O’Brien Irish Stew

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Most Americans think of stew as having a thick gravy base.  But traditional Irish stew is more broth-like and began as a hearty peasant dish made with what were the most readily available ingredients.  The primary sources of sustenance for the Irish were root vegetables and sheep.  Prior to the potato famine, potatoes were the main food crop.  Sheep provided wool for warm clothing, milk for drinking and cheese making, and eventually meat.

As the Irish immigrated to the United States and brought with them their hearty food traditions, these dishes evolved to include various local offerings.

The following stew recipe is a typical peasant version—simple to prepare with basic root vegetables that are stewed slowly with tougher cuts of meat in a simple stock.  This recipe was a staple in the Irish kitchen of one of my childhood friends, and it has become a regular with my family.  The starch from the potatoes provides a bit of thickening power, but the absence of a thick gravy makes this filling meal surprisingly light and quite easy to prepare.


O'brien Irish Stew
Traditional Irish stew is typically cooked in the oven for two hours. To adapt the recipe to a slow cooker, simply cook on low heat for 6-8 hours. While this stew may certainly be eaten right away, it tastes even better as leftovers. As an added benefit, any fat that cooks out of the meat can be easily removed once the stew has cooled in the refrigerator overnight. If you are a fan of peas in your stew, you may add a cup or two in the final 15 minutes of cooking.

Yield: approximately 6 servings
  • 2 pounds boneless lamb for stew (may substitute beef, i.e., boneless chuck roast)
  • 2 large onions, peeled, thickly chopped
  • 2 pounds potatoes, peeled if desired and cut into big chunks (small new potatoes are an excellent option)
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped, leaves included
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • 1 turnip, diced
  • 1 teaspoon each kosher salt and pepper
  • 1½ cups chicken broth
  • I bay leaf
  • Chopped flat leaf parsley
  1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.
  2. Cut lamb or beef into 1-inch cubes, removing large pieces of fat. Layer vegetables and meat in a 2 1/2 quart, lightly greased casserole or Dutch oven, beginning and ending with vegetables. (See comments above for slow cooker adaptation.) Add some of the salt and pepper to each layer. Add the chicken broth and bay leaf; cover tightly.
  3. Bake at 325 degrees for 2 hours. Stir and sprinkle with parsley. Remove bay leaf and check for seasoning before serving. Makes 4-6 servings.
The Fountain Avenue Kitchen https://fountainavenuekitchen.com/

I prepared the stew recipe for the March 2014 issue of Susquehanna Style magazine and thank the very talented Donovan Witmer for relieving me of my photography duties for this recipe!

Other recipes you may enjoy:

Parmesan Crusted Potatoes

Brown Soda Bread with Steel Cut Oats 

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  1. Patricia

    It was superb. I planned for leftovers. In fact, I made in my crockpot a day ahead, skimmed the little bit of fat the next day and heated it up in the same pot for dinner. Had neighbors for dinner guests. I made the soda bread as well. Yum!
    Thanks again for everything!

    1. Ann

      I am thrilled this was a success and I agree. This is the perfect meal to prepare the day before. It just gets better with time!

  2. henry

    We had this for dinner tonight and it was incredibly flavorful and extremely easy to prepare. Smelled so good while cooking, too. This is a recipe we will enjoy often. THank you!

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  5. Kara

    I made this last night and it was delicious. So easy to pull together and just really satisfying although not heavy. Thanks for the recipe!

  6. Sarah

    I cooked this for dinner and found that 1 1/2cups of broth to be very skimpy. It barely covered 1/4 of the dish. Am I missing something?

    1. Ann

      The meat typically produces more juice as it cooks, resulting in plenty of bothy liquid. What type of meat did you use? Also, was your pot tightly covered?

  7. Dana

    I saw this recipe and loved the ease of it. Made it tonight and was so pleased with the flavor and rustic feel of it. I also liked that it was hearty and filling yet felt healthy rather than heavy thanks to the light gravy. Wonderful, easy recipe that I will return to!!

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    1. Ann Post author

      Hi Magen,
      It’s in my comments just above the recipe along with a few other details. Here it is: To adapt the recipe to a slow cooker, simply cook on low heat for 6-8 hours.
      Hope you enjoy!

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  11. Shawna

    Im going to try it soon. Is there a reason its called O’Brien Irish Stew? My grandmother was an O’Brien and I think it would be awesome if the name was related some how to the family.

    1. Ann Post author

      Hi Shawna, I mention in the post that this stew is the family recipe of one of my very good childhood friends who is Irish. I love that your grandmother was also an O’Brien. Who knows…maybe there’s a distant relation. Either way, I think you can absolutely claim this as an authentic family recipe!