The past few days have been fairly low-key – visiting various inlaws and drives through the gorgeous Irish countryside. Meals have been fairly low-key as well, but delicious, as always. Dinners of shepherd’s pie, take-out Indian food, and a true rarity – mother-in-law actually let me into the kitchen last night to cook! I made a beef stir fry with noodles, although mother-in-law and one of my brother-in-laws “don’t like the look of pasta” and opted to eat their stir fry over potatoes instead.
Here’s a classic Irish recipe that hubby and I have perfected at home – Guinness beef stew. (Hubby’s made it more than I have, actually, so he’s the one who really has it sussed.) The original version came from a Darina Allen cookbook, but we’ve finessed it into our own variation over time.
Darina Allen is sort of like the Martha Stewart/Alice Waters of Ireland. A self-made kitchen goddess, she operates the Ballymaloe House inn and Ballymaloe Cookery School in southeast Ireland, has written a shitload of cookbooks, and is a big proponent of using only local seasonal products. I would LOVE to attend the cookery school, but it’s a 12-week program at the cost of around $10,000. Uh. Not in the cards unless I hit the lottery.
One of my sister-in-laws drove me to check the place out when we were here visiting last summer and I treated her to a three-course lunch there to thank her for her troubles. The inn was beautiful and the meal was fabulous – very simple ingredients, but each at the absolute height of its freshness and quality. I recall a gorgeous heirloom tomato salad starter, a sumptuous light-as-air gnocchi with wild mushrooms, and a dessert plate full of about half a dozen samples of mouthwatering goodies – a tiny apple tart, a scoop of housemade chocolate ice cream, a few spoonfuls of raspberry yogurt, a madeleine and goodness knows what else. At 40 euros a plate, it was pretty pricy, but since it was a special treat and not something you’d do every day, I was happy to pay it. I hope to drag my husband there for dinner and a stay at the inn if we ever have a free night on one of our future visits in Ireland.
But back to the stew… Even if you aren’t a fan of Guinness in a pint (like me), don’t let the inclusion of it here throw you. It blends well with the tomato paste and cooks down into a rich, wonderful gravy. This stew is easy to make and it creates a fantastic aroma to waft through your kitchen on a cold winter day.
Beef and Guinness Stew
Serves: 6 to 8
- 2 lb. lean stew beef
- 3 tb. vegetable oil
- 2 tb. flour seasoned with salt, freshly ground pepper and a pinch of cayenne pepper
- 1 large onion, coarsely chopped
- 1 large clove garlic, minced
- 1 6 oz. can of tomato paste
- 1 1/2 to 2 pints Guinness
- 3 or 4 medium-sized carrots cut into large chunks
- 1 cup fresh mushrooms, halved
- 1/2 tsp. thyme
- Fresh parsley
Toss the meat in a bowl with 1 tb. oil, then add the seasoned flour mixture and toss to coat all cubes of meat.
Heat the remaining 2 tb. oil in a large stewing pot over high heat. Brown the meat well on all sides to create a good crust. Add the onions, garlic and tomato paste. Reduce heat to medium, cover and cook for about 5 minutes.
Add carrots, mushrooms and thyme, then pour in enough Guinness to cover everything. Reduce heat, cover the pot and simmer gently (stirring occasionally) for about 2 to 2 1/2 hours until meat is very tender. Salt and pepper again to taste. Top with fresh chopped parsley to garnish and serve with roasted or mashed potatoes and a hearty bread to sop up the gravy. (This is also great to make in a crock pot.)
Ballymaloe Cookery School – http://www.cookingisfun.ie
Ballymaloe House – http://www.ballymaloe.ie