The popularity and availability of Irish stew have waned in step with those of its main ingredient, mutton. Long a mainstay of institutional and domestic menus in Britain, it has faded from the scene in the second half of the twentieth century, perhaps little regretted by those who remember watery versions meagrely eked out with bony mutton. It is composed of mutton (Mrs Beeton gives a recipe using loin or neck, or a more economical one with breast) packed in alternate layers with sliced potatoes and onions, covered with water and boiled or baked—so essentially it is the same dish as Lancashire hot-pot. The recipe is no doubt many centuries old, but the name Irish stew itself first turns up in 1814, in Byron's Devil's Drive: ‘The Devil … dined on … a rebel or so in an Irish stew.’
Subjects: Cookery, Food, and Drink.