Irish stew knows its origins as a peasant dish and was originally comprised of the very cheapest cuts of meat as well as readily available fresh vegetables, all cooked together in the one cooking pot. Like so many one time peasant dishes around the world, the stew is now widely enjoyed as a matter of choice rather than a meal born of necessity and has been adapted sometimes almost beyond all recognition. While this recipe remains true to the original concept for preparing Irish stew, it sees the stew subsequently made to form the filling of a tasty and satisfying pie before being served with another vegetable frequently associated with Ireland, cabbage, cooked in a very different way from the traditional, so unappetizing and so unpopular boiling.
Ingredients (Serves 2)
- 1/2 pound lamb shoulder meat, diced to 1 inch chunks
- 4 tablespoons vegetable oil (2 for stew and 2 for cabbage side dish)
- Salt and pepper
- 1 large white onion, peeled, halved and thinly sliced (1/2 for Irish stew and 1/2 for cabbage side dish)
- 1 pint fresh lamb or chicken stock
- 12 baby new potatoes, halved but unpeeled
- 1 large carrot, scrubbed, topped, tailed and sliced in to 1/4 inch discs
- 1/2 pound puff pastry
- Flour for dusting pastry rolling surface
- Beaten egg for glazing pastry
- 4 large cabbage leaves, rolled and shredded
- 1 medium sized, medium strength red chili, topped and finely sliced
Pour a couple of tablespoons of the oil in to a large stew pot and bring it up to a medium heat. Add the lamb, season with salt and pepper and stir around with a wooden spoon to evenly seal and brown.
Add half the sliced onion to the pot with the lamb and gently saute until all the strands are just softened and starting to become translucent.
Pour the stock in to the pot with the lamb and onion and turn up the heat to bring the stock to a simmer. Reduce the heat, cover and maintain as gentle a simmer as possible for one and a half to two hours until the lamb is tender. It shouldn't be necessary if you keep the pot covered and the simmer very gentle but you can top up the liquid with a very little hot water if required.
When the lamb is beautifully tender, turn off the heat and add the potatoes and carrot. Stir well and leave covered to cool for at least an hour. The vegetables will start to cook in the residual heat but they will largely be cooked when the assembled pie is in the oven. The reason why you have to let the stew cool before assembling the pie is that if you top a hot filling with pastry, the steam from the filling will quickly cause the pastry to become soggy and it will neither rise nor turn golden.
Use a slotted spoon to transfer the solids from the cooled stew to a suitable pie dish. This dish is called an ashet and it measured ten inches by seven inches by one inch deep. A similar oven proof dish is fine. Pour in enough of the stock to approximately half cover the solids. Don't add too much stock or again your pastry will become soggy and fail to rise.
Put your oven on to preheat to 425F/210C/Gas Mark 7.
Roll out the pastry on a floured, dry, clean surface in to a rectangle slightly bigger than the pie dish. Lay it on top of the pie dish and carefully trim with a large sharp knife. Crimp the pastry around the edges of the dish and glaze with the beaten egg. Cut a steam vent in the center. Put the pie in to the preheated oven for thirty to thirty-five minutes, until the pastry is beautifully golden.
When you take the pie from the oven, you will see that the pastry has shrunk. This can be avoided by tucking the uncooked pastry under the rim of the dish or using some glazed pastry cut offs on the dish rim before the main pastry is added. I deliberately wanted this effect, however, as it makes the pie easier to cut and serve, it makes for far better plate presentation and it makes the dish easier to clean.
Allow the pie to rest for ten to fifteen minutes when it comes out of the oven before cutting to serve. Most of that time in this instance is used in preparing the sauteed cabbage accompaniment.
Particularly when you are using the outer leaves of certain types of cabbage, each leaf may contain a thicker and pretty tough central core. It is a good idea to remove and discard these cores before the leaves are rolled and shredded for cooking.
Pour a couple of tablespoons of oil in to a large saucepan and bring up to a medium to high heat. Add the cabbage, remaining sliced onion half and chili pepper. Season with salt and pepper and saute over a medium heat for three or four minutes until the cabbage and onion are just softened, stirring all the time with a wooden spoon.
When the cabbage is ready, cut the pie pastry in half across the way and lift one half over the other as shown in the photo above.
Use a slotted spoon to plate the revealed half of the pie filling.
Lay the freed half of pastry on top of the plated pie filling. Plate the second half of the pie on the second plate in exactly the same way. The sauteed cabbage can be plated alongside the pie portions and you are ready to serve and eat.