Facebook has a funny way of tapping into the consciousness of a wide swath of folks. I insouciantly mentioned in my status bar that I was “Guinness Irish stew and grandma’s beer and cheddar bread” and I got a slew of comments from friends and relations who were drooling over the very idea of such simple fare. Must have something to do with the upcoming holiday celebrating one Magonus Saccauts Patricius, son of an official working for the Romans in Britain in the 5th century.
Good Ol’ St. Patrick was brought to Ireland as a slave by a group of marauding pirate types in 416 AD. Contrary to popular belief, he didn’t exactly bring Christianity to Ireland, but he did make it much more popular. As for driving the snakes out of Ireland? Well, that’s probably myth. But, he did herd sheep, so he would probably appreciate this lamb stew recipe.
My grandmother, one Helen Manning, nee Pickett, not only made a mean Irish stew, she also made an insanely easy and delicious beer and cheddar bread that goes very well with stew. No need to go out the overcrowded pubs with all the other “Irish for a day” types and drink watery green beer this Tuesday. Stay home, crack open a stout and dig into this little bite of Irish soul instead.
Helen Pickett’s Cheddar Beer Bread
Makes 2 small 4×8-inch loaves or 12 muffins
3 cups all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
12 ounces Harp beer
1/4 cup minced green onions
3/4 cup grated extra-sharp cheddar cheese
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray two 4×8-inch loaf pans or 12 muffin wells with non-stick cooking spray.
Whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt together in a large mixing bowl. Add the beer, chives, and 1/2 cup of cheddar and beat batter, always stirring in one direction, until smooth. Do NOT overbeat it.
Put the batter in the pans or muffin wells, sprinkle remaining cheese on top and bake until tops are golden brown and a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean, about 45 minutes to 1 hour for loaves, 35 minutes for muffins.
Remove bread from oven and let it cool on rack for 10 minutes before removing from pans, then allow bread to cool for at least 30 minutes more before serving; it is best when left overnight, the oniony flavors bloom with time.
Manning’s Irish Pub Guinness Irish Stew
3 pounds boneless lamb shoulder or leg, cut into 1-inch pieces
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 cup flour
4 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 large onion, chopped
3 medium carrots, peeled
2 cups Guinness stout
1 bay leaf
2 tablespoons minced herbs (thyme, rosemary, marjoram)
1 tablespoon tomato paste
3 cups beef or chicken stock
2 medium Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and quartered
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 parsnips, peeled and cut into 2-inch lengths
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 to 3 tablespoons brown sugar
Heat the half of the oil in a large sauté pan over medium high heat. Working in batches, season a big handful of meat with salt and pepper and dredge it in the flour. Shake off excess flour and brown meat in sauté pan until browned on 2 sides, 7 minutes. Transfer browned meat to a large Dutch oven or pressure cooker* with tongs and continue browning remaining meat, adding oil if necessary, and adjusting heat if flour begins to burn.
Chop 1 carrot finely. Add more oil to pan, if necessary, and add the onions and chopped carrot. Saute until beginning to brown. Add 1/2 cup beer and bring to a boil, scraping up browned bits. Put mixture in pot with lamb. Add the remaining Guinness, bay leaf, herbs, tomato paste, and enough stock to cover the meat. Bring to a simmer over medium low and cover. Cook until the meat is nearly tender, about 45 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 450 º F and place a heavy-duty pan in the oven. Thickly slice the remaining carrots. Toss the carrots and parsnips with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Open the oven, add the vegetables to the hot pan in an even layer, and roast until tender and beginning to brown, 15 to 20 minutes.
Add the potatoes and roasted carrots and parsnips to the stew and simmer stew uncovered until potatoes are tender when pierced with a fork and stew has thickened, about 15 minutes.
Season the stew with salt and pepper and brown sugar, if needed.