When the weather turns cold, a good beef stew is on the menu in our house. This very easy winter dinner is perfect for warming up when temperatures fall.
Since the mercury has dropped so low in many parts of the eastern United States this week, I thought it would be the perfect time to share my farmhouse beef stew recipe.
This is not a spiced up, or boozed up stew, but a more traditional recipe that featured frequently on the menu of my Irish childhood.
In the past I have shared my Guinness Beef stew, but I rarely had alcohol enhanced stews as a child. That would have been an expensive luxury few Irish homes could afford back in the 1970’s. So this stew is made with no red wine, beer or Guinness.
The vegetables I use are carrots, potatoes, onions, garlic and mushrooms. But other vegetables like parsnips, or diced rutabaga can be used, or towards the end of cooking a few peas can be added for a splash of green color.
The herbs are simple – thyme and bay leaves.
The flavors are subtle, typically Irish and definitely not hot and spicy like many stews from other countries and cuisines.
The perfect accompaniment to Irish stew is Irish brown bread, of course. I like a hunk of buttered bread with my stew when potatoes are included in the stew. Otherwise I love to eat stew with mashed potatoes.
I suppose this really is an old fashioned beef stew, but let’s face it, I’m starting to be a bit old fashioned myself these days and I still love this taste of my Irish childhood.
Now traditional Irish stew is usually made with lamb or mutton, but many Irish cooks use beef for a delicious cold day meal bursting with fork-tender vegetables and luscious beef. This is what I call real comfort food.
We Irish really know how to make great stews. Our rural forebears were experts at one-pot cooking when a bastible hung over an open fire and a complete meal was cooked slowly throughout the day.
I love to savor a stew on cold evenings, especially after being outdoors for a hill walk or after an Irish soft day.
And so, without further ado, here’s my recipe for a good farmhouse beef stew, Irish style.
Ingredients for Farmhouse Beef Stew:
2 pounds of stewing beef
3 tablespoons of vegetable or canola oil
6 cloves of garlic (minced)
1 large or 2 small onions
3 large carrots
2 pounds of baby potatoes
8 ounces of button mushrooms
6 cups of beef stock
2 tablespoons of tomato paste
1 tablespoon of worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon of sugar
5 sprigs of fresh thyme or 2 teaspoons of dried thyme
2 bay leaves
2 tablespoons of corn starch
3 tablespoons of chopped fresh parsley to garnish
Directions for Farmhouse Beef Stew:
Start by preparing the vegetables. I like to leave the skins on the baby potatoes. They’re nutritious and very tender when cooked slowly. If you are using bigger potatoes with thicker skins, then peel them first before cutting them in to smaller pieces.
Next I peel and cut the carrots. I used 4 medium sized carrots for this stew. I like to cut them on a diagonal about 1 inch in length.
I peel the onions and cut them in eighths.
My husband doesn’t like onions and when they’re left in pretty big pieces it’s easy to spot them and remove them from his portion.
Peel and mince the garlic.
Clean the mushrooms too. I use small button mushrooms for this stew. They absorb the flavors without losing their texture.
Heat half the oil in a large stewing pot and add about one third of the beef. Brown it on all sides. Make sure you don’t overcrowd the pot with beef pieces. They need a little space for the oil to seal them.
Make sure the beef is well browned since the browning residue at the bottom of the pot is what will add some color to the beef broth.
Remove the first batch and repeat until all the beef is browned. Set the browned beef to the side.
Add the rest of the oil to the pot and loosen the beef residue with a spatula. Add the garlic and onions and toss in the oil. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes.
Next add the carrots and potatoes and toss them with the onions and garlic to coat them in oil. Cook for a further 2 minutes over medium heat.
Return the beef to the vegetables in the pot. Next add the beef stock, together with the tomato paste, sugar and worcestershire sauce. Stir gently to mix.
Add the thyme and bay leaves. These will be retrieved at the end of cooking, before serving. Set the heat at low and let the stew simmer slowly.
After about 1 hour, add the button mushrooms.
I halved some of the bigger mushrooms to keep them all about the same size.
Continue to simmer over low heat for another 2 hours.
Once the stew is cooked it’s time to thicken the broth. I like to use corn starch (or cornflour as we call it in Ireland).
Mix the corn starch with cold water and blend it completely so there are no lumps. Add this slurry to the stew and stir. Let it cook for a further 10 minutes over a slightly higher heat so the corn starch can complete its thickening magic.
Never make a corn starch slurry with hot liquid – it will become lumpy.
Many stews are thickened using a flour based roux, or by coating the beef with seasoned flour before browning. I prefer to use corn starch for this particular stew. The beef is just lovely without the extra floury coating.
Once the stew has thickened you’re ready to start plating.
Remove and discard the thyme sprigs and bay leaves before serving.
Sprinkle some chopped parsley on top to add a little splash of color and extra flavor. And don’t forget a hearty, rustic bread on the side.
This is a stew best served in a bowl with a spoon and a fork. The fork can be used to mash the potatoes into the juices, but a spoon is definitely required to slurp up all the lovely, heart warming broth.
Here’s the printable recipe:
An Irish farmhouse beef stew with onions, garlic, carrots, potatoes and mushrooms, with thyme and bay leaves as herbs.
- 2 pounds of stewing beef
- 3 tablespoons of vegetable or canola oil
- 6 cloves of garlic (minced)
- 1 large or 2 small onions
- 3 large carrots
- 2 pounds of baby potatoes
- 8 ounces of button mushrooms
- 6 cups of beef stock
- 2 tablespoons of tomato paste
- 1 tablespoon of worcestershire sauce
- 1 teaspoon of sugar
- 6 sprigs of fresh thyme or 2 teaspoons of dried thyme
- 2 bay leaves
- 3 tablespoons of corn starch
- 3 tablespoons of chopped fresh parsley to garnish
- Peel and cut the carrots into 1 inch cubes. Wash the potatoes, and clean the button mushrooms.
- Peel and cut the onions into eighths.
- Mince the garlic cloves.
- Season the beef with salt and pepper.
- Heat half the oil in a large stewing pot. Add one third of the beef and brown on all sides. Remove from pot and repeat with the remaining two batches of beef. Set the beef to the side.
- Add the remainder of the oil to the pot. Add the onions and garlic and sweat for 2 minutes.
- Add the carrots and potatoes and toss with the onions to coat in oil. Sweat for a further 2 minutes.
- Return the beef to the vegetables in the pot.
- Add the beef broth, the tomato paste, sugar and worcestershire sauce.
- Add the thyme and bay leaves.
- Bring to a boil then reduce to a low heat and simmer for one hour.
- Add the mushrooms. Simmer for an additional hour.
- Make a slurry by blending the cornstarch and 3 tablespoons of cold water. Stir into the stew. Increase the heat to medium and simmer for a further 10 minutes to thicken the broth.
- Remove the thyme and bay leaves before serving.
- Serve in bowls with a side of rustic bread.
And there you have it – my simple farmhouse beef stew.
Wishing you all happy stew making over the coming cold winter months.
Slán agus beannacht,
(Goodbye and blessings)