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You don't have to wait until St. Patrick's Day to make this flavorful stew. Guinness Stout beer gives this stew a deep flavor, but doesn't dominate the blend of tender lamb (slow cooked for a few hours), hearty potatoes and carrots. Cooked barley is an optional ingredient, but add a lovely texture to the whole dish. Served with Irish Soda Bread, you have a heart dinner that's perfect for a Fall/Winter dinner. NOTE: I see no reason why this stew wouldn't be delicious if made with beef, instead of lamb.
|3||pounds* lamb shoulder, cubed|
|3 to 4||Russet potatoes, peeled and cubed|
|3||large carrots, washed and cut into large chunks|
|2-3||yellow onions, peeled and cut into half|
|3-4||cloves fresh garlic, peeled and smashed|
|3-4||stalks celery, whole|
|6-8||sprigs fresh thyme|
|3-4||sprigs fresh rosemary|
|1||small bunch fresh parsley|
|2||Tbs. tomato paste|
|2||tsp. Worcestershire sauce|
|12-14||oz. Guinness beer (or any dark stout beer)|
|coarse salt & black pepper|
|6||cups beef stock|
|Optional: ½ cup pearl barley cooked in 1-½ cups water or chicken broth|
|use up to 5 pounds of lamb, if you want a higher meat to vegetable ratio|
|4||Tablespoons cornstarch (to thicken the stew)|
|Garnish of 4-6 Tablespoons fresh parsley|
For the lamb: The best cut of beef to buy is a boneless lamb shoulder. Pat the lamb very dry, so that there isn't any moisture (for better searing). Cut into cubes and season with salt & pepper. Dredge in flour. Vegetable preparation: Cut off one end of the onion (I leave the root end on), then cut the onion in half. Remove the outer first layer of peel. Wash the carrots (I don't peel them) and cut into large chunks. Wash the celery and keep whole (I personally don't care for cooked celery) so I use the whole celery to flavor the broth, and then remove it before serving. Tie the thyme, rosemary and parsley with kitchen twine. In a Dutch oven, heat a small amount of olive oil and bring to high heat. Sear the lamb by cooking, untouched, for 3-4 minutes per side, until golden brown. Cook in batches, so that the meat doesn't become crowded. Set the cook lamb aside. The more brown crust on the bottom of the pot, the more flavor. Lamb is fatty, so you most likely won't need to add any additional oil to brown the vegetables. For the vegetables: On medium-high heat, add the onion halves, flat side down and cook until lightly brown, 2-3 minutes. Remove and set aside. Cook the carrots for the same amount of time as the onion and set aside. Last, cook the garlic cloves for about 1 minute and set aside. If there is any leftover fat/oil, carefully drain it from the pot. On high heat, add the beer and scrape with a rubber spatula to loosen up the brown bits, and stir. Turn the heat down to medium-high. Add the tomato paste and Worcestershire sauce and stir (or whisk) until combined. Add the onion, lamb and carrots; add the beef stock, celery stalks and the tied herbs. Bring the stew to a boil, covered, and them turn the heat down to a low simmer. Simmer for about 3 hours. OPTIONAL: If you are going to add the barley, bring 1-1/2 cups water or chicken stock (or a combination of both) to a boil. Add the barley, cover and cook on medium-low until the liquid has evaporated--20-30 minutes. Set aside. Final Touches: Taste the liquid for seasoning. I make my own beef stock, and I don't salt it. Add salt, to your liking. To thicken the stew: Whisk 4 Tablespoons cornstarch and cold water until smooth and lump-free. Very slowly, while stirring, pour HALF the cornstarch mixture into the stew. Wait a minute or two, for the sauce to thicken. Add the barley, and wait a few more minutes to see how much it thickens. Only add the remaining cornstarch mixture if the stew hasn't quite thickened enough so that Homemade Irish Soda Bread can sop up that tasty gravy. (see my recipe for Irish Soda bread at http://www.keyingredient.com/recipes/254359/irish-soda-bread/)
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