Our national holiday was put in perspective in a whole new way for me by my big bro in NY, who mailed me with a bit of a rant about the horrors of being an Irish person in the US on March 17th. The drunk Irish jokes and fake accents put on by news anchors have worn rather thin for him at this stage, to the point where he finds it all offensive and racist. I was in NY for St Patrick's day a couple of years ago, and the drinking that was being done in the name of Irishness was, indeed, cringeworthy. In fact, the drunkenness that I witnessed in the city at 11am was above and beyond any homegrown disgracefulness that I've witnessed over the years. As someone who prefers to celebrate through the medium of food, I was thrilled skinny when Fi told me that the thing her two Japanese visitors were looking forward to on their visit to Ireland was...Irish stew! Now, while I object to countrywide Shaun Of The Dead-esque drunken displays, I do have to say that we produce alcohol that is worthy of celebration, which is why I thought that a beef and Guinness stew was the perfect way to show a little national pride. Since I'm up to my eyes at the moment, it was also rather convenient that it's a really low-maintenance dish, taken from the ultra-useable Café Leon cookbook, the source of some of my favourite hotpot-style dishes.
Give about 1kg of delicious Irish beef the chop, and put it in a bowl with a bunch of thyme and two bay leaves.
Then gluggity-glug-glug-glug in with two cans of James Gate's finest and into the fridge with it for 24 hours.
When it has had its spell in chilly solitary confinement, take out the beef and brown it up in a pot with 2 tablespoons of butter and 1 tablespoon of sunflower oil. It will already have lost its pinky-red colour to the stout, and it takes mere minutes to brown.
I was all smug and organised with the chopping done, ingredients lined up, the whole works.
When the beef is all brown, it goes back in the pot, along with four chopped carrots and a diced onion, with the lid on for 10 to 15 minutes to soften the veggies. Look at those carrots beaming out like sunshine! It's a hearty-looking pot of stuff.
After that, 1 diced garlic clove and 1.5 tablespoons of tomato pureé for 5 minutes, then 4 tablespoons of white flour and a good big stir.
Back in with the reserved Guinness, along with 600ml half-strength beef stock.
And the point at which it begins its sojourn in the oven (preheated to 180 degrees) is the point at which I get to crack out the Le Creuset, always a moment I relish. This beauteous cauldron was a present from the Newlywed neighbours, and it has a constant home on the hob. I love it - love it, love it, love it. It just sings to me of wholesome, oven-cooked, love-giving, warming home meals. It can't actually be used on the stovetop, so it's an oven-only implement.
Into the pot with the gorgeous beefy gloop, and into the oven with that. The lid stays on for the first hour and a half, then it comes off for the last half hour.
Of course, like a scatty lil nitwit I left my camera at home, and so this is where photographic evidence of my stewy escapades ends. I think it did the trick on the food-based international relations front though. And I thought it was pretty delicious myself - that inimitable Irish beef all melty and flavoursome, mmmm. Now surely that beats getting obnoxiously drunk in the middle of the afternoon and peeing in public places?