St. Patrick’s Day – What To Eat
Although celebrated all over the world, St. Patrick’s Day here in Ireland still tends to be a low key affair. I once spent a memorable St. Patrick’s Day when I was a child, in Chicago where we were astonished to see the river dyed green and shop windows full of wonderful green displays and you could even get green soda bread !
These days there are wonderful parades all over Ireland and the closest to us are in Armagh the Ecclesiastical capital of Ireland, with two St. Patrick’s cathedrals, one Catholic and one Anglican and it was here that St. Patrick built his great stone church.
When it comes to food we never had anything special for Saint Patrick’s Day but we have many wonderful Traditional Irish Recipes and these are the recipes that people cooked or baked very day regardless. Not least our renowned soda breads of which there are many variations around the country. Rhubarb can be found in March and is delicious in a traditional Rhubarb Tart made with buttery shortcrust pastry and served with cream.
You can find my family recipes for soda bread, scones and lots more in my Traditional Irish Baking E book.
Irish Stew, nourishing and heart warming, would be ideal for a cold March day. I must admit I don’t often make Irish Stew but I do love it particularly when my mother makes it.
Irish Stew is a humble dish that was traditionally a simple and nourishing way to feed a large family. The main ingredient is actually potatoes, my mother’s preference these days is for Maris Piper potatoes, but traditionally ( in County Armagh anyway ) they would have used Aaran Victory potatoes which have a deep purple skin and are rarely to be found these days. Other traditional varieties of potato such as Kerr’s Pinks would work well. Ideally a potato that’s not too floury. Queens and Golden wonder – the closest descendant of the old Lumper potato that dates to the famine – although renowned for their flavour would be a bit too floury to work well in Irish Stew. My mother also adds some celery for flavour although not everyone does, so feel free to leave it out if that is your preference,
And the other key ingredient which lends the distinctive and wonderful flavour is the lamb. My mother favours small loin lamb chops but any chops with some fat and on the bone would be good. Bone and fat are flavour ! Best to just ask your butter what he recommends. We have wonderful lamb here in Ireland which spend their days on lush green fields outdoors. I just have to look out my kitchen window to see them.
This is my mother’s Irish Stew recipe.
6 lamb chops
2 large onions, peeled and sliced
6 carrots, peeled and cut into small pieces
6 or 7 potatoes (Maris Piper) peeled and cut into quarters
4 – 6 stalks of celery
1 .5 – 2 pints water
salt and pepper
Makes a large batch! Probably enough to serve 6 – 8
Need a heavy-based casserole pan
Heat the pan on a medium heat.
Trim the fat from the lamb chops and then render this fat down in the pan. Cut the chops in half and then brown in the fat until nicely browned all over then transfer the browned lamb to a plate leaving the fat in the pan.
Add the onions to the pan and sauté until soft. It’s important to let the onions cook down at this point to get really good flavour. Add the carrots and celery and a little water to prevent sticking if need be. Cook gently for about 10 minutes until softened and then add the potatoes and the browned lamb chops.
Add a good pinch of salt and pepper and then add the water, approximately 1.5 to 2 pints. Just enough to completely cover the potatoes.
Bring to the boil and then simmer very gently for approximately 1.5 – 2 hours or you can cover with a lid and cook in the oven at 160C for the same amount of time.
The lamb should be falling apart and the potatoes completely cooked, some of the potatoes almost have a mash like consistency and it should be quite moist. Taste and adjust the seasoning if need be.
Keeps well for a day or two.
Here at the cookery school, our Traditional Irish Baking Experiences are always one of the most popular baking classes with locals and visitors from far afield. These classes are very much hands-on and an opportunity to hear our stories and get stuck in having a go at making your own soda bread.
Any queries do get in touch we would love to hear from you.