Ballymaloe Irish Stew
Stew is something we think of as a winter dish, but in reality, Irish stew is best in early summer, made with youngish lamb and the new season’s sweet onions and carrots. In this recipe, the fact that the meat is cooked on the bone (we use shoulder and neck chops) greatly enhances the flavour.
1.3kg (3lb) lamb chops or hogget (gigot or rack chops) not less than 2.5cm (1 inch) thick
6 medium or 12 baby onions
6 medium or 12 baby carrots
freshly ground pepper and salt
850ml (1 1⁄2 pints/3 3/4 cups) lamb stock or chicken stock or water
12 potatoes or more if you like (Golden Wonder or Kerr’s Pink are excellent)
sprig of thyme
about 1 tablespoon (1 American tablespoon + 1 teaspoon) roux , optional
2 tablespoons freshly chopped parsley
1 tablespoon freshly chopped chives
Preheat the oven to 180ºC/350ºF/gas mark 4.
Cut the chops in 50g (2oz) pieces and trim off some of the excess fat.
Set the pieces aside and render down the fat on a gentle heat in a heavy frying pan (discard the rendered down pieces). Peel the onions and scrape or thinly peel the carrots (if they are young, leave some of the green stalks on the onions and carrots).
Cut the carrots into large chunks, or if they are young leave them whole.
If the onions are large, cut them small, if they are small they are best left whole.
Toss the meat in the hot fat until it is slightly brown. Transfer the meat into a casserole, then quickly toss the onions and carrots in the fat. Build the meat, carrots and onions up in layers in the casserole. Season each layer generously with freshly
ground pepper and salt. Deglaze the frying pan with lamb or chicken stock and pour into the casserole.
Peel the potatoes and lay them on top of the casserole, so they steam while the stew cooks. Season the potatoes. Add a sprig of thyme and bring to the boil on top of the stove.
Then cover and transfer to a moderate oven or allow to simmer on top of the stove until the stew is cooked, about 1–2 hours, depending on whether the stew is being made with lamb or mutton.
When the stew is cooked, pour off the cooking liquid, degrease and reheat the liquid in a saucepan. If you like slightly thicken the juices with a little roux. Check the
seasoning, then add chopped parsley and chives and pour it back over the stew. Bring it back up to boiling point and serve from the pot or in a large pottery dish.
Irish Stew with Pearl Barley
Add 2 tablespoons of pearl barley to the stew with the vegetables and increase the liquid to 2 pints as the pearl barley absorbs a considerable amount of liquid.
I’ve come across versions of champ that include sweated or boiled nettles, crispy onions (onions fried in butter, pork or beef fat), buttered leek, wild garlic and watercress and a particularly delicious summer version in the North of Ireland which includes fresh peas and parsley (this has become one of our favourites). Put out a little bowl of champ for the fairies at Halloween, preferably under a whitethorn or hawthorn tree. This was done in the past to keep away the mischievous fairies for the rest of the year.
6–8 unpeeled ‘old’ potatoes, e.g. Golden Wonders or Kerr’s Pinks
350ml (12fl oz) full-cream milk
110g (4oz) spring onions, chopped (use the bulb and green stem)
50 (2oz) butter, or more
salt and freshly ground pepper
Scrub the potatoes and keep them unpeeled. Cover with cold milk and bring slowly to the boil. Simmer for about 3–4 minutes, turn off the heat and leave to infuse.
Remove the potatoes and peel them. While they are still hot, mash them with the boiling milk and chopped onions. Beat in the butter. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground pepper. Serve in 1 large or 6 individual bowls with a knob of butter melting in the centre. Champ may be left aside and reheated later in a moderate oven, at 180ºC/350ºF/gas mark 4. Cover with tin foil while it reheats so that it doesn’t get a skin.
Colcannon is another traditional mashed potato dish like champ, but with kale or cabbage instead of spring onions. For another variation try mashed parsnips, a delightful addition.
Serves about 8
450g (1lb) Savoy, spring cabbage or kale (kale is the most traditional)
1.3kg (3lb) 'old' potatoes, e.g. Golden Wonders or Kerr’s Pinks
about 225ml (8fl oz) milk
salt and freshly ground pepper
50g (2oz) butter
Scrub the potatoes, put them in a saucepan of cold water, add a good pinch of salt and bring to the boil. When the potatoes are half-cooked after about 15 minutes, strain off two-thirds of the water, replace the lid on the saucepan and put onto a gentle heat, leaving the potatoes to steam until they are cooked.
Meanwhile, if using cabbage, remove the dark outer leaves, wash the remainder, cut it into quarters, remove the core and cut finely across the grain. Boil in a little boiling water or bacon cooking water until soft. Drain and season with salt, freshly ground pepper and a little butter.
When the potatoes are just cooked, put the milk and the finely chopped shallots into a saucepan and bring to the boil. Pull the peel off the potatoes and discard. Mash the potatoes quickly, while they are still warm, and beat in enough boiling milk to make a fluffy purée. (If you have a large quantity, put the potatoes in the bowl of a food mixer and beat with the spade.) Then stir in the cooked cabbage and taste for seasoning. For perfection, serve immediately in a hot dish with a lump of butter melting in the centre.
Colcannon may be prepared ahead up to this point and reheated later in a moderate oven 180ºC/350ºF/gas mark 4, for 20–25 minutes. Cover while reheating so it doesn’t get too crusty on top.
Savoy Cabbage Soup
55g (2 oz) butter
140g (5 oz) peeled and chopped potatoes, one third inch dice
100g (4 oz) peeled diced onions, one third inch dice
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1.1L(2 pints) light chicken stock or vegetable stock
255g (9oz) chopped Savoy cabbage leaves (stalks removed)
50-100ml (2-4 fl oz) cream or creamy milk
Melt the butter in a heavy saucepan. When it foams, add the potatoes and onions, and turn them in the butter until well coated. Sprinkle with salt and freshly ground pepper. Cover and sweat on a gentle heat for 10 minutes. Add the stock and boil until the potatoes are soft, then add the cabbage and cook with the lid off until the cabbage is cooked. Keep the lid off to retain the green colour. Do not overcook or the vegetables will lose both their fresh flavour and colour. Puree the soup in a liquidiser or blender, taste and adjust seasoning. Add the cream or creamy milk before serving.
Useful tip: If this soup is to be reheated, just bring it to the boil and serve. Prolonged boiling spoils the colour and flavour of green soups.
During my childhood, many people in the country were poor, and their daily staple would have been wholemeal bread. White flour was more expensive than brown so white soda bread was considered to be more luxurious – a treat for special occasions. At times of the year when work was harder, such as at harvest or threshing, or maybe on a Sunday when visitors were expected, the woman of the house would add a bit of sugar and a fistful of dried fruit and an egg to the white bread to make it a bit more special. Nowadays, this does not seem such a big deal but back then any money that the woman of the house got from selling her eggs was considered to be her ‘pin money,’ used for little luxuries such as hatpins. Putting an egg into the bread was one egg less that she could sell, so it actually represented much more than it would for us today. This bread was called Spotted Dog, and when it was still warm, she’d wrap it in a tea towel and bring it out to the fields with hot sweetened tea in whiskey bottles wrapped in newspaper or cloth to insulate them. The farm workers would put down their tools and sit with their backs to the haystacks. She’d cut the bread into thick slices and slather on yellow country butter. My memories of sitting down with them are still really vivid. We sometimes make ‘spotted puppies’ which are the same bread,
shaped into 6 rolls and baked for 20minutes.
Makes 1 loaf
450g (1lb/4 cups) plain white flour, preferably unbleached
1 level teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1 level teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons sugar
75g (3oz) sultanas (or more if you’d like)
1 organic egg
about 350 - 425ml (12-14fl oz/1 1/2 – 1 3/4 cups) buttermilk
Preheat the oven to 220°C/425°F/gas mark 7.
In a large mixing bowl, sieve in the flour and bicarbonate of soda; then add the salt, sugar and sultanas. Mix well by lifting the flour and fruit up in to your hands and then letting them fall back into the bowl through your fingers. This adds more air and therefore more lightness to your finished bread. Now make a well in the centre of the flour mixture. Break the egg into the base of a measuring jug and add the buttermilk to the 425ml (14fl oz/1 3/4 cup) line (the egg is part of the liquid measurement). Pour most of this milk and egg mixture into the flour.
Using one hand with the fingers open and stiff, mix in a full circle drawing in the flour mixture from the sides of the bowl, adding more milk if necessary. The dough should be softish, but not too wet and sticky.
The trick with Spotted Dog like all soda breads, is not to over mix the dough. Mix it as quickly and gently as possible, thus keeping it light and airy. When the dough all comes together, turn it out onto a well-floured work surface. Wash and dry your hands. With floured fingers, roll the dough lightly for a few seconds –
just enough to tidy it up. Then pat the dough into a round about 6cm (2 1/2 inches) deep. Transfer to a baking tray dusted lightly with flour. Use a sharp knife to cut a deep cross on it, letting the cuts go over the sides of the bread. Prick with knife at the four triangles. Put into the oven and immediately reduce the temperature to 200°C/400°F/Gas Mark 6. Cook for 35-40 minutes. If you are in doubt about the bread being cooked, tap the bottom: if it is cooked it will sound hollow. This bread is cooked at a lower temperature than soda bread because the egg browns faster at a
Serve freshly baked, cut into thick slices and smeared with butter and jam. Spotted Dog is also really good eaten with Cheddar cheese.
Crunchy Apple or Rhubarb or Plum Crumble Tart
6 ozs (175g/1 1/2 cups) plain white flour
3 ozs (75g/3/4 stick) butter
1 dessertspoon (2 American teaspoons) castor sugar
1 beaten egg, approximately
5-6 well flavoured eating apples, Coxs Orange Pippin or Golden Delicious or 5-6 stalks of red rhubarb or 1 1/2lbs (675g) plums
3 ozs (75g/3/4 stick) unsalted butter
3 ozs (75g/scant 1 cup) plain white flour
6 ozs (175g/3/4 cup) granulated sugar from the vanilla pod jar
3 ozs (75g) chopped almonds (unpeeled)
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
9 - 10 inch (23-25.5cm) tart tin or 6 x 10cm (4 inch) tartlet tins
Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4.
softly whipped cream or Calvados Cream
First make the pastry.
Sieve the flour and sugar into a bowl, cut the butter into cubes and rub into the flour with the fingertips. Keep everything as cool as possible, if the fat is allowed to melt the finished pastry may be tough. When the mixture looks like coarse breadcrumbs, stop.
Whisk the egg. Take a fork or knife (whichever you feel most comfortable with) and add just enough liquid to bring the pastry together, then discard the fork and collect the pastry into a ball with your hands. This way you can judge more accurately if you need a few more drops of liquid. Although slightly damp pastry is easier to handle and roll out, the resulting crust can be tough and may well shrink out of shape as the water evaporates in the oven.
The drier and more difficult-to-handle pastry will give a crisper, 'shorter' crust. Cover and rest in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
Line the tart or tartlet tins with pastry. Chill. Bake blind in the preheated oven for 15-20 minutes approximately until the pastry is three quarters cooked, remove from the oven. Take out the baking beans, brush with beaten egg wash and place back in the oven for another 5 minutes.
Fill with peeled and chopped dessert apples or chopped rhubarb or halved plums depending on choice. If using rhubarb or plum, sprinkle the fruit generously with 75-110g (3-4oz/scant 1/2 – 1/2 cup) sugar before adding the crumble topping.
Next make the crumble.
Rub the butter into the flour and sugar to make a coarse crumble. Add the ground cinnamon and chopped almonds. Spread the crumble over the top of the fruit.
Bake in a preheated oven 190°C/375°F/regulo 5 until fully cooked - 35-40 minutes (30 minutes approximately for tartlets).
Serve warm or cold with a bowl of softly whipped cream or Calvados Cream.
10fl oz (300ml/1 1/4 cups) cream
2 tablespoons (2 1/2 American tablespoons) Calvados
Softly whip the cream and flavour with the Calvados.