This weekend is St. Patrick’s Day, and while I’m not really into Irish food, I’ll take part once a year.
First up, a recipe for Irish chicken and dumplings, I had never heard of this before, but my sister-in-law told me that’s what she would be preparing the weekend before St. Patrick’s Day, so I looked it up. It looks like chicken pot pie made with cream of chicken soup and dumplings instead of pie crust, which gets a thumbs-up in my book.
Next, an Irish lamb stew with Guinness. Lamb can be tricky, so I recommend you really do take care to trim the excessive fat off your pieces and to keep an eye on the tenderness of the meat. The beer is going to really highlight the earthiness of the dish, and of course, make it extra “Irish.”
And finally, an Irish soda bread, which is pretty easy, and has the interesting taste halfway between a yeast bread and a biscuit, relying on baking soda to make it rise.
2 cups water, plus 2 tablespoons more for cooking onions and garlic
1 bay leaf
1 small sprig fresh rosemary
2 teaspoons sugar
4 large carrots, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks on diagonal
1 pound small white boiling potatoes (baby Yukon golds), cut in half
1 cup frozen green peas
Pat the lamb dry and season with salt and pepper. In a large Dutch oven or heavy pot, heat one tablespoon of oil over medium-high heat until hot and shimmering. Brown the lamb in three batches, adding one more tablespoon of oil for each batch. Do not crowd the pan and let the meat develop a brown crust before turning with tongs. It should take 5 to 8 minutes per batch. Transfer the browned meat to large bowl and set aside.
Add the onions, garlic and 2 tablespoons of water to the pot. Cook until the onions are soft, stirring with a wooden spoon to scrape any brown bits from the bottom of pan, about 5 minutes.
Stir in the tomato paste and cook a few minutes more.
Add the lamb with its juices back to the pan and sprinkle with flour. Stir with a wooden spoon until the flour is dissolved, 1 to 2 minutes.
Add the Guinness, beef broth, water, bay leaf, rosemary sprig and sugar. Stir with a wooden spoon to loosen any brown bits from the bottom of the pan and bring to a boil. Cover the pot with a lid, turn the heat down to low and simmer for one hour and twenty minutes.
Add the carrots and potatoes to the stew, then cover and continue simmering until the vegetables are cooked and the meat is very tender, 30 to 40 minutes. (Be sure to stir a few times to prevent vegetables from sticking to bottom.)
Remove the bay leaf and rosemary sprig, and then taste and adjust seasoning if necessary. If serving right away, add the frozen peas and cook until the peas are warmed through. Otherwise, let the stew cool, then cover and store in the refrigerator until ready to serve. Reheat gently on the stovetop and add the peas right before serving.
Make Ahead: This stew can be made a day or two ahead of time and reheated gently on the stovetop. Just be sure to add the peas right before serving so they stay fresh. Also, the broth will thicken in the fridge so it may be necessary to thin it with a bit of water (add it little by little).
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a large bowl, mix together the flour, baking soda, and salt.
Add the buttermilk, a little at a time, and mix until a soft and sticky dough forms. (You may not need all of the buttermilk.) Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead gently for 10 to 15 seconds. (Your goal here is to bring the dough together into a sticky ball, but not overwork the baking soda.)
Place the round of dough onto a lightly floured baking sheet. Press the round to flatten it slightly, and dust it with flour, if desired. Cut a deep X (about 1/2 of the way down, through the sides of the round) in the top of the loaf with a serrated knife dipped in flour.
Bake the bread in your preheated oven for 30 to 40 minutes, until the loaf is golden and sounds hollow when tapped. Cool on a wire rack to achieve a crunchy crust. (Or wrap the bread in a lightly damp tea towel to create a soft crust.) Let the bread cool for at least 15 minutes before slicing and enjoying with butter and a cup of tea.
Note: Don’t have buttermilk? Place 5 teaspoons of white vinegar or lemon juice in the bottom of a 2 cup liquid measure. Add milk until you reach 1 ¾ cups. Let this mixture set for 5 minutes to let the milk sour before using it to make your soda bread. Want a sweeter soda bread? Add 1 cup of raisins to the dough after the buttermilk.