Vegetarian Irish stew sounds like one of those technically impossible dishes–as oxymoronic as vegan steak and potatoes. Most traditional recipes start off with two pounds of lamb, beef or mutton, and precede from there. There is a flurry of vegetarian versions on-line, but the majority of them rely on meat substitutes. Although I know a lot of people like meat stand-ins, I’m not one of them. Another popular recipe calls for soy sauce and red lentils–that’s somehow not sounding very Irish stew-ish to me.
So I hopped on the roots-and-Guinness train of Irish stew, deciding to incorporate a gaggle of lovely root vegetables–the stalwart survivors from my Northeastern farmer’s market–with some nice stout beer to add another level of depth. And I added pearl barley for some “tooth” and extra protein. But you know what? Guinness isn’t vegan, so if you are heading for a vegan version of this dish, try Samuel Smith’s or another stout that doesn’t use isinglass in the filtering process. Some recipes for Irish stew call for cooking it in the oven, and there are slow cooker methods as well. Since this version doesn’t have meat the cooking time is reduced and I find that cooking it on the stove top is easy and convenient–especially if (like me) you’re one of those soup-makers that likes to poke and prod and stir and sniff as the soup/stew cooks.
4 tablespoons olive oil
3 medium leeks, cleaned and sliced (or 2 medium onions, diced)
1 cup cup parsnips, sliced
1 cup carrots, sliced
1 cup potatoes, sliced into chunks
1 cup turnips or rutabagas, peeled and sliced into chunks
1 cup celery, diced
4 cups vegetable stock
2 cups stout beer
1 cup pearl barley
1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped
A few sprigs each fresh rosemary, fresh thyme and fresh marjoram (or 1/4 teaspoon of each dried)
Salt and pepper to taste
1. In a large soup pot or dutch oven, saute leeks in the olive oil until translucent. Add the remaining vegetables and cook for a few minutes, stirring to coat the vegetables with oil.
2. Add broth, stout, barley and parsley to pot. Tie together sprigs of fresh herbs with a piece of cooking string and add (or add dried herbs). Bring to a boil, then reduce heat. Simmer for an hour, or until vegetables are tender and stew has thickened, adding water if necessary. Remove herb bundle.
3. Season with salt and pepper, divide among plates and serve with bread.