With springtime coming at last and St. Patrick’s Day just around the corner, we’ve had Ireland on the mind. Sure, there’s plenty of beautiful green country in Ireland. There’s rich culture and history throughout the fabled Emerald Isle. That’s all fine and good. Most importantly for us, though, is the Irish food. That’s why this month, we’re celebrating the culture and traditions of Ireland through its cuisine.
The bond between the Irish and their food dates far back into antiquity. According to an old Irish tale, an ordinary salmon ate nine hazelnuts that had fallen into the Well of Wisdom. In so doing, the salmon gained all the world’s wisdom, which would pass to whomever ate the salmon. Many sought after the fish but after many years, the great poet Finn Eces finally succeed in catching it after a mighty struggle. Before going to rest, Finn instructed his pupil, Fionn mac Cumhaill, to cook the fish but not eat any of it. Fionn cooked the fish as instructed and used his thumb to test if the fish was finished cooking. A single drop of hot fat burned Fionn as he did so and instinctively, he sucked on his thumb to relieve the pain. All of the fish’s wisdom had been concentrated in that single drop and thus Fionn became the wisest man in Ireland.
For our first dish this month, we turned to contemporary Ireland rather than the past. What we found was a beef stew that was almost too delicious to be believed. It starts with beef short ribs which are then cooked to tender perfection in a bath of Irish stout. When the stew is almost done, amazing herb dumplings are added to the pot. The result is a rich beef stew which soothes the soul and fills the belly.