St. Patrick, it is said, was Welsh-born, pagan reared, thrown into Irish slavery, from whence he fled to Britain then Rome where he trained as a priest.
He returned to Ireland, converted a bunch of pagans to Christianity and rid the country of snakes. Historians toss off the latter as myth claiming there were never snakes in Ireland. St. Patrick died March 17th.
Any saint whose feast day encourages sipping Jamieson’s, quaffing Guinness and chowing down on Irish stew and soda bread is well worth veneration in my book.
Way back my university days, I swilled green beer in Boston bars, and in the ladies and escorts side of the now defunct Paddy Green’s pub in Hamilton. I have been pummeled with carrots, potatoes and cabbages from a float during a St. Patrick’s Day Parade in New Orleans (where corn beef and cabbage signify the day). And a few years ago, I partied at the core – in Dublin, downing lamb stew with Guinness on tap (10 minutes to pour with a head as thick as snow) and a shooter (or three) of Jameson’s Crested Ten, in a jammed Temple Bar pub while rocking the night away amidst fiddles, whistles and the beat of a bodrahn.
(Irish Pubs used to be shut on St. Patrick’s, of all days. Thirsty folks would hie, therefore, to the dog show where there was an open bar. One imbiber is alleged to have complained, “Darned silly place to bring a dog”.)
I can still taste that Irish stew. Made from the neck of mutton, it was – in true Irish fashion – slow cooked with only onions, potatoes, stock and a bit of seasoning, thick slab of grainy bread, tasting of baking soda, and slathered with the sweetest butter alongside. This was unfussy rib-sticking grub and a much-needed sturdy foil for whiskey and stout.
Making Irish stew and soda bread (it requires no yeast) is easy. Fixings are cheap. Get out the fiddle. Pick up a few Guinness and a bottle of Jameson’s. Invite a few folks by. Shuck a dozen or more briny bi-valves (oysters and Guinness match splendidly) and round out the dinner with a wedge of Dubliner Cheddar (available at Costco). Here’s to St. Patrick. God bless him!
Irish (lamb) stew
Purists consider a carrot in Irish stew a “no-good hanger-on.” This goes for adding celery, beef, turnips and barley, too. However I’m rather partial to adding carrots.
Most North Americans disdain mutton. Shoulder chops, cut and cubed, or stewing lamb will suffice. I like to find a lamb neck.
Depending on ratio of bone and fat to meat you will need two to three pounds lamb. Trim excess fat. Roughly chop three to four medium onions and two large carrots. Wash and peel (if Idaho or other thick skinned) two pounds of potatoes and slice into quarter-inch rounds.
In a deep casserole or Dutch oven add a bit of fat or oil brown the lamb in batches, removing each batch pot into a bowl. Return to the pot a layer of meat. Then layer potatoes, then onions, then carrots. Build layers until all ingredients are used. Season with salt, pepper, a handful of chopped parsley and a two or three sprigs (or one teaspoon dried) thyme. Pour over stew 20 oz. (British pint) or to nearly cover, chicken stock or veal stock, or water.
Bring stew to boil on top of stove. Skim off foam. Transfer to 325-degree oven and cook for two hours, or until meat is tender. Check part way through cooking and top up with more stock if necessary. Irish stew is best made the day before serving.
Google European Cusines + soda bread for history and recipes very good website.
Jameson whiskeys are kilned without peat and triple-distilled. Consequently there are no smoky notes. They are mellow, have a delicate barley perfume and a round, almost oily palate. Unlike Scotch, most, if not all, whiskeys contain a portion of unmalted barley. Modern times have also dictated a good dollop of grain spirit be added.
Jameson’s is the whiskey in the south.
Bushmills is Northern Ireland’s brand and more resembles to Scotch. It uses no unmalted barley and is introduced very briefly to peat.
Listed with Yukon Liquor Corps.
Connemara Irish Single Malt $66.05 (Peated! Smoke, oak, honey, heather)
Jameson Irish Whiskey $31.20 (perfumey, oily, round, charred in American Oak)
Red Breast Irish Whiskey $48.05 (beautifully balanced, sophisticated, light honey character)
Bushmills Black Bush $38.35 (sherry casked, deluxe blend)
Old Bushmills Irish Whiskey $31.20 (malty sweet, perfumed, dry)
In Vancouver, Edmonton and Calgary look for:
Paddy’s (full and firm-bodied),
Tullamore Dew (lightest of all Irish whiskeys) and
Powers (big, malty full-on whiskey).
Julie Pegg is a Vancouver-based
food and wine writer.