When we think of the foods of Ireland, potatoes come to mind. But, surprise, surprise, potatoes are not native to Ireland, they were discovered by the Spanish in South America! Potatoes were first cultivated by the Incas in Peru as far back as 8,000 B.C. Spanish explorers introduced the tuber to Europe and potatoes became a staple in Ireland due to their ease of growing in the short, cold Irish days and due to their high nutritive value.
I love potatoes; when I was a kid and my mom would make stew all I would eat is the potatoes. Once those cubes had cooked in the gravy for hours they were soaked with all the flavors of the meat and veggies. YUMMY!
Stews are kind of like snowflakes, no two are alike. Okay, that might be a stretch, but you get the idea! Everyone has their own take and I don’t think there is any WRONG way to make a stew.
In 19th century Ireland, when food was scarce and meat was even scarcer, people would put their vegetables, usually potatoes and onions into a large cauldron with a small amount of liquid, usually water, and cook over an open fire. If they were lucky enough to have some meat, it was usually small amounts of tough meat from older animals, they would add that to the pot and cook it for hours until tender. This made a hearty meal that would warm and fill many bellies.
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My mom always used her pressure cooker to make stew, it tenderizes and cooks the meat in a very short amount of time. I like to use my slow cooker. Because I can prepare the stew in the morning, forget about it, and have a Gr8 meal that evening. Now many people use the Instant Pot. I don’t have one yet, but that is my next big kitchen purchase. So whatever method you use, enjoy an Irish Stew this St. Patrick’s Day…or any day!
This is a peasant meal, nothing fancy; sometimes simple comfort food is the way to go.
Serve this with our easy Irish Soda Bread.
This is a simple peasant meal that cooks all day in the slow cooker. Some people add peas at the end for color and flavor. I like a sprinkle of parsley for the fresh flavor it gives to a dish that has cooked all day.
Put the potatoes and the carrots into the bottom of a large slow-cooker.
Heat a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat. (I find my cast-iron skillet works best for browning meat.)
Add 1 Tablespoon each of the butter and olive oil and heat until butter is melted.
Put 1-pound of the beef into the pan and cook until browned and slightly caramelized, this will give your stew and lovely, deep flavor.
Remove the browned beef from the pan with a slotted spoon and put on top of the vegetables in the slow cooker.
Add the stock, beer, vinegar, thyme, bay leaf, salt and pepper to the slow cooker.
With the side of a wide knife or mallet, smash the garlic cloves and throw them into the mixture.
Cook on high for 5 hours or low for 8 to 9 hours.
When the beef is tender, if the gravy hasn't thickened to your liking, remove the meat and veggies to a bowl. Turn the slow cooker to high and whisk the corn starch into the gravy. Whisk occasionally, until thickened.
This dish can be made the day before and reheated on your stove-top or in the microwave.
I have frozen mine in a freezer bag. It reheats okay, but the potatoes are a little mealy. This stew is definitely better before being frozen.