Like ‘mam’ used to make: Irish beef stew

During a trip to Ireland, Evan met with artist Breda Burns, who shared her mother's bare-bones recipe for traditional Irish beef stew. And when making the stew at home, she sources the vegetables from her own backyard!

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.