So, I went to Ireland last week. Has anyone of you ever been to Ireland? It’s a pretty magical place. I absolutely loved it. I’d never been to Ireland so I wasn’t too sure what to expect. I mean, I had a pretty good idea, in my head, of what the country was like, but that knowledge was based mostly on Father Ted, the Rubberbandits, on the various loveable, but batshit crazy Irish people that I’d met abroad, and of course on jokes about famine and potatoes. Nothing to go by, I figured, surely the Irish culture and people were nothing like I believed them to be.
Turns out I was wrong! Ireland did not disappoint. The first thing I heard on Irish radio, about 20 minutes after I’d landed, was ‘My Lovely Horse‘, from Father Ted. What are the odds?! As for the Irish themselves, in line with the stereotypes most of the people I met were batshit crazy, loveable drinking enthusiasts – which might explain, by the way, why I seem to get along with them so well.
As for the potatoes, it’s true: the Irish are possessed by their love of potatoes, to an extent where it becomes uncanny. They seem to hide potatoes in meals so as to surprise unwitting visitors like me with them. You’d be eating a stew, suspecting nothing, with small, but easily visible chunks of potato in it, but then suddenly, as the stew level lowered, you’d find a single whole potato, with skin and all, lurking at you from the darkness of the gravy at the bottom of the bowl. One stew I ate was even served with mashed potato alongside the regular potato bits, and yet there it was, beneath the sausages and sauce, that one whole potato that the Irish throw in to mess with you.
That particular stew was a Dublin coddle, a rather odd, light-coloured stew made with bacon and pork sausages. I couldn’t quite get over how weird it was – kinda like stewing your breakfast, not the consistency you’d expect when eating bacon and sausages. But it was really good and with a few adjustments to the one I had, I managed to cook up something that still felt pretty Irish, and was delicious. Plus, the internet already has enough recipes for Irish stew, so let’s give this one a shot, shall we?
(I know it looks bad in the picture but making stew look good is hard at the best of times, imagine trying it with artificial light and a rubbish camera. It’s really good, I swear.)
I’m making mine without carrots, because vegetables are for hippies, vegans and health freaks, none of which the Irish seem to be. I am, however, chucking in some thyme, because I think thyme goes very well with pork. Either way, you’ll barely notice, because I think this dish is meant to stew all night whilst you’re out getting hammered on Guinness, and then you have it whilst inebriated.
For two, you will need:
- a bunch (about 5) thick bacon rashers, preferably from free range, bio pork (if not for the pigs, then do it for the flavour)
- 5 pork sausages (same story as the bacon)
- 4 floury potatoes that’ll fall apart when cooked for a sufficient amount of time
- 2 non-floury, surprise potatoes for lurking (large baby salad tatties, for example)
- one onion
- some thyme and some fresh parsley
- a bunch of chicken stock, up to half a litre
Cut the bacon into strips of about 2 cm. Stick them in a saucepan on medium heat. Cut the sausages in halves or thirds, fry them along with the bacon in the bacon fat. After a while, add the onion in medium sized chunks, along with some thyme and some chopped fresh parsley.
Meanwhile, peel the floury potatoes, cut them into chunks of various sizes, ranging from large-ish to small. This way, the small bits will dissolve and thicken the stew gravy, whilst the larger chunk will remain whole. Add them to the pot, along with the two surprise potatoes and enough stock to just about cover the meat and the rest.
Cover with a lid and leave to simmer for 1,5 hours or longer. Serve with a pint of Guinness and some soda bread, if you have any.