26 April 2009

Irish Stew with Herb Toast and Vegetables

I often think about cooking lamb, but it's not a very common thing to eat here. Even in a city this size, there are plenty of grocery stores that don't sell it and even those that do typically only sell particular cuts. (Lamb loin chops are the most common and usually you can find frozen ground lamb.) Because of that, and also I suppose because there aren't lamb farms around every hillside in this country, lamb is often very expensive, nearly always shipped in from New Zealand and very rarely fresh. (There are places you can buy locally grown lamb. I don't get to those places very often, though. And they're just as expensive.)

I have a terror of buying something so expensive and then ruining it because I don't know how to cook it. But I found some lamb shoulder chops in the grocery store this Saturday and they were cheaper than chicken. I immediately picked up two packages with intentions of cooking a lamb and red pepper curry recipe that I tried out once before (I used beef then), but I got distracted by the prospect of making Irish Stew instead.

Even though it's nearly May and we should have spring weather, it snowed last week and when I looked out the window a few minutes ago, it's snowing again. It's meant to snow for the next three days. This kind of weather calls for something warm and hearty and stew obviously fills that need. (So would a spicy curry, but I didn't have the right cut of meat and wasn't sure if it would wind up tough if I cooked it the way the recipe called for. And also, I didn't have the right sort of curry paste and thought I probably didn't need a third jar of curry paste in the fridge.)

The link I posted above is the recipe that I followed, though I cut down some parts of the recipe and messed up others. My gravy came out a bit wonky because there wasn't nearly enough liquid in the pan at the end and so I used water, which made it taste like a paste rather than gravy, until I added some beef bouillon and thyme and a lot of pepper.

Other than the gravy mishap, the recipe was perfect. The meat was fall-apart tender and the vegetables were all beautifully cooked. You basically steam cook the potatoes and I was concerned that they'd not cook up nicely that way, but I could eat potatoes like that every day.

I really liked the method for cooking this stew and I think I'll even use it in the future for making beef stew (though I'll add more liquid next time, so that I can actually make a proper gravy). Usually I make stew in a slow-cooker, but the meat never comes out half so tender as it did here and I preferred adding my own seasonings, rather than using the packet mix my sister and I usually buy. I think the seasonings used here would work equally well with beef, and there's no reason I couldn't stir in some peas at the end along with the gravy.

Definitely a hit.

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