Irish Stew - The Real Deal! - Poem by Margaret Kollmer
An Irish stew, my grandmother Maggie Shanahan would say, was a white stew - pure as the tips of angel wings. And this is how she taught me to make it, cooked on top of the stove:
Use only neck cutlets; thick and juicy. (Don’t listen to the heretics)
Dust them lightly with flour. (The cutlets not the heretics)
In a cast-iron pot or similar, and on high heat, brown cutlets lightly on both sides.
Remove and turn heat down to medium.
Slice onions and put in pot – just brown lightly.
Return meat to pot.
Slice potatoes medium thick (cos these will make the gravy) and layer on top.
Add some more sliced onions, followed by another layer of potatoes.
Sprinkle with salt and white pepper. (‘tis a white stew, remember?)
Layer some more onions, followed by a final layer of
thickly cut potatoes. Lots and lots, poked into every nook and cranny.
More salt and white pepper.
Put lid on pot, turn down to low and leave.
The stew makes its own liquid but after another hour or so of slow cooking, you can add half a cup of stock, or water, and then about two teasp. cornflour mixed in water. Pour a little down three sides of the saucepan just lifting the meat from the bottom, ever so gently so as not to disturb anything, but allowing the cornflour mixture to seep to the bottom. Gently mash some of the lower-down potatoes, pushing them into the liquid to absorb the flavour. Higher up in the order of layers, you get the chunky potatoes that line your ribs and make you wish you were Irish. Test the meat with a skewer for tenderness.
Cook slowly for another half hour or so with heat turned right down, or even off. Don’t mess about with the stew. Leave it well alone as you inhale the odour of sanctity and grow increasingly impatient for the delights to follow.
Serve on huge platters and mop up with chunks of bread at all times but especially in the age of shivery.
May God bless ye and all who partake in Ireland’s most glorious bounty.
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