Irish Stew or “Stewed Bugs and Onions”

This is a basic stew, nothing fancy, in fact very simple and ordinary. But it is such a wonderful comfort food.

When we were young my Nannie and Mom used to answer our cries of “What’s for tea?” with “Stewed Bugs and Onions!” which would have us screaming and running away, which I am sure was one of the aims of the comment.  And this is that dish. There are no bugs in it, but there are onions and it is something that reminds me of my family and many meal times around the table.

My Nanda was a farmer and would forever entertain us at meals, with “complaints” of how Nannie always gave him the “wonky” plate (she didn’t, but he could make any plate spin and totter with just one slight push and have us all in gales of laughter at the wonky plate).  And creamed potatoes… they were an art form. He grew potatoes on the farm and when Nannie cooked them he would pound them into the creamiest, most amazing clouds of fluffy potato gorgeousness. Then he would teach us to plough straight furrows as we ate.

This post is less a recipe and more a memory.

So, here are my Nannie’s Stewed Bugs and Onions…

This can’t be simmered too long, and for once I feel that the stove top beats the slow cooker; just.  The long, slow simmering allows everything to meld, the water to turn into a magical gravy, the potatoes to break apart and everything just to be.  It is even better the second day, so try to plan ahead and reheat it on the day you want to serve stew.

This should be eaten with a spoon from a huge bowl by people who are seeking a warm tummy and a feeling of love; and topped with a dollop of HP Sauce if wanted.

Irish Stew - or "Stewed Bugs and Onions"

Irish Stew – or “Stewed Bugs and Onions”

Irish Stew

The amounts really depend on your mood, taste and what is available, but here is my suggestion

  • 1 lb Ground beef (or TVP if making vegetarian stew)
  • Seven large Potatoes
  • Five large Carrots
  • Two or Three Onions
  • Water – to cover
  • Seasoning – salt, pepper and Worcestershire Sauce if desired – to taste

Peel and slice the carrots into coins (the peeling is optional, depending on the time of year, and even when they need peeled I generally just scrape them with the edge of the knife to get the rough skin off).

Peel and dice the onions.

Peel and quarter the potatoes.

Brown the beef in a skillet to add flavour.

Put the browned beef (or TVP) into either a slow cooker or a large pot.

Add the onions, carrots and potatoes.

Top with enough water to cover and season.

Simmer until the potatoes are tender and breaking apart or cook on low in the slow cooker until everything is tender.

The stew is always better the day after it is cooked, so if you can plan ahead and make it the day before you plan to serve. The water will turn into a gravy magically.

Optional: Add a couple of stock cubes.