For me, a trip to Ireland is never a vacation. Instead, it is like coming home with days full of family time, tea around a fire, and catching up. When people think of Ireland, they rarely think of food – for some reason it gets a bad rap – but I have never had a bad meal in the country, and usually I come home with a few extra pounds on me.
One meal that seems to be a favorite is shepherd’s pie, or cottage pie if made with beef. It’s the perfect meal for Ireland’s cool, often rainy weather, and warms up your stomach as well as the fire warms your body.
Both of my maternal grandparents were born in Ireland, and over the years, I have become quite close with my family who still resides there. Ireland has become a second home for me and my family, which is nice to have in this big world. While not always known for its food, the country has some of the best food I have had while traveling.
Dish: Cottage Pie
Cottage pie is the beef version of shepherd’s pie, a dish well-known in the UK and Ireland. It’s the ideal comfort food, perfect for cold days. This recipe for cottage pie comes from my family’s favorite Irish chef, Neven Maguire, who is a bit of a celebrity in the country.
2 tablespoons of rapeseed or olive oil
2 slices of bacon
1 pound of ground beef
1 onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, crushed
4 carrots finely chopped
2 tablespoons of Worcestershire sauce
1 cup of beef stock
1 tablespoon of tomato purée
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
1 tablespoon chopped flat-leaf parsley
1/2 cup of frozen peas
For cheesy mash potato topping:
2 pounds of potatoes, cut into even-sized pieces
1/2 cup of milk
3 tablespoons of butter
1/4 cup of grated cheddar cheese
Salt and pepper to taste
Prepare cheesy mash potatoes:
1. Steam the potatoes for 20-25 minutes, until cooked through and tender
2. Drain and return to the pan, the put them on the heat for a few minutes to dry out.
3. Remove from heat and mash well using mixer, making sure there are no lumps.
4. Heat the milk in a small pan, then beat into potatoes with butter and cheese until smooth.
5. Season with salt and pepper.
While preparing the potatoes, you can also prepare the filling.
1. Heat half the oil in a pan. Add bacon and beef and sauté until lightly browned.
2. Remove mixture from the pan with a slotted spoon, leaving oils in pan, and set aside.
3. Add the rest of the oil to the heated pan and add the onion. Cook until softened.
4. Stir in garlic, and cook for a minute before adding carrots. Sauté for five minutes or until tender.
5. Stir in Worcestershire sauce, then add stock, tomato pureé, and thyme.
6. Add in beef and bacon mixture. Give a good stir and bring to a boil.
7. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for about 30 minutes.
8. Stir in parsley and peas. Season to taste.
9. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
10. Transfer cooked mixture into an overproof dish and leave to cool slightly for 20 minutes.
11. Spoon the cheesy mash potatoes on top and spread evenly.
12. Cook for 25-30 minutes or until the potatoes are bubbling and golden brown.
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