Swaggies Jumbuck


Makes 6 servings (serving a crowd?)

Swaggies Jumbuck
  • 2 carrots, diced
  • 1 medium (8oz) onion, diced
  • 1 stalk celery, diced
  • a handful of parsley, finely chopped
  • 2 teaspoons dried rosemary
  • 5 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 inches gingerroot, peeled, sliced, and cut into matchsticks
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 20 oz Guinness (see notes)
  • 3 lbs lamb, cut in ½ inch to ¾ inch cubes (see notes)
  • about ¼ cup of flour
  • 2 Tablespoons grease, lard preferred
  • 2 Tablespoons Vegemite

For the scalloped potato topping

  • 2 lbs sweet potatoes (see notes)
  • 4 rashers bacon
  • 1 medium onion (8oz), finely chopped
  • dash teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon pepper
  • 3 Tablespoons flour
  • 2 cups 2% milk
  • 3 oz shredded Parmesan

Special equipment

heavy duty gallon-sized zip-seal plastic bag


Make a marinade of the first ten ingredients and seal with the lamb in the plastic bag. Marinate for a day or two in the fridge.

The next day, while you’re preheating the oven to 350°, remove the lamb pieces from the marinade, coat with the flour, and brown on medium high heat in the grease in a frying pan. Deglaze the pan with some of the stout from the marinade. Stir in the Vegemite. A swagman might have browned his lamb shanks or steaks on the grill over the same coals into which he would have buried his Dutch oven (a technique we tried and rejected), but we want a rich, thick gravy, and that means cubing, flouring, and browning the meat in grease.

Place meat, remaining marinade with vegies, and deglazed drippings into place in a 13x9 roasting pan. Stir, and place in the hot oven. You’ll bake it uncovered for a total of about an hour.

While that’s cooking, start on the scalloped potato topping. Bring a very lightly salted pot of water to boil while you wash and peel your sweet potatoes. Slice them into ¼ inch discs, and boil for 5 minutes. Drain and set aside, covering so that they don’t dry out.

Fry the bacon until crisp. Chop and set aside. Discard all but 1 Tablespoon of the fat, in which you’ll cook your onions over medium heat until soft. Add seasonings and flour to make a roux and add the milk one cup at a time. Stir until thick, about ten minutes.

When the stew has baked for half an hour, remove from the oven and cover with half your potato slices. Cover that with half your crumbled bacon, and half of your sauce. The another layer of potatoes, the rest of your bacon, the rest of your sauce, and top with the shredded Parmesan. Return it to the oven for another half hour.


A swagman (more colloquially “swaggie”) is an Australian term for hobo, someone who carries his belongings in a swag (sack) on his back, roaming the countryside and living off handouts and the earnings from odd jobs. He could roast his pinched lamb on the campfire and then toss it in a Dutch oven with some tubers and beer and bake it in the coals.

Our swagman was much more clever than the jolly one of song: he e’t the evidence ’fore the constabulary arrived. Had he a verse, it’d probably go

He ate and he ate until he had a bellyache
Under the shade of the coolibah tree.
And he belched as he teased the troopers on their thoroughbreds:
I’ll not be waltzing Matilda with thee!

Alas, an utter fiction. We’ve been working on a stout-infused shepherd’s pie recipe for a while now. None has been worthy of promotion from the test kitchen to the menu. A collection of Australian recipes had a promising wine-marinated lamb stew called Swaggie’s Lamb Shanks that had potential despite its missteps (why the heck would you grill your lamb after it’s been stewed?). It’s reminiscent of our own wine-soaked Roast Haunch of Dragon, but most of the swagmen we know are more likely to have access to a couple bottles of beer than a jug of Chianti (ok, maybe you hang out with a higher class of swaggie), so we used stout. And let’s try topping it with yet another cheesy potato crust, preferably with a sheep's cheese. While the most popular sweet potato in Australia is an American import, the sweet potato had been used in Australian cookery long before European contact. Kumara is the Maori name for a local, fingerling sweet potato and is sometimes used for the larger American tuber.

This recipe has undergone many revisions to address the structural problems of the original and then tighten up the loose joints. Disappointingly, pre-grilling the meat like we do with the carnivore's chili didn’t give us the rich meaty flavour we were after, so we cut up our lamb into chunks, floured and browned them as you would other stew meats. The smaller meat pieces cook more quickly, so we greatly reduced the cooking time. The spuds were a bit too mushy when cooked for 10 minutes so we halved their boil time as well.

If you’re using 12 oz bottles of stout, to get the 20 oz needed for this recipe, just take a healthy swig from each. Always lookin’ out for ya.

How sad that we use self-sealing plastics bags as our tucker bags nowadays.


Could we cook the potatoes and stew in a single step, especially if we don't preboil the spuds? Possibly, but we think that’ll prevent the broth from cooking down enough so we haven’t yet tried that variation.

A double recipe fills an 8 quart full-length steam pan.