Friday, March 18, 2011

Luck o' the Irish!

“May you be poor in misfortune, rich in blessings, slow to make enemies and quick to make friends. And may you know nothing but happiness from this day forward.”

“Where next shall we go?” I asked last blog. Well, to Ireland of course! It’s only fitting that on St. Patrick’s Day, we attempt an Irish-themed meal. I thought back to the meals we had when we visited Ireland last year, and from there came up with this menu:

  • Guinness Stew
  • Irish Soda Bread
  • Mashed Potatoes
  • Guinness

It’s pretty much what we had every other day. The next step was to find some recipes I thought I could maybe do. Well, mashed potatoes I can basically make in my sleep. It’s one of the first “complicated” things I learned to cook when I was younger. But more on that later. Anyway, recipes. So here’s what I found:

Guinness Stew:

Irish Soda Bread:

I tackled the Guinness Stew first, since that takes forever! Good thing I was subbing at Norcross, and also for a teacher that has 6B lunch and 7th period planning. I was home by 1:00. We decided we didn’t need a stew of 6 servings, so using my handy math skills, I calculated the ingredients for 4 servings.

Then, I did the most important thing. I put on my Celtic playlist so I could get in the mood. Some of my favorites are as follows:

“The Ferryman”

“Rare Ould Times”

St. Patrick’s Day Reels”

“Danny Boy”

And of course, all things Flogging Molly.

I then started to lay out the ingredients. If there is one thing I’ve learned since we began this cooking experience, it is to prepare everything BEFORE mixing it. That way I’m not running around like a chicken without it’s head trying to get things added to mixes before burning, or something like that. So I started first by mixing the flour, salt, pepper and cayenne in a bowl. Then I poured one tablespoon of veggie oil into another bowl. Next I cut the onions and put those in a measuring cup with the garlic. I used minced garlic instead of crushing a clove. I also added a little more garlic than the recipe called for, mostly because we love garlic.

Next, I cut up the carrots and put those into a separate measuring cup. Then I measured out the tomato paste and mixed it with some water. I had no idea how much would dilute it and what diluted tomato paste was, so I added some and stirred it until it was more like tomato sauce… Once I had all of that laid out, I started the prep part.

I dumped the beef into the bowl of oil. I then used my hands to mix it up and make sure all the pieces were coated. After that I moved the beef into the bowl with the coating. I realized a little too late that I didn’t exactly cut the quantity of beef down to 4 servings (more beef is always good…(that’s what she said)) so I really shouldn’t have cut down on the coating quantities. Oops. Once I had the beef all mixed in, I dumped it into the pot with warmed oil. I stirred that around and let it brown up, before adding the onions and garlic. After that I pretty much followed the recipe to a T. The only thing I added was peas. I figured it needed something more than just carrots, and peas are always a good stew veggie.

Once I had everything in the pot and let it simmer, I decided to take a nap. So lay on the couch for about 40 minutes with all the animals and napped. It was a good nap. Almost too good of a nap…

So my nap sadly came to an end. L When I got up I stirred the stew and did some tastings. I decided to add some more salt, pepper and cayenne. I wanted it to have a little kick to it. I also ended up burning my tongue so I may not know how this all really comes out… Next I prepared the potatoes. I washed, peeled and cut them. Then I placed them in a pot and put in water until it just covered the potatoes. Now, a little side note about me and potatoes. I LOVE potatoes. Pretty much anything potato. My dad always said that starch was my favorite food group. In 9th grade, I had to write a grant proposal for science, so I wrote a grant about studying the benefits of potatoes. Mashed potatoes are one of the first “complicated” things I learned to cook because I always asked for them. So finally one day my dad was like, “Sarah, I’m going to teach you how to make these so you can make them for us.” And it’s really pretty easy.

After I cut the potatoes up, I mixed up the dry ingredients for the bread. Then I covered those with plastic wrap, turned off the burner and put the stew in the fridge, and went to pick up Jesse from work. See, when we decided to make this, I forgot we had a 5:00 appointment we couldn’t change. So I had to work around that. When we got back from the appointment though, I set the potatoes to boil, preheated the oven to 450°, and put the stew back on the stove to warm up.

Once the oven was preheated, I added the buttermilk to the dry mixture. Ok, the recipe says lightly flour hands and then gently knead dough. Then make into a ball about the size of your fist. That was crap! It was sooooooo gummy and just stuck to my hands. It was impossible to get to the size of a fist because everything fell apart. I don’t know if I maybe didn’t add enough flour…

When I was measuring it I kind of lost count of how much I put in, so maybe? Anyways, I didn’t have much hope for the soda bread. But with that in the oven and the stew simmering, it was time to check on the potatoes.

It took awhile for the potatoes to boil, then even longer for them to soften up. See, when making mashed potatoes (and I don’t count powdered flakes as mashed potatoes), it’s important you boil the potatoes until they fall apart with a fork. If you do it too early, they get a little grainy. So finally the potatoes were ready. I drained the water, poured in a little milk, and spooned in some butter and sour cream. Actually, it’s crème fraîche our friend made (the label says Cream Cheese, but that’s not what it is, it’s what he had on hand at the time).

Then I used our cool Rasta potato masher to start mashing (Down by da beeeeeach, Mon).

Once I got a feel for things, I added a little more milk, sour cream and butter. Then I tasted it, added some salt and pepper and just a tad more butter. Then, Voilà! Amazing mashed potatoes! I like them just a little lumpy, but not too much. Potatoes are definitely a staple of Irish food. We had potatoes every night. When I lived in England the summer of 2002 we also had potatoes every night. They like potatoes over there. It’s meant to be. I belong there. J As a side note, I also love potatoes.

With the potatoes done, the bread timer went off. It looked like maybe it was done, until Jesse cut into the loaf. Yeah, still have dough…

Back into the oven that went. However, we still proceeded to eat because we were hungry. So we served our stew and mashed potatoes, Jesse poured himself a nice glass of Guinness, and we sat down to eat, continually checking on the status of the bread. Eventually the bread finally finished, but it took awhile. And was maybe still a teensy bit doughy… Oh well. But, I think we have begun a whole new tradition!

Pouring a Guinness:

The finished product:

Jesse sitting all alone eating his food:

Here’s a link to pictures of our food in Ireland. Notice the soda bread, it was in pretty much every meal we had in the country, even breakfast. We also had a lot of apple things (turnovers, pies, pastries, etc.). and the soup…the soups were TO DIE FOR




Preparation: 3 out of 5. This prep was not that easy. It wasn’t the hardest thing I’ve made, but definitely time consuming. There were a lot of ingredients and things to add for all three things. But, it was fun, especially listening to some good Irish reels. I wouldn’t let this discourage you, just maybe save it for a weekend or a day off. I was a little disappointed in the bread, because I was really looking forward to that. We had soda bread seriously every day in Ireland. It was so good and I was excited about having some more. But, I will just keep experimenting, and this time not zone out while I’m measuring. I may check out some other recipes as well.

Taste: 4.5 out of 5. This was really good. In my opinion, the potatoes were the best I’ve ever made. I could have eaten the whole pot of potatoes. The stew was also really good. There was only a hint of Guinness flavor left, and none of the alcohol.

Pickiness Factor: 3.5 out of 5. The mashed potatoes I give a 5 out of 5, unless you don’t like potatoes. But the stew, while I liked it, others may not. It did taste a little bit like beer, so if you really don’t like the taste, you probably won’t like this. The other flavors were really good and I would like to experiment with adding some more cayenne to the flour mixture and coating the beef better.


Preparation: 5 out of 5. All I had to do was pour the Guinness in the Glass. Easy Mode!

Taste: 5 out of 5. This was AMAZING. I’ve had the real stuff, and this was just as good if not superior. And Sarah is correct; these are some of the best Mashed Potatoes she’s ever made. NOM NOM NOM NOM. Seconds! Thirds!!!

Cost: 4 out of 5. You could totally make a whole heaping pot of this and survive the entire winter--that’s for sure. Most all of the ingredients are pretty easy to find and cheap too…just make sure you have a good supply of Guinness!

Average Rating: 4.17 out of 5

“And it's all for me grog, me jolly, jolly grog
All for me beer and tobacco
Well I spent all me tin on the lassies drinking gin
Across the western ocean I must wander”

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