This time last year I was shivering on O’Connell street in Dublin, watching the St Patrick’s Day Parade. A year later I’m in the desert in the middle of Australia, with not a giant balloon animal or a wacky green hat in sight. However I’ve received a few text messages from the family, and will be sure to be at the only Irish pub in town tonight, squeezed into a corner, balancing a pint, and undoubtedly having sweaty backpackers rubbing up against me – with or without intent.
My mum and most of her family were born in Ireland so today is a great day for all of us, for no reason other than the celebration of all things Irish. It’s funny to me though that the majority of revelers know nothing of what they are celebrating, as the myth and legend of St Patrick and why the day exists, seem superfluous in the face of the opportunity for drinking and merriment, regardless of rhyme or reason. Guinness sells over 5 million pints a day, worldwide, in a normal week, yet St Pat’s Day sees that more than double to 13 million pints. On a single day!
All for a saint who supposedly got rid of snakes that were never there, and who was not Irish. A welshman who came to Ireland as a slave then flitted between religions to do nothing specific that anyone seems to have recorded, and at some point became a saint for a variety of non specific reasons. Seriously, the Irish will do anything for a drink.
So my commitment to the greater good for today is my own precious recipe for Irish Stew that I have been perfecting since i first learned how to buy lamb. This is the simple version, but add what you like to make it your own. Enjoy the craic and a Happy St P’s to all.
Get enough good quality diced lamb, for the amount of people you want to feed, from the butcher (not the supermarket – believe me it’s better). Put half a cup of flour, a teaspoon of salt and a teaspoon of fresh cracked pepper in a freezer bag or a plastic tub with a lid and shake around. Add the diced lamb and shake around some more till all the lamb is coated in the flour mixture.
Melt a tablespoon of butter in a large pot and drizzle some olive oil in too. Add the lamb and a little extra of the flour to the pan and fry gently till the outsides are brown with some golden crispy bits on the corners. Add 1 brown onion chopped in big chunks, and a chopped celery stick, and fry some more. Add a handful of fresh chopped thyme. Add potatoes cut into big chunks – halves or quarters whichever you prefer. Add carrots also chopped into big chunks. Don’t worry about peeling anything.
Add 1 cup of beef stock, and 1 can of Guinness or heavy beer. Add a splash of red wine if you have some nearby, or some sherry, or both, and some more salt and pepper. Stir the whole lot around and bring to the boil. Once boiled, stir again, then turn down to simmer and put the lid on. Check it every 15 minutes or so, stir it more, taste it and add more of whatever you think – salt, pepper, liquid of your choosing, or flour to thicken. Stew is ready when the vegies are soft and the lamb is falling apart in your mouth. The secret is low heat and lots of seasoning.
SERVE WITH MASH. THERE ARE NO ALTERNATIVES.