Cherished recipes are like ripples, each one an echo of the original wave-making stone that broke the surface. This Ballymaloe House lamb stew recipe is the surface-breaking 1940s original, later published in Gourmet magazine (1960s) and then again in Ruth Reihl’s 2004-published volume featuring six-decades of Gourmet recipe bests. When LRF reader Iness wrote in search of the recipe, I reached out to Darina Allen, head of the Ballymaloe Cookery School in Shanagarry, County Cork, Ireland, author of Irish Traditional Cooking (just republished in a revised edition from Kyle Books) and part of the family running Ballymaloe House hotel and restaurant.
According to Darina, the stew recipe was given to her mother-in-law Myrtle Allen by neighbor-lady Madge Dolan in the 1940s. It became a staple at both Ballymaloe House and at the Ballymaloe Cookery School. While lamb stew is extremely common in Ireland with regional variations from county to county, (no carrots in Northern Ireland; barley added for extra sustenance in other places) this version differed from others of the period because the meat and vegetables are browned in hot fat before stewing, making the finished dish much more flavorful. The stew is delicious served up immediately after you make it, and is just as good warmed up the next day. Might be a nice alternative to corned beef for St. Patrick’s Day, right?
Makes 4 to 6 servings
Ballymaloe Irish Stew Ingredients
- 3 lbs, 1-inch thick shoulder lamb chops
- 1 pound of carrots, peeled and cut into 2 -inch pieces (8 medium or 12 baby carrots; or, one, 1-lb packaged baby carrots pre-peeled and ready to eat)
- 1 lb baby onions, peeled and whole
- Salt and freshly-ground black pepper
- 1 1/2 lbs baby potatoes, peeled
- sprig of thyme
- 1 1/2 Tbsp unsalted butter
- 2 Tbsp flour
- 1 Tbsp each fresh flat leaf parsley chopped, and fresh chives chopped
- 2 1/2 cups lamb stock (or unsalted chicken stock)
- Place the oven rack in the center. Preheat oven to 350.
- Divide each chop in half at natural division (they’ll split lengthwise, right in the middle.)
- Trim visible fat and reserve. Heat fat in heavy skillet over low heat until fat is rendered (discard any solid bits; leave the rendered fat in the pan.)
- Season all of the chops with salt and pepper. Increase the heat to medium and brown the chops in the pan in two batches.
- Transfer one layer of the browned chops to an enameled cast iron casserole. Grind more pepper and salt over all.
- Toss the onions and carrots in the hot fat still in the skillet. Layer about half of the carrots and onions over the first layer of meat. Grind more pepper and salt over. Layer the rest of the chops over; top with the remaining carrots and onion. Grind more pepper and salt over. Arrange peeled baby potatoes over all.
- De-glaze the pan with the lamb or chicken stock, scraping any meat or veggie bits loose. Pour all into the casserole. Add the sprig of thyme. Heat to boiling on the stove top. Cover.
- Transfer the covered casserole to the preheated oven and roast for 1 hour and 15 minutes.
- Remove from oven. Pour off liquid. Remove grease from the broth and discard grease. Over low heat, melt butter in saute pan; add flour and brown a bit. Whisk in the cooking broth until thickened into a gravy. Pour gravy back over the meat and vegetables in the pot. Garnish with chives and parsley.