Ireland: Irish Soda Bread & Lamb Stew

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One of my New Year resolutions was to cook a dish from every country around the world. I’ve begun brainstorming – looking up national dishes and even finding a few blogs out there that have undergone the same project. I couldn’t wait to get started.

And so… we will begin in Ireland. (I realize waiting until St. Patrick’s Day might be more thematically appropriate, but I am impatient and want Irish goodies now!). (Check out the rest of my progress of cooking around the world here).

Interestingly enough, on this great site that lists national dishes from around the world, Ireland’s is listed as Colcannon… which I made a few months ago. I also made corned beef last year, another Irish favorite. I seem to subconsciously love Irish cuisine.

In researching some of Ireland’s most popular dishes, there were several options:

– Boxy: a traditional potato pancake

– Coddle: a stew of pork, sausages, potatoes and onions; associated with the city of Dublin and usually served at lunchtime.

– Crubeens: pig’s feet cooked with carrots, onions and spices, breaded and then fried

– Pastie: a meat pie common to Northern Ireland

– Black/White Pudding: a black sausage made of pork and seasoned pig’s blood; a sausage made of pork meat, fat, suet, bread and oatmeal.

As you can see, there’s a lot of meat, vegetables and potatoes.

But, I decided on Lamb Stew and Soda Bread, two classics. (Plus… I’ve always wanted to make soda bread and I had ground lamb sitting in my freezer… random, I know). More about these dishes in a second… first a little history and information on Irish cuisine.

(In this cuisine around the world project, I decided to focus on Ireland and Northern Ireland as one cuisine, despite their political and religious differences).

– The potato became the main staple of Irish cuisine by 1688, especially for the poor. In the 1840s, a fungus disease wiped out the potato crop leading to the Great Potato Famine, which killed more than one million Irish (from starvation) and resulted in mass emigration from Ireland (approx. two million).

– As I learned on my Chinatown Tour, during this era many Irish emigrated to New York City. Many paid for the passage through indentured servitude for years and they were considered the scum of the scum. They were discriminated against for jobs and housing, living in slums. I found this history very interesting and I’d love to learn more about this unpleasant time in the history of New York City!

– Potatoes are still to this day a staple in Ireland. Other staples include grains, dairy products and seafood. Meat is also prevalent with the most common being beef, lamb and pork. Chickens were not raised on a large scale until the 1880s.

– The full Irish breakfast, much like the full English breakfast, bacon rashers, sausages, fried eggs, white pudding, black pudding, soda bread or boxty and fried tomato. The Ulster fry, a breakfast from the Ulster region of Ireland, is similar but includes bacon rashers, eggs, sausages, vegetable roll, the farl soda bread, boxty and wheaten farl. I’ve found several places in New York that serve either the Ulster fry or irish breakfast that I’d be interested to try… but all this meat/fried food wouldn’t be a good start of any day! It’s a bit heavy.

Back to the meal at hand! As I said, I chose to make lamb stew and soda bread with a pint of Guinness, of course.

Breakfast in Bed(stuy) / Irish Soda Bread & Lamb Stew

Now, I found a recipe for soda bread muffins, which I thought I’d be able to finish quicker than bread (I’m trying not to let things go to waste). Soda bread is made using baking soda as it’s leavening agent as opposed to yeast (the tradition of yeast bread making was not prevalent in Ireland in the early 1880s). I honestly thought soda bread refereed to the use of the carbonated beverage, but honestly the whole baking soda thing does make more sense! When paired with the acid in the buttermilk, tiny bubbles of carbon dioxide form to make the dough rise.

Fun fact: Traditional soda breads have a cross marked through them, apparently to “let the devil out” for good luck.

These muffins were delicious and went great with the stew! The stew is traditionally made with lamb as sheep were more commonly raised. Usually lamb shoulder or neck is used and the simmering helps break down this tougher meat (these cuts are also cheaper, which motivates it’s use in this stew). I only had ground lamb and used that instead, which proved to be delicious (though maybe not “traditional” to the Irish). Maybe recipes also call for barley, which I decided to omit for personal taste. I added Guinness and tomato paste as well, adapting a few recipes for this stew! You can really add any veggies and I would say as long as you use lamb, you’ve got traditional Irish lamb stew!

Irish Lamb Stew

Adapted from Taste of Home

1-½ lb ground lamb

3 tbsp olive oil, divided

3 medium onions, chopped

3 garlic cloves, minced

4 cups reduced-sodium beef broth

12 oz Guinness

3 tbsp tomato paste

2 medium potatoes, peeled and cubed

4 medium carrots, cut into 1-inch pieces

1 tsp salt

½ tsp pepper

½ tsp Worcestershire sauce

2 tbsp water

Brown lamb in batches in 2 tablespoons oil. Remove and set aside. In the same pan, sauté onions in remaining oil until tender. Add garlic; cook 1 minute longer.

Breakfast in Bed(stuy) / Irish Soda Bread & Lamb Stew

Add broth and Guinness, stirring to loosen browned bits from pan. Return lamb to the pan. Add tomato paste. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 30-45 minutes or until meat is tender.

Breakfast in Bed(stuy) / Irish Soda Bread & Lamb Stew

Add potatoes and carrots; cover and cook until vegetables are tender.

Breakfast in Bed(stuy) / Irish Soda Bread & Lamb Stew

Add seasonings and Worcestershire sauce. Combine 1 tbsp flour with water until smooth; stir into stew. Bring to a boil; cook and stir for 2 minutes or until thickened.

Breakfast in Bed(stuy) / Irish Soda Bread & Lamb Stew

Breakfast in Bed(stuy) / Irish Soda Bread & Lamb Stew

Breakfast in Bed(stuy) / Irish Soda Bread & Lamb Stew

Irish Soda Bread Muffins

Adapted from Recipe Girl

2 cups all-purpose flour
3 tbsp granulated white sugar
1½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
¼ cup butter
1 cup buttermilk*
1 large egg, beaten
¾ cup golden raisins

*I didn’t want to buy buttermilk as I didnt know how to use up the remainder. Instead, I mixed a tablespoon of white vinegar with a scant cup of milk. Let sit for five minutes et voila, buttermilk! (It’s like magic!).

Breakfast in Bed(stuy) / Irish Soda Bread & Lamb Stew

Preheat oven to 375°F. Spray small muffin tins or large muffin tins with nonstick spray.

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. In a small bowl, stir together buttermilk and egg until blended.

Breakfast in Bed(stuy) / Irish Soda Bread & Lamb Stew

Add buttermilk mixture to dry ingredients and stir to combine. Stir in raisins.

Breakfast in Bed(stuy) / Irish Soda Bread & Lamb Stew

Spoon batter into prepared muffin cups.

Breakfast in Bed(stuy) / Irish Soda Bread & Lamb Stew

Bake 20 to 25 minutes or until cake tester inserted in center of one muffin comes out clean.

Breakfast in Bed(stuy) / Irish Soda Bread & Lamb Stew

Remove muffin tin or tins to wire rack. Cool 5 minutes before removing muffins from cups; finish cooling on rack. Serve warm or cool completely and store muffins in an airtight container at room temperature.

Breakfast in Bed(stuy) / Irish Soda Bread & Lamb Stew

Irish Soda Bread Muffins
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3 tbsp granulated white sugar
  • 1½ tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ¼ cup butter
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • ¾ cup golden raisins
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Spray small muffin tins or large muffin tins with nonstick spray.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. In a small bowl, stir together buttermilk and egg until blended.
  3. Add buttermilk mixture to dry ingredients and stir to combine. Stir in raisins.
  4. Spoon batter into prepared muffin cups.
  5. Bake 20 to 25 minutes or until cake tester inserted in center of one muffin comes out clean.
 

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