There are probably as many variations of Irish Stew as there are people who make it. Despite having some Irish blood in my veins I make no claims about the authenticity of the following recipe – it’s based entirely on my personal preference. If you can get mutton chops then so much the better but you will need to extend the cooking time. It looks nice if you use baby onions and carrots so that they can be kept whole, but if not just chop up larger ones.
150g/6 oz pearl barley
8-12 lamb or mutton chops at least 2.5cm/1″ thick – trimmed of fat
12 baby onions
12 baby carrots
700ml/1¼ pints good lamb stock
8 medium potatoes
sprig of thyme
1 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
salt and pepper
Pre-cook the pearl barley in plenty of salted boiling water for 20 minutes then drain. Meanwhile heat the oven to 160°C/Gas Mark 3 and lightly brown the chops using excess fat trimmed from them.
When the chops are browned remove them and briefly turn the onions and carrots in the fat.
Now layer the chops with the carrots and onions, pearl barley, herbs and seasoning. Peel the potatoes, cut them in half and place on top of the layers. Season again and pour over the hot stock. Cover with a lid and cook for 1½ hours (or longer for mutton).
Serve with soda bread.