As we have been learning about different countries and trying their cuisines, I am trying to coordinate them a little bit with holidays around the world. So, last week we learned about Thailand and the surrounding countries (which, by the way, Thai food has got to be my most favorite food EVER!), this week we are learning about Ireland, and next week we are learning about Japan. Interestingly enough, we aren't learning about Japan because of the recent natural disasters that have taken place there. We had already planned on learning about Japan a week ago, but we ended up spending so much more time on India (something about watching Gandhi and Mother Teresa and so many dishes to try), and we were unable to get to Japan in time.
St. Patrick's Day. Having been to Ireland with my hubby a few years ago, I know that the shamrock, the leprechaun, and fairies are very much alive in Ireland. It is a beautiful country, with hills, instead of mountains, music wherever you go, and lots of yummy potatoes.
This week, I decided to try out 2 evenings of yummy Irish dinners. I would do more, but I am still trying to keep our weekly diet to 4 vegetarian dinners, which proves to be difficult with Ireland involved. I knew that I would need to make our traditional corned beef and cabbage on St. Patty's Day and my hubby kept talking about an Irish stew he remembered from our trip. So, I set out to find a good recipe book at the library.
When I went over the ingredients for the Irish stew, a key ingredient stood out.....lamb. I have never purchased lamb for cooking with. I started calling around to the local stores and finally found one that carried lamb. When I arrived, I asked where the lamb was. I was shown a tiny selection...ground lamb and lamb chops. My recipe called for a boneless piece of shoulder or neck. Thankfully, the butcher there took pity on me. He found a large (boned) piece of lamb, cut out the bone, and even diced it up for me. The best part, it cost me around the same price as ground beef would have cost. In fact, the only problem I had, was with my 16 year old daughter, who recently watched a documentary film on the inhumane treatment of animals in the food industry, and decided (once and for all, she has attempted it 2x before) that she is now a vegetarian. Having been a vegetarian for a year, myself, I want to support her in her cause, but the ba-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-ing and her loud reminders of me killing an innocent lamb were a little bit annoying and embarrassing, to say the least. People in the meat department were taking a very long time deciding upon their own cuts....I'm sure the vegetarian display was part of that indecisiveness.
After having a conversation with my daughter about meat and why we have chosen to eat it at our home, I have come to a very important decision. I have decided that, when we finally do get into another home (after our travels are done), we will only eat the meat that we provide and kill. I know, it is harsh. Heaven forbid we actually have to know the animals that we eat. I'm not trying to turn my entire family into vegetarians, just trying to instill a sense of responsibility with what we choose to eat. Who knows where it will lead? I read a book last spring (Farm City: The Education of an Urban Farmer, by Novella Carpenter) , about an urban farmer, who kept a couple of pigs, some turkeys, etc. and grew a garden in the heart of the city. Her philosophies and some of the content of the book really struck home with me on how important it is that we are always thankful for the animals who gave their lives for our own livelihood.
Enough about the meat dilemma in our home (and many other homes around the world, I am sure). Here are the recipes for the Irish stew and the soda bread (the adaptations I made are italicized). The little recipe book these recipes are out of, is entitled, Cooking the Irish Way, by Helga Hughes.
The original Irish stew recipes called for goat meat. Many years ago, lambs were more valuable for their wool than for their meat. In modern stew recipes, however, lamb is widely used. Recipes vary from county to county (and family to family). Some recipes call for barley as a thickener, some call for carrots for a sweeter flavor, while others include rutabagas, known in Ireland as purple or Swedish turnips.
4 potatoes, peeled, washed, and cubed
4 carrots, peeled, washed, and cut into chunks ( 32 mini carrots)
2 yellow onions, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch slices (1/2 an onion)
3 pounds lean boneless lamb (neck or shoulder), cut into 1/inch cubes (1 lb lamb)
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme (1 tsp dried thyme)
1/4 teaspoon dried rosemary (1 tsp dried rosemary)
2 tsp salt
2 tsp pepper
1. Spread half the potatoes on the bottom of the large pan. Cover potatoes with half of the carrots and onions. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Add all of the lamb.
(I split the veggies in half, put a ton of salt and pepper on them and stirred them. I then added the herbs and more salt and pepper to the lamb and mixed it around, before putting the lamb on top of the veggies, then repeated with the veggies on top.)
2. Sprinkle the thyme and rosemary over the meat. Arrange remaining onions over the meat. Finally, top with the rest of the carrots and potatoes. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
3. Pour in enough cold water to cover potatoes plus 1 extra inch. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to low, cover pan, and allow stew to simmer for about 1 hour and 30 minutes, or until meat is tender. (1 1/2 hrs was about right for us)
4. Before serving Irish stew, stir well and season with more salt and pepper if necessary.
We doubled the adapted recipe I developed and it made enough for the meat-eating part of our family (7 of us) for dinner, with a couple of bowls leftover for the morrow. The only thing I would say, is that the Irish (and the rest of the UK, for that matter) seem to like their food rather bland for my taste. We added a lot of pepper and salt to our stew and it was delicious! Mm mm!
Soda bread is a nutritious bread that is simple to make. In parts of county Cork, in southern Ireland, soda bread is still cooked the old-fashioned way in a bastable oven (a heavy-lidded iron pot) suspended over a peat fire.
2 c whole wheat flour
2 c white flour
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 3/4 c buttermilk
1. Preheat oven to 375. F.
2. Sift both flours into a large bowl. Add salt and baking soda. Use both hands to scoop up dry ingredients, then open up fingers to allow mixture to drop back into the bowl. Repeat several times to help add air to the mixture.
3. Add buttermilk. Using your hands, quickly knead into a soft dough. If dough becomes too soft and sticky, add a little more flour, but work very quickly. With wet hands, shape dough into a round loaf. Smooth out wrinkles.
4. Sprinkle a baking sheet generously with flour and place dough in the middle. Use a sharp knife to cut an X about 1 inch deep on top of the loaf.
5. Place baking sheet on the top shelf of the oven. Bake for about 40 minutes or until golden brown.
6. Remove bread from oven and wrap immediately in a clean tea towel to keep crust from hardening. Allow to cool before serving.
We doubled the recipe, making two loaves (one is for tonight), and made it exactly as stated. It has a very distinct flavor and I really liked the way that this recipe turned out.
Tonight's recipes (for the corned beef and cabbage) are off of allrecipes.com. Good resource. ;)
Happy St. Patty's Day!
~.~ the purple sprout
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