Post St. Patrick's Day stew - no pun intended.

Calling all crock pots.  Or perhaps just all crocks, for on cold and snowy days like today, I feel quite 'crock-ish'.

I am not Irish. I have, to my knowledge, no Irish blood but David (and therefore our children) have quite a bit and at some point in the dim and distant past, the Fitzgeralds, of whom his paternal grandmother was one, were in some way connected to the Kennedys.  I'm not sure if this is something to be proud of or embarrassed about so we don't think about it.

But Irish or not, one cannot escape the St Paddy's day fervour that grips the nation and the wildest celebrations seem to occur amongst the non-Irish population.  I ignore it as a rule, but for some reason this year, I decided to try something vaguely Irish during the week.  I had hoped perhaps the kids might make it to dinner tonight but in fact with the snow, we didn't even make it to Greenwich so dinner in the provinces was the two of us plus a huge pot of wonderful stew.  We ate it, gazing over a wintry landscape and there are a lot of leftovers.

This is my variation on Irish Stew.   No, make that just a stew with Ireland in mind.  I didn't even think to blog it until it was ready to serve so the pictures are what I got with my phone at the last minute.  The stew,  however, was very good and Kit will be getting a portion tomorrow since he couldn't be here tonight.

Alison's non-Irish Irish Stew

1 kg venison (or beef if you prefer) cubed
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 - 3 tablespoons plain flour
seasoning to taste
pinch cayenne pepper
1 or 2 onions, chopped (one large is fine)
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tablespoons tomato paste
4 - 6 small carrots chopped
3 stalks celery, chopped
400 ml Guinness
1 tsp dried thyme
2 apples, any kind, chopped in 2 cm chunks

Place chopped onion, carrot and celery in the bottom of the slow cooker.  Toss meat in seasoned flour and brown in a frying pan.  Transfer to slow cooker.  Fry garlic (add a little more oil to the pan if necessary) and add Guinness, then tomato paste and blend thoroughly until it thickens.  Season again and add pepper flakes and thyme.  When it comes to a boil, pour over meat and veg and set cooker on low for about 6 hours.  An hour before you want to serve it, add and mix in the chopped apple.

Serve over mash with any veg you choose.  We had to choose peas as we had some that needed eating up but any root veg would go well (or you could add more veg to the stew) and skip the extra pan that needs to be washed up.

Serves 6 unless one is Kit and then it's more like 3.  


Em's Favourite Things Mini Pie Cups

Happy Pi Day! I couldn't let the occasion pass without indulging in some thoroughly unmathematical culinary celebrating, but I was grimly determined not to venture out in the cold, so I improvised based on the awesome things I already had in my house. This makes four mini-pies in those little glass ramekins the likes of which you get creme brulée in.

About 200g of Millionaire's Shortbread (that's roughly 13 mini ones - the Co-op does them in boxes of 15, you will inevitably eat at least two ;))
1 cup flour
1/4 cup margarine

125g cream cheese
Generous dollops, to taste, of peanut butter and nutella.
Approximately 1 shot of coffee (optional, adjust to taste).

Preheat oven to 200c.

Crush/crumble/smush the shortbread, caramel, chocolate and all. Microwave until the caramel melts (I left it in for two minutes on high but I reckon it didn't need that long). Mix the flour and marge (which will melt in the process) in quickly and thoroughly. Adjust proportions so it holds its shape without crumbling.

Press into dish(es).

Bake crust for about fifteen minutes, remove early if it rises/browns too much.

Add filling. Return to oven for five minutes.

(You could also, at this point, leave the crust to cool, then add the filling and chill it instead.)

Leave to cool and set.