I have been making the same Irish stew for years, with good reason; it's a tried-and-tested family recipe that brings instant comfort. Recently, however, these Cheddar dumplings were added to the traditional recipe and I'm not sure I can go back now! The beauty of this stew is that it benefits from being made ahead - just finish if off by making the dumplings the next day.

Ingredients

Serves 

  • 1.2 kg boneless lean lamb,
  • trimmed of excess fat and
  • shoulder or neck, cut into
  • large chunks
  • 2 tbsp plain flour
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 large onions, sliced
  • 2 celery sticks, chopped
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • 3 tbsp pearl barley
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2–3 thyme sprigs
  • 1 litre fresh chicken stock
  • 2 large waxy potatoes, diced
  • Sea salt and black pepper

For the dumplings

  • 175 g self-raising flour
  • 2 tbsp finely chopped
  • flat-leaf parsley
  • 75g butter
  • 50g Cheddar, grated

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 160°C (140°C fan).
  2. Season the lamb and dust lightly with the flour. Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large casserole over a medium heat and brown the lamb all over in batches. Remove from the casserole and set aside.
  3. Add the remaining oil to the casserole and gently fry the onions, celery and carrot for 5 minutes until softened. Scatter the pearl barley into the casserole then place the lamb chunks on top along with the bay leaf, thyme sprigs and stock. Add the potatoes, season well then bring to the boil. Cover with a lid, transfer to the oven and cook for 2 hours.
  4. Add all the ingredients for the dumplings to a mixing bowl. Rub the butter into the flour using your fingertips. Season well, then gradually add up to 100 ml of water until you have a soft, slightly sticky dough. Using floured hands, shape into 12 evenly sized balls and set aside.
  5. Remove the casserole from the oven and increase the heat to 200°C (180°C fan). Place the dumplings around the edge of the stew. Re-cover and return to the oven for a further 30 minutes until the dumplings are pillowy – to brown the dumplings, cook for another few minutes uncovered. Serve in deep bowls.