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Nearly There: Halfway To St. Patrick’s Day

Lamb is the meat of choice in Ireland's national dish, the Irish stew.

Ireland Hopping | Margaret M. Johnson

Sunday marks one of the most celebrated days on the Irish calendar, the day the optimists call “Halfway to St. Patrick’s Day.” Some of you probably used it as an excuse for a trip to an Irish pub, or at least a good reason to serve some foods with the name “Irish” in them. You know the ones: Irish Stew, Irish Soda Bread, Irish Cream Cheesecake, Irish Coffee. Even if you don't celebrate the half-way mark, you can file away these few classics until the real occasion rolls around in 2018 (on Saturday next year, a long weekend to party!).

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Serves 4 to 6

For centuries, the principal cooking utensils in Irish country cottages were the iron pot and black iron skillet, both of which have been used in various forms since the time of the Celts. The pot was filled with water, and whatever meat, grain, or vegetable that was available was added for day-long cooking. Today, lamb is the meat of choice in Ireland’s national dish and the recipe has spawned interesting variations that use lamb shanks instead of lamb cubes, turnips instead of carrots, and stout instead of stock, but I love this version. You’ll find it and other seasonal recipes in my newest cookbook “Favorite Flavors of Ireland.” Order signed copies at

2 tablespoons canola oil

2 1/4 pounds boneless lamb, cut into 1/2-inch pieces

2 large onions, sliced

2 to 3 large carrots, sliced

2 to 3 stalks celery, sliced

1 small turnip, cut into 1-inch pieces (optional)

2 to 3 large baking potatoes, peeled and thickly sliced

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme

Chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley for garnish

1 1/2 cups chicken stock or low-sodium chicken broth

  1. Preheat oven to 300°F.

  2. In a Dutch oven or large saucepan over medium heat, heat oil. Working in batches, cook lamb for about 5 minutes, or until all meat is browned.

  3. In a flameproof casserole, alternate layers of meat, onions, carrots, celery, turnip (if using), and potatoes, ending with potatoes. Sprinkle each layer with salt, pepper, thyme, and some parsley.

  4. Add stock or broth and cover tightly with a lid. Cook for 2 to 2 1/2 hours, or until meat and vegetables are tender and stock has thickened. (Check dish occasionally and add more stock or broth if necessary).

  5. To serve, ladle stew into shallow bowls and sprinkle with remaining parsley.


SERVES 6 to 8

This recipe for a decadent Baileys Irish Cream-spiked white chocolate tart, originated with Martin Dwyer, a chef originally from Waterford, who serves it with sweet-tart raspberry sauce. You can also serve it with fresh strawberries.

For the pastry

2 cups all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons sugar

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter

2 large egg yolks, beaten with 2 tablespoons of water

For the filling

8 ounces (8 squares) white chocolate

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter

3 tablespoons Baileys Irish cream liqueur

2 large eggs

3 large egg yolks

1 tablespoon honey

For the raspberry sauce

4 ounces raspberries, plus a few for garnish

1 tablespoon water

Fresh mint sprigs for garnish

  1. Make pastry. Combine flour, sugar, and butter in a food processor and pulse 5 to 6 times, or until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add half egg yolk mixture and process until soft dough forms. Form dough into a ball, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 1 hour.

  2. Preheat oven to 400ºF. Roll out dough between 2 sheets of wax paper to a thickness of 1/4-inch. Line a 12-inch tart pan with dough, leaving a small overlap in case of shrinkage. Cover dough with a piece of aluminum foil, fill it with pie weights, and bake for 15 minutes.

  3. Remove weights and foil, brush with the remaining egg wash, and bake for 3 to 5 minutes longer, or until lightly browned. Remove from oven; set aside. Reduce oven temperature to 350ºF.

  4. Make filling. In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt chocolate and butter. Stir in Baileys, remove from heat, and let cool for 20 minutes. In a large bowl, beat eggs, egg yolks, and honey with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Whisk chocolate mixture into egg mixture and pour into pastry shell. Bake for 30 minutes, or until filling is set and top is golden. Remove from oven and let cool completely on a wire rack.

  5. Make sauce. In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine raspberries and water. Cook for 5 to 8 minutes, or until berries break down. Transfer mixture to a food processor and purée until smooth. Strain mixture through a fine sieve and let cool.

  6. To serve, drizzle some sauce onto serving plates, cut tart into slices, and put a slice on each plate. Garnish with a few whole raspberries and a sprig of mint.



In 1943, chef-barman Joe Sheridan decided that a blend of cream, hot coffee, and Irish whiskey would make a perfect welcoming drink for cold and weary passengers arriving at the town of Foynes, Co. Limerick, from the United States on the “flying boats, the first transatlantic passenger planes.” He wanted the drink to be warm and welcoming, Irish in character, and sophisticated enough to appeal to international travelers. After many experiments over a number of years, including the addition of sugar, Sheridan finally came up with the recipe for what would become the quintessential Irish drink. When Shannon International Airport opened in 1947, Irish coffee became its official beverage. Joe Sheridan’s original recipe is as follows:

  1. Heat a stemmed, heatproof goblet by running it under very hot water.

  2. Pour in 1 jigger Irish whiskey.

  3. Add 3 cubes of sugar and fill goblet with strong black coffee to within 1 inch of rim; stir to dissolve sugar.

  4. Top off with lightly whipped cream; do not stir after adding cream as true flavor is obtained by drinking hot mixture through cream. Sláinte!

Margaret Johnson’s “Recipes” page expands this year to “Ireland Hopping: Adventures in Food, Drink, and Travel.” For further details on her work, or to order a signed cookbook with FREE SHIPPING, visit