The feasts and famines of Ireland have given rise to a variety of foods, but the more common trait in this cuisine is the hardiness of the dishes, and the blending of simple ingredients into meals that warm the body and soul. Irish cooking is about comfort and vigor, two characteristics not usually associated with the leaner, lighter menus seen today.
Almost any recipe for stew includes meat, potatoes and vegetables. In Irish cooking, the meat is usually lamb, and along with the potatoes, cooks include turnips, carrots, onion and sometimes parsnips as well.
Almost all stews start with browning the meat in oil, and cooking up the vegetables in the oil, then adding water or broth and simmering the dish for a long while. But the Irish have an alternative method. They layer the ingredients.
Sliced potatoes are laid around the bottom of a heavy Dutch oven or similar pot, followed by a layer of cubed lamb. The sliced onion follows that, and then a layer of potato, with each layer seasoned with salt, pepper, and thyme. Add two to three cups of water and put the pot in a low heat oven for two to three hours.
The lamb is tender, the veggies softened, and the water turned to a sweet brown broth. Serve this with Irish soda bread for an authentic Irish meal.
Irish soda bread
This crusty quick bread is, traditionally, made from flour, salt, buttermilk and baking soda. It’s not a fancy bread; it’s unlikely any Irish cook would call it artisan.
It’s made by combining 4 cups of flour, with one teaspon each of baking soda and salt. Sift these dry ingredients then add up to 14 ounces of buttermilk, forming a soft dough.
Knead the dough lightly, just enough so shape the dough into a round loaf. Place the dough in a greased cake tin and make two shallow slits across the top, forming a cross. Bake at 425 degrees for 30 minutes. Serve it warm, and sop up the broth from the Irish stew.
Irish meals are usually made up of a bit of lamb, and quite a few vegetables. One of these vegetable dishes is colcannon, a mix of cabbage, potatoes, chopped green onions, milk, and a bit of cooked bacon crumbled on top.
Shred and boil the cabbage, and set the cabbage aside to drain. Boil the potatoes in the same water until tender. Meanwhile, bring milk and onions to a boil, about two cups for every four pounds of potatoes. Set it aside to cool slightly. When the potatoes are cooked, mash them up a bit, then add the milk and onion mixture and beat until blended. Beat in the boiled cabbage and sprinkle the bacon on top.
Serve this side dish with lamb chops or corned beef, or alongside a thick slice of buttered Irish soda bread and an Irish stout to wash it all down.