She ladles hot stew onto a plain white plate and carries it over to the table. There’s a bowl of salad, too, tomatoes and greens, and a large loaf of bread. There are potatoes and carrots in the stew. The fragrance brings back fond memories. I breathe it all in deeply and realise I’m starving. I have to eat something.
This Murakami dish has been looming over me for a while. Although the description of the stew is rather vague, the very word stew conjures up Irish stew specifically, and my Dad’s heavenly homemade recipe even more specifically. Basically upon reading the words “stew” and “potatoes and carrots” I had my work cut out for me. Particularly here in Korea where the land of stews and homemade bread are now like legends in my mind.
Anyway, what makes a stew Irish? Particularly when it’s made in Korea? Better Irish people than me will surely have a concise answer for that. As far as my humble knowledge on the topic goes though, it should be made with lamb and it absolutely must have potatoes in it. Before we get all i-diddly-i and let the paddywhackery really commence, the potatoes are actually really important because they effectively act as a roux to thicken up your stew. They’re also feckin delicious.
For a pot to feed four to five people, you will need:
3 large onions chopped into large cubes
4-5 cloves of garlic chopped (lovin that garlic)
5-6 large potatoes cut in various sizes
3 medium sized carrots cut into big chunks
6-8 lamb chops cut into 1 inch cubes (That’s a rough guess, I had to go out of my way here to find some frozen mutton, defrost it and salvage what meat I could from the fat and bones)
400 ml of lamb or beef stock (if you have the time and means, homemade would be well worth it)
250ml of Guinness (stout if possible, but I actually made do with draught and it still tasted great)
Parsley (couldn’t get this myself but would have preferred to have had it)
1. Melt some decent knobs of butter and healthy glugs of olive oil together in the pot and add your onions and garlic. Cook these over a very low heat for about 15 mins. Let them gently melt into a delicious buttery onion sauce.
2. Add your potatoes and season well with salt and pepper. Stir them to ensure that all are covered by the delicious onion butter sauce. These are going to cook slowly over a low heat for a long period of time and some will break down to act as your roux. It’s very satisfying to see and smell potatoes cook in this slow-paced way.
3. About ten minutes later you can invite your carrots into this butter-onion-potato party.
3. While you leave your spuds to do their thing you can start cooking the lamb. Heat up some olive oil in another pan and brown the lamb on all sides. Remove the lamb and pop it into the pot with the potatoes. Pour a bit of stock into the pan you fried the lamb in and stir to remove and browned bits still clinging to the bottom. Pour all of this into the main pot.
4. Add enough stock so that it’s just below the level of your ingredients and let it simmer for five or so minutes.
5. Although not technically necessary, in fact I’m sure some would argue it’s completely incorrect to do this, I added about 250ml of Guinness at this point and do not in the slightest bit regret it. I wholeheartedly recommend the subtle sharpness that it brought to the stew and I think you will too. It really brings the stew’s flavour up a couple of notches.
6. Now you need to leave that stew literally stew for about an hour and a half over a low heat. Remember to be seasoning well the whole way throughout if you want a good flavour. I covered the pot and left it to its devices except for checking up on it intermittently, removing any starchy potato foam that rose to the top.
7. After everything was cooked nicely I let it cool and stored it in the fridge overnight so it was ready to heat up again the next evening. Leaving stews overnight is generally a good move flavour wise, but if you just can’t wait, go ahead and have a healthy bowl of the stuff with a little chopped parlsey on top to serve and of course the very crucial Irish soda bread. Of course if you want to be really Murakami about it, you’ll need the tomato and lettuce salad there too as an accompaniment, although if I’m honest the salad, although made, was ultimately rather neglected by me.
There you have it, perhaps my final Murakami meal for quite a long time. I’ll be travelling for nearly four months so obviously the lack of kitchen and cooking time will inhibit any further posts. Hopefully it’ll be an opportunity to read more Haruki novels and gather some new recipes to recreate.
Cheers for reading thus far!