Stews have been made since ancient times using a combination of solid ingredients that are cooked in liquid at low temperatures allowing flavors to mingle. Stewing is suitable for less tender cuts (ie. shank, cubed rounds and cubed shoulder) that become tender and juicy with the slow moist heat method, while lean and tender cuts may easily become dry.
Simply combine veal and/or lamb with vegetables and a stew-cooking liquid such as water, wine, beer or stock. Stews are similar to soups, and in some cases there may not be a clear distinction between the two. Generally, stews have less liquid than soups, are much thicker and require longer cooking over low heat. Thickening stews can be done by reduction or by coating veal or lamb with flour before searing.
White stews, also known as blanquettes or fricassées, are also commonly made with lamb or veal that is blanched, or lightly seared without browning, and cooked in stock. Brown stews are made by first searing the meat well or browning, before a browned mirepoix, stock and wine are added.
For a traditional Irish stew season flour in a large bowl with the salt and pepper. Dredge lamb cubes in the flour mixture, shaking off the excess. In a Dutch oven (thick walled cooking pot), heat oil over medium heat. Brown lamb on all sides, to ensure browning is achieved, work in batches depending on preferred quantity of lamb being used, about 5 minutes per batch. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the lamb to a bowl.
Add water to the pot and cook, stirring to scrape up any browned bits from the bottom with a wooden spoon. Add chopped onions and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until softened. Return the lamb to the pot. Add chopped tomatoes, beer (or water), garlic, thyme, salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste, stirring to break up the tomatoes and dissolve the paste. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to medium-low, and cover and simmer for 1 to 1 1/2 hours, or until the meat is almost tender.
Stir in the chopped carrots and parsnips. Cover and simmer for 30 to 40 minutes more, or until the meat, potatoes and vegetables are tender. Serve the stew garnished with thyme sprigs, if desired and enjoy.