My impression from reading the recipes in my favorite cookbook (ATK International, of course) is that Irish food is hearty, not too heavily spiced, and big on potatoes. Since my friend Ben gave me a gorgeous dutch oven for Christmas, I definitely wanted to utilize it, so I went with some standards: Guinness Beef Stew and Irish Soda Bread. My friend Becky of BeCouply joined me for the meal, and if I do say so myself, we both thought it was tasty! My dad even enjoyed the leftover bread, untoasted, for breakfast two days later. I'm making a couple more loaves for potluck contributions this weekend. One thing I have to say, though: the recipe says not to overknead the dough, and they are not kidding (apparently in Ireland, it was a huge compliment to say that someone had a light hand with the bread). Also make sure you don't use too much flour like I did the first time.
Irish Soda Bread
3 cups (15 oz) all purpose flour
1 cup (4 oz) plain cake flour
2 tbsp sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp cream of tartar
1 1/2 tsp salt
2 tbsp unsalted butter, softened, plus 1 tbsp melted butter for the crust
1 1/2 cups buttermilk*
1. Adjust an oven rack to the upper middle position and heat the oven to 400. Whisk the flours, sugar, baking soda, cream of tartar, and salt together in a large bowl. Work the softened butter into the dry ingredients with a fork or your fingertips (fingers worked better than the fork) until the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs.
2. Add the buttermilk and stir with a fork just until the dough begins to come together. Turn out onto a flour-coated work surface and knead just until the dough becomes cohesive and bumpy, about 12-14 turns (do not knead until the dough is smooth).
3. Pat the dough into a round about 6 inches in diameter and 2 inches high. Place on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Cut a cross shape on the top of the dough with a serrated knife.
4. Bake until the loaf is golden brown and a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean or the internal temperature reaches 180 degrees, 40-45 minutes. Remove the loaf from the oven and brush the surface with melted butter. Cool to room temperature.
*Note: to make buttermilk, combine about 1-2 tbsp lemon juice or vinegar with milk. Let sit about 15 minutes, or until lumpy and gross.
Guinness Beef Stew
~3 lbs boneless beef chuck, cut into 1 1/2 inch chunks
salt and pepper
3 tbsp vegetable oil
2 medium onions, chopped
1 tbsp tomato paste
2 medium garlic cloves, minced or pressed
3 tbsp flour
1 1/2 cups low sodium chicken broth
1 12-oz bottle of Guinness Draught (or extra stout if Draught is unavailable)
1 tsp dried thyme leaves
2 bay leaves
1 1/2 lbs red bliss potatoes, scrubbed and cut into 1 1/2 inch chunks
1 lb carrots and/or parsnips, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
1 tbsp dark brown sugar
2 tbsp minced fresh parsley
1.Adjust an oven rack to the lower middle position and heat the oven to 325. Pat the beef dry, season with salt and pepper. Heat 1 tbsp oil in a large Dutch oven over med-high heat until just smoking. Add half of the meat and cook, stirring occasionally, until well browned, 7 to 10 minutes. Reduce the heat if the pot begins to scorch. Transfer the browned beef to a bowl. Repeat with 1 tbsp oil and the remaining beef. Transfer the meat to the bowl.
2. Add the remaining oil to the pot and return to medium heat until shimmering. Add the onions and 1/4 tsp salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, 5 to 7 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste and garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in the flour and cook about 1 minute.
3. Stir in the broth and 1 1/4 cups of the beer, scraping up any browned bits. Stir in the thyme, bay leaves, brown sugar, and beef with any accumulated juices. Bring to a simmer, cover, and transfer to the oven for 1 hour.
4. Stir in the potatoes and carrots to the stew and continue to cook in the oven, covered, until the beef and vegetables are tender, about an hour. Discard the bay leaves, stir in the remaining 1/4 cup beer, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Stir in the parsley before serving.