Back home, in America, everyone is Irish at this time of year! St. Patrick’s Day is a fun time, with fabulous parades, music and parties with friends. Where we lived in Syracuse, New York, the parade was three hours long! We loved seeing the Irish dancers, the pipe bands, the fire trucks, the firemen and policemen. When we moved here four years ago, we experienced some culture shock when we first attended our local parade and it was over within an hour and there were no Irish dancers!!! We did, of course, still have fun! It was just a different experience than we were used to. Instead of Irish dancers, there were hip-hop dancers, and there were scouts, and tractors, and local theater groups. Without a doubt, everyone enjoyed themselves!
Our Irish connections are a bit closer since I married a man from Dundalk. “Authentic Irish” we like to joke. We met in Dublin while I was in a “study abroad” program in college. It’s been quite an experience! The Irish and the Americans are really two different cultures. We lived in America for ten years, and during that time I would have been conscious of how things were just that little bit different for him. We’re now living in Ireland, and thankfully he is aware of how different things are for me! It’s necessary to have some cultural sensitivity, especially in our relationship. I’m thankful for friends who appreciate that as an American I think a wee bit differently than the Irish. (I expect quite a few of my friends to be smiling to themselves right now!)
My husband has always enjoyed Irish cooking, even more so while living abroad. One of the first cook books he bought was Darina Allen’s Irish Traditional Cooking. This has become one of my favorite cookbooks for traditional Irish cooking. Beef & Guinness Stew is one of the tried and true recipes that we love and is easy to make.
For all of my Irish, and non-Irish friends, I wish you a Happy St. Patrick’s Day!
Beef & Guinness Stew
2 lb (900 g) lean stewing beef
3 tablespoons oil
2 tablespoons flour
salt and freshly ground pepper and a pinch of cayenne
2 large onions (about 10 oz/285 g), coarsely chopped
1 large clove garlic, crushed (optional)
2 tablespoons tomato puree, dissolved in 4 tablespoons water
1/2 pint (300 ml) Guinness
8 oz (225g) carrots, cut into chunks
sprig of thyme
Trim the meat of any fat, cut into cubes or 2 inches (5 cm) and toss them in a bowl with 1 tablespoon oil. Season the flour with salt, freshly ground pepper and a pinch or two of cayenne. Toss the meat in this mixture.
Heat the remaining oil in a wide, frying pan over a high heat. Brown the meat on all sides. Add the onions, crushed garlic, and tomato puree to the pan, cover and cook gently for about 5 minutes. Transfer the contents of the pan to a casserole, and pour some of the Guinness into the frying pan. Bring to the boil and stir to dissolve the caramelized meat juices on the pan. Pour on to the meat with the remaining Guinness; add the carrots and the thyme. Stir, taste, and add a little more salt if necessary. Cover with the lid of the casserole and simmer very gently until the meat is tender – 2 to 3 hours. The stew may be cooked on top of the stove or in a low oven at 150 degrees C/300 degrees F/ gas mark 2.
Scatter with lots of chopped parsley and serve with potatoes.
(Dana’s adjustments to this recipe: I used two large pinches of cayenne. I sweat the onions on their own before browning the meat. I also used an entire small can of tomato puree (150g), and the entire pint of Guinness. I cooked my stew on the stove.)