$24.00 might seem a little pricey, but this is New Zealand lamb and my friends are worth it. I didn't have a recipe to work from, so I decided to adapt a little from my beef stew and pot roast recipe. Instead of using red wine, I opted to use Guinness beer-- of course!
While listening to an audio book, I patted the lamb dry and then patiently cut the roast into bite-sized pieces--then seasoned it with salt & pepper.
I added about 1/4 cup of flour and dredged the meat well until evenly coated with the flour. Using a very light coating of olive oil, I heated my trusty Dutch Oven to very high heat and added just enough lamb pieces so as not to crowed them.
Seared meat is a beautiful sight, don't you think? That beautiful golden crust is going to give my sauce a lot of flavor.
It took three batches of about 8-10 minutes, each, to create this lovely pile of lamb.
A stew needs vegeables, of course. I love potatoes, so I peeled four Russett potatoes, washed four carrots and peeled four yellow onions, and cut them in half. I'm not a fan of cooked celery, but I set aside (and didn't photograph) 4 stalks of celery with their leafy greens still attached. I prefer to add the celery, whole, to flavor the broth and then I toss it aside.
For years, I used to toss my vegetables into my stews "raw". I've had a change of heart, by taking a little extra time to caramelize the vegetables in a little of the fat or olive oil. I think it adds more flavor.
It takes about 3-5 minutes to caramelize the vegetables on medium-high heat, then remove them. Now that the pan is empty, and full of that dark crust, it's time to deglaze the pan with liquid-- in this case, I used a 14 oz. can of Guinness Stout beer on very high heat. Scrape all the flavor off!
I find that tomato paste and Worcestershire sauce adds so much flavor to stews. This prep time has taken about an hour, but the rest of the cooking will happen on it's own. Now, for the final steps:
Add the cooked vegetables and seared lamb back into the pot. I made my own beef stock, a few days ago (will post that recipe soon) so that's why it's light in color and looks like chicken stock. Boxed beef stock will do, too. Add 6 cups of beef stock (or enough to just cover the meat and vegetables). Bring the stew to a boil, covered. Then reduce to a low simmer, and let is cook for about 3 hours. Yes, you can finish this off in a slow cooker or even pressure cook it for about 45 minutes. On a rainy day, though, I love the smell of dinner wafting throughout the kitchen.
I read, somewhere, that authentic Irish Stew has barley in it. While the stew was simmering, I cooked 1 cup of pearl barley to a half and half blend of 3 cups water and chicken stock.
My company arrived, and so I didn't take photos of the stew just as it finished it's 3 hours on the stove. I did, however, taste the stew and then added salt until it had just the right seasoning. NOTE: When I make chicken or beef stock, I don't add salt.
Finishing the stew: I like a thick gravy-like consistency to my stews. To accomplish this, I take about 4 tablespoons cornstarch and whisk in 4 Tablespoons of water until smooth and lump-free. On medium-high heat, I carefully add about half of that mixture and wait for a minute or two. I add more cornstarch mixture until the thickness I want is achieved.
For the optional barley: I debated if potatoes and barley made sense-- two starches together? So, I poured half the stew into a smaller pot and added the barley. I loved it, and the barley thickens the stew-- so I'm glad that I didn't too much cornstarch mixture. NOTE: I only used about 2 cups of cook barley, so the rest will become a barley salad.
Guinness Irish Lamb Stew and...
Slightly sweet, delicious and warm, Irish Soda Bread...
(not pictured) A glass of cold Irish Harp Beer. Happy St. Patrick's Day!
TASTING NOTES: For those of you who aren't fond of lamb, because it tastes very strong-- believe me, the lamb was not only buttery tender, but mild. I only wish I had invested in a couple more pounds of meat, because I loved it. My husband has been won over by this dish. Everyone had second helpings. I'm a convert to using Guinness in recipes, as it doesn't leave a "beer" taste. Instead, it adds a depth of flavor that is subtle, yet flavorful. This recipe makes a lot, and I'm so glad. This morning, it's raining and hailing and I plan to have it for lunch...again. You don't have to wait for the luck o' the Irish to make this. Keeper recipe, if I do say so myself-- and one of my own creation. Yay!