How To Make An Irish Stew (Mutton/Lamb) From An Old Fashioned Family Recipe

Away on Holiday

My Mom on holiday in Durban
My Mom on holiday in Durban

Another Chidhood Recipe

This is another recipe from my childhood; I was about twelve or thirteen, at the time.

My Dad, one day surprised my mother with a holiday, I am pretty sure that this was after my mom spent ten days or so in hospital, and they went off to Durban, for a week or ten days.

My brother was sent off to spend that period with our mom's mother and I was sent to my dad's mother. We loved our grand mothers, so this was a nice experience for us, as we were on school holidays at that time as well.

My dad's mom was a rather imposing woman, a very stern face and a good six foot plus tall, an impressive bosom to match her large frame. I must admit I was rather intimidated by her, as they had only recently moved up from the centre of South Africa called the Karoo, A place called De Aar. Other than for a brief Xmas period spent there, we never really saw them all that often till now.

It had become a tradition, from the time that they moved up, that the entire family would be there for Sunday lunch, no excuses except hospitalization would be tolerated.

So you could see my trepidation in spending a whole 11 days and twelve nights with Grandpa and Grandma. I might add that even then I was the shortest, in my fathers side of the family, aunts included, strangely enough I still am.

Irish Stew

This recipe was what my Grandma made for the family supper on the day that my parents returned from their holiday, with the strict understanding that they would have first picked up my brother, so that he too would share in a full family meal.

It is a strange fact, but I do not have a single picture of my Grandma.

By the time that holiday was over I had learnt a lot from her, such as what pieces of meat where a good substitute for a more expensive cut. Some soup recipes, and most probably the most valuable one of all, how to turn those leftovers into a full meal for later.

I remember my grandma telling me the following while we were making the stew.

When this stew was being made early that last day of my holiday at Grandma's, we used mutton, as it was not the accepted norm then to use lamb.

So we actually had a more original or a true Irish stew, you would not use lamb as is the current fashion, but mutton, and then a rather old sheep at that, after its milk yielding days had passed.

Historically

This is because it is by origin, a peasants dish, that originated in the early days of the Irish tenant farmers, who would, as long as he and also his family, worked for the owner of the land, be given a shelter, of sorts, in a very tiny house, with a small parcel of soggy bog or near barren land situated on the verge of the of the farmers good farming land, fairly close to his place of work.

This parcel of land would have to be worked by the tenant farmers in there own time, and as this is what they had to survive on, they had to husband all there meager resources, and grow enough to sustain the family for the entire year, more often sharing and battering amongst the other tenant farmers around them so that they could manage to survive.

Thus potatoes was their major crop, they would have a pig, some chickens for eggs, maybe a couple of sheep if they were lucky, the rest they had to batter for go to nearby free forests, if any, and trap some hare or an occasional pheasant.

So their diet was pretty much that of potatoes with the occasional bit of mutton or hare and maybe a bit of pork and or mutton when they had to slaughter there livestock.


A bit of Ireland

A quiet Dublin street
A quiet Dublin street
Another Church or Cathederal
Another Church or Cathederal
What looks like Rome in a Dublin street
What looks like Rome in a Dublin street
Molly malone still wheels her wheelbarrow
Molly malone still wheels her wheelbarrow
A cloud bank over the seaside at Bray
A cloud bank over the seaside at Bray

Making a Stew

To make a good Irish stew, you will need a heavy cast iron pot.


Place the broad bottomed cast iron pot or saucepan on the stove with the temperature of the stove set to high.

Ingredients as it would have be made by the Tenant farmers.

1 mutton neck with meat on, sliced across the length in slice of about one and a half inch thick

6 large onions, peeled and sliced across the length into thick rings

8 to 12 potatoes, scrubbed peeled and cut along the length into thick slices

1 large Turnip (or Swede) washed peeled cut along the length into thick slices

Salt Pepper and fresh parsley to taste

1 clove of garlic, thinly sliced

Bacon fat for frying

1 ½ cups of vegetable stock, this is made from the potato and turnip peelings and off cuts of any other vegetables that has been boiled for twenty minutes then mashed and strained.

2 tablespoons of flour



Method

Once the pot is hot enough, add the bacon fat for frying, reduce the temperature of the stove. Dredge both sides the neck slices, thoroughly with the flour.

Place each slice of lamb's neck in the pot and brown on both sides, about 2 minutes per side. Remove them once properly browned, then add the next batch , repeat the process until all the neck slices have been nicely browned.

Then add some of the stock to the pot, and bring it to the boil, once boiling then reduce the heat to a brisk simmer. Place a layer of potato, onion and some turnips then cover it with a layer of meat at the bottom of the pot, cover the meat with a layer of potato, onion and some turnips, repeat with another layer of meat, potato and onions, until all the ingredients are used up. Finely chop the fresh parsley, or the dried variety, and the garlic to the balance of the stock.

Pour in the stock and cover the pot. Bring to the boil, then cover the pot, reduce the heat so that it simmers gently.

Simmer for a couple of hours, then check that there is still enough liquid in the pot, add as required.

Leave it to simmer slowly for another hour, add the salt and pepper to taste. Check to see if the meat has cooked, if not then let it simmer slowly until cooked.

Check that the meat is succulent, and comes of the bone easily.

Your stew is ready.

Most of the potatoes and onions would have combined with the fats and small bits of the mutton to form a thick sauce. This does, or should not require any aother form of thickening, as all the goodness of this dish is in the sauce.

This they served with mashed potatoes,cabbage or some homemade bread. which was baked fresh daily.


Ingredients and Serving suggestions for more modern and affluent times

2 Lambs neck, sliced across the length in slice of about one and a half inch thick

4 large onions, peeled and sliced across the length into thick rings

4 large clean potatoes, washed peeled and cut along the length into thick slices

1 large Turnip (or Swede) washed peeled cut along the length into thick slices

Salt Pepper and fresh parsley to taste

1 clove of garlic, thinly sliced

Bacon fat for frying

1 ½ cups of vegetable stock, this is made from the peelings and off cuts of any vegetables that has been boiled for twenty minutes then mashed and strained.

2 tablespoons of flour

Method

The method is the same but obviously as mutton is older and a bit tougher than lamb, a tougher the times would be a lot shorter. So reduce your cooking times accordingly.

Serve on a bed of mashed potatoes, champ or with carrots and maybe some baby marrows on the side.

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Comments 35 comments

sixtyorso profile image

sixtyorso 8 years ago from South Africa

Great hub Nice recipe. A touch of family, a touch of nostalgia and good serving of stew.


G-Ma Johnson profile image

G-Ma Johnson 8 years ago from NW in the land of the Free

Nicely done and very interesting Rodney....loved the pics as well as the recipe...Thanks,,,G-Ma :o) hugs


Constant Walker profile image

Constant Walker 8 years ago from Springfield, Oregon

Nice hub, Rodney. Ireland looks like such a charming place. Great pics!


Just_Rodney profile image

Just_Rodney 8 years ago from Johannesberg South Africa, The Gold Mine City Author

Sixty, yes it does create for a nice comfortable feeling, as well as a touch of sustenance.

G-Ma, those were taken during the 2002 soccer world cup.

Thanks both of you for the cooments.


Just_Rodney profile image

Just_Rodney 8 years ago from Johannesberg South Africa, The Gold Mine City Author

Constant, thanks for the comments, and yes Ireland is a grand place.


Princessa profile image

Princessa 8 years ago from France

I truly enjoyed the story behind your recipe. I can imaging your Grandma, an impossing lady making the most delicious meals for those family lunches. I like traditions, and a Sunday family lunch is something that should never go out of fashion.


Just_Rodney profile image

Just_Rodney 8 years ago from Johannesberg South Africa, The Gold Mine City Author

Thanks for the comment Princessa, yes Sunday Lunch should be a traditional thing.


Rosemary 8 years ago

Thank you for sharing these wonderful childhood memories. I am going to be trying the Irish stew tonight.


Just_Rodney profile image

Just_Rodney 8 years ago from Johannesberg South Africa, The Gold Mine City Author

Rosemary, Hope you enjoy both the making and the proof of course, the families enjoyment.


Karen Ellis profile image

Karen Ellis 8 years ago from Central Oregon

We are going into our fall (Autumn) weather. Does that mean you are going into Spring. I would say lucky you, but Autumn is my favorite time of year. I love the colors. Anyway, this is a perfect meal for the cooler climate that is starting to hit us. I'll put the ingredients on my shopping list. Thanks.


Just_Rodney profile image

Just_Rodney 8 years ago from Johannesberg South Africa, The Gold Mine City Author

KAren, yes we are in Spring, new life abounding, but we still have occasional cold snaps. It is still the time a stew goes down well.


NYLady profile image

NYLady 8 years ago from White Plains, NY

Hey there: Great hub. I will definitely be trying out this recipe in the winter here in New York. But it will be the modern recipe. Loved the photo of your mother. Here's to County Cork, home of my ancestors!


Just_Rodney profile image

Just_Rodney 8 years ago from Johannesberg South Africa, The Gold Mine City Author

NYLady, thanks for the comment, To County Cork, the home of ancestors, been to visit Drogheda, tis purely a magic place, the little folk live in the woods there still.


Feline Prophet profile image

Feline Prophet 7 years ago from India

It's amazing how far Irish stew has travelled...we have our own version in India! :)


Just_Rodney profile image

Just_Rodney 7 years ago from Johannesberg South Africa, The Gold Mine City Author

It is all over the world, I now realize how wide spread the ancient celtic influence is, when I researched the hub about Halloween the Pagan festival, as i venture more into it I might then try and publish some hubs on my findings. Thanks for the comments.


RGraf profile image

RGraf 7 years ago from Wisconsin

Being Irish myself, I love Irish Stew. I'll have to try this one.


Just_Rodney profile image

Just_Rodney 7 years ago from Johannesberg South Africa, The Gold Mine City Author

Rgraf, its not a sin to be hooked on a good stew in the winter months, wait till you make a good Irish stew in the middle of the summer, with 28 degrees Centigrade, then you lnow that the Irish in you is calling.

Some of my best stews have been in summer, with tempratures in the late 20's, Centigrade to be sure.


Eileen Hughes profile image

Eileen Hughes 7 years ago from Northam Western Australia

Great recipies and pics, we both like the old fashioned cooking by the looks of things. thanks for sharing


Just_Rodney profile image

Just_Rodney 7 years ago from Johannesberg South Africa, The Gold Mine City Author

We do indeed enjoy the old fashioned and taste filled meals be the from the past, or a new creation.


LondonGirl profile image

LondonGirl 7 years ago from London

the exact same recipe is, according to my Granny, Lancashire Stew (-:


Just_Rodney profile image

Just_Rodney 7 years ago from Johannesberg South Africa, The Gold Mine City Author

LondonGirl, exactly the same sort of stew that the gypsies of old made as they wondered the world.

It is there for not amazing how the same basic dish such as this lamb/mutton stew, repeats itself in most countries in the world. They of course go by different titles, and may have the addition of other local vegetables, but all these are peasant foods, using what available resources they have available.

Our early Trek Boers had similar types of dishes, these are locally called Bredies, only they would have added green beans to the pot.

Thanks for the comment. 

Bye the bye, if you page back through the comments above, you will see evidence of this in India as well.


LondonGirl profile image

LondonGirl 7 years ago from London

I should have added - it's very good, no matter what you call it!


Just_Rodney profile image

Just_Rodney 7 years ago from Johannesberg South Africa, The Gold Mine City Author

The end taste is really what matters is not.

Thanks again for the comments, I really appreciate them.


C. C. Riter 7 years ago

I like this Rod. Love the picture of Mom too. she's having fun. haha My Irish neighbor makes a great Irish stew with lamb. Love it. i like to make also with brisket, not that corned stuff either, fesh whole brisket slow cooked to perfevtion for 12-18 hours and then put some in the stew.

Hey, i can't find you on facebook under Just_Rodney.


Just_Rodney profile image

Just_Rodney 7 years ago from Johannesberg South Africa, The Gold Mine City Author

Ha, Brisket and mutton or lamb, a great comination, tis magic blends of meats and potatoes and onionns thickened in their own juices, you make me hungry just writing aout it.

Sorry misss informed you on face book i drop all pretenses and be me rodney fagan. Sorry bout that CC, take care and thanks for the comment.


C. C. Riter 7 years ago

Love it anytime too, not just St. Patty's day. thanks Rod. will now find ya


Just_Rodney profile image

Just_Rodney 7 years ago from Johannesberg South Africa, The Gold Mine City Author

It is a good dish to make even when the summers night is 23 Celsius, believe me I generally have to make it for my daughters birthday supper on the 21st of January, with my bread and butter pudding for afters.

Thanks for finding me on facebook


IRISH BREAD 7 years ago

to be sure , to be sure.. i was in the local greek butchers this morning here in melbourne, australia (biggest greek community outside of greece , beleive it or not) and asked .. what is that? lamb neck was the reply so i googled it and came up with this which is perfect as i was born in kildare outside of dublin and love the stew. the misses also makes a decent soda bread bread so this is on the menu soon at our next dinner party..


Just_Rodney profile image

Just_Rodney 7 years ago from Johannesberg South Africa, The Gold Mine City Author

Thanks for the comments, I have a recipe for soda bread which I have yet to try, and as it is now the start of colder weather, I may be making an Irish Stew shortly.

Thought South Africa had a very large Greek Community, maybe they all left and went to Oz? Would be interesting to find out.


BetsyIckes profile image

BetsyIckes 7 years ago from Pennsylvania

Nice hub, I can't wait until I can try the recipe!


Just_Rodney profile image

Just_Rodney 7 years ago from Johannesberg South Africa, The Gold Mine City Author

Well thanks for dropping by, hope you will enjoy it when you do make it, it is really a good recipe.


lafenty profile image

lafenty 7 years ago from California

Wow, I've always wondered what was in Irish Stew. Never realized it was made with lamb. Thanks for a very interesting and infomative hub.


Just_Rodney profile image

Just_Rodney 7 years ago from Johannesberg South Africa, The Gold Mine City Author

Glad you have found out what makes a good lamb stew, also that you enjoyed reading the hub. Thanks for dropping us a comment.


itakins profile image

itakins 6 years ago from Irl

I love this-a lovely combination :)


Just_Rodney profile image

Just_Rodney 6 years ago from Johannesberg South Africa, The Gold Mine City Author

Hi there itakins,

Glad that you enjoyed the hub.

Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

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