Irish stew is not a dish you would normally associate with plant based eating! But on St Patrick’s Day, I thought I’d share this tasty meat free alternative in case you’d like to celebrate with this hearty stew.
Traditionally, Irish stew contained goat or mutton, although beef was also used. Cut into small pieces it was stewed for a few hours in a large pot with onion, carrots and potatoes and water until the meat was tender. Simple and economic.
A lot of recipes for Irish stew now also contain Guinness, or some form of black stout – I’m not sure when that got added although I have suspicions it may be a little American adaptation! I wasn’t sure about adding it as I’m not a fan, but it actually helps to deepen the flavour, something that can be a challenge with meat-free recipes. Guinness went vegan in 2018 which is good news for anyone who enjoys a ‘bit of the black stuff’.
As meat is key ingredient in the original recipe, finding a good alternative is key. For me, I prefer using oyster mushrooms cut into bite-sized chunks and added near the end. This way you get flavour and texture, but no ‘meatyness’ which is very much my personal choice. It also makes sure you have a gluten free dish for anyone who needs it. If you want more texture or enjoy meat alternatives, then you can use seitan or a commercial meat free beef chunks.
As I follow a whole-food plant-based diet for health reasons, these alternatives are just too processed for me. Seitan is full of gluten – literally. This concentration of gluten is so far from what you find in nature it’s a bit too much of an inflammatory hit for me. Having said that, I do have it on the rare occasion, but usually when eating out and there’s no other option. The same goes for the meat-free alternatives. Quorn in particular is one of my food intolerances – it gives me migraines so I stay well away from that. As for the others, the combo of refined ingredients again are not really part of an anti-inflammatory diet.
These meat-free products do have their purpose though, so I’m not saying everyone should avoid them. Indeed, companies like Beyond Meat have been really successful in reducing meat consumption with their target market being meat eaters, not vegetarians or vegans. So when it comes to the environment and animals, these products are a hugely important. And there has been research recently suggests that replacing meat with meat-free alternatives does have health benefits. I’m sure there’s more to come on that as we go forward.
Anyway, back to the recipe! This stew takes about 50 minutes to cook, but some of that time is due to the swede as it always takes long than you think. It’s also not a traditional ingredient, but a tasty addition. Feel free to leave it out if you want a shorter cooking time or don’t have one to hand.
This stew really is super filling so only needs to be accompanied by a simple side vegetable – cabbage or greens of course! I’m really into seasonal greens right now as they are generally cheaper than other cabbage products, have a great flavour and stay really green when cooked.
If you’re planning a full Irish-themed meal, then you could also start with colcannon soup and have a loaf of soda bread on the side. And if you have room afterwards – and still move – then a slice of Baileys cheesecake (you can find the recipe in my book) will finish you off for sure!
I hope you enjoy this tasty alternative to this much loved traditional Irish stew. Do let me know if you make it.
Vegan Irish Stew
- 1 medium onion finely chopped
- 2 celery sticks finely chopped
- 3 medium carrots chunky chopped
- 300 grams swede cut into small dice
- 500 grams potatoes scrubbed and cut into small-medium pieces
- 2 bay leaves
- 170 ml vegan Guiness or stout
- 260 ml vegetable stock
- 1 tbsp tamari or coconut amines
- 1 tbsp dried thyme
- 1 tsp garlic powder optional
- 150 grams oyster or chestnut mushrooms or 200g seitan or meat free beef pieces
- 1 tbsp cornflour
- salt and pepper to taste
- 2 tbsp fresh chopped parsley optional
- shredded steamed seasonal greens or cabbage
- Once all the vegetables have been peeled and chopped, heat 2 tablespoons of water in the base of a large pan and add all the veg (except the mushrooms if using) with a pinch of salt and the bay leaves. Sweat on a medium-low heat with the lid on for 10 minutes, stirring from time to time and adding a little more water if needed.
- Pour in the Guiness or stout, vegetable stock and tamari and add the dried thyme and garlic powder (if using). Stir well to combine, bring to the boil then reduce the heat and simmer with the lid on for 20 minutes.
- For the mushrooms or seitan, chop them into bite-sized chunks. The beef alternative will probably already be chopped. Pop a small non-stick pan over a medium heat and dry fry whichever you are using for a couple of minutes until slightly firm and brown. Turn off the heat.
- When the 20 minutes simmer time is up, add the mushrooms/seitan/beef alternative to the pan and stir well. Simmer for another 5 minutes.
- Pop the cornflour into a small bowl with a little water and mix together to make a thin paste. Pour into the stew and stir to thicken the sauce a little. Simmer for another 5 minutes, stirring from time to time then turn off the heat. Remove the bay leaves. Check the flavour and season with salt and pepper as desired.
- Serve in bowls garnished with chopped parsley and steamed greens on the side.