Shepherd’s Pie is the perfect comfort food for the weather we had this week. Our first significant snow of the winter fell just before St. Patrick’s Day, arriving like a late and unwanted guest who shows up at the party just as you have started clearing up.
The hearty combination of meat, vegetables and creamy mashed potatoes will warm you up from the inside out on a damp, blustery day. The original version, as the name suggests, was made with lamb. In the United States it’s usually made with ground beef, a version my mother calls “cottage pie.” A favorite of Irish pub menus and families, it pleases even the pickiest eater. I recently made double this recipe for the family of a friend whose husband is undergoing treatment for cancer because it’s one of his favorite dishes. She told me her husband and teenage son ate the entire pie in one night.
- 1 lb. ground beef or lamb
- 1 tbsp. vegetable oil
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 2 carrots diced
- 1 cup frozen peas (optional)
- 1 tsp. tomato paste
- 1 cup beef broth
- 1 bay leaf
- salt and pepper
- 3 russet potatoes
- 1 tbsp. butter
- 1/2 cup whole milk or cream
- Heat oil in large saucepan. Add ground meat and cook until browned.
- Remove browned meat to a plate. Pour off excess oil from saucepan.
- Add diced onion and carrot. Cook until onion is translucent and carrots are soft.
- Return meat to the pan. Add tomato paste, bay leaf, broth and peas if using. Season with salt and pepper.
- Cook about 20 minutes until meat mixture absorbs the broth. Pour the cooked meat into an oven safe dish.
- In the meantime, preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Peel and cut potatoes into quarters.
- Place potatoes in medium saucepan. Cover with cold, salted water.
- Bring water to a boil, then turn down to a simmer.
- Cook until potatoes are soft. Drain off water.
- Cover potatoes with a clean, cotton dishcloth. Cover saucepan and put back on a very low heat for five minutes to dry out the potatoes before mashing.
- Heat milk or cream and butter.
- Add to potatoes and mash.
- Top the meat mixture with the mashed potatoes. Use the tines of a fork to make a design in the potato topping.
- Bake for 30 to 40 minutes until the mashed potato is golden brown and the meat mixture is bubbling.
This is the perfect warming bowl after you get home cold and hungry from the St. Patrick’s Day parade. The genius thing is it only takes about 20 minutes to make and is filling enough for dinner.
I recently saw Irish chef Kevin Dundon of Dunbrody House in Wexford on TV making the fish chowder they serve in the hotel. It looked so easy and delicious that I couldn’t wait to make my own version. In Chicago, we don’t have the same selection of fish that they have in Ireland, so I improvised using the wild fish my local supermarket had available. I even threw in half a can of wild Alaskan salmon that I was leftover from lunch. What makes this chowder Irish is the smoked salmon, but other than that, feel free to use any other fish and seafood available to you. I have converted everything into American measurements.
Nil geal an gaire ach san ait a mbionn an biadh — laughter is brightest were the food is best. Happy St. Patrick’s Day!
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- 2 tbsp. butter
- 1 small leek, cleaned and chopped
- 1 small onion, chopped
- 1 small carrot, diced
- 2 medium red potatoes peeled and cubed
- 2 oz. smoked salmon, cut into strips
- 1/4 cup dry white wine
- 2 cups fish or seafood stock (I used Swanson's seafood stock in a box)
- 1/4 lb. sockeye salmon, cut into bite size pieces and skin removed.
- 1/4 pound cod, cut into bite size pieces and skin removed
- 1/4 pound haddock, cut into bite size pieces and skin removed
- 6 Key West shrimp, peeled and deveined
- 1 tbsp. chopped, fresh tarragon
- 1/2 cup cream
- salt and pepper
- Melt the butter in a large, heavy saucepan over medium heat.
- Add leek, onion, carrot, potato and smoked salmon. Saute for a few minutes until the vegetables soften
- Pour in the wine and allow the liquid to reduce by half.
- Add the fish or seafood stock. Bring the liquid to a simmer, then add the fresh fish and shellfish.
- Bring the pot back to a simmer. Add the tarragon, cream, salt and pepper.
- Cover and cook for another 2 to 3 minutes.
- Serve in bowls with fresh bread and butter
- 3 tbsps olive oil
- 1 tbsp butter
- 1 onion, peeled and finely chopped
- 2 russet potatoes, washed, peeled and diced
- 2 leeks – tough outer green leaves removed, washed and chopped
- ¼ tsp freshly grated nutmeg
- 2 ½ pints chicken stock
- Salt and white pepper
- 6 oz. watercress, washed and chopped.
- ½ cup heavy cream
- Shamrock croutons:
- Shamrock shaped cookie cutter
- 4 slices whole wheat bread
- 4 tsps. butter
- 1/2 cup grated Irish cheddar cheese.
- In a large saucepan or dutch oven heat olive oil and butter over a moderate heat. Add the onion, potatoes and leeks. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Pour in the chicken stock. Season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, then turn down heat and simmer for 20 minutes until the potatoes are tender.
- Stir in the chopped watercress until it wilts. Add the cream and nutmeg.
- Remove from the heat, let soup cool. Puree using a hand blender, blender or food processor.. Adjust seasoning and warm before serving.
- Shamrock croutons:
- Use the cookie cutter to cut out shamrock shapes.
- Butter one side of the shamrock crouton.
- Toast under a broiler or toaster oven on toast setting.
- Remove from the heat, turn the crouton over and sprinkle with grated cheddar cheese.
- Return to the broiler or toaster oven -- cheese side up -- until the cheese is melted and starts to brown.
- Ladle warmed soup into bowls. Place the shamrock crouton on top.
Photo courtesy of Bord Bia, the Irish Food Board.
Warm up after the chilly St. Patrick’s Day parade with this hearty, watercress and potato soup with festive shamrock croutons. Watercress is a semiaquatic plant with a peppery flavor that has been eaten in Ireland for centuries. It was one of the foods given as tribute to Irish kings. Ireland’s second best known saint, Saint Brendan — who according to legend discoverd North America — was said to have subsisted on watercress. If the vegetable provided Saint Brendan with the stamina to cross the rough Atlantic it will surely provide enough energy to get through a weekend of Paddy’s Day activities. Happy St. Patrick’s Day!
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Brian Brady, Phillippa Cannon, Rachel Allen and Nora Gainer at Chicago Irish Georgian Society Gala
Myrtle Allen, the matriarch of modern Irish cooking, celebrated her 90th birthday earlier this week. http://www.irishexaminer.com/ireland/matriarch-of-ballymaloe-celebrates-her-90th-birthday-261396.html When she opened a restaurant in Ballymaloe House, in Shanagarry, Co. Cork, fifty years ago, her constantly changing menus and use of local, seasonal ingredients were considered revolutionary. Her granddaughter-in-law Rachel Allen was in Chicago a few months ago to speak at the Irish Georgian Society Gala about the historic house and promote her cookbook “Rachel’s Irish Family Food.” Rachel continues the Allen family tradition of cooking with local, sustainable ingredients as Ireland’s best known TV chef and instructor at the famed Ballymaloe Cookery School. The school sits in the middle of an organic farm which supplies ingredients for its classes.
“Rachel’s Irish Family Food” includes recipes for family meals that are easy for the home cook and authentically Irish. This St. Patrick’s Day instead of serving the typical corned beef and cabbage, why not try the dish that inspired it – boiled Irish bacon and cabbage? The bacon here is not a crispy breakfast strip, but a cured and smoked pork loin that is similar to ham. Here is Rachel’s recipe from the “Irish Family Food” cookbook. Serve with potatoes, either boiled in their skins with lashings of Irish butter, mashed or champ style — mashed potatoes with cooked scallions or leeks.
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Rachel Allen's Bacon and Cabbage
- 2 pounds (900 g) piece of Irish back bacon or cured and smoked pork loin
- 1 small Savoy cabbage, outer leaves removed
- 2 tbsps. (25 g) butter
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- For the parsley sauce:
- 1 1/4 cups of white sauce:
- 1 1/4 cups (300 ml) whole milk
- A few slices of carrot
- A few slices of onion
- 1 sprig of parsley
- 1 sprig of thyme
- 3 peppercorns
- 2 tbsps. (15 g) all purpose flour
- 1 tbsp. (15 g) butter
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 tsp. Dijon mustard
- 7 tbsps. (25 g) finely chopped fresh parsley
- Put the bacon in a large saucepan,cover with water and bring slowly to the boil. Drain, refill the pan with fresh water and repeat. This is to get rid of the salt which appears as a white froth on top of the water. Taste the water to test for saltiness and keep checking and boiling again until you are happy with the flavor.
- Cover bacon with fresh hot water -- heated in a kettle or saucepan, not from the tap -- and bring to the boil for a final time. Decrease the heat, cover with a lid and simmer for about 40 minutes (allowing 20 minutes per pound/450 g) occasionally skimming any sediment that rises to the surface. Once the bacon is cooked (a skewer inserted in the middle should come out easily), remove from the pan (reserving the cooking liquid) and let it rest, covered to keep it warm.
- In the meantime, prepare the parsley sauce. First make the white sauce. Pour the milk into a small saucepan and add the carrot, onion, parsley,thyme and peppercorns. Bring to a boil, decrease the heat, and simmer for 4 to 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and leave to infuse for about 10 minutes.
- While the milk infuses, make a roux by melting butter in a small saucepan over low ot medium heat and add the flour. Allow to cook for 2 minutes, stirring regularly. Set aside.
- Strain the infused milk through a sieve over a small saucepan. Bring the milk to a boil. Whisk in the roux, a little at a time, until well blended and allow to simmer gently for 4 to 6 minutes, or until thickened to the desired consistency. Season to taste. Stir in the Dijon mustard and 7 tbsps. of freshly chopped parsley. Cover and keep warm.
- Cut the cabbage into quarters, remove the core, and finely shred across the grain. Rinse and drain. Bring the cooking liquid for the bacon to a fast boil. Add the cabbage and cook for about 3 minutes, until just tender (it's easy to overcook.) Drain well, squeezing out any excess water, and return to the saucepan. Add the butter to the cabbage, tossing to melt and season with salt and pepper.
- Remove and discard the rind from the bacon, if necessary, and slice into thick pieces. Serve the bacon, with parsley sauce, cabbage and choice of potato.
Serve this dish with red potatoes boiled in their jackets, mashed potatoes or champ. Champ is mashed potatoes with chopped scallions or leeks cooked in the milk/cream and butter for the potatoes.
Recipe from "Rachel's Irish Family Food" by Rachel Allen, published by Collins. Photo courtesy of Bord Bia, the Irish Food Board.