Banoffee Pie

Bananas. Toffee. Whipped Cream. Powdered Chocolate. Oh my.


Today v. Tomorrow

Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day; begin it well and serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense.

-Ralph Waldo Emerson


Beef & Guiness Casserole

The Irish casserole isn't like the American one. In the US, we think of casseroles essentially as an amalgamation of different ingredients baked in a dish. In Ireland, the casserole is a slow cooked stew-like concoction simmered in a large pot on the stovetop with the consistency somewhere between a stew and a saucy meat dish.

Fresh Irish beef and hearty Irish stout make a perfect pair, and in fact occur frequently in Irish cooking. If you're concerned about the alcohol in the Guiness, don't be. Alcohol evaporates during cooking and considering this casserole simmers for more than an hour, you're left with is the hearty full flavor of the Guiness without the alcohol. In fact, this richly flavoured popular dish is suitable for any occassion, including informal entertaining. Serve with creamy, well-buttered mashed potatoes.

Serves 4
2 lb stewing beef
2 Tblsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 leeks, chopped
2 carrots, sliced
2 celery sticks, sliced
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 1/4 c beef stock
2/3 c Guiness
1/4 c butter
3 oz streaky (fatty) bacon
4 oz mushrooms, sliced
2 oz shallots or small onions
1/4 c plain (all-purpose) flour
Salt and ground black pepper
Mashed potatoes, to serve

1. Cut the meat into thin slices. Heat the oil in the pan and brown the meat. Transfer to a casserole (large cook pot). Saute the vegetables for 5 minutes in the pan.

2. Add the vegetables to the meat in the casserole, then add the garlic. Pour in the stock and the Guiness. Season with salt and ground black pepper.

3. Cover the casserole and bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer, with the lid on, for about 1 1/2 hours.

4. Remove the meat from the casserole, strain the cooking liquid and reserve. Discard the vegetables (use these later pureed with a little water to make a delicious soup served with hearty bread and butter).

5. Trim and dice the bacon. Clean the casserole and saute the bacon, mushrooms and shallots or onions in the butter for 5-10 minutes (I didn't have shallots or small onions so I quartered 2 medium onions, which worked perfectly fine).

6. When the vegetables are tender, sprinkle in the flour and cook, stirring, over a low heat 2-3 minutes (this makes a nice thick light-colored roux), then slowly blend in the reserved cooking liquid.

7. Return the meat to the casserole and reheat. Serve with mashed potatoes.


Irish Sausage Sandwiches

These have become a staple in our house. Considering that the English Market (the daily open market downtown) has an endless variety of amazingly fresh and gourmet sausages available, we've taken the opportunity (and this recipe) to explore them all. With flavors like Apple & Sage, Sweet Italian, Pork & Fennel, Corcaigh Baigh (an aggressively-spiced local specialty), and Roasted Garlic, you really can't go wrong.

Also - these are super simple to make. Sausages can be tricky to cook well. You can either let them roast on a low-heat grill for-ever or speed things up the Irish way: boil them first.

Yield: 4-6 Sandwiches
4-6 (or more) Sausages
1 onion, thinly sliced
1 sweet pepper (yellow or red), thinly sliced
4-6 Buns/Half Baguettes/Rolls to serve

1. Bring a large pot of water to boil, add the sausages and boil for 5-8 minutes. Remove them from the water and put them directly into a hot frying pan.

2. Add the onions and peppers and sautee, turning the sausages occassionally, 8-10 minutes until the vegetables are tender and the sausages are nicely browned.

3. Slice the baguettes, add a sausage and scoop of onions/peppers, a slab of mustard if you like and enjoy.


Dingle Pies

These pies are traditional in Dingle for special occassions, but most notably Lammas Day, 1 August, which marked the first day of the harvest. Fittingly, we ate them the weekend before. Apparently there are many recipes for mutton pies in the area, with differing ratios of meat and vegetables depending on who 's cooking.

These came out really well and, considering the primitive conditions of our temporary kitchen, though it seemed time-intensive, it was well worth the effort. I'm sure I could shave off more than half the prep time in a well-equipped kitchen. (And by well-equipped I mean with basic utensils like a rolling pin, pastry blender and a knife any sharper than a butter knife).

And, like most Irish recipes we've tried so far, the ingredients are simple and results hearty and filling. These pies are also excellent the reheated the next day.

Yield: 6 small pies (This is not true. Oddly enough, it seems that most Irish 'yield' notations totally underestimate themselves. In the US, I never reach the appropriate recipe yields (Yield: 3 dozen cookies - I'm lucky to get 2 dozen), but here I always get much more than originally planned; with this recipe we ended up with 8 good sizes pies.)

1 lb boneless mutton or lamb
1 large onion, diced
2 carrots, diced
1 potato, diced
2 celery sticks, diced
1 egg, beaten
Salt and ground black pepper

For the shortcrust pastry:
generous 1 c butter (or half butter, half shortening)
5 c plain (all-purpose) flour
1/2 c very cold water

1. To make the pastry, rub the butter into the flour with the fingertips or a pastry blender. (I think this is best done either with the pastry blender or 2 knives - rubbing with your fingertips makes it easier to get an even texture distribution, but it also warms the butter and makes the pastry harder to work with.) Add the chilled water. Mix with a knife or fork until the mixture clings together (just barely). Turn it on to a floured worktop and knead lightly until smooth (2-3 times should do it). Wrap in foil and leave in the refrigerator to relax for 20 minutes before using.

2. Trim any fat or gristle from the meast and cut it up into small pieces. Plase in a large bowl and sitr in the onion, carrots, potato, celery and seasoning.

3. Preheat the over to 350 F. Cut a third off the ball of pastry and reserve to make the lids of the pies. Roll out the rest and, using a small plate as a guide and re-rolling the pastry as necessary, cut out six circles (I had enough for 8). Divide the meat mixture between the circles, piling it in the middle of each.

4. Roll out the remaining pastry and cut out six smaller circles, about 4 in across. Lay these on top. Dampen the edges of the pastry bases, bring the pastry up around the meat, pleat it to fit the lid and pinch the edges together.

5. Make a small hole in the top of each, brush them with beaten egg and slide on to baking sheets. Bake in the oven for an hour. Serve hot or cold.