Monday, March 17, 2014

Quasi-Irish Stew

Lá Fhéile Pádraig Sona Daoibh!

Let me begin this St Patrick's Day-inspired recipe with no claims to Actual Authenticity. That said, a little research and a lengthy consultation with my Irish BFF confirmed my longstanding impression that the basic prototype is "pretty feckin' boring," and requires certain additions (herbs, spices, and a bit of fat not leeched from the carcass of some poor, long-dead sheep) to be appealing to jaded post-modern, non-famine-sharpened palates.

With that idea in mind, I took my usual approach: conflating several putatively traditional recipes with my own gut instincts to produce a "good parts version." The end result was disconcertingly like the thick, meaty stews my English mother made when I was growing up; unsurprisingly, it went over big with my perpetually hungry household. So while I can't testify to its "Irishness," I will say that this stew bears a strong resemblance to the cooking of at least one second-generation Irish Brummie, and that's a damn sight closer to the old sod than corned beef and green beer!

Quasi-Irish Stew
~ 2 tbsp. canola or or other neutral-flavored oil
~ 1 large onion, chopped
~ 2 leeks, chopped
~ 3 large carrots, cut into chunky diagonal slices
~ 1 tsp. each: salt, sage, thyme, marjoram
~ 1/2 tsp. rosemary, crushed in your fingers
~ 2 bay leaves
~ A few generous grinds black pepper
~ 4 good-sized potatoes, cubed
~ 6 cups no chicken broth
~ 1 tbsp. each: vegan Worcestershire sauce, tomato paste
~ 1 tsp. each: Marmite, Liquid Smoke
~ 12 oz. vegan stout (I used Sam Smith's Oatmeal)
~ 2 cups seitan or big portobello mushroom caps, cut into "stew-sized" chunks
~ 1 cup plain, unsweetened soy milk
~ 1/4 cup flour

~ In a large, deep pot, cook the onions, leeks, and carrots in the oil over medium heat for 5-7 minutes, until they are beginning to soften.*
~ Add the dry seasonings and the potatoes, stir to coat, and continue cooking another minute or two.
~ In a large beaker, combine the broth, Worcestershire sauce, tomato paste, Marmite, and Liquid Smoke. Add this mixture to the vegetables, stir, and then pour in the stout.
~ Add the seitan (if using), cover the pot, bring the whole business to a boil, and then lower the heat to a simmer.
~ Continue cooking, covered, for an hour, until the vegetables are quite soft.
~ In a small bowl, whisk together the soy milk and flour, and add this mixture to the pot. Combine thoroughly, and cook the stew 5-10 minutes more, until slightly thickened.
~ Taste for seasoning, fish out the bay leaves, and serve hot, ideally with colcannon, champ,  and/or fresh soda bread.

*NB: If you are substituting chopped mushrooms for seitan, begin by frying them in a hot skillet in very little fat, until browned and fragrant (7-10 minutes). Shake the pan occasionally to prevent sticking, sprinkle with a little salt, and set aside. Add to the stew along with soy milk/flour mixture near the end of the total cooking time.