Beef & Guinness Stew

Ten years ago I was lucky enough to travel in Ireland. I loved it: the people, the places, the pubs. Irish people know how to celebrate each day, and live life to it’s fullest.

When I travel, it is all about the food. (Who am I kidding? When is is NOT all about the food?) You learn a lot about people, their history and their culture, by what they eat, while at the same time tasting things that you might not otherwise encounter. (I’ll tell you about the scary French dining experience in another post.) The first thing to come to mind about Ireland is usually not the cuisine. Beer and whiskey, yes. Food, no, unless it’s potatoes. I have to say, while traveling around the Emerald Isle, we ate darn well. Extremely fresh lamb and fish, artisan Cheeses and tasty desserts were all readily available, and sometimes in the most unlikely places.

While doing the pub crawl in Dublin, I was determined to find a traditional Beef and Guinness stew, or to die trying. My traveling companions and I had a difference of dining philosophies. I wanted traditional Irish meat and potatoes 24/7. They wanted vegetarian. Challenging to say the least. Strangely, I never did find my Beef and Guinness Stew, but I have cooked many versions of it since.

Here is one of my favorites from Irish Traditional Cooking by Darina Allen. Try it instead of Corned Beef this St. Patrick’s Day. And if you ever get the chance, go eat your way through the green hills of Ireland. You’ll be glad you did. 

Beef & Guinness Stew
Irish Traditional Cooking by Darina Allen
serves 6 to 8

Guinness, Ireland’s famous black stout, has been brewed in Dublin since 1759. It has a very special place in Irish life. In Dublin Tenement Life: An Oral History, publican John O’Dwyer recalls the importance of stout in the lives of the poorest tenement dwellers in Dublin, “They had nothing. They lived for pints. Drink was the main diet. It was food: they used to call the pint the liquid food.”

Nowadays the liquid food is used increasingly in cooking. It is a tasty addition to stews and casseroles, helping to tenderize the meat and imparting its distinctive malty flavor to any dish. This recipe makes a wonderful gutsy stew which tastes even better a day or two after it is made.

2 lb lean stewing beef
3 tablespoons oil
2 tablespoons flour
salt and freshly ground pepper and a
pinch of cayenne
2 large onions , coarsely cbopped
1 large clove garlic, crushed (optional)
2 tablespoons tomato puree, dissolved in 4 tablespoons water
1 1/4 cups Guinness
2 cups carrots, cut into chunks
sprig of thyme

Trim the meat of any fat or gristle, cut into cubes of 2 inches and toss them in a bowl with 1 tablespoon oil. Season the flour with salt, freshly ground pepper and a pinch or two of cayenne. Toss the meat in this mixture.

Heat the remaining oil in a wide frying pan over a high heat. Brown the meat on all sides. Add the onions, crushed garlic and tomato puree to the pan, cover and cook gently for about 5 minutes. Transfer the contents of the pan to a casserole, and pour some of the Guinness into the frying pan. Bring to a boil and stir to dissolve the caramelized meat juices on the pan. Pour onto the meat with the remaining Guinness; add the carrots and the thyme. Stir, taste, and add a little more salt if necessary.

Cover with the lid of the casserole and simmer very gently until the meat is tender-–2 to 3 hours. The stew may be cooked on top of the stove, in a low oven at 300°F, or in your slow-cooker. Taste and correct the seasoning.

Scatter with lots of chopped parsley and serve with champ (mashed potatoes with green onions), or plain boiled potatoes.

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