Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Hearty Irish fare

I can't believe it is well over a week since St Patricks Day.

This year, there was eight for dinner. Everyone arrived wear something green - it was fun night. The kids were sooo excited to have their grandparents over for dinner. I realised it had been a while, we must do it again soon.

It was an Irish feast to be sure.

On one of our hottest days and a rare day of full sunshine, I was committed to the kitchen. I didn't mind, it is my favourite place to be. Here was the menu for the night.

Parmesan Cheese Biscuits (with drinks)

Beef Braised in Guinness
Dublin Coddle
Baked Onions
Steamed Broccoli and Asparagus
Soda Bread

Ballymaloe Apple Cake 
Spiced Apple and Walnut Cake 

Homemade Baileys

While I travelled through Ireland for over a month when I was in my twenties, I never got the chance to eat in an Irish home. However Grandma and Grandpa have visited Ireland many times and have stayed with their Irish relatives. My mother-in-law told me that there is always a big bowl of mashed potatoes on the table no matter what. Even if there is colcannon or champ or roasted potatoes or soda bread there is also, always a bowl of plain mashed potatoes. I guess I will be doing that next year.

My grandfather's father was Irish, he died in France in World War 1, not a lot (read: pretty much nothing) is known about his family. But I have always enjoyed celebrating St Patrick's Day, thinking about our unknown ancestors, the lives they lived and the foods they could have eaten.

I bought this book 15 years ago while living overseas, while I do vary my St Patricks Day dinners from year to year, a firm favourite are the recipes from this book, that I will share here today. This is the meal that I cooked for my husband on our very first St Patricks Day together, just us, in our first home, by candlelight, with way to much food for two. I remember the night like it was yesterday.

Beef Braised with Guinness

serves 6-8

• 200 grams prunes (pitted and left whole)
• 2 tablespoons olive oil
• 1.5 kilograms chuck beef (cut into 5cm cubes)
• 1 onion (diced)
• 450 grams carrots (cut into fingers)
• 6 garlic cloves (peeled but left whole)
• 2 tablespoons plain flour
• 1 tablespoon tomato paste
• 750 ml Guinness
• 1 bouquet garni (3 bay leaves, 2 sprigs rosemary, thyme, parsley, and 3 strips of orange peel)
• salt and pepper

Start this recipe the day before. Soak the prunes in water overnight. Drain before using them in the casserole.

Preheat oven to 150 degrees. Heat the oil in a heavy based casserole and seal the meat on all sides. You may need to do this in two batches. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside. Add the onion, carrots and garlic and let them begin to colour before sprinkling them with the flour. Add the tomato paste and then return the meat to the pot. Slowly pour in the Guinness, stirring as you do, allowing the liquid to thicken. Bury the bouquet garni in the liquid and bring to the boil. Season to taste and transfer into the oven. Cook for 1 1/2 hours. After this time, add the prunes and return to the oven. Continue to cook for another 30 minutes or until the meat is tender. Remove the bouquet garni and serve immediately.


serves 6-8

• 1 kilogram green cabbage (finely shredded)
• 2 leeks (rinsed well and finely diced)
• 150-300 ml milk
• 1 kilogram potatoes (peeled and roughly chopped)
• salt and pepper
• a pinch of grated nutmeg
• 125 grams butter (melted)

Simmer the cabbage and leeks in just enough milk to cover. Cook until soft. Boil the potatoes until tender, then drain and mash them. Season with salt, pepper and nutmeg. Add the cabbage, leek and milk mixture to the potatoes and mix well. Place the mixture into a deep serving bowl and make a well in the centre. Pour in the melted butter. Serve the vegetables with spoonfuls of butter.

I actually didn't know this, but according to my book the Irish make this with kale. Kale has only recently appeared on the shelves here in Queensland. I might try this again during the cooler months. I only discovered kale last year and I love it!

Baked Onions

• allow 1 large onion per person

to serve 

• butter
• salt

Preheat oven to 150 degrees. Trim the bases of the onions, if necessary, so that they will stand upright, but do not peel them. Stand the onions in a roasting tin and pour in about 1 inch of hot water. Bake for 2 hours. Serve the onions in their skins with butter and salt.

This is the same time and temperature as the Beef Braised with Guinness. So if you are serving them together they are cooked at the same time.

I will post a few more recipes tomorrow. One of the apples cakes was not nice and I didn't end up serving it on the night. I can't put my finger on what went wrong. But I just didn't like it. How can apple cake not taste good? The other apple cake was this one, actually a dutch apple cake that has been baked at the Ballymaloe Cooking School in Ireland for years.

Do you celebrate St Patrick's Day? I'd love to know what you cook?

What is your favourite Irish food?

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Thanks for stopping by. I'd love to hear what's happening in your kitchen. If you've tried one of my recipes, I'd like to know what you thought? Do you have some advice to make it better? Did you find a mistake? Perhaps it is a new favourite in your home?

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