A Yarn from an Irishman

Seasonal Cooking with Rita Calvert~The Local Cook


just a smidgen of spring

a baby head of lettuce from Homestead Gardens returns

It’s mid-March-time for celebrating Saint Patrick’s Day (especially if you live near Annapolis, MD where most make a big deal of the holiday). For moi, it’s also the time to get sorted out for the Kitchen Garden which is my studio for a big chunk of the photography I shoot on food and natural growing things. Surprise to me as I picked off the dead leaves from a container which had  been my salad planter last summer. Here’s the pix of a wee red romaine happily sprouting back up!

Back to the Irish: If you’ve ever had the chance to converse with Tim Hamilton, Marketing Director for Homestead Gardens, you have spoken to an Irishman full of humor. He can tell you a lot about plants-edible and not-as well as his Irish heritage. He was relaying his annual vacation to Ireland where his entire clan rents a spot for a week or two just to carry on tradition. The topic of children came up and Tim described his immediate family with two children as “like not having children at all, for an Irishman”.

So here’s a salute to Tim, his family and St. Patty’s Day.

Guinness Beef Stew

Serves 8

  • 2 pounds lean stewing beef
  • 3 tablespoons oil
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper and a pinch of cayenne
  • 2 cups potatoes, scrubbed and cut into large chunks
  • 2 cups sweet potatoes, scrubbed and cut into large chunks
  • 2 large onions, coarsely chopped
  • 1 large clove garlic, crushed
  • 2 tablespoons tomato puree, dissolved in 4 tablespoons water
  • 1-1/4 cups Guinness stout beer
  • 1 1/2 cups coarsely chopped greens, such as Swiss chard or kale
  • Sprig of fresh rosemary or thyme

Trim the of any fat or gristle, cut into cubes of 2 inches 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 the mixture.

Heat the remaining oil in a wide frying pan over a high heat. Brown the meat on all sides. Add the potatoes, 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 beer into the frying pan. Bring to a boil and stir to dissolve the caramelized meat juices on the pan.

Pour onto the meat with the remaining Guinness; add the greens and the herb sprig. 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 300 degrees F. Taste and correct the seasoning. Scatter with lots of chopped parsley.

Irish Bacon and Cabbage with Mustard Sauce

Serves 6

This dish is more authentic than the ubiquitous corned beef and cabbage, though it is quite similar in that Irish boiling bacon is a cured meat, too. The boiling bacon is also leaner than traditional American bacon (which does not make an appropriate substitute). You can add carrots and potatoes here and increase the bacon if you want this to serve as a full meal since our rendition uses the bacon more as a seasoning. Order the Irish bacon from  irishgrub.com, a California-based company or tommymoloneys.com.

  • 1 pound loin of bacon
  • 2 sticks celery, sliced
  • 2 leeks, white part only, washed and sliced
  • 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
  • 2 pounds Savoy cabbage, cored and shredded

Mustard Sauce

  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 2 tablespoons whole grain mustard
  • 3/4 cup half-and-half
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

Put bacon in a large saucepan and add cold water to cover. Add the celery, leeks and peppercorns. Bring water to a boil, cover, then reduce heat to simmer. Cook bacon, skimming water occasionally to remove foam, for 30 minutes or until fork tender.

Add the cabbage after 30 minutes and cook another 20 minutes, or until tender. Do not overcook.

Remove bacon from the cooking liquid, transfer it to a serving dish, cover with foil and let rest for 10 minutes. Drain the cabbage and keep warm. Reserve the cooking liquid.

To make the Mustard Sauce: In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter. Whisk in the flour and mustard. Cook for 1 to 2 minutes.

Whisk in 3/4 cup of the reserved cooking liquid, half-and-half and salt and pepper to taste.

Bring just to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer, whisking constantly, for 3 to 4 minutes, or until smooth.

To serve, divide the cabbage onto 6 serving plates. Slice the bacon and arrange the slices on top of the cabbage. Spoon the sauce around the plate.


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