Welcome back to Down Home Food, and Happy St. Patrick’s Day to everyone!

They say that on St. Patrick’s Day, everyone claims to be Irish, or at least part Irish. Indeed, there are a lot of Irish, or part Irish in the United States, and I’m one of them. For those of you that have been reading my column for a year, you may remember my article last year about my Scotch-Irish heritage. On my mother’s side of the family, my five times great-grandfather, Charles Kilgore came to the United States from Ireland around 1763.

We have a particularly high population of Irish or Scotch-Irish in this area. I always wondered if our beautiful green hills and valleys may have reminded them of home.

My ancestors came over fairly early, but many more people migrated after 1845. That was the year of the Great Potato Famine. The potatoes in Ireland became infected with a mold called Potato Blight. This turned their potatoes diseased and useless, putting many who were already in poverty into deeper poverty. The starving Irish tried eating the potatoes, and would become extremely sick from eating them. Irish people began eating a diet of eggs, birds and plants like nettles and chickweeds. Many farmers would bleed their cattle out and fry the flood, rather than eat the meat. If the cattle were as malnourished as the people, then the resulting meat wouldn’t be fit for consumption, so they resorted to using the blood mixed with herbs, garlic, oats and butter, it could be used for a good emergency meal. The extremely desperate and malnourished ate rats and worms off the streets (I think I would have starved).

After the famine, many Irish women migrated to America to escape poverty. With this migration to America, Irish food changed once women began to work in domestic service. Irish women were then exposed to new ingredients and foods not common in Ireland, such as a great variety of meats and produce. Irish women in domestic service in America had to adapt their cooking to please the upper class in America. This was a problem at first due to Irish women clinging to foods and ingredients common to Ireland. This caused much prejudice towards Irish women and many would mock the Irish’s lack of cooking skills without considering the famine and poverty the Irish women grew up with. In time, Irish women gained the experience with ingredients abundant in America and altered their Irish Cuisine to be foods for pleasure. In Ireland, food was designed based on caloric intake, instead of for pleasure, such as foods in America. Traditional Irish dishes started to include more meat and fruit and allowed for Irish food to stray from the thought of being bland.

Two of the most common foods that we grew up with in this area were Irish staples. Cabbage and potatoes. They were two of my favorites as a child, and they still are. I wonder how many people remember hearing the term “arsh potatoes.” I was grown before I figured out that meant “Irish potatoes.”

Today, I’m sharing some recipes that use those ingredients and can trace roots back to our Irish ancestors. First, there is a delicious Guinness Shepherd’s Pie. Second, is a Slow Cooker Irish Stew. Finally, there is some good Fried Cabbage and Bacon.

Please feel free to contact me if you have any comments, suggestions or questions.

As always, enjoy!

Guinness Shepherd’s Pie

Prep Time: 5 mins

Cook Time: 30 mins

Total Time: 35 mins

Guinness Shepherd’s Pie is richly flavored and loaded with ground beef, peas, carrots, onions, and corn under a decadent layer of cheddar mashed potatoes.

Servings: 6

1 ½ pounds Ground Beef (or lamb)

1 teaspoon Kosher Salt

½ teaspoon Fresh Ground Black Pepper

1 large Yellow Onion (chopped)

1 cup chopped Carrots

3 cloves Garlic (minced)

2 tablespoons Tomato Paste

2 tablespoons Flour

1 cup Guinness Beer

1 cup Beef Broth

2 teaspoon Worcestershire Sauce

1 teaspoon fresh Thyme leaves

½ cup Peas (fresh or frozen is best)

½ cup Corn (fresh or frozen is best)

Mashed Potatoes

1 ½ pounds Russet Potatoes

1/4 cup Milk

2 ounces Butter

Kosher Salt (to taste)

Ground Black Pepper (to taste)

½ cup shredded Sharp Cheddar Cheese (divided)

Instructions

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Add ground beef to a large, 12 inch skillet, and cook until browned. Remove beef from skillet and set aside.

Place onion and carrots in the beef drippings (adding butter or oil if needed) and sauté until onion and carrots are tender. Add minced garlic and cook for an additional 2 minutes.

Return beef to the skillet, add tomato paste and stir to incorporate, then sprinkle in flours and stir further.

Pour in beer and scrape the bottom of the skillet to loosen any burnt on bits of food. Add all remaining ingredients to the skillet at this time and let simmer for 10-15 minutes, or until liquid has reduced into a gravy.

Evenly spread mashed potatoes over the shepherd’s pie mixture, top with 1/4 cup of cheese, and place in the oven for 20 minutes, or until potatoes begin to brown.

Mashed Potatoes

Peel potatoes and cut into 1inch cubes. Place in salted boiling water and simmer for 15 minutes, or until completely tender.

Drain potatoes from water and combine with milk, butter, and 1/4 cup of cheese. Add salt and pepper to taste and mash to break apart any chunks

Recipe Notes

This recipe fits perfectly in a 12 inch cast iron skillet

Slow Cooker Irish Stew

Prep Time: 20 mins

Cook Time: 5 hrs

Total Time: 5 hrs 20 mins

Ingredients

3 lbs boneless beef chuck or stew meat

½ cup all purpose flour

1 tsp salt

½ tsp black pepper cut into 1 inch pieces

1/4 cup canola oil

1 large onion chopped

4 cups beef broth

4 tsp chopped garlic

2 Tbsp tomato paste

1 Tbsp sugar

1 Tbsp soy sauce

2 tsp dried parsley

½ tsp dried thyme

2 bay leaves

1 lb. red potatoes quartered

3 carrots peeled and cut into one inch pieces

Instructions

Combine flour, salt and pepper in a large zippered plastic bag. Add in meat and toss to coat.

Heat oil in a large pan over medium high heat and cook meat until browned on all sides.

Place meat in slow cooker.

Add onion into same pan that you cooked the meat in and cook until onion is golden brown. Add in beef broth and garlic. Bring to a boil. Scrape up pieces of food from bottom of pan.

Add in parsley, thyme, bay leaves, sugar, soy sauce and tomato paste.

Pour mixture over meat.

Cook on high for 4 hours and then add in potatoes and carrots and cook one additional hour.

Fried Cabbage

Ingredients

4 slices thick bacon, cut into ½-inch pieces

1small yellow onion, diced

1small head green cabbage, cored and chopped into 1-inch pieces

2 tsp. light brown sugar

Salt

Fresh ground black pepper

Fresh chopped parsley leaves, for serving (optional)

Directions

In a large heavy-bottomed skillet, cook the bacon until crisp, about 5 to 7 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, remove the bacon to a paper-towel lined plate, leaving the drippings in the skillet.

Add the onion to the skillet and increase the heat to medium-high. Cook until translucent, about 2 minutes. Add the shredded cabbage, and brown sugar. Season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the cabbage is just tender, about 5 minutes.

Return the bacon to the skillet and toss to combine. Cook 1 minute to heat through. Top with parsley and serve hot.