Monday, 7 February 2011

I is for...

... Irish stew, ibex involtini with imam bayildi, Icewine mousse, iridescent Inuit ice cream igloos, Idiazabel with incir tatlisi

Richard's parents were coming to stay for a few days and we thought it would be a lovely idea to share the letter "I" with them. Gillian, Richard's mum, was slightly concerned that she wouldn't be able to make it through to the end, having already heard about the 6, 7 and sometimes 8 courses we'd eaten for other letters. Luckily, "I" doesn't lend itself to an exhaustive list of ingredients, so she was let off the hook and only had to make it through a paltry 5 courses. Needless to say, nobody went to bed hungry. 

As we were sharing "I" with his parents, I thought it would be nice if Richard and I shared the cooking this time, to make the evening a nice gift from us both (the Supper Club rules were thrown out of the window and the letter "I" was on us). We decided against cocktails to start with, as Derek and Gillian, unlike the gin swillers in my family, aren't huge drinkers and besides, a gloriously boozy pudding was sitting in the fridge waiting to be served for course number three. The evening's soundtrack consisted of Interpol (much to Richard's chagrin but my delight), The Ink Spots and Iggy Pop.

As Richard and I shared the cooking, I think it's only right that we share the blogging too. So, for "I" night only, I'd like to introduce the lovely Richard Hurst as a special guest blogger, starting with...

... Irish stew

For simple recipes like Irish stew, you really can't beat Elisabeth Luard's classic, European Peasant Cookery, and it's there I went for this recipe. It's a brilliant book, not only for the recipes, extracted by her from ancient peasant grandmothers, but also for the history of the dishes. Irish stew is one of a family of hearty stews from Northern Europe that combine meat, potatoes and onions and not much else: it's a close relative of Lancashire hotpot, scouse, labskova, shepherd's pie, and my personal favourite, stovies. What distinguishes it is the large proportion of potatoes and the long cooking time. Since we were serving this in miniature portions I cut the meat up into very little bits, but you can leave it in larger chunks. The recipe calls for further potato to be added at the end, but I didn't bother.

Irish stew

Serves four in starter portions

1/2lb neck of lamb (or mutton if you're after real authenticity)
1lb potatoes
1 medium onion
salt and pepper
1/2 pint of lamb stock

Chop the meat into small bits and slice the potatoes and onion nice and thin. Put everything into a casserole, layering the meat with the potatoes and onion, leaving potatoes on top, seasoning as you go, and ending with the stock. Cover the casserole tightly and leave to cook very slowly on top of the stove or in a very low oven (130°C/gas mark 1) for two hours. On the day we let it stew for even longer than that and it made it all the more unctuous and tasty - although you may need to keep topping it up with water to stop it burning on the bottom. We served it in individual casseroles.

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