Sunday, February 14, 2010

Ireland - Irish Stew

I have always thought of Ireland as a place of beauty with rolling green hills dotted with castles and quaint stone farmhouses. I read that it holds a sense of timelessness and is said to be one of the most beautiful countries. A place once visited, is never forgotten, the old saying goes.

Dublin, the capital, has been called the greatest city in Europe, mostly because of the Irish locals, I believe. Going to an Irish pub for a pint of Guinness seems to be a time-old cliché, as Irishly typical as the leprechaun. But who goes to Dublin and doesn’t do that?

Ireland is a must-see place, despite the crummy weather – or maybe that’s part of the charm.

In the 16th century, Ireland’s cuisine was changed forever because of the introduction of the potato. Two of Ireland’s most popular dishes are the Irish stew, made with potatoes, and Boxty, a potato cake.

Irish cuisine also comprises of dishes such as boiled bacon and cabbage, and coddle, boiled sausages. They are known for their hearty breakfasts of bacon, eggs, sausages, fried potatoes and black and white pudding.

For our Irish meal I cooked Irish stew. It was once a peasant dish. Traditionally, only the cheapest and most readily available ingredients were used for the stew. It was made of lamb or mutton with potatoes and root vegetables.

The stew has evolved and there are now many variations.

I used beef in our stew and it still had a real sense of Irish-ness to it. I used Guinness beer and red wine. There was nothing peasant about it. But the recipe still included traditional ingredients such as potatoes, onions and carrots.

What’s not to like about Irish stew? It’s full of goodness and warmth, satisfying until the last spoonful. Like Ireland, it seems.

Irish Stew

1/4 cup olive oil
1 1/4 lb well-marbled chunk beef stew meat, cut into one inch pieces
6 large garlic cloves, minced
6 cups beef stock
1 cup Guinness beer
1 cup fine red wine.
2 TBSP tomato paste
1 TBSP sugar
1 TBSP dried thyme
1 TBSP Worcestershire sauce
2 bay leaves
2 TBSP butter
3 lbs russet potatoes, peeled, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1 large onion, chopped
2 cups carrots, peeled, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
Salt and pepper
2 TBSP fresh parsley, chopped

Heat oil in large pot over medium heat. Lightly salt beef. Working in batches (do not crowd) and beef and brown. Add garlic, sauté. Add beef stock, wine, tomato paste, sugar, thyme, Worcestershire and bay leaves. Stir to combine. Bring to boil.

Reduce heat to medium-low, then cover and simmer 1 hour, stirring occasionally.

Melt butter in another large pot over medium heat. Add potatoes, onion and carrots. Sautee until golden, about 20 minutes. Set aside.

After one hour, add vegetables to beef stew. Simmer uncovered until vegetables and beef are tender. Discard bay leaves. Transfer to serving bowls, add salt and pepper and sprinkle with parsley.

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