Irish Stew

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The Potato Year: 300 Classic Recipes

The Potato Year

By Lucy Madden

Published 2015

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How very rarely one eats a good Irish stew โ€“ so often there is too much liquid or it is spoiled by the inclusion of carrots or barley. Eliza Acton says that the potatoes should be cooked to a mash, but I prefer to do as suggested by Paul and Jeanne Rankin of Roscoffs, Belfast, and use half of the potatoes to thicken the stew and the other half eaten whole. (I also follow their recommendation to add cream to the finished stew, but purists may disregard this.) Early recipes for Irish stew sometimes include mushroom ketchup, ham and celery, but I donโ€™t think these improve it.


  • 2 lb (900 g) potatoes, peeled
  • 2 lb (900 g) neck chops of lamb, trimmed of all fat and gristle
  • 1 lb (450 g) onions, sliced
  • 1 tablespoon chopped parsley
  • 1 bay leaf
  • A sprig of thyme
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 pints (1.1 litres) good meat stock (approx.)
  • 10 fl oz (275 ml) cream (optional)


Layer half the potatoes, the lamb and the onions in a deep pan with the seasonings and cover with the stock. Bring to the boil, cover and simmer for about 1 hour and 15 minutes. Shake the pan vigorously to break up the potatoes and then add the remaining potatoes. You may need to add more stock at this stage.

The cooking time will depend on the quality of the meat. Remove the lid for the last half hour to allow the sauce to reduce. Add the cream, if using, to the stew to heat just before serving.

โ€˜On the following day the parson expressed his kindness in a more liberal way, and desirโ€™d us to dine with him: we had but one dish for entertainment, and that so crammed with such varieties of Godโ€™s creatures that this dish seemโ€™d to me to be the first chapter of Genesis: there was such beef, mutton, goatโ€™s and kidโ€™s flesh, bacon, roots, etc. โ€ฆ and this was one point of their husbandry, to boyle all together to save charges.โ€™

Written in 1673, from Scenes from Irish Clerical Life by R. Wyse Jackson, published 1941.

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