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A Very short history of Ireland….

This is by no means a complete history as that would take me forever to type…this is just an introduction!

Ireland was once covered in ice during the last ice age. At the end of the ice age, land bridges that still connected Ireland to Great Britain and from GB to mainland Europe became pathways for ancient peoples to migrate to the land. They would set up mostly nomadic and primitive fishing and hunter-gatherer societies that would inhabit the area for around 9,000 years. They didn’t leave much in the way of written history, yet many of their monuments and burial sites are still wonders to behold today. Sites such as Newgrange and Knowth are Neolithic monuments that housed the remains of ancient kings.

Then, about 2,500 years ago, the ancient medieval people known as the Celts colonized present-day Ireland in a series of invasions. They would bring with them much of the language, culture and music that lives on to this day. In the beginning they had almost free reign over the area. That was until a saint named Patrick came to the island for a 2nd time (he was there the first time as a slave) to bring Christianity after having a vision one night.

This newfound love of Christianity swept over the Island. Around the 8th century, Vikings began “visiting” the island, raiding and pillaging villages for the next few centuries. Along the way, they founded the Irish settlements of Dubin, Cork and Limerick.

Then in the 12th century came the Normans who claimed much of Ireland for England. A back and forth struggle would continue well into the 20th century. 8 centuries and a civil war later in 1948, Ireland finally gained it’s full independence from British rule.

The transition did have unexpected consequences, as relations with Northern Ireland began to deteriorate, bringing rise to rioting and civil violence. The next 25 years were filled with conflict between the IRA (Irish Republic Army) and British Security Forces. In 1998, the Good Friday Agreement officially ended the violence.

 

Facts About Ireland:

Here are some facts about Ireland that you might find interesting:

  • an Irish festival called Samhain brought about the holiday of Halloween
  • Gaelic is the most spoken language followed by Irish & English
  • There are nearly 8 times more polish speakers than Gaelic in Ireland
  • The average Irish person consumes 131.1 litres of beer per year, making the Irish the 2nd heaviest drinkers in the world behind the Czech.
  • The Titanic was built in Ireland.
  • There are more Irish people living outside of Ireland than in!

The Recipe:

IMG_0293This week’s dish is a traditional dish from Ireland. The stew has been around for hundreds of years in Ireland, and is traditionally cooked in large portions with minimal ingredients. It was a dish of the common people, using ingredients that were readily available and not to expensive. Today we are going to make a traditional version with a little bit of a twist in that we are going to be doing it using a slow cooker to really bring out the flavour.

 

For The Stew:

  • 1kg lamb shoulder
  • 1 brown onion (roughly chopped)
  • 1 Leek (roughly chopped)
  • 1 Parsnip (roughly chopped)
  • 3-4 Potatoes (peeled and cubed)
  • 6 stalks of celery (cut into 1/2″ slices)
  • 3-4 cloves of garlic (minced)
  • 1 bunch of fresh rosemary
  • 1 bunch of fresh thyme
  • 1 bunch of fresh parsley
  • about 2 litres of beef stock (8 cups)
  • 12 oz Guinness Stout (or Draught)
  • 1 cup pearl barley
  • 2 teaspoons corn starch
  • salt & pepper
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • olive oil (for browning lamb)

For The Bread:

  • 4 Cups of All-Purpose Flour
  • 1 Teaspoon Salt
  • 1 Teaspoon Baking Soda
  • 400mL (1.75 cups) Buttermilk

Method:

Prepare the barley by placing it in a small pot and covering it with 3 cups of the beef stock. Bring to a boil and then turn down to low to simmer for 20 minutes. Once it is done take it off the heat and set aside.

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The first thing you should do is to prepare the veggies by chopping up the onion, leek and celery and putting them in one large bowl. Peal and chop the potatoes and chop the parsnip and put those in a separate bowl.IMG_0264

 

Cube the lamb and salt to tenderize. Put a little oil in a frying pan and fry the lamb in two batches, using a slotted spoon to remove once browned to set aside for later. Leave the juices left over and then cook the large bowl of veggies (not the potatoes or parsnip) for a few minutes to caramelize them.

Coat the meat you set aside with a bit of flour. then place at the bottom of the slow cooker and cover with the potatoes and parsnip.

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Add the Guinness to De-glaze the pan and scrape up all the remaining juices. Transfer this to the slow cooker and turn it on low.

IMG_0277Add in the barley and the stock that you had cooked earlier and then cover the veggies with the rest of the beef stock. Salt and Pepper to taste and add the minced garlic.

Lastly, gather a small bunch of each of the parsley, thyme and rosemary and tie into a bundle with string and submerge in the pot to cook with the stew. (you can remove this at the end)

Leave to cook on low for around 8-10 hours (or you can cook on high for 5-6 hours).

About an hour before the stew is ready to serve, combine the cornstarch with 4 tablespoons of water and then add to the pot to thicken the sauce (if necessary).

Method for Soda Bread: (Start about 2-3 hours before serving)

Preheat the oven to 220ºC (425ºF)

Combine the flour, salt and baking soda by sifting them into a large mixing bowl

IMG_0282

Slowly add the butter milk and stir through with a fork. Knead very gently until well mixed and then place into a cake pan forming a round flat shape.

IMG_0285

Using a knife, cut a cross in the top of the dough.

Place another cake pan on top and then bake covered in the oven for 30 minutes.

Remove the top pan and bake for 15 more minutes. (the dough should sound hollow when you knock on it).

Set out on a wire rack to cool. You can place a wet towel over the bread to keep the crust from being to crispy.

IMG_0287Combine with a bowl of soup and one of the leftover Guinness and enjoy!

Credits:

This recipe was a combination of lots of research and methodology from this recipe for the stew and from the Society for the Preservation of Irish Soda Bread.

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