Darina Allen’s Ballymaloe Irish Stew

A wonderfully classic one-pot dish from Darina Allen. The recipe varies from region to region – in Cork, carrots are a quintessential addition, not so in parts of Ulster. Pearl barley is another favourite option, originally added to bulk up the stew. You’ll need to add extra stock (300–600ml) if you include pearl barley, it guzzles up liquid but becomes deliciously plump and flavourful.

INGREDIENTS (Serves 4–6)

1.35kg lamb chops (gigot or rack chops) not less than 2.5cm thick

8 medium or 12 baby onions

12 baby carrots, peeled and cut into large chunks

1–2 tablespoons pearl barley (optional)

850ml–1 litre homemade lamb stock or water

8–12 large potatoes, or more if you like,

peeled 1 sprig of thyme

1 tbsp roux (see below – optional)

1 tbsp freshly chopped parsley

1 tbsp freshly chopped chives

salt and freshly ground black pepper


110g salted butter

110g plain flour or 50g cornflour and 50g rice flour (for a gluten-free roux)


Preheat the oven to 180°C/gas mark 4.

Cut the chops in half and trim off some of the excess fat. Set aside. Render the lamb fat over a gentle heat in a heavy frying pan (discard the rendered down pieces).

Toss the meat in the hot fat in the pan until it is slightly brown. Transfer the meat into a casserole, then quickly toss the onions and carrots in the fat, and the pearl barley, if using. Build the meat, carrots and onions (and pearl barley) up in layers in the casserole, carefully season each layer with freshly ground pepper and salt. De-grease the pan with the lamb stock, bring to the boil and pour into the casserole. Lay the potatoes on top of the casserole (they will steam while the stew cooks). Season the potatoes, add a sprig of thyme, bring to the boil on the hob, cover with a paper lid and the casserole lid. Transfer to the oven or leave to simmer on the hob for 1½ hours until the stew is cooked. The cooking time will depend on whether the stew is being made with lamb or hogget.

To make the roux, melt the butter and cook the flour (or cornflour and rice flour) in it for 2 minutes over a low heat, stirring occasionally. Roux can be stored in a cool place and used as required or it can be made up on the spot. It will keep for at least two weeks in the fridge.

When the stew is cooked, pour off the cooking liquid, de-grease and reheat the juices in another saucepan. Thicken slightly by whisking in a little roux. Check the seasoning, then add half the freshly chopped parsley and chives. Pour over the meat and vegetables. Bring the stew back up to boiling point and serve from the pot or in a large pottery dish sprinkled with the remaining chopped herbs. Serve in deep plates with lots of good Irish butter.

For more delicious Darina Allen recipes, check out Simply Delicious ‘The Classic Collection’