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Joe Kelly’s Irish Stew

By March 17, 2014February 14th, 2021Cuisine

In honor of St. Patrick’s Day, I’m finally unveiling something I’ve been working on for a while.  This a quick and easy but really rich and flavorful Irish stew.


Don’t get me wrong, I’m all about taking all day to make Julia’s Boeuf Bourguignon:  getting into the zone, peeling and cross-hatching the onions, cleaning the mushrooms, worrying over the temperature – it’s all great, but sometimes you just don’t have all day, or you need something that will be fine on its own in the slow cooker for about 6 hours.  I’ve been working on this recipe for a while now, and I think I’ve got it just where we want it:  a nice balance of flavors, and prep that comes in just under 45 minutes, then leave it alone for 2-3 hours and Bob’s your uncle, or rather,  Joe Kelly is your best friend, and he loves this.  He’s been known to lick the plate, which we don’t normally encourage, but Joe gets away with murder.

There are a few surprises in the ingredient list.  I used to think that when it came to stews it was EITHER Guinness OR red wine, but then I found a recipe that combined the two (sadly, I cannot remember where I found it, and believe me, I’ve searched) and the result is fantastic.  The tomatoes give it a nice zing, and the secret ingredient – blackberry jam (yes, really) – brings everything together beautifully.

One key step that absolutely cannot skip is the dredging and browning of the meat.  It doesn’t matter what meat you use, and for one memorable round of this recipe testing, I used  veal AND beef, AND lamb and Bozhe moi, it was good!


Luckily, that night we had invited a rock star….well, actually  a podcast celebrity, but to us he is a rock star, over for dinner.  He seemed ready to lick the plate as well, which pleased me immensely.

Be sure the meat is at room temperature before you pat it dry, dredge it lightly in some flour and salt and then work in batches to brown the meat, taking care that there is plenty of room for the meat to…I don’t know what it does, but it seems to like a lot of lebensraum in which to do it.

Joe Kelly's Irish Stew-3

Joe Kelly's Irish Stew-4

You can dress this up or down.  The Urban Family enjoyed it recently with just a basket of fresh baguettes from Volkhonsky.  You could also stick a bunch of filo dough on top and bake for about 25 minutes once it’s done for a lovely bring-to-the- table dish.

For best results, make the day before and let it rest.  It also freezes beautifully, so go ahead and double the recipe while you are at it.  You never know when Joe may drop by…


Joe Kelly’s Irish Stew


  • 2 sprigs thyme
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 45 ml (3 Tbl) orange zest
  • 375 ml (1-1/2 cup) stout
  • 1 bottle robust red wine
  • 150 ml (2/3-cup) blackberry jam
  • 1 large yellow onion (roughly chopped)
  • 4 cloves garlic (peeled and crushed)
  • 250 ml (1 cup) chopped tomatoes
  • 30 ml (2 Tbl) tomato paste
  • 2 sprigs rosemary
  • 7-8 medium-sized potatoes (peeled and shaped into ovals)
  • 60 ml (4 Tbl) olive oil
  • 60 ml (1/4-cup) flour
  • 45 ml (3 Tbl) table salt
  • 1 pinch of cayenne pepper
  • 3 anchovy fillets (crushed with the back of a wooden spoon)
  • 750 gm (1-3/4 lb) meat of your choice: lamb, beef, or veal
  • 3 large carrots (cut on the bias into large pieces)


  1. Trim any excess fat off the meat and cut into 1-inch chunks. Lay the meat out on a cookie sheet and salt and pepper generously. Let the meat come to room temperature, then pat dry with paper towels.
  2. Combine the flour, table salt, and cayenne pepper in a plastic bag. Place approximately 1/3 of the meat chunks in the bag and shake several times until the meat is coated thoroughly. Shake any excess flour off the meat.
  3. Heat half the olive oil in a heavy-bottomed Dutch oven or stew pot. When the oil is just sizzling, brown the dredged meat chunks for about 3 minutes a side until there is a nice crispy fond. Work in batches so that the meat has plenty of room.
  4. When the last batch of meat is finished, heat the remaining oil, then sauté the onions and garlic until they are soft, salting them about halfway through. then add the carrots and potatoes, tossing vigorously so that they are coated with oil.
  5. Add the tomato paste and stir so that all of the ingredients are coated with the paste. Let cook for about 5 minutes.
  6. Add the browned meat chunks, chopped tomatoes, anchovy fillets, and blackberry jam. Toss to combine, then slowly pour the stout into the pot, allowing the foam to subside. Then add the wine. Tie the rosemary and thyme together with kitchen twine, then nestle it in the stew along with the bay leaves and orange rind. Bring the stew to just before a simmer, then reduce the heat to the lowest possible level, cover and let cook for 2-3 hours. This is a great one for the slow cooker: 4 hours on low. You can also cook it in a preheated oven at 160F for about 4 hours.
  7. Remove the bay leaf, rosemary and thyme, and the orange rind. The anchovy should be long gone.
  8. Serve in shallow soup bowls that have been slightly warmed. Garnish with parsley and tear off some lovely French bread to soak up the redolent sauce!




Readers, do you have a go-to weeknight favorite?  Something that is just so gosh darn plate-licking good?  Tell us about it by hitting the comment button below!  Have you ever put blackberry jam in a stew?  Do you think you will try it, or do you think I am crackers?
There are so many great Irish cookbooks, it’s hard to know which to recommend! I love Cathal Armstrong’s My Irish Table: Recipes from the Homeland and Restaurant Eve
lyric storytelling in this mouthwatering ode to the country’s wonderfully diverse cuisine:[divider_flat]




I credit The Country Cooking of Ireland with my passion for game. The clear recipes and excellent photos take much of the mystery out of this sadly-neglected food group.[hr]




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