I would like to pay tribute to my Irish friend Christie, who moved to New York in the height of the summer, all bouncing curls (how? The humidity was off the chart) and green eyes and a good line in filthy jokes.
It was at an everybody-has-plans-for-the-4th-of-July-so-let’s-have-a-5th-of-July barbecue at a mutual friend’s house up in Washington Heights that I first discovered her singleness of purpose:
“Where are all the available straight men?” she wondered. Not the first person to ask such a question at a party in New York, and certainly not the last.
“Um, well …” I scanned the terrace.
There were none.
“Not a single one?” she couldn’t believe it.
“So let me just clarify; there are no single straight men at this party, and here I am in Versace!”
“New York can be pretty brutal like that” I commiserated.
“We shall see” she said.
Undaunted, she took herself out to an Irish bar, met a handsome Bostonian lawyer whose cousin, by some strange co-incidence, lives just one street away from her aunt in Cork, and was thoroughly coupled up within a month.
Traditional Irish Stew (serves 6 – 8)
Stews are rarely elegant, but that’s really not the point. An Irish stew is sweet comfort food that emotes caring with every bite.
Sprinkle it with a blanket of fresh green flat-leaf parsley to freshen up the flavor and dress up the dish for company.2 onions 1 tbsp butter 3lb lamb – a stewing cut, I use best end of neck, and I ask my butcher for bones for the stock 6 small carrots 2 tbsp pearl barley (optional) 5 cups chicken stock (from a box is fine) Potatoes – about 4 cups peeled and diced (which is about 6 large potatoes) or a handful of new potatoes per person Bay leaf Spring of thyme 2 tbsp flour Olive oil Salt and pepper (Parsley and fresh bread to serve)
- Chop the lamb into bite-sized chunks, then dust with the flour
- Heat the butter in a splash of oil in a heavy-bottomed pan, then brown the lamb being careful not to overcrowd the pan (you can skip this step if you’re impatient. It doesn’t make a huge difference to the taste). Remove the lamb and set aside
- Dice the onions and cook in a little more olive oil until soft
- Cut the carrots in half lengthways and add them to the onions, tip the lamb back in and cover with chicken stock
- Season well, drop in the pearl barley (if using) along with the thyme and bay leaf and a few bones from the butcher (if the idea doesn’t gross you out too much).
- Cover and cook on a low heat for 2 hours either in the oven (around 300 F) or on the stove top
- Skim the fat off the stew (if you drop an ice cube into it all the fat will solidify and cling to it so it can be easily spooned away)
- Half the new potatoes / peel and dice the regular potatoes and drop them into the stew. Cook for a further half an hour until the potatoes are tender
- Serve in shallow soup bowls with crusty bread and a sprinkling of chopped parsley