Cherished recipes are like ripples, each one an echo of the original wave-making stone that broke the surface. This Ballymaloe House lamb stew recipe is the surface-breaking 1940s original, later published in Gourmet magazine (1960s) and then again in Ruth Reihl’s 2004-published volume featuring six-decades of Gourmet recipe bests. When LRF reader Iness wrote in search of the recipe, I reached out to Darina Allen, head of the Ballymaloe Cookery School in Shanagarry, County Cork, Ireland, author of Irish Traditional Cooking (just republished in a revised edition from Kyle Books) and part of the family running Ballymaloe House hotel and restaurant.
According to Darina, the stew recipe was given to her mother-in-law Myrtle Allen by neighbor-lady Madge Dolan in the 1940s. It became a staple at both Ballymaloe House and at the Ballymaloe Cookery School. While lamb stew is extremely common in Ireland with regional variations from county to county, (no carrots in Northern Ireland; barley added for extra sustenance in other places) this version differed from others of the period because the meat and vegetables are browned in hot fat before stewing, making the finished dish much more flavorful. The stew is delicious served up immediately after you make it, and is just as good warmed up the next day. Might be a nice alternative to corned beef for St. Patrick’s Day, right?