Sunday, November 27, 2011

It's a Guinness Stew and Brown Bread kind of day

I woke up this morning to a chilly, rainy Sunday. You know, the kind that makes you want to stay in and watch old movies or read a good book while enjoying a cup of tea or coffee?  It's also the kind of day that makes you want some comfort food - and my comfort food today is all Irish !!  Tonight's dinner will consist of a bowl of Guinness stew with mashed potatoes, brown soda bread with Dubliner cheese and probably a Guinness as well.  I can't think of a more cozy, comforting dinner.  Plus, it makes me feel close to my Irish friends that I miss so much.  Sláinte!

Guinness Stew
From Liam Neeson - Glens of Antrim Irish Stew
Serves 4

1 oz. butter
2 pounds lamb or beef, cubed
1 large onion, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
1 Tablespoon flour
8 ounces beef stock
2 Tablespoons tomato paste
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
2 potatoes, cubed
1 bottle Guinness
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1/2 - 3/4 teaspoons thyme
1 1/2 teaspoons dried parsley
1 bay leaf
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup frozen peas, optional

Melt butter in a large pan and fry the meat until browned on all sides.  Do not crowd pan; brown the meat in two or three batches if necessary.  Remove meat from the pan, add the onion and carrots and cook until slightly softened; add garlic.

Return the meat to the pan, add the flour, stock, tomato paste and sugar.  Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to a simmer and add the potatoes, Guinness, thyme, parsley, bay leaf and salt and pepper.

Cover and cook over low heat for 1 to 1 1/2 hours or until the meat is tender.  Just before serving, stir in the peas if using and serve over mashed potatoes.

I also frequently make this in the crockpot !!

Hargadon's Brown Soda Bread
From the Irish Pub Cookbook by Margaret M. Johnson
Makes 1 loaf

3 cups coarse whole wheat flour
1 cup all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/3 cup sugar
1 Tablespoon salt
2 large eggs
1 1/4 cups buttermilk

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Coat a 9x5x3 inch bread pan with cooking spray.

In a large bowl, stir together the dry ingredients.  Make a well in the center.  In a small bowl, whisk together the eggs and buttermilk.  With a wooden spoon, stir the egg mixture into the dry ingredients.  Spoon the dough into the prepared pan and smooth the top with a spatula that has been dipped in water or buttermilk.

Bake for 35-40 minutes, or until a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean and the bread sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom.  Remove from the oven and let cool in the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes.  Turn the bread out onto the rack and let cool, right side up, for about 1 hour to make slicing easier.

Amazing when served with Kerry Gold Irish butter and/or Dubliner cheese !!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Bring on the Boxty.....

Have you ever had just a little bit of mashed potatoes left at the end of dinner?  You know, just enough that you don't want to finish them off but more than you want to throw away.  If you have about a cup of leftover mashed potatoes, I have the recipe for you -Boxty !  There are many variations on this recipe but the one I love the most is fairly thin and wrapped around any number of fillings.  I've had boxty at Gallagher's Boxty House in Dublin and I've had boxty at The Fiddler's Hearth in South Bend Indiana - both equally delicious.  Today I decided to make the Boxty (potato pancake) from Gallagher's with the filling I like the most from the Fiddler's Hearth.  What resulted was simply amazing !

Gallagher's Boxty (courtsey of Food Network)
8 ounces grated raw potato
6 ounces mashed potato
8 ounces all-purpose flour (I've also had this with buckwheat flour)
1 pint milk
Salt and pepper to taste

Wash and drain the grated raw potato at least twice to remove all the starch.  Place the raw and mashed potatoes in a bowl, add flour and milk. Season with salt and pepper and blend to a smooth consistency.  Drop a ladle full (about 1/2 cup) into a hot skillet or griddle; push the mixture from the center outwards with the bottom of the ladle, cook for 2 minutes then flip the boxty over and cook through.

Fill with your choice of fillings.  The recipe for the filling I used today appears below !  But you could also make a breakfast version stuffed with scrambled eggs, sausage/ham/bacon, cheese and veggies; a leftover Thanksgiving dinner vesion with stuffing, turkey, veggies and a bit of gravy - the filling ideas are only limited by your imagination !  Let me know what filling you use in your favorite boxty recipe.

Pork filling for boxty

3 center cut loin pork chops, cubed
1 medium onion, sliced
1 portobello mushroom, cubed
1 jar homemade Ballymaloe country relish (recipe to follow another time) or your favorite BBQ sauce (about 1-2 cups depending on how thick you want your filling)

Brown cubed pork, add onions and mushrooms and cook about 5 minutes.  Add sauce; cover and simmer for 30-45 minutes or longer if desired.

Spoon sauce into freshly cooked boxty and serve with a huge green salad with apples, blue cheese and balsamic vinaigrette.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Cheesy Pasta Goodness with Butternut Squash

On a particularly windy, rainy and cold day, I felt like making some comfort food.  What could be more comforting than a steamy, cheesy, butternut squashy bowl of goodness?  I found the following recipe in Cooking Light (March 2004) - have you figured out yet that I love this magazine?

I've recently been trying to incorporate even more varieties of vegetables into my menus and butternut squash happens to be a favorite right now.  Butternut squash is not only really tasty, it's also an amazing source of Vitamins A and C, potassium, dietary fiber and manganese.  It's also a good source of folate and omega 3 fatty acids and contains about 80 calories per one cup serving.  If you're looking for a way to incorporate winter squash into your menu, try this recipe.  It does have a number of steps but it's worth every one of them.  This recipe goes particularly well with roasted Brussels sprouts or roasted broccoli. 

Roasted Butternut Squash Pasta with Bacon


  • 3/4 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 cups (1-inch) cubed peeled butternut squash
  • Cooking spray
  • 6 sweet hickory-smoked bacon slices (raw) (I used 4 because that's all I had)
  • 1 cup thinly sliced shallots (I used yellow onion)
  • 8 ounces uncooked mini penne (tube-shaped pasta)
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups 2% reduced-fat milk (I used 1% milk)
  • 3/4 cup (3 ounces) shredded sharp provolone cheese (I used a blend of provolone and mozzarella)
  • 1/3 cup (1 1/2 ounces) grated fresh Parmesan cheese


Preheat oven to 425°.
Combine 1/4 teaspoon salt, rosemary, and pepper. Place squash on a foil-lined baking sheet coated with cooking spray; sprinkle with salt mixture. Bake at 425° for 45 minutes or until tender and lightly browned. Increase oven temperature to 450°.
Cook the bacon in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat until crisp. Remove bacon from pan, reserving 1 1/2 teaspoons drippings in pan; crumble bacon. Increase heat to medium-high. Add shallots to pan; sauté 8 minutes or until tender. Combine squash mixture, bacon, and shallots; set aside.
Cook pasta according to the package directions, omitting salt and fat. Drain well.
Combine flour and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Gradually add milk, stirring constantly with a whisk; bring to a boil. Cook 1 minute or until slightly thick, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Add provolone, stirring until cheese melts. Add pasta to cheese mixture, tossing well to combine. Spoon pasta mixture into an 11 x 7-inch baking dish lightly coated with cooking spray; top with squash mixture. Sprinkle evenly with Parmesan cheese. Bake at 450° for 10 minutes or until cheese melts and begins to brown.

If you make the original recipe (serves 5), the nutrition facts are as follows:
Calories 469; Fat 14.4g; Sat Fat 7.3g; Protein 22.1g; Carbs 66.6g; Fiber 6.8g; Cholesterol 40mg; Iron 3.5mg; Sodium 849mg; Calcium 443mg

You can lower the calories, total and saturated fat levels by using less bacon and 1% milk.