IRELAND’S natural larder isn’t too different from our great Scottish bounty - take advantage of it with these recipes for Colcannon and Beef and Guinness pie.
With an incredible array of fresh, local produce on the doorstep, the food scene there is constantly developing. There has been an emergence of new Irish food recently, based on very traditional, natural ingredients fresh from local land and shores and handled in a modern way.
The cuisine champions fresh vegetables, fish – especially salmon and trout – oysters, mussels and other shellfish, traditional soda bread, a huge range of local cheeses from across the country and, of course, the potato. Like the Scottish food scene, it is really making a mark worldwide and shaking off past images of unhealthy or uninspiring dishes to present a wonderful collection of culinary destinations and local producers.
Temperate weather conditions give the Irish access to similar ingredients to the Scots, and they have become renowned for warming, hearty dishes like casseroles, stews, breads and pies.
Of course, everyone associates the Irish diet with plenty of potatoes, and they form the basis of many great dishes. I remember travelling through Cumber, which is renowned for growing some of the very best potatoes in the world. It’s what the place is famous for. I always think the potato is underrated; it is so versatile and can serve as an accompaniment or indeed the foundation for many delicious seasonal dishes. Colcannon is a famous, delicious Irish dish and agenuine comfort food – the perfect match for a good roast lunch or dinner.
Irish shores offer a delightful array of fresh seafood, especially in the likes of Dublin and Galway, which hosts its own oyster and seafood festival. Great-quality shellfish like lobster and langoustine are in abundance.
Not only does Ireland bring us fantastic produce and inspiring dishes, the people also know how to celebrate. I remember being a young lad and the Irish coming to Edinburgh for the rugby. It was a massive event – a big occasion. There must be something in the Celtic connection as I always remember rugby games being such a thrill and incredibly good fun.
No Irish celebration would be complete without a pint of Guinness. If you’re not a fan, bringing it into your cooking is a nice way to give a nod to the annual St Patrick’s Day celebrations. Beef and Guinness is a classic combination, and I created this pie for it. If you want to try your own version of this dish, you can use a different local beer or even serve the filling as a stew, without the pastry, which can be just as tasty and hearty.
While St Patrick’s Day isn’t such a big celebration here, it’s the perfect excuse to try out some of Ireland’s best recipes.
freshly ground black pepper
200g savoy cabbage, trimmed
50g bacon lardons
1 garlic clove, peeled and chopped
freshly grated nutmeg
8 spring onions, trimmed and finely sliced
1 tsp chopped parsley
Peel and quarter the potatoes, then boil in salted water until tender. Drain well. Meanwhile, shred the cabbage finely.
Heat a heavy-based sauté pan over a medium heat and add a drizzle of olive oil. Add the lardons and sweat for three to four minutes, then add the cabbage and cook over a medium-low heat for another two or three minutes. Add the garlic and half a cupful of water, then cover and cook for five to six minutes, until the cabbage is tender.
When the potatoes are nearly cooked, bring the milk to the boil and grate in a little nutmeg. Mash the potatoes in a pan, then slowly incorporate the milk and butter. Season to taste.
Drain the cabbage, then fold through the mashed potato with the spring onions, parsley and a twist of pepper. Serve at once.
Beef and Guinness Pie
1kg stewing steak, cut into 2-3cm pieces
freshly ground black pepper
1 onion, peeled and diced
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
250g button mushrooms, cleaned
2 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
250ml red wine
500ml can Guinness or stout
250g ready-rolled puff pastry
eggwash (1 egg yolk, beaten with ½ tsp water and pinch of salt)
Heat the oven to 150°C, then dust the pieces of stewing steak all over with flour and season with salt and pepper.
Heat a heavy-based ovenproof sauté pan over a medium-high heat and add a good drizzle of olive oil. Brown the beef in two batches for four to five minutes, until well caramelised. Remove the meat with a slotted spoon and set aside.
Return the pan to the heat and add another drizzle of oil. Add the onion, carrots and mushrooms, lower the heat and sweat gently for four to five minutes. Then add the garlic and bouquet garni.
Pour in the red wine and reduce by half, then add the Guinness or stout. Bring back to the boil and then return the beef to the pan. Put a lid on the pan and place in the oven. Cook for three hours or until the beef is tender and the liquor has reduced and thickened.
Raise the oven setting to 180°C. Transfer the beef stew to a pie dish, discarding the bouquet garni. Cut out a disc of pastry large enough to cover the pie dish generously (allow about 3cm extra all round). Dampen the rim of the dish with water, then lift the pastry over the top of the stew. Press the edges of the pastry on to the rim of the dish and trim away the excess.
Brush the pastry lid with eggwash and bake the pie in the oven for 15 to 20 minutes, until the pastry has turned golden brown and crisp.
Serve immediately with seasonal vegetables.