When artist Breda Burns of Westport, Ireland hosts international guests, she tends to want to give them an authentically Irish spread. However, there aren’t many entirely native dishes that come to mind. She says among them are “cabbage and bacon, brown bread, and stew.”
Burns’ artistic sensibility keeps the meals she makes at home, both for herself and for her guests, bright and rustic. She says, “I eat with my eyes, not my appetite.” An aesthetically pleasing dish, Burns’ mother’s stew showcases only a few ingredients, mostly sourced from her backyard. It adds up to a colorful, hearty plate of meat and veggies.
When asked about the recipe, Burns tells Evan that she doesn’t really write things down. Instead, she makes the meals however she recalls them. She says, “I don’t follow recipes. You’re inclined to cook the way your mother cooked when you were younger. So that was for six. Even though I’m here on my own, I’m still inclined to do that.”
There you have it. This recipe isn’t from a glossy cookbook about Irish food—it’s poured directly from Breda Burns’ memories into a pot, braised for a few hours, and dished on top of separately cooked potatoes (so they don’t disintegrate in the broth, we’re told).
It’s important to note: this is Burns’ modern take on her mother’s traditional Irish beef stew, which she says “would not have included wine.” The recipe is bare-bones and leaves room for personal adjustments to accommodate diverse eaters.
Breda’s version of Mam’s Irish Beef Stew
Slice and half of round steak
5 organic carrots
5 organic parsnips
1.5 pints of oxtail soup
Salt and pepper to taste
Record potatoes (Yukon Gold will do for American cooks)
Optional: Two glasses of red wine and/or fresh herbs
Tip: The amounts of the ingredients can be multiplied according to taste
Prepare meat: Cut meat into large chunks. Brown the meat in a skillet.
Prepare vegetables: Cut both the carrots and parsnips into large chunks. Peel the onions and leave whole. They will fall apart as they stew.
Combine: Place all the ingredients in a heavy pot and stew for a few hours. Wine and additional herbs can be added at this point or throughout stewing process.
Prepare potatoes last: Boil the potatoes separately and serve on the side with salted butter.