Irish Stew with Parsnips

Spring hasn’t quite reached us up here on the plains of northern Montana but mid-February the snow had more or less melted and the ground had thawed which made it the perfect time to harvest the parsnips in our garden. Parsnips look like white carrots and are planted in the spring. Of course, you could harvest them in the fall but their flavor and sweetness improves dramatically if you harvest them in the late winter after the snow melts and the ground is no longer frozen. They tend to start growing in the very early spring and will bolt and go to seed quickly. It is important to harvest them before they start growing so the roots do not become soft and woody. Timing is important.

Despite the melting snow, it’s still pretty chilly here on the farm and call me old-fashioned, but there are few things better on a chilly day than a warm bowl of stew. Especially when that stew is largely made up of some of the vegetables we grow right here. If you’ve never eaten a parsnip, this is a great introductory recipe. And what better way to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day than a bowl of Irish Stew?

1 tablespoon The Oil Barn® safflower oil (can also use olive oil)
2 pounds boneless lamb shoulder, cut into 1½ inch pieces (or substitute with beef—grass-fed is best, if you can get it)
1 large onion, sliced
2 large carrots, peeled and cut into large chunks
1 large parsnip, peeled and cut into large chunks
4 cups water, or as needed
3 large potatoes, peeled and quartered
1 tablespoon rosemary
1 cup coarsely chopped leeks (or green onions)
½ teaspoon salt
black pepper
chopped fresh parsley for garnish (optional)

Heat oil over medium heat in a large stockpot or Dutch oven. Add meat pieces and cook, stirring gently, until evenly browned. Season with salt and pepper.

Add the onion, carrots, and parsnips and cook gently alongside the meat for a few minutes. Stir in the water. Cover and bring to a boil before turning the heat down to low. Simmer for 1 hour or longer, depending on the cut of meat used and if it is tender yet.

Stir in potatoes, and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes, before adding leeks and rosemary. Continue to simmer uncovered, until potatoes are tender but still whole. Serve hot with fresh parsley.

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