With Saint Patrick’s Day coming up, I thought I would tap into my Irish roots and experiment with some Irish flavors. I liked corned beef just fine, but I thought it would be fun to do something a little different. Lamb, potatoes, and cabbage is a very Irish combination, but I found that most lamb stews called for a very expensive amount of lamb. So to make a more frugal version, I cut back a bit on the lamb, added some white beans to the mix and seasoned with parsley, thyme, bay leaves and peppercorns ( I am told that those seasonings are “Irish” as well).
We liked this soup a lot. It was very rich and nourishing. The lamb shank releases a lot of good- for- you gelatin into the soup, making it thicker. It also gives a very nice lamby taste without being too overwhelming (for moderate lamb lovers like myself). My husband described it as “warming” and “mild” and liked the lamb flavor quite a bit. It was comfort food that could also be enjoyed by my 18 month old daughter. I have had to cut back on spicy recipes so that she can eat the same dinner as us, so it was nice to find that a more traditional lamb stew has the flavor we like, but remains mild enough for us to feed to baby as well.
I didn’t brown the lamb shank, like some recipes did, because I read that it wasn’t traditionally done (and it saved me a step too!). I did add a little white wine into this recipe, though I doubt it is a traditional ingredient. Feel free to leave it out, or up it for more flavor. For those of you who can’t enjoy comfort food without some hotness, you could spike it with some cayenne pepper, but I truthfully think that it would mask the subtle flavors of the soup. If you have fresh thyme, that would be even better than the dried I used. Add to taste.
Irish Lamb Stew-makes 8- 12 servings
2 cups of cannellini white beans (soaked in water for at least 12 hours, then rinsed well before use)
1 onion, chopped
2 tablespoons of oil
1 lamb shank (mine weighed a little over a pound)
12 cups of chicken stock
2 bay leaves
1/2 teaspoon of peppercorns, tied in cheesecloth or placed in an enclosed tea strainer
In a large pot, heat oil over med-high heat and add onions when oil is hot. Stir onions until they are soft, then add white beans, lamb shank, broth, peppercorns and bay leaves. Bring to a boil, lower heat to a very low simmer, and cook for 2-3 hours, until beans are soft.
6 Yukon Gold potatoes, cut into large cubes
2 teaspoons of dried thyme
1/3 cup of white wine
Salt and pepper the broth at this point, so that the potatoes don’t taste bland in the middle. Cook for ten minutes , then add:
One half of a green cabbage, cut into medium sized , chunky pieces
Cook for another ten minutes or so, just until cabbage is tender. During the last few minutes of cooking, add:
1/2 cups of finely chopped parsley
Take out the bay leaves, peppercorns and lamb shank. Shred the meat from the shank and add back to soup. Taste for flavor and adjust with salt and pepper.
Serve with a sliver of butter in each bowl and plenty of fleshly ground pepper.