Last week, we celebrated St. Patrick’s Day. Unfortunately for me, I was helping to administer a standardized test all week, so I didn’t get to do any Irish crafts with my art classes. Not a single Leprechaun. No rainbows with pots of gold. No shamrocks. No green-on-green shading activities. Nothing.
I do have Irish ancestry. I don’t know which clan or what part of Ireland my relatives hailed from, but I do know that I have Irish blood on both sides of my family. Parkers, Aldys, and Hennings. They can all trace their roots back to Ireland.
My daughter Elizabeth is the family member who wears her Irish heritage the best. Long, auburn red hair, sparkling green eyes, and milky white skin. She is the first in our family for generations to have red hair. That means that Michael (light brown) and I (very dark brown) get a lot of those silly “Where does she get the red hair?” questions. She doesn’t care. She claims her Irish roots to anyone who will listen. We also have some Scottish in there somewhere, so you can imagine her delight with the Disney movie “Brave” a few years ago. She even asked for a bow for Christmas – which she is very skilled at shooting!
I didn’t grow up celebrating any particular heritage. My mom and grandmothers told us where we came from, but there was no real connection since our roots were so varied and mixed. I love exposing my family to food from different cultures, so a few years ago, I started making Irish food on St. Patrick’s Day. Corned beef and cabbage, shepherds pie. They loved it all.
This year, I decided to make Irish Stew. Irish Stew is really any stew made with meat and root vegetables. In Ireland, I’m told the meat is usually mutton, but I choose to use beef since mutton isn’t readily available in our area.
Besides, given my Irish roots, I could argue that ANY stew I make is automatically Irish Stew. But I really won’t argue about that.
This stew is hearty, warm, and delicious.
- 2-3 pounds of stew meat
- 3-4 cups of cubed potatoes
- 2-3 cups of whole baby carrots
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 4-5 packages of brown gravy mix
- Salt and pepper
- Water to cover everything
Put meat and vegetables into a crock pot and stir to get everything mixed together. Sprinkle with 2 teaspoons of salt and 1 teaspoon of pepper. Mix 3 packages of the gravy mix with two cups of water and pour over the ingredients in the crock pot. Add more water to just cover everything. Cook on low all day or 8-10 hours. When you get home, stir the stew. Turn heat to high. Dissolve a fourth package of gravy mix in a half-cup of water and stir into the stew. Cook for 10-15 minutes until thickened.
Well Duh #1: If the stew is not as thick as you like it, you can add the fifth package of gravy.
Well Duh #2: You may need to trim your stew meat if it is very fatty.
Well Duh #3: I served this stew with potato pancakes (another Irish staple). I used 4 cups of leftover mashed potatoes, a cup of flour, 1/2 a cup of sour cream, 1 egg, and a teaspoon of salt. Then I just made small pancakes on the griddle. Depending on how thick your mashed potatoes are, you may have to add more flour (to thicken) or more sour cream or even a little milk (to thin). Just make sure you have a pancake batter consistency.
This stew was so yummy. Unfortunately, on St. Patrick’s Day here, it was 85 degrees! Not exactly stew weather! But my clan did not complain as they ate dinner. There was even enough for lots of leftovers!
Between my heritage (Irish, Scottish, French, German, English, and several American Indian tribes) and Michael’s (I’m not really sure, but I know there’s some German and English in there), our kids are really a mixed bunch! But we’ve learned to celebrate our roots – and the roots of lots of other people – through food!