More than a Potato

Even though it was 17.5 years ago (see yesterday’s post), I can still remember the food in Ireland. While I don’t remember specific dishes, I remember the quality and the integrity of the meals. Two things pop out when I think of the food in Ireland…fields and fish. The rambling, green, quilt-like countryside with it’s farms and it’s animals…and surrounding the island is the sea. Ireland remains true to it’s culture with it’s cuisine; no overt influences of other nations, no mix of cultures. It is Ireland, the land and the sea.

We ate in local pubs, sitting at the bar and enjoying soups and stews. I do remember there being great slabs of bacon and a roasted to-mah-to on each and every breakfast plate (not my druthers. The tomato, not the bacon). There were hearty meats and root vegetables. There were creamy and brisk Irish coffees, whiskey and Guinness. There were crumbly breads and wonderful seafood. And I also distinctly remember craving the world’s biggest, greenest salad upon our return to the States. That was one thing that wasn’t happening with wild abandon there…salads…maybe things have changed since 1995.

But the food was solid, good and true. It wasn’t overly fussy, it was genuine. It was modern Irish food but steeped in ancient beginnings. Like breathing the air as it sweeps off the sea, with good food you feel rejuvenated and strong.

Try this recipe this week, as there is still a nip in the air (or a storm?). It will warm your insides and keep you going.

Beef in Stout with Herb Dumplings, from The Complete Irish Pub Cookbook
*this recipes calls to cook it in a heatproof/oventop casserole dish, starting on the stove top and then ending in the oven. I just do it in a large pan and keep it on the stovetop the entire time.

2 Tb. canola oil (the recipe calls for sunflower oil, but I like canola, grapeseed or olive)
2 large onions
8 carrots, sliced
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2.75 lbs. chuck short ribs or center cut beef shanks, cut into cubes
2 cups stout (such as Guinness)
2 tsp. firmly packed dark brown sugar
2 bay leaves
1 Tb. chopped fresh thyme
salt and pepper
Herb Dumplings
1 cup all-purpose flour
1.5 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 cup butter (the original recipe calls for suet. Ew.)
2 Tb. chopped fresh parsley
about 1/4 cup water

Preheat oven to 325. Heat the oil in a large pan. Add onions and carrots and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes, or until the onions are softened. Meanwhile, put the flour in a plastic bag and season well with salt and pepper. Add the beef to the bag and shake well to coat. Do this in batches if necessary. Reserve any of the seasoned flour.

Remove onions and carrots from pan and reserve. Add the beef and, in batches, cook until browned all over. Return all meat, the onions and carrots to pan and sprinkle in the seasoned flour. Pour in the stout and add the sugar, bay leaves, and thyme. Bring to a boil, cover, and cook for several hours (about 2) until meat is fork-tender.

To make the herb dumplings, sift the flour, baking powder, and salt into a bowl. Stir in the butter, cutting it into little pieces until the mixture resembles coarse sand. Add parsley and enough water to make a soft dough. Shape into small balls and drop into pan on top of cooking stew. Cover, let steam and they will puff, about 15 minutes.

Remove bay leaves, sprinkle with more parsley and enjoy.

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