Tired of cold? This saint turns water to beer and says spring is near

Tired of cold? This saint turns water to beer and says spring is near

Here we are, the first of February and still in the iron grip of winter. But it doesn’t matter that today is also an Irish bank holiday (and no, we’re not overtaking St Patrick’s Day.)

Today is St Brigid’s Day and although long celebrated, this year marks the first time that it is a national holiday in Ireland. Chef and cookbook author Beth Dooley says Irish families are now likely to be making breads and stews and feasting on fresh cheese – and she’s urging you to do the same.

Barm Brack

Makes 1 bread

Adapted from Darina Allen, founder of the Ballymaloe Cookery School in Shanagarry, Cork, Ireland, this classic recipe is best eaten steaming hot out of the oven, brushed with good, local butter, which melts on the wheel. It’s a fine accompaniment to the beef stew below, whether you’re making it for St. Brigid’s Day or just for breakfast.

3½ cups all-purpose flour

½ teaspoon sea salt

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¾ teaspoon baking soda

1½ cups buttermilk, more if needed

¼ cup melted butter

¼ cup orange marmalade

½ cup dried currants or raisins

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Generously butter a baking sheet. In a large bowl, mix together the flour, salt and baking soda. Make a well in the center and pour in the buttermilk and melted butter. Using a wooden spoon or your hands, mix the flour from the sides of the bowl into a soft batter. Work the jam and currants into the dough.

Lightly flour a work surface. With floured hands, place the dough on the work surface and knead the dough lightly for a minute or two. Roll out the dough into a round shape about 2 cm thick. Transfer these to the baking sheet. Using a sharp knife, cut a deep cross in the middle of the dough.

Bake the loaf for about 15 minutes, then reduce the oven to 350 degrees and continue baking until the top is golden brown and the bottom of the loaf sounds hollow when tapped, about 30 more minutes. Serve warm.

Irish beef stew

Served 6

This stew takes some time to simmer, but it’s definitely worth the wait. Once it’s in the pot, there’s not much else to do. Make sure the meat is well browned before adding the remaining ingredients. Definitely top with plenty of horseradish cream (recipe follows).

3 pounds beef chow, trimmed, cut into 2-inch pieces

¼ cup all-purpose flour

Coarse salt and black pepper

4 tablespoons vegetable oil

4 garlic cloves, chopped

2 tablespoons tomato paste

2½ cups Guinness or other stout

2½ cups beef broth

3 sprigs of fresh thyme

1 pound Yukon potatoes, cut into 2-inch pieces

1 pound carrots, cut into 2-inch pieces

1 pound beets, cut into 2-inch pieces

2 sticks celery, diced or 1 cup diced celery

2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce, to taste

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. In a large bowl, combine the beef with 2 tablespoons flour and season with salt and pepper. Film a deep saucepan or Dutch oven with about 2 tablespoons vegetable oil, set over high heat and, in batches, sear the meat thoroughly on all sides, about 2 minutes per side, adding ore oil as needed. Transfer the browned beef to a plate.

Reduce the heat to medium, add the remaining oil and sauté the garlic and tomato paste until lightly browned, about 1 minute. Stir in the remaining flour and cook, stirring and scraping constantly, until the paste is thick and dry, about 1 minute. Stir in the beer and broth. Increase heat to high and bring to a boil, scraping any browned bits from bottom of pan until sauce is smooth and thickened, about 1 minute. Season with salt and pepper and remove from the stove.

Add the beef and juices to the pot along with the thyme, potatoes, carrots, beets, and celery. Cover and put in the oven. Cook until the beef and vegetables are tender, about 2 to 2½ hours.

Stir in the Worcestershire sauce, taste and adjust the seasonings. Discard the thyme. Serve garnished with horseradish cream and chopped chives

horseradish cream

Makes 1 cup

This is a fabulous side dish for beef goulash, roast beef and roast potatoes.

¾ cup Greek yogurt or sour cream

3 tablespoons of horseradish sauce from the jar or more to taste

Chopped spring onions for garnish

Whisk together the yogurt and horseradish sauce in a small bowl. Serve garnished with the chopped spring onions.


For 4 to 6 people

This makes great use of mashed potatoes. It’s delicious as a vegetarian meal on its own and excellent as an accompaniment to stews or roasts.

4 large red potatoes, about 2½ pounds, peeled and cut into chunks


¼ cup butter

5 to 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more for serving

3 lightly packed cups chopped kale, cabbage, or Swiss chard

3 spring onions, chopped

1 cup milk or cream

salt and pepper to taste

Place the potatoes in a large saucepan and cover 1 inch with water. Add the salt (about 2 tablespoons). Place on heat, bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until tender, about 15 to 20 minutes. drain.

Place the saucepan over medium-high heat, add the butter and when melted add the vegetables. Cook until they have just collapsed and released their water. Add the spring onions and cook another minute.

Pour in the milk, stir well and add the potatoes. Reduce the heat and mash the potatoes into the vegetables with a fork or potato masher. Season with salt and pepper and serve with a large knob of butter.

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