Eliza’s recipe for Irish stew

Eliza Acton published her cookery book in the 1840’s, a decade before Mrs Beeton who seems to have actually pinched some of Eliza’s recipes for her more famous Book of Household management.

It seems appropriate today, to share Eliza’s recipe for Irish stew, even though she wasn’t Irish. It is interesting though that the name was attached to the mutton and potato casserole as early as the 1840’s… and ironic that when the book was published the dreadful famine, the Great Hunger, was laying waste the island.

However… here is Eliza’s recipe:

Take two pounds of small thick mutton cutlets with or without fat, according to the taste of the persons to whom the stew is to be served; take also four pounds of good potatoes, weighed after they are pared; slice them thick, and put a portion of them in a flat layer into a large thick saucepan or stewpan; season the mutton well with pepper, and place some of it on the potatoes; cover it with another layer and proceed in the same manner with all, reserving plenty of vegetables for the top; pour in three-quarters of a pint of cold water, and add, when the stew begins to boil, an ounce of salt; let it simmer gently for two hours and serve it very hot. When the addition of onion is liked, strew some minced over the potatoes.
Obs. – For a real Irish stew the potatoes should be boiled to a mash; an additional quarter of an hour may be necessary for the full quantity here, but for half of it two hours are quite sufficient.

…and here it is in the usual form:

Eliza’s Irish Stew

  • 2 lbs small, thick mutton cutlets, with or without fat (or 2 lbs diced mutton)
  • 4 lbs potatoes, peeled, thickly sliced
  • plenty of pepper
  • salt
  • minced onion to taste
  1. layer potatoes and mutton, well seasoned with pepper,  in a stewpan (casserole) starting and finishing with potatoes
  2. add water to cover and bring to the boil, then add salt
  3. add minced onions if liked
  4. simmer for 2 – 2¼ hours until the potatoes have ‘been boiled to a mash’

This sounds very plain to us without the addition of other vegetables such as carrots, but maybe it is more authentic?


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