Irish stew

The definitive recipe for Irish stew simply doesn't exist because each household has its own family recipe. It is said, however, that people in the south of Ireland always add carrots, but people north of County Tipperary do not. Many people make their stew by placing alternate layers of meat, onions, carrots and potatoes, seasoned with salt and pepper, in a pot, covering with water, and stewing gently for a couple of hours. If you sear the meat and vegetables before stewing, as we do at Ballymaloe, it seals in the delicious sweet flavours.

Preheat the oven to 160°C/325°F/Gas Mark 3.

Cut the chops in half, but keep the bones intact as they will give great flavour. Heat the olive oil in a medium to large flameproof casserole dish. Toss in the meat and cook for a minute on both sides, until nice and brown. Remove the meat and set aside. Add the carrots and onions to the hot oil and cook for a couple of minutes, seasoning with salt and pepper. Return the meat to the casserole dish. Add the stock and bring to a boil. Put the potatoes in, season again with salt and pepper and place a sprig of thyme on top.

Cover and bake in the oven for 1½–2 hours, until the meat is very tender. When it is cooked, pour off the cooking liquid and allow it to sit for a minute until the fat fl oats to the top; adding a cube of ice will help speed this up. Spoon off the fat and pour the juices back over the stew. Add the chopped herbs and serve.

Rachel’s tip

If the potatoes are quite small, add them 20–30 minutes after the stew starts cooking to avoid them breaking up.