Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Irish Lamb Stew + Irish Soda Bread (gluten-free), #recipe from author @DarylWoodGerber

Happy almost St. Patrick's Day. The Irish side of me, Traynor (or Trainor), comes from County Cork.  My grandmother was raised there and often spoke of her home country, even though she and her brother made their way on a steamer in the late 1800s to America. Okay, yes, her family was with her, but to hear her tell it, she and her brother crossed alone. They were both scrappers.

She survived the 1906 quake in San Francisco. She travelled the world. She married a man. They had a son. She lost her husband tragically, so she married my grandfather, a man 30 years her senior. They had a son, my father. Grandmother Irene was a stalwart woman. She had rules. She liked things done in a certain way. Very Downton Abbey, come to think of it. But she loved the arts. She took me to the symphony and musicals. She loved to golf. She wasn't a cook. At least I never saw her cook. But she had a cook.  I remember some grand dinners at her house. I still make Christmas dinner the way it was served at her house: roast beef, Yorkshire pudding, crisp green beans. Incredible sugar cookies for dessert.

One thing she never served was Irish lamb stew. I couldn't figure it out. Was it to peasant for her tastes? I remember having corned beef and cabbage but not stew. 

I simply had to make one for myself. I browsed my cookbook shelves for a recipe but couldn't find one. I found Irish Soda Bread in my very first cookbook, The Gourmet Cookbook, Volume I. That recipe will follow.

So I went online and searched for recipes. There were lots of choices, but none fit the bill, so I tweaked a recipe I found in a Southern Living site, of all things. And the result is tasty!  Also, gluten-free for those, like me, who need to eat that way.

So happy St. Patrick's Day. If you are Irish. If you wish to be Irish. If you simply like to eat, drink, and laugh heartily!

By the way, while cooking this stew, I came across a term in a recipe that always stumps me: salt and pepper to taste. Honestly, salt and pepper "mature" in a stew over time, so how much is too much and how little too little? Personally, I'd rather err on the side of "too little" and add more of each spice when served. So in this recipe, I give you exact amounts. If you want more, be my guest.

Irish Lamb Stew


Serves 4-6

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 ½ pounds lamb shoulder, trimmed and cut into 1” cubes
2 large sweet onions, quartered and sliced
4-5 large carrots, peeled and sliced
1 teaspoon dried thyme
2-3 bay leaves
1 tablespoon dried parsley
2 teaspoons salt
½ teaspoon white or black pepper
3 cups beef broth (gluten-free)
10-12 small white potatoes
½ cup frozen peas
2 tablespoons corn starch
2 tablespoons water


Peel and dice the carrots and onions. Set to one side. Trim and cube the lamb. *Note: I found this easier to do with kitchen shears. Lamb is slippery!

In a large, deep sauté pan, over medium-high heat, heat the oil. Sauté the lamb in the oil for 2 minutes. Add the chopped onion and cook, stirring, until the lamb is browned and onion tender, about 5-7 minutes. Sprinkle with thyme and add the chopped carrots, the bay leaf (I like more than most), parsley, salt, and pepper, and the beef broth.

Simmer for about 1 hour.

Add the potatoes, sliced in half if preferred, and cover. Continue cooking for 25 more minutes.

Add more salt and pepper if desired.

Add peas. Stir.

In a small bowl, stir the cornstarch and water together until smooth and no lumps. Add the mixture to the stew and stir well. Raise heat to medium low and cook for 3-4 minutes until the broth thickens.

This can be served immediately or made a day or two ahead and reheated. Flavors will meld deliciously! My husband says it's one of the best stews he's ever had, and he can be picky about stew!  So enjoy!

Serve with soda bread or crusty loaf.

Irish Soda Bread
(tweaked from a recipe out of The Gourmet  Cookbook Volume 1)

Serves 6

2 cups gluten-free flour  (I used tapioca starch and potato starch)
1/8 cup sugar (2 tablespoons)
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum
2 tablespoons butter
3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon buttermilk
1 egg

Preheat oven to 375 °F. In a small bowl, mix together the gluten-free flour, sugar, baking powder, soda, salt and xanthan gum. Cut in the butter until the mixture is crumbly. Add the buttermilk and egg. Combine until incorporated.  [Note: if you don't have buttermilk on hand, use 3/4 cup regular milk plus 1 tablespoon vinegar.]

Turn the dough out on a board and knead it for 2 to 3 minutes until it is smooth. [Note: mine didn’t get “smooth” but was fully incorporated.]

Shape the dough into a round loaf. Put the loaf in an 8-inch cake pan. Press down [you might need to moisten your fingers] until it fills the pan. Using sharp scissors, cut a diagonal slit in the center of the loaf.

Bake for 25-30 minutes until golden brown.

My notes: I think I would have used a ½ teaspoon more of baking powder to make this fluffier. I’m not sure I needed the xanthan gum in a recipe that baked so fast. And my pan was a 9-inch cake pan. The bread came out rather flat. It cooked faster than the recipe called for. Therefore, it might have been puffier in an 8-inch cake pan.

No matter what, the flavor was lovely!

Savor the mystery!


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  1. Irish stew has been a staple in our household--since I found it in a cookbook! I never knew the Irish side of the family, so I have no clue how they cooked (badly, if one great-aunt's personal cookbook is any indication--she put sugar in everything). In Ireland, lamb chunks sell out early in the day at the markets; where I live, you can't find them at all, except what's imported from New Zealand. But if you can find lamb, try the stew!

    1. Sheila, I couldn't find chunks, but when I found the shoulder and realized I could cut them, it was easy!

      Daryl / Avery

  2. Love the story about your grandmother Daryl! Wonder what kind of food her cook cooked?

    1. She never talked about it. I didn't learn much about my grandmother until she was older. Holidays were very "proper" because of my much older grandfather. (Tyrant!) I did hear stories about him later on. I have a letter to my father from him...long, long story.

      Daryl / Avery

  3. I love any kind of stew. Lamb is so expensive here that it has become a rarity for us, though. Too bad. I like lamb.

    1. I'm finding lamb is not AS expensive "when in season" so you have to know the season, which seems to be early, early spring or late winter. And there's a lot you can do with the inexpensive cuts, like this stew.

      Daryl / Avery

  4. Thanks, Daryl! I love lamb stew and also love the idea of the gluten-free soda bread. I'll send my 'gluten-free' friends over right away.



    1. Make sure they add that extra baking powder and use a smaller pan. :) Enjoy!

      Daryl / Avery

  5. I just looked in the recipe file on my hard drive... You're right. I have 20 recipes for leg of lamb and only one for "Irish Lamb Stew" and it needs a pressure cooker to make it. I used to have a lamb stew recipe that used Guinness that someone gave me. It appears that I never put it in my back up files. I'll have to use yours instead.

    1. Nora, I can't rember the last time I used a pressure cooker. I remember being so afraid when the top would start steaming like a locomotive!!


  6. The stores by me carry very little lamb. I wonder how this would be with beef?

    1. Like a lovely beef stew.

  7. I like all things lamb and stew is always a winner. I agree with NoraA about the Guinness. Try swapping out part of the broth with Guinness.
    Lamb shoulder is a great choice.

    I don't know that one needs to worry unduly about a recipe for stew. Just start throwing yummy things in a pot and let it cook!

  8. That's a fine stew you cooked up for us, Daryl/Avery. Not only does the lamb look scrumptious, I'm also a sucker for soda bread and yours looks great. Thank you for both.

    ~ Cleo