Traditionally, mutton or kid would have been used, rather than the more valuable lamb. If you can find either, or indeed hogget, they’ll give your dish a better flavour. I have tried breast, loin chops, shanks and boneless stewing meat, but neck offers the best combination of flavour and texture, melting its fat and sinew into the gravy after two hours of patient simmering.
As food writer Niamh Shields puts it, “Irish stew without potatoes is not Irish stew”, but it can be hard over here to get the very floury varieties favoured for their thickening qualities. Go for the driest you can find, and add Put a layer of
potatoes in the base of the casserole, then top with the fried onions, lamb and thyme them in two stages: thinly sliced right at the beginning, as All in the Cooking, first published in 1946, recommends; then cubed at the end, as in Diana Henry’s Roast Figs, Sugar Snow and in chef Richard Corrigan’s recipes. Alternatively, you can thicken the gravy with a roux, as Darina Allen’s Ballymaloe Cookery Course suggests, which means that, like Mena Rogers of Co Roscommon, who was taught by her own mother, Anne Gilhooly, a renowned cook, you can use waxy potatoes instead, if you prefer the texture.
The other veg
Onions are the only other musthave, but carrots add a pleasant sweetness, and if you’d like an
1Sweat the sliced onions over a medium flame until softened, then remove and set aside