Rediscovering Ireland

08 Oct 2011


 I had forgotten. There is simply no better way to rekindle your love for the beauty of Ireland than to entertain visitors from abroad.  This week, we welcomed very special friends from the USA. After an eagerly anticipated farm tour, we each sat down to a warm bowl of Irish stew accompanied by chunky slices of freshly baked brown bread.  In between bites, we mapped out our very ambitious tour of the country. As you do.

The next morning, we got an early start for Kerry, an easy day trip from our neck of the woods. Weaving through the Killarney National Forest and around the Ring of Kerry, many oohs and aahs could be heard from our happy and awestruck passengers sitting beside us in the car. Despite witnessing this beautiful landscape on numerous occasions myself, I too could not resist marveling at the stunning reeks and rugged panoramas unfolding along the way…takes my breath away time and time again.

At one point during our Kerry expedition, the most beautiful grey fawn stepped out onto the road in front of the car. This is something I hadn’t experienced before on that route; luckily we were driving very slow and carefully so she was able to daintily sidestep to the other side of the road, no doubt looking for her mother. Later that evening, a fox with a very large fluffy red tail scurried across the road in the dark, a common sighting for us as well, but to our friends: novel.

Each time we have company from America we often hear comments like “ I love all of the privately owned shops lining the streets of towns and villages, they seem to really know their customers, you just don’t see that anymore back home”. There is also always an affinity towards ”all the wonderful real butcher shops and fishmongers” that aren’t the norm in America anymore. {though they appear to be attempting a comeback thankfully} Ireland always seems to take people back to a time and place where things were just a little more humble and a little less la-di-da.

Despite having sunshine for the first few days of the trip, the Irish rain made its obligatory appearance. Still, our guests were unbothered and delighted to keep touring. When we reached the top of the Cliffs of Moher {pictured above} on an impossibly wet and wild afternoon, it was declared that it was absolutely worth it. The rain and fog had only added to the dramatic and stunning spectacle, and the chill we felt was nothing a hot cup of tea couldn’t remedy.

Subtle differences were noted. Things like the fact that there are no electrical outlets in Irish bathrooms, potatoes of some shape or form are served with every entrée and that coffee is served after dessert not alongside your yummy last course {all of which were unusual to me in the early days as well} were observed, made sense of and hastily shrugged off.

We drove across the country and back again, discussing everything from how the Irish do funerals to matching car registrations with counties and what goodies we might find at Avoca if we have time to stop again. And, a line that was repeated more than once, “We could live here…..”

I know the feeling. 

To my mind, nothing beats a hot bowl of Irish Stew in the autumn/winter…here is my recipe, a hybrid of all the recipes and preparations I’ve enjoyed while living in and travelling around the country. I love adding parsnip and rosemary which is not customary, but adds more depth of flavour.

 Our Irish Stew

 3 tablespoons Olive Oil

1½ kg/ 3lb 5oz Lamb Shoulder Chops or Mutton Neck Chops

3 carrots cut on an angle or a 10 whole baby carrots

10 Baby Onions or 4 medium onions quartered

2 parsnips peeled and cut into quarters

8 potatoes peeled or 10 baby potatoes peeled

Sprigs of rosemary finely chopped

Salt & Pepper

600 ml chicken or lamb stock

Glass of dry white wine

Sprigs of thyme

1 tablespoon chervil (or parsley) chopped

1 tablespoon chives chopped

Preheat oven to 160c/325f

Cut the chops in half, do not remove bones as they add flavor.

Heat oil in large casserole until very hot, toss the meat in the

olive oil until browned, take out of the pan and then cook the

onions, parsnip, rosemary and carrots in the hot oil or fat for

a 2-3 minutes, seasoning with salt and pepper.

Add the meat back into casserole.

Place potatoes into casserole (if using baby potatoes wait 30 minutes into cooking time before putting them into casserole).

Add the stock, wine and thyme and cover.

Simmer gently either in an oven at 160c/325f until meat is tender, about 1 ½-2 hours.

Remove from oven, pour off the cooking liquid and, degrease, season if it needed and pour back over the stew.

Add chopped herbs and serve.

Makes 6-8 generous bowls.

*To degrease the juices, if you do not have a maisgras, add a couple of ice cubes to the strained liquid – the fat should rise up to the top, spoon it off and discard.


Slan Abhaile,


Photos and styling by Imen McDonnell


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16 Responses to “Rediscovering Ireland”

  1. Ashley Nunez says:


    I love your blog so much. I check it all the time and just love reading your posts. This just sounds so lovely. I am a student and will be travelling abroad to Scotland for three months and then hopefully spending about two weeks on my own. Wish I could have a host like you to show me around! Haha, one can dream. I am hoping maybe to get to Ireland and see it. I have longed to for so long and your blog just plays to that!

  2. I totally agree with your first paragraph–the best way to rediscover our place (and the beauty of our place) is to have visitors. And my English husband says he never looked at where he has lived all his life in the same way since I’ve arrived 🙂

    Your corner of Ireland does indeed sound very special.

    And the stew sounds amazing–now I’m craving the comfort food of stew. I had some cabbage stew at the weekend with some friends and it was gorgeous. This indeed is stew weather. I shall try yours next…!

  3. I do love lamb casserole/irish stew. with 3 growing male goat kids on the farm I think we will be having ‘goat casserole/ irish stew crettyard style’ sometime soon 😉

  4. Sheila Kiely says:

    Love how you’ve kept your veggies good and chunky Imen….no mush to be found in that bowl! Looks great.

    • imen says:

      I realllllly appreciate that comment Sheila…I prefer them that way…have made plenty of the mushy way too…think there are more nutrients when they aren’t cooked to kingdom come!

  5. nessa robins says:

    It sounds like you had really wonderful time with your guests! I just love the ring of Kerry, and the Cliffs of Moher are so spectacular. Your stew looks very inviting, perfect meal for this blustery weather.

    • imen says:

      Thanks Nessa. We had a WONDERFUL time. I miss them dearly already. The stew is yummy……my hubs thinks it should be a wee bit thicker however =) xx

  6. Móna Wise says:

    It is always lovely to see Ireland through the eyes of a visitor.
    We do tend to forget how beautiful and unique it is on the island and
    there is not a nicer way to rediscover our grá for home than breaking bread and covering scenic miles with them. You can’t beat the Irish stew. Looks delicious!

    • imen says:

      Thanks Mona! It really is unique….dare I say ‘otherworldly’ at times, but always, always stunning.

  7. christine says:

    Your blog is beautiful. xoxoxoxoxo

    I’m a US expat too, just in the UK.

  8. […] Rediscovering Ireland (plus a recipe for beef stew) via I Married An Irish Farmer […]

  9. Ilke says:

    I would love a good stew in autumn as well! Parsnips sounds different to me in a stew. I added to my grocery list for today.
    We are wanting to come to Ireland, to find my husbands ancestors, and look for McAliley traces. I assume we will be visiting north side of Ireland.
    It is funny all those differences people observe when they are in a new location. One of the most surprising to my in-laws when they came to Turkey with me was that restaurants serve coke and diet coke in cans or bottles, do not give ice, there is no refill machine. Never had thought about it until they pointed out. It is always fun to rediscover :)Hope you guys have a great time with your friends.

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