Today marks the celebration of Saint Patrick’s Day. The internet will tell you it is an Irish holiday in place to remember the death of Saint Patrick and the arrival of Christianity in Ireland. But when I was growing up there was no internet, instead the things I came to understand about the world were from my parents, believe it or not. And as far as I was concerned, and still to this day, Saint Patrick’s is our family day.
We don green accessories, knock off early, wander down to the pub and wash our slow cooked stews down with a pint of Guinness. Though more often than not it will begin with Kilkenny’s, sometimes Guinness is just too rich off the bat – but that’s what makes it so incredible to cook with. Our friends and family always know where to find us, usually singing in the corner of the ‘Rose and Crown’, ‘Murrays’ or the ‘Celtic’ or belting out laughter before we source the local Pogues cover band and dance into the early hours.
Now, it may appear it isn’t that odd our family behaves this way on this day; after all it is an acknowledgment of heritage. Except it’s not. We aren’t even Irish. We have never even been there. All we know is it is the one day of the year we can eat delicious hearty meals, drink and be jolly, eat as many potatoes as our hearts desire and have fun. We don’t even spend this much time together on Christmas day. Which brings me to my next point. This specific Saint Patricks day is also one of the first years I am away from my family on our beloved family day so I have decided to share some Irish inspired recipes to get you the dee-di-lee mood and invite round your family of choice to put the heart in hearty.
OXTAIL POT WITH GNOCCHI AND BROAD BEANS
Back in fashion after some decades in the culinary wilderness, oxtail, with its gutsy flavour and gelatinous texture, makes a great cheap stew.
750-850 grams Quality Mark oxtail
1 onion, peeled and diced
2 teaspoons minced fresh garlic
1 x 45 gram packet of rich tomato soup mix
5 cups light beef stock (or use 2 cups of Guinness and 3 cups of beef stock)
1 x 500 gram bag frozen broad beans
1 x 400 gram packet plain potato gnocchi
1 cup finely chopped celery leaves and/or stalks
2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
Brown the oxtail in a dash of oil in a lidded flameproof casserole dish. Add the onion and garlic and toss together in the hot dish.
Add the tomato soup mix and half the stock to the dish and cover. Simmer on top of the stove or cook in a 140 degree celsius oven for 1½-2 hours or until the meat falls from the bones.
Lift the meat from the sauce and when cool enough to handle, pull the meat from the bones, discarding excess fat. Allow the sauce to sit (this will allow the fat to rise to the top, so it can be skimmed off) while preparing the beans and gnocchi.
Blanch the broad beans for 2-3 minutes in boiling water. Refresh under cold water and peel. Cook the gnocchi in boiling salted water (the time will depend on variety and style, but usually about 3-5 minutes is enough). Drain well.
Return the meat to the casserole dish along with the beans, gnocchi, remaining stock, celery and mint. Warm through and serve in deep bowls accompanied with mashed swedes or pumpkin if wished.
This recipe is courtesy of Allyson Gofton's cookbook, Good Food Made Simple, photography by Alan Gillard
BEEF & POTATO-TOP BAKE
800g - 1kg Quality Mark gravy beef, trimmed and cut into 6cm chunks
2 cups Guinness (or use additional stock)
1 onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, crushed
1 leek, finely chopped
400g button mushrooms, sliced
1 cup Campbell’s Real Stock - Beef
½ cup tomato paste
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 bay leaves
1½ tablespoons cornflour mixed with 2 tablespoons water
Crunchy Potato Topping
1kg mashing potatoes, peeled and chopped
½ cup grated cheese
½ cup breadcrumbs
Preheat the oven to 140ºC conventional bake.
Filling: Heat a little oil in a large pan over a high heat. Add the beef in batches and brown all over, then transfer to a casserole dish. Add the red wine to the pan; let it bubble rapidly for 30 seconds and pour over the meat.
Return the pan to a medium heat and add a dash more oil with the onion, garlic and leek and cook, stirring for 5 minutes. Add the mushrooms and cook for another 5 minutes. Add the stock, tomato paste, mustard, bay leaves and cornflour mixture. Stir to combine then pour over the meat in the casserole dish and stir. Cover and bake in the oven for 2.5 - 3 hours. Cool while your prepare the potatoes (remove the bay leaves).
Increase the oven temperature to 200°C conventional.
Crunchy potato topping: Place the potatoes in a large pot of cold water. Bring to a simmer and cook for 15-20 minutes or until tender. Drain and replace over a low heat for a minute to remove excess moisture. Mash briefly.
Stir the butter through and season to taste. Arrange spoonfuls on top of the meat mixture to cover. Toss the breadcrumbs in a dash of oil and scatter over the potato with the cheese. Bake in the oven for 15 minutes until golden on top (you can grill for the last few minutes).
Serve with seasonal vegetables.
LAMB HOT POT
1kg Quality Mark lamb neck chops
50g butter, softened
1kg waxy potatoes, washed and thinly sliced
5-6 carrots, peeled and thinly sliced
2 onions, peeled and thinly sliced
3 stalks celery, sliced
1-2 leeks, trimmed and finely sliced
2 teaspoons dried mixed herbs
4 cups light-flavoured beef stock
Turn the slow cooker on to pre-warm while gathering and preparing the ingredients.
If wishing to brown the ingredients then:
Brown the lamb chops in a dash of oil or knob of butter in a hot frying pan. Do not crowd the pan, as the lamb chops will stew.
Spread half the butter over base of the pre-warmed slow cooker. Layer half the potato slices evenly over the base of the pot.
Layer the lamb, carrots, onions, celery and leek on top of the potatoes. Sprinkle over the mixed dried herbs.
Layer the remaining potato slices on top ensuring that the top layer is nicely arranged. Season liberally with salt and pepper.
Pour in the stock or water and place a piece of baking paper on top. This will prevent the potatoes from discolouring. Cover with the lid.
Cook on low for 7-8 hours or high for 4-5 hours or until the meat and vegetables are tender. Preheat the grill to 220ºC.
Remove the paper. Brush the top potato layer liberally with the remaining butter. Lift the crockery insert from the crock pot and place under the preheated grill until the potatoes are golden.
Serve with vegetables, peas are a classic partner.