When I was asked to take part in a competition being run by Bord Bia, in conjunction with Ocado’s Irish Shop I leapt at the chance.
My task was to prepare a meal for 4 using produce from Ocado’s Irish Shop and main store and come up with a 3-course meal for £50, which I’d been given to spend. The brief was something that would be perfect to serve up on St Patrick’s Day – my ‘ultimate St Patrick’s Day Feast’. I’d need to write up my recipes, take any relevant photographs and hope and pray that the judges Orla Broderick, the Irish Food Writer and Andy McFadden, Head Chef at Michelin-starred restaurant L’Autre Pied, liked what I chose and cooked. No pressure then.
I knew that I wanted to highlight some of the best of the fresh produce the country has to offer from the sea, the land and the hedgerow. I found it difficult to choose what to cook, with so many wonderful ingredients, too many ideas and frankly little time, I had to get my work online and in front of the judges by Thursday 6th March.
So, after a virtual wander along the aisles of the Irish shop I made my ingredient choice and chose delivery for Friday morning. As arranged, my van arrived in the scheduled slot and the friendly delivery driver bought all my items into the house. If you’ve never used Ocado online before, it’s very simple, once you’ve ordered, chosen your delivery date and time, all items are packed in labelled bags (freezer, fridge and store-cupboard) making it very easy to unpack. The whole shop took 15 minutes online and 5 to deliver. It takes me that to find somewhere to park the car.
All the recipes have been written and tested by me and most have been adapted to use ingredients from the Ocado Irish store.
I begin the menu with a much loved Irish chowder recipe and with a few ingredient additions and subtractions, developed a creamy pasta sauce. It takes the name of Molly Malone, because it contains cockles and mussels (sadly mine weren’t alive, alive, oh) and I know that if she tasted my recipe she’d be impressed. I used Spaghetti Alla Chitarra, a square spaghetti that I love the shape of, it also takes on the delicious fishy-broth, but regular spaghetti will work just as well. The red chilli gives it a nice kick and takes a dish using just two shellfish to another level. Mussels are sustainable and whilst not available to me fresh in the store, I adapted the recipe to use vacuum packed ones by the Irish supplier and Great Taste Award winner, Carr’s. I couldn’t lay my hands on cockles in shells so cooked and pre-packed did the job.
And while it might seem cliched, I couldn’t help but choose an Irish Stout Stew for my main course, my friends just wouldn’t have forgiven me. There’s really no need to mess around too much with the ingredients either. Whilst the original Irish Stew is made with cheap cuts of lamb or indeed mutton, the stout stew has been adapted to work with beef. Here I’ve given steak the ‘slow and low’ treatment and it’s fed a bottle of Guinness. I add a little prune juice and cocoa powder to counteract any bitterness. Chunky carrots, wedges of onion and whole button mushrooms are the only vegetables I add to this pot. It’s a great friend of the freezer too, and also helps with the washing up as it’s made and cooked in the same pot. I also add a few light and fluffy thyme dumplings to the mixture, they’re a breeze to make and work well to soak up the gloriously thick gravy. In my opinion the stew tastes better a day later, so can be prepared in advance.
Irish Stout Stew Recipe
I served this with Champ, made with Bord Bia approved potatoes and fried spring onions, cooked until crisp and mashed with lashings of Kerrygold butter.
I also made a white soda bread, gave it the ubiquitous cross and before baking, scattered with Flahavans oats. Whilst it’s not the prettiest loaf I’ve ever come across, it tasted super, crusty on the outside and soft on the inside. Made to eat warm from the oven.
Dessert is my favourite part of any meal and I’m never satisfied with my choice. I’m the annoying one who has to try everyone else’s. So I wasn’t satisfied with making just the one. It’s a feast after all, so I made a trio of puddings all with an Irish link in some way, shape or form. Small enough to be eaten after the stew and throughout coffee and long into the evening. There’s a Bailey’s custard, a melting middle chocolate pudding spiked with whisky and a seasonal rhubarb and ‘posh custard’ slice.
I didn’t push my luck with a recipe for Guinness truffles, you’ll want to enjoy the party yourself at some point, but I’ve no doubt that this Irish feast will keep you going well into the evening.
Happy St Patrick’s Day.
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