If, like me, you like to celebrate St Patrick's Day with some good traditional Irish food then these favourites will be right up your street! Created by famous Irish chef's Clodagh McKenna and Rachel Allen – they are mouthwateringly good, and can be prepared the day before (for extra flavour and time!).
INGREDIENTS 25g butter 150g bacon lardons or pancetta 300g shallots, left whole 1kg stewing beef, cubed 400g mixed wild mushrooms 1 litre stout, such as Murphy's or Guinness 1 bouquet garni Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper METHOD Preheat the oven to 160°C/ 325°F/gas mark 3.
Put the butter in a frying pan over a medium heat. When the butter has melted add the bacon, followed by the shallots. Cook until golden brown and transfer to a large casserole. Add the beef to the frying pan, season with salt and pepper and cook until browned all over. Transfer to the casserole.
Add the mushrooms to the pan and cook for two minutes. Season to taste and transfer to the casserole.
Return the frying pan to the heat and use a whisk to scrape off all the bits stuck to the bottom of the pan (this is where the flavour is).
Pour in the stout and continue to whisk for another minute; this process is known as deglazing.
Pour the stout and pan juices over the beef and vegetables in the casserole. Add the bouquet garni, cover the casserole and cook in the oven for two hours.
Check the seasoning, take out the bouquet garni and serve with creamy mash or roast potatoes.
Barmbrack is a traditional Irish sweetened bread
Barmbrack is a traditional Irish sweetened bread not dissimilar to the Welsh bara brith. In Gaelic it's known as báirín breac, or 'speckled loaf', due to the way the dough is dotted with raisins. When barmbrack was baked for Halloween, the tradition was to add to the cake mixture a pea, a stick, a piece of cloth, a coin and a ring. Each item had a special significance for the person who discovered it in their slice of cake. The person who received the pea wouldn't marry that year; the stick meant an unhappy marriage; the cloth indicated poverty and the coin riches; while the person who found the ring would wed within the year. Nowadays it's usually just a ring that's added to the batter. The cake is delicious toasted and buttered and, if not immediately consumed, will keep for about 10 days.
225g strong white flour, plus extra for dusting
2 tbsp mixed spice
¼ tsp salt
25g butter, plus extra for spreading
1 x 7g) sachet fast-action yeast
50g caster sugar
1 egg, beaten
200g mixed dried fruit, either ready-mixed or your own mixture of sultanas, raisins and currants
25g chopped mixed candied peel, shop-bought or homemade
Butter the sides and the bottom of a 23 x 13cm (9 x 5in) loaf tin. Sift the flour, mixed spice and salt into a large bowl and add the butter, yeast and sugar. Beat together by hand or in an electric foodmixer fitted with a dough hook attachment.
Warm the milk just until lukewarm, then add to the flour mixturealong with the egg. Mix until the dough comes together, then knead using an electric food mixer fitted with a dough hook attachment, or tip the dough out onto a well-floured work surface and knead by hand (don't worry, this is supposed to be a wet dough). Knead for 8 minutes by hand or for 5 minutes in the mixer. Add the dried fruit and mixed peel and knead for another 2 minutes to mix them in.
Put the dough into the prepared loaf tin, cover with a light tea towel or napkin and leave to rise in a warm place (by a radiator, for instance, or a sunny window) for 1 hour, or until doubled in size.
Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/gas mark 4. Remove the covering and bake for 45 minutes, or until deep golden brown on top. When you think the loaf is ready, gently loosen the sides with a spatula and tip it out of the tin. If it's fully cooked, it should sound slightly hollow when you tap it on the bottom and feel springy when you lightly squeeze the sides. Place it on a wire rack to cool.
Slice up the loaf and serve either fresh or toasted, and buttered.