:
1-1½ Lbs of lamb chops                                        ½ pint water                      
4 carrots                                                           1 fresh sprig of thyme
4-5 medium to large potatoes                               2-3 tablespoons of pearl barley
4 medium sized onions                                         salt and pepper to taste
1½ pints chicken stock                                         chopped chive to garnish

1.    Skin the potatoes. If they are large, cut them in half. If not, keep them whole. Set aside.
2.    Peel and roughly chop the carrots. You want them nice and chunky as this is supposed to be quite a rustic dish. Set aside.
3.    Once peeled, remove the rootlets from the bases of the onions. Next, quarter the onions from the base so as to keep all the layers together. Set aside.
4.     Prepare the stock. If using stock cubes use 1 cube per ¾ pint.
5.    Next, trip the chops of their fat. Keep this fat though as it will be used in the next step. Chop the lamb into bite size pieces.
6.    In a frying pan render the fat to make the cooking ‘oil’ for the meat.
7.    On a high heat brown off the lamb pieces in the pan of fat. Allow the juices to caramelise on the meat as this adds a lot of flavour.
8.     Now add the stock, lamb, vegetables and thyme sprig to a casserole dish and simmer for 1½ hours. About half way through the cooking add the pearl barley. This helps thicken the liquid and adding the barley half way through ensures they still have a bit of texture when served. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
9.     To serve, spoon the stew into a deep bowl. If you wish, garnish with chopped chives. Serve with soda bread spread thick with butter.


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