Ireland’s Burren and Beef Stew

The Burren, Ireland

The Burren, Ireland

Most people who visit Ireland go to see castles, explore pretty coastal villages and eat  hearty Irish meals, all of which was exactly what I had in mind on my first trip to Ireland.  But I made the colossal error of asking my husband to plan our trip.  So, we flew into Dublin and drove straight across the island to climb on rocks at The Burren.  I was not entirely sure about all this.

In case you haven’t heard of The Burren (I hadn’t before I stumbled and staggered across it), it is one of Europe’s largest karst landscapes, about 100 square miles (250 square kilometers).  Karst topography is an area of soluble bedrock, in this case limestone. The karst in The Burren is a rugged, rocky expanse that runs along the Atlantic coast and the Galway Bay in western Ireland.

Despite the rocky terrain, it is a hotbed of beautiful botanical wildlife — a magical and bewildering coexistence of rocks, harsh climate and flowers.  Inexplicably, the terrain hosts flowers otherwise found only in the Arctic Circle as well as those native to southern Europe.

Wildflowers Among The Rocks

Wildflowers Among The Rocks

As one might expect from a visit to the west coast of Ireland in early spring, the weather for our walk was fierce — wet squalls and nearly gale force wind howling across The Burren.  Had we not found Shane, a knowledgable guide, native to The Burren, who assured us we would not be blown to bits on the rocks, I probably would have resisted the whole idea.

Shane Connolly -  Burren Hill Walks Guided Tours

Shane Connolly – Our Delightful Guide from Burren Hill Walks Guided Tours

Despite some struggles with the weather,

Fighting The Wind

it was a fascinating walk

Shane Leading The Way

with beautiful vistas.

Burren and Gallway Bay

After two exhausting but exhilarating days trekking The Burren, I did get to visit a castle,

O'Dea Castle

O’Dea Castle


see some charming villages and eat some hearty Irish fare, such as a comforting Beef Stew with Guinness.

Guinness Beef Stew

Guinness Beef Stew

Guinness Beef Stew

Recipe By: A Global Garnish, LLC
Serving Size: 6

1 tablespoons oil, canola
4 pounds beef, chuck, cut in 2 inch pieces
1 tablespoon butter
2 shallots, chopped
1 large onion, chopped
2 sticks celery, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped or minced
3 tablespoons flour, all purpose
14 ounces Guinness
2 cups water
3 tablespoons tomato paste
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 bay leaf
2  springs rosemary, fresh, leaves removed and minced
2 tablespoons brown sugar
6 carrots, peeled and cut into 1 inch pieces


1. If you are starting with one-piece beef chuck, trim the fat, bones and grizzle.  Reserve any large bones.  Cut meat into 2 inch pieces.  For convenience, you can use beef stew meat, but I prefer to trim my own.  Salt and pepper meat.

Place canola oil in a large Dutch Oven-style pan (do not use olive oil as it will smoke) and heat to medium-high.  Place meat chunks in a single layer generously spaced and do NOT move the meat until browned on one side.  Turn and brown the other side.

Cook meat in batches as needed.  When finished, remove all meat from pan and set meat aside.  You should have a nice dark brown fond (not burned) in the base of the pan.  Do NOT wash the pan.

Beef Fond

Beef Fond

  • COOKING FUNDAMENTALS:  FOND.  The fond is what is left in the pan after browning (caramelizing) meats.  Components of the meat (primarily carbohydrates) change to flavorful aromatics and take on a characteristic dark color (like caramelized sugar).  Fond is the basis of pan sauces and good braising liquids.  If a fond is sufficiently flavorful, it is not necessary to add stocks to your sauce.  Instead, the sauce is made by deglazing the pan with a suitable liquid (wine/water/beer, etc.), which is then thickened and seasoned as needed.

2. Add 1 tablespoon butter to the fond in the pan.   Over medium heat, add shallots, onion and celery. Sweat vegetables and add garlic.  Cook an additional 3 minutes. 

Add 3 T flour to the pan (you can leave chopped vegetables in the pan) to make a roux with the fat (butter and fat from meat).  Stir an additional few minutes to cook the flour.  This will thicken your final sauce. 

Add 14 ounce can of Guinness.  Stir to deglaze, bringing to a simmer and scraping the bottom of the pan.  Add 2 cups water, tomato paste, salt, pepper, bay leaf, rosemary and brown sugar.  Return meat to the pan and bring to a simmer. 

NOTE:  This stew calls for water rather than additional stock – since you will get plenty of beef flavor from browning your meat and from the Guinness.

Cover and simmer for 1 hour.  After one hour, you should have a plentiful, silky sauce.   You’ll need the extra sauce for the carrots.

3. Add carrots.  Simmer uncovered for an additional 45 minutes – or until carrots and meat are tender.   

4. Serve with steamed cabbage and boiled or mashed potatoes. 

5. DO AHEAD DIRECTIONS:   You can make the entire stew ahead, refrigerator or freeze, and reheat when needed.  If freezing, I like to prepare through step 2, thaw and add carrots when reheating; I think it give the carrots a nicer texture.  Either approach is workable.  

If you are planning a Saint Patrick’s Day party for a crowd, this will be a great do-ahead party meal.  Just make your stew and mashed potatoes ahead of time for reheating later (stove top for stew; oven for potatoes), and prep your cabbage for steaming when guests arrive. 

27 thoughts on “Ireland’s Burren and Beef Stew

  1. Wow! I didn’t know what “fond” was. So cool! The stew looks amazing and I love the photos of the walk! Looks very blustery and fun.

    • Thanks Eggton 🙂 Yes, fond is so important in cooking. On the rare occasion that I have fond that I don’t need for a given recipe, I will deglaze it and freeze it for another use — so much flavor. Admittedly, it isn’t pretty, but it is good stuff.

  2. – Can’t believe that I’ve never heard the culinary term fond before!
    – My eldest sister made a version of this for myself and friends whilst visiting N. Ireland. I’m not overly keen on ales and most beers. Yet, that dish was incredibly tasty.

    • Yes, I think dark ales/beers add a lot to certain dishes (chili, stews) since they have such nice toasted grain/chocolate/earthy flavors. Although for drinking, I prefer a light bitter to Guinness.

  3. My husband and I toured the British Isles in May 2011 including a few days in Ireland. We had several kinds of beef and lamb stews that were all wonderful. Today, you taught me a new word, “fond”.

  4. Perfect timing! I was just looking for a Guinness Beef Stew recipe. Thank you for sharing yours.

    These are lovely photos of your trip. Although for me, it’s quite intimidating to do that kind of a trek. I don’t think I’ll be able to make it to the castle. My husband will probably have to carry me. 😀

  5. I recognise that weather – so similar to the Hebrides. I aim to visit The Burren, incredible landscape. Lovely stew, just the ticket after a day being pummelled by the wind, a feeling I know so well 🙂 thanks, Tracey

  6. We loved the burren. It felt entirely like an another world with its foreboding rocky terrain. We only hiked small sections at various locales but found it magnificent and other-worldly . As to your beef stew, mmmmmm, what is not better with Guinness? Happy St. Patrick’s Day.

    • Right now FL would seem “other-worldly” to me. It has been a long dreary winter. Wish we could have found the time to visit this year. Instead, I’m heading to MN soon. I won’t be expecting spring. Why don’t we have any family in warm climates??

      Do let us know if you’re in our area this summer. And Happy St Pat’s to you!

  7. How lucky to have found Shane to help you tour The Burren. And what a wonderland! That area makes me wonder what other plants and flowers would be found on large tracts of land had they not been plowed over, again and again, over the centuries.
    This sounds like a wonderful stew and would be perfect for entertaining. I definitely would make it a day ahead, though. Less pressure on the party day and most, if not all, stews taste so much better on Day 2. Thanks for sharing a great recipe.

    • Thanks John. Yes, we’re not big on “tours” – usually explore on our own. But we have found that exploring vast areas of the great outdoors can be a lot more fun with someone who knows the terrain. Shane was a great example – knew where to go and had such great local knowledge. How else would we have know that the flowers we saw were otherwise found only in the arctic?

    • Do look up Shane if you’re planning on exploring the Burren. We both thought he was great. And, yes, those husbands can be a problem. Although I hate to admit that my usual routine is to whine about whatever he wants to do, and then I end up loving it…

  8. My mom and aunt and I are considering a trip to Ireland to trace the family and see if we can find anyone there. I don’t think we’ll be walking on rocks. It looks fun, however (probably more so in the summer) I feel so knowledgeable as I know what fond is!

  9. What an amazing trip and a real outdoor excursion to see the fatherland. It looks like it was quite the challenge. I never knew there was an actual real word for those yummy bits left in the pan so happy to learn the new word…fond. Your Guinness stew looks so beautiful brown gravy and after your excursion a perfect way to end the day. Take care, BAM

  10. Pingback: Do-Ahead Thanksgiving Dinner (Part 1 of 3) and a Day Trip To Chicago | A GLOBAL GARNISH

  11. Yum-O! Just thinking of wandering the Burren and then coming back all damp and chilled to the bone…and sitting down to a hearty bowl of your stew!!! It look simply delovely! The cook in me says namaste to the cook in you. The engineer in me wants to know when you add the meat back to the pan? Shortly after deglazing, possibly? And can I add a bay leaf in there, and a few cloves of garlic? I’m a fool for garlic. Thanks again for a lovely, inspirational dish I look forward to attempting.

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