I’ve talked about the first real cookbook I ever owned – which wasn’t really a cookbook; it was a Betty Crocker recipe booklet called “Soups, Stews, and Chilis.” The highlight was a bunch of award winning chilis from the International Chili Society; after those amazing chilis, though, the rest of the recipes were bland and disappointing. There was one surprising exception – Irish stew. It seemed as bland as the rest of the recipes in the book, with only three ingredients: onions, potatoes, and lamb shoulder. They are layered in the pot, sprinkled with salt and pepper, covered in water, and simmered. No browning, no spices…how boring, right?
I was wrong. Irish Lamb Stew is anything but bland. The ingredient list may be simple, but the bold flavor of lamb and onions combine to make it an interesting stew, with a surprisingly hearty broth.
I thought the stew would adapt well to the pressure cooker, so I googled around to check see what versions were out there. I came across this recipe by Diana Henry. Mrs. Henry is a very popular food writer in England, and a cult favorite here in the States. In her recipe, she explains the importance of the potatoes – they crumble while cooking, thickening the broth with their starch. That explains the extra body in the stew.
Now, when I say “thickening the broth”, don’t expect something you can stand a spoon in – this is a very thin broth, walking the fine line between soup and stew. In the pressure cooker, because of the sealed environment, most stews come out with thin broths – but the potatoes work their magic, adding body to the liquid.
I also jumped on Mrs. Henry’s suggestion of carrots and thyme – as much as I liked the simplicity of the three ingredient version, I can’t pass up carrots and thyme in a stew. Even better, Mrs. Henry grew up in Northern Ireland – I trust her judgement on what should go in an Irish Stew.
No pressure cooker? See the Notes section for stove top instructions.
Recipe: Pressure Cooker Irish Lamb Stew
Inspired by: Roast Figs Sugar Snow: Winter food to Warm the Soul by Diana Henry
- 6 quart or larger pressure cooker (I use an Instant Pot electric PC.)
- Vegetable basket (Some pressure cookers come with a perforated pan or basket; I use a cheap collapsible vegetable steamer.)
Pressure Cooker Irish Lamb Stew – comfort food from Ireland.
- 2 medium onions, peeled and sliced thin
- 3 pounds boneless lamb shoulder, cut into 1 inch chunks
- 2 medium russet potatoes, peeled and sliced 1/4 inch thick
- Kosher salt
- Fresh ground black pepper
- 2 sprigs fresh thyme
- 6 ounces dark beer (Guinness), or water
- 2 cups water
- 2 medium russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1 inch chunks
- 2 large carrots, peeled and cut into 1 1/2 inch lengths
- 1/4 cup minced parsley
- Layer the ingredients in the pressure cooker: Layer the ingredients in the pressure cooker, sprinkling each layer with a two finger pinch of salt and a few grinds of black pepper: half the onions, half the sliced potatoes and one sprig of thyme, half the Lamb. Then, the rest of the onions, the rest of the sliced potatoes and the second sprig of thyme, and the rest of the lamb. Pour the beer over the top of everything. Toss the chunked potatoes, carrots, and parsley with a 4 finger pinch of kosher salt and a few more grinds of black pepper, then put them in a vegetable basket that will fit in your cooker and set them aside.
- Simmer the beer, add the rest of the water: Put the pot over medium-high heat and bring the beer to a boil (listen for it – you won’t be able to see it in the bottom of the pot.) Pour in the water, and then set the vegetable basket of potatoes and carrots on the top layer of lamb.
- Pressure cook the stew: Lock the lid on the pressure cooker, bring the cooker up to high pressure over high heat, and then reduce the heat to maintain high pressure. Cook at high pressure for 15 minutes (stove top PC) or 18 minutes (electric PC). Remove the cooker from the heat and let the pressure come down naturally, about 15 minutes.
- Serve: Open the lid away from you to avoid the hot steam. Let the steam dissipate for a minute, then gently lift out the basket of potatoes and carrots and set it aside on a plate. Stir the stew, breaking up the potato slices to thicken the broth. Fish out the thyme sprigs and discard. Pour the potatoes and carrots into the stew, stir gently, and taste for seasoning, adding more salt and pepper if needed. Serve by ladling out a bowl full of solids, then pour a few ladles of broth over the top.
- No pressure cooker? No worries. Layer the ingredients in a dutch oven with a lid. Follow the instructions through step 2, adding an extra 2 cups of water.
- Don’t like lamb? Substitute beef chuck shoulder for half or all of the lamb. I won’t judge you…much.
- A three finger pinch of kosher salt is 1/4 teaspoon; a “few grinds of pepper” is 1/8th teaspoon. Or, think “a light sprinkle” and season until it feels right.