This Guinness lamb stew recipe is a twist on traditional Irish stew.
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- Read on for relevant tips and step by step pictures (2 mins)
So How Do You Make Authentic Irish Lamb Stew?
The answer is not in the Guinness. For a traditional Irish stew you need to use the right cut of lamb and begin with bacon.
The best cut of meat to use for lamb stew is lamb shoulder. It is considered the most flavorful, its fine marbling is well suited for stewing and it becomes more tender than any other cut.
Many stores offer pre-cut lamb shoulder for stew (as seen below) or you can buy lamb shoulder, trim the fat and cut it into cubes yourself.
Traditionally Irish stews begin with bacon fat. It only makes sense. Back in the day processed vegetable oils were not common, olive oil was a luxury to Ireland, and butter burns easily – so animal fats were the grease of choice.
Once you have the meat sorted out, round up veggies and spices traditional to Irish cooking.
Potatoes. If in season use the small spring variety, otherwise all purpose potatoes such as Yukon Gold are great.
Veggies. Carrots, onions, peas (optional).
Beef stock. Homemade or good quality store bought.
Flour. As a thickening agent for the stew.
Flavoring agents. Garlic, salt and pepper and fresh herbs/spices. Both thyme and parsley are commonly used and caraway seeds are a traditional spice for lamb stew in Ireland. If you enjoy caraway seeds and have them on hand you can use them ground. A bay leaf (optional) is complimentary to braised meats and meat stews.
Guinness. We discuss its use in detail a bit further down, but be sure to include it!
The Lamb Stew Process
Step 1. Slice good quality, thick cut bacon in chunks and render the fat over medium heat.
Next, remove the bacon pieces, set them on a paper napkin lined plate and turn your attention to the lamb.
Step 2. Season flour with salt and pepper (plus ground caraway seed, optional) and coat the lamb chunks.
Brown them in the bacon fat, on all sides and over medium-high heat for a good sear.
Work in batches so as to not overcrowd the pot and then remove them and set aside.
Step 3. Saute a large diced onion and minced garlic, dust them with seasoned flour once softened and then deglaze with a bottle of Guinness.
Use a wooden spatula to scrape of all the brown bits from the bottom of the pot.
Step 4. Add the beef broth, the browned lamb, and the bacon. Stir, cover and let simmer for an hour and a half.
While the lamb stews away, prep the potatoes, carrots and remaining onions. Aim for bite sized pieces.
Step 5. Add the vegetables to the pot along with the fresh thyme and (if using) bay leaf. Stir, cover and simmer until the vegetables are soft.
TIP: If you want to add peas, add them at the very end, just a few minutes before the rest of the veggies are completely soft.
Once the lamb stew is done and you are ready to serve chop some fresh parsley to use as garnish.
Lamb stew can be served right away or after a night or two (be sure to store refrigerated and covered). The flavors develop and once reheated it tastes even richer.
Serve with Irish soda bread or another white bread to mop up the delicious, thick liquids of the stew. Be sure to include a flavorful ale as part of the meal.
A dark ale with a roasty character such as an Irish stout makes a wonderful companion to a bowl of this hearty stew. You can also pair it with a barley wine or a hoppy brown ale.
The Guinness Stout Addition
When I wrote earlier that adding Guinness to lamb stew is a twist on the traditional dish, I meant that traditionally the Irish made lamb stew without adding dark ale to flavor the meat. Besides, mutton, not lamb was much more commonly used in the past.
It’s logical – in the grand scheme of things lamb stews were enjoyed way before Guinness stout became a household name after the 1820s.
The roasted barley used to brew Guinness imparts a lovely toasty smokiness to the lamb via the ale addition. Along with the stout’s malty sweetness and slight acidic tinge the flavor contributions to the stew are very desirable.
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Nutrition Information: Yield: 6 Serving Size: 6 Servings
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 617 Saturated Fat: 8.4g Cholesterol: 144mg Sodium: 171mg Carbohydrates: 36.6g Fiber: 6.6g Sugar: 7g Protein: 52.7g