Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Well, Bless My Roots!

It may be August, but the weather looks like an Irish spring day.  Cloudy, wet, and everything is green.  On days like these, I like to honor my Irish/Scots roots and do a wee bit of kitchen magic.  A spot of music, a cuppa of Irish Tea, and I almost feel as though my kitchen looks like this one:

And the music!  Not just any songs will do.  Check my playlist out:

Old Town - The Corrs
Dimming of the Day - The Corrs
Love You Till The End - The Pogues
If I Should Fall From Grace With God - The Pogues
Black Is The Colour - The Corrs
If I Ever Leave This World Alive - Flogging Molly
Radio - The Corrs
Only When I Sleep - The Corrs
Bodhran - The Young Dubliners (video is blank)
The Long Black Veil - The Chieftains and Mick Jagger
I Know My Love - The Chieftains and The Corrs
Spancil Hill - The Corrs

That should get you started! :)

Today, you get two recipes to bring you some comfort.  Whether it be the clouds or the world that brings you down, these luscious lovelies will lift you up!  So put a kettle on and get out your slow cooker for a day of kitchen magic!  The first is a tea brack, a tea bread made without butter and oil.  My hubster likes to call it raisin bread, and it pretty much is, but I've put a nice spin on it.
The second is a classic Irish stew, made with beef and Guinness.  I've included "neeps" (turnips) and "tatties" (potatoes).  I prefer only one turnip and two parsnips.  Parsnips taste like a wonderful lemon/ginger carrot.  I prefer them over carrots.  You can use whatever you like, however, and whatever's on hand.  I know a lot of Guinness stews have raisins and caraway seeds, but I think rosemary and thyme make this stew stand up and do a fancy jig!

Cranberry Tea Brack
Makes 1 loaf
(adapted from Homemade: Irresistible Homemade Recipes for Every Occasion by Clodagh McKenna)


2 cups dried fruit, I used raisins and cranberries
1 1/4 cup tea, I used Republic of Tea's Comfort and Joy
1/2 cup superfine sugar
1 egg
2 cups unbleached flour
2 tsp. baking powder
2 tsp. pumpkin or apple pie spice
Vanilla sugar (optional)

Soak fruit for at least two hours in tea. The original recipe calls for them to be soaked overnight, but I found them bitter, so I only soak them for a few hours.

Preheat oven to 350.  Line a bread pan with butter or olive oil cooking spray.

With a wooden spoon, quickly stir egg and sugar in a large bowl, until the combination has turned a lemony yellow and is a tad frothy.

Sift in the flour, baking powder, and spice.  Stir just until most is incorporated, but it will look mealy.

Add fruit and tea mixture.  Stir just until combined.

Pour into prepared pan (sprinkle with vanilla sugar if so desired) and bake for 55-60 minutes or until done when tested with a toothpick.

Guinness Stew with "Neeps" and "Tatties"


Peel and chop the following:
2 onions
1 turnip
2 parsnips
2 cloves garlic
(do not chop or peel) 1.5 pounds baby yellow potatoes
2 pounds lean stew meat
1 sprig rosemary
1 tbsp. olive oil
1/4 cup flour
salt and fresh black pepper
4 cups low-sodium beef stock
1 (12 oz.) bottle of Guinness Stout
1 sprig rosemary
2 sprigs thyme
2 tbsp. tomato paste
1/4 cup cold water
1 tbsp. cornstarch

In a heavy skillet, heat the olive oil and place one sprig of rosemary in the oil.

Toss the meat with salt and pepper, then toss with the 1/4 cup of flour.  Place meat in heated skillet with rosemary and brown on all sides.

Place peeled and chopped veggies in the bottom of a slow cooker.  Pour in the stout and nearly all of the stock, reserving about 1/2 cup to de-glaze the skillet.  Add rosemary, thyme, and tomato paste to veggies.

De-glaze skillet, stirring meat around to make a sort of gravy.

Carefully, with oven mitts, pour the beef and gravy over the vegetables and stout. Add any remaining stock to slow cooker.  Stir carefully.  Simmer on high for an hour, then cook on low for five more hours.  Stir the cornstarch into the cold water and pour in the last five minutes of cook time to thicken.

(If you do not have a slow cooker, brown meat and then add veggies/stout/stock/tomato paste mixture into a large Dutch oven and roast - covered - for four hours at 325)