Sunday, March 22, 2015

Irish Lamb Stew #SundaySupper

Lamb shoulder is one of the tougher cuts so it is perfect for stewing, becoming melt-in-your-mouth tender as it simmers, creating its own rich gravy flavored by thyme, onion and garlic. Add in some Irish whiskey and lemon juice to brighten the whole pot. 

This week my Sunday Supper group is throwing a Spring Fling to celebrate spring recipes and my thoughts went immediately to lamb. It is the meat of choice in many cultures and countries for spring, as the weather starts to warm and the lambing begins.

We eat a lot of lamb at our house, whatever the season. It’s funny because in my growing up home, we never ate lamb. My grandmother thought it was too strong in flavor and she passed that prejudice on to my mother. It wasn’t until I started dating my British husband, that I discovered the delight of lamb and embraced the baaaah, as we used bleat when discussing lamb. Mom also didn’t like goat cheese for the longest time because she said she could taste the goat. My mother is a most adventurous eater, as I’ve written about here, so I am pleased to say that she got past her own childhood embargoes and will now eat both goat cheese and lamb chops. I am still working on her for leg of lamb or shoulder.

This stew starts with browning the lamb shoulder then adding onions, garlic and celery, along with Irish whiskey and lemon juice to the sticky pan. Then a long slow simmer makes sure that the meat is falling off the bones. When the nights are cold, as they still are in the frozen north of the US - never mind that we have passed the first official day of spring and it’s still SNOWING as I type this in Providence, Rhode Island - this dish will fill the kitchen with fragrant aromas and warm you, body and soul.

2.25 kg or almost 3 1/2 lb lamb shoulder, cut in thick slices
Flakey sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Olive oil
1 large onion
2-3 stalks celery
3 cloves garlic
Handful sprigs fresh thyme plus more for garnishing before serving, if desired
1/4 cup or 60ml Irish whiskey
2 tablespoons or 30ml fresh lemon juice
3 medium sized potatoes or more to stretch your lamb to feed more people
1-2 medium sized carrots or more to stretch your lamb to feed more people

Season your lamb shoulder on both sides with a good sprinkling of salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Dice your onion, celery and garlic.

Pan-fry the lamb in a little olive oil, just a few pieces at a time, so you don’t crowd the pan and they can brown well.

Remove them to a plate and continuing pan-frying until all the lamb is well browned on both sides.

Add the onions, celery and garlic to the pan and give it a good stir.

Cook for a few minutes over a medium flame and then add in the whiskey and the lemon juice. Use a wooden spoon or spatula to make sure all the sticky bits on the pan are loosened.

Add the lamb back to the pan, along with any meat juices that have accumulated on the plate.

Toss in a few sprigs of thyme and cover the pot with a tight fitting lid.

Simmer, covered for at least an hour, but, really, you could leave it for two, checking the liquid level occasionally and adding in a little water if it looks like the stew is going dry.

Meanwhile, peel your potatoes and carrots and cut them into chunks. Keep them in a bowl of cool water until you are ready to add them to the pan.

When the lamb is tender, drain the potatoes and carrots and add them to the pan. Give the whole thing a good stir to coat the potatoes and carrot with the pan juices. Sprinkle with a little more salt and pepper and add some water to almost cover the meat, if more liquid is needed.

Cover your pot again and simmer another hour or so. Check the salt and pepper and add more if necessary. Garnish with a few more sprigs of thyme, if desired.

I always serve my lamb stew over white rice because I may not have been raised on lamb but rice and gravy was a childhood staple. In this, my grandmother would have been in complete agreement. Nothing better for a still chilly spring Sunday Supper than rice and a rich gravy.

I must confess that I also chose to share this recipe because lamb stew is one of my husband's favorite dishes. It's our 29th wedding anniversary today and although I am in Providence making new memories with our daughters, it is never far from my mind that I owe all of this to him. All of it.


Are you ready for spring? I’ve got plenty of recipe inspiration for you today, along with our fabulous hosts, Valerie from Lifestyle Food Artistry and D.B. from Crazy Foodie Stunts and the Supper Sunday crew.


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