Sunday, March 14, 2010

Lamb and Guinness Stew with Potato Scones for Souper (Soup, Salad & Sammie) Sundays

It seemed like a good idea... make a Lamb and Guinness Stew that could do double duty both here at Souper Sundays, and serve as my dish for Regional Recipes: Ireland, hosted by one of my very favorite blogging friends, Joanne at Eats Well With Others. Not to mention that St. Paddy's Day is this week and it also gave me a chance to cook and post from another book in my collection and get me closer to my "Cook from Each Book" initiative. OK, so that is actually quadruple duty, even better. Plus I found a recipe for some Potato Scones in yet another cookbook to go with it that sounded wonderful too. So how did I go from my perfect master plan to a stew salvage and recovery effort? Can this stew be saved? For the answer, you will just have to keep reading below.

The recipe for the stew came from "The Gourmet Slow Cooker: Simple and Sophisticated Meals From Around the World" by Lynn Alley, a book I have had for a while but had not cooked from. The original recipe called for beef but Alley also mentions subbing in lamb shanks and I went a slightly different route, using some lamb shoulder pieces to keep it a bit more lean. I had the lamb, some nice locally-grown potatoes, carrots, onion and thyme and a large bottle of Guinness stout and it all went together smoothly. I didn't think the 2 cups of Guinness was going to give me quite enough broth, so I also added a cup or so of some low-sodium beef stock to the mix, browned my lamb and popped everything in the slow cooker. After the appropriate amount of time, the stew was cooked, the veggies just right, the lamb very tender, and the broth... well the broth was ...bitter. And not just slightly bitter, or beer bitter, this was nasty, bordering on inedible bitter. I've had Guinness and liked it, I have cooked a corned beef brisket in Guinness and loved it, but this stew was pretty bad. Tempted to toss it, I decided to search online and see if I could find a solution. The main suggestion that came up was brown sugar, so I added a tablespoon. Better but still more bitter than I wanted. I then found this article by Cook's Country suggesting bittersweet chocolate to "enhance the beer's complex coffee / chocolate flavors" and added an ounce and continued cooking the stew on low for another 30 minutes. Surprisingly, it was much better but still not quite right. I decided to let it rest overnight in the fridge and try it again in the morning. (I will not accept defeat!) The next day, I skimmed off the bit of fat that had collected on the top and using the rest of my beef stock, put together a roux, added the meat, veggies and about half of the broth into it and heated it through allowing the roux to thicken, then seasoned to taste with salt and pepper. It actually was good! Still with the complex flavor of the Guinness, but softened, not bitter and more than edible. Not my favorite stew ever but tasty and mission accomplished because I didn't have to toss it.

Alley says, "Root vegetables are always found in the cuisine of cold northern climates. In this delicious traditional Irish stew, beef is paired with carrots, onions, potatoes, and hearty Guinness stout. For a completely different flavor using basically the same ingredients, try using lamb shanks rather than beef. Both are Irish favorites."

Lamb & Guinness Stew
"The Gourmet Slow Cooker" by Lynn Alley
(Serves 4-6)

3/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 1/2 lbs very lean stewing beef or lamb cut into 1 1/2-inch cubes
2 Tbsp vegetable oil
2 to 3 large potatoes, peeled and cut into bite-sized pieces
2 to 3 carrots, peeled and cut into bite-sized pieces
2 large yellow onions, quartered
1 to 2 sprigs thyme
2 cups Guinness stout or other dark, hearty beer
1 tsp salt
hopped fresh parsley, for garnish

Place the flour in a resealable plastic bag. Add the beef to the bag, several pieces at a time, and shake to coat completely. Heat a large saute pan over medium-high heat and add the oil. In batches if necessary, add the beef and cook, turning , for 8-10 minutes, until browned on all sides. Using tongs, transfer to paper towels to drain.

Place the beef, potatoes, carrots, onions, and thyme in the slow cooker and pour the beer over the top. (If you prefer the vegetables with more texture, let the stew cook for 1 hour before adding the vegetables.) Cover and cook on low for 8 hours, or until the meat is very tender. Season with salt. Remove and discard the thyme.

Transfer to a serving bowl and garnish generously with the parsley.

Notes/Results: Although it ended up working out, I won't be making this particular recipe again but I will try others from the book. I wouldn't have thought of the brown sugar and chocolate, but they really helped with the bitterness and saved the stew. The Cook's Country article also recommended adding Guinness in at the beginning and then at the end for a fresh kick, but I didn't have any more Guinness and decided to leave things as they were. A good learning experience and speaking of good experiences, lets get to these tasty little Potato Scones.

I was looking through a used cookbook I bought called "Nothing Fancy: Recipes and Recollections of Soul-Satisfying Food" written by Diana Kennedy, noted author and authority on Mexican Cooking when I came across these Potato Scones, basically griddled little potato and oat cakes. The book is written from her ranch in Mexico and features the food she likes to cook and eat at home and recipes from around the world.

Kennedy says, "These doughy potato scones, a speciality of Scotland and Ireland, can become addictive, especially if you love potatoes as I do. They are generally made with white flour or rough oatmeal mixed with peeled mashed potatoes, and are eaten hot spread with butter. When I lived in Scotland, I used to eat them for breakfast with a fried egg on top, but they are also good with bacon, with melted cheese on top...what you will. Sometimes I add coarsely ground whole wheat flour (2 ounces) instead of the oatmeal."

Potato Scones
"Nothing Fancy" by Diana Kennedy
(Makes about 10 scones)

1 1/2 ounces (rounded 1/2 cup) quick oats
1/2 pound unpeeled potatoes, cooked and roughly mashed with their skins
1/4 tsp finely ground sea salt
1 Tbsp unbleached, all-purpose flour, plus flour for kneading and rolling
1 1/2 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted

Put the oats into the blender jar and blend for about 3 seconds. They should be broken up rather than ground. Add them to the potatoes, together with the salt, flour, and melted butter. Knead well. Sprinkle the pastry board lightly with flour and roll out the dough to approximately 1/8-inch thick. Heat a griddle and brush with butter.

Cut the scones with a round 3-inch cutter, prick them well, and cook for about 3 minutes--by this time the underside should be lightly browned--turn the scones over, and cook for a further 3 minutes on the second side. As soon as they are cooked, cover with a napkin and keep warm until ready to eat. you can freeze them and then reheat on a well-buttered griddle.

Note: It is easier to work with the dough if the potatoes are still slightly warm.

Notes/Results: Kennedy is right about the addictiveness of these little potato cake-like scones, they are yummy. They are easy to throw together, cooking the potatoes is the longest step, and I liked the texture of the oats. I added some black pepper to them because I add black pepper to most things. ;-) They are a great little side dish and were excellent reheated with some eggs for breakfast. I also think they would be fun to make a bit smaller and top with some smoked salmon as a little pupu. I will definitely be making these again.

So one recipe that worked out well in the end and one with two enthusiastic thumbs up. Joanne will be recapping all of the Regional Recipes from Ireland at the end of the month on her blog so go take a look.

Let's see who is in the Souper Sunday kitchen this week and what delicious dishes they brought with them.

Olivia from Cooking with Libby is here again this week with a delicious Backyard Garden Tomato Soup. She says, "This is another recipe from the cookbook, Prevention's Quick and Healthy Low Fat Cooking. Just by glancing at this picture, you can tell that this isn't your normal, average Tomato Soup. I have never been a Tomato Soup fan. However, I made a vow to myself that I was going to try to make every single recipe in this low-fat cookbook, so I made this soup a couple of days ago. I have no regrets either :) It is chock full of tomatoes, onions, and red pepper. Since the recipe is low-fat, I was scared it was going to taste like cardboard and lack the flavor of most normal soups. But I'm happy to write that it is not bland, nor is it robust. It's perfect :) I also topped mine off with some grated parmesan cheese."

Tomatoes are popular this week! Joanne from Eats Well With Others has Michael Symon's Spicy Tomato and Blue Cheese Soup to share this week. She says, "Now. It's a commonly known fact that I'm not really a soup person. But this wasn't soup. This was heaven. In a bowl. I ate it hot. And I ate it cold. Sometimes both. In one day. Yeah it was that good. It tasted almost like a pink pasta sauce with a blue cheese/sriracha twang to it. And with that being said. I would consider pouring it over pasta. If I weren't pretty sure that I would just end up sipping it from the pot with a straw."

Like Joanne, Natashya from Living in the Kitchen with Puppies has Symon's Spicy Tomato and Blue Cheese Soup and also his Shaved Fennel Salad with Oranges, Lemon, Dill and Cress. She says that the soup is "made with Sriracha hot sauce and creamy, pungent blue cheese. This was an elegant soup to serve but very daring in flavour. Not for the faint of heart - we loved it."

And about the salad Natashya says it is "a light and crunchy salad with citrus and anise flavours. The key to the salad is to shave the fennel very thin - you will need a mandoline or it will just be too thick. We did enjoy this salad, it is light and crunchy with unique flavour, but I have to say the soup was my favourite."

Christine from Kits Chow has a unique Hot Nappa Cabbage Salad with Pancetta. Christine says, "I am making kimchi with Napa cabbage. I used the leafy part and was left with a big pile of white Napa pieces. What to do with the leftovers? I thought of making pickles but didn't have enough vinegar. Then I saw a little hunk of pancetta in the refrigerator. That's it. I'll braise the cabbage with the pancetta. Cabbage and bacon go very well together and I figured this combo would be good too. The salad was very good - crisp vegetables, crunchy, salty pancetta with a garlicky, sweet and sour dressing."

Last but certainly not least with have one glorious Reuben Sandwich from the talented Foodycat, who not only cured and smoked her own pastrami meat, but baked her own rye bread too. Foodycat says, "A good slice of bread, thickly smeared with mustard (we used Dijon), topped with overlapping thin slices of the pastrami, then forkfuls of well-drained sauerkraut and slices of gruyere cheese. That went under the grill until the cheese melted and the sauerkraut and pastrami was hot through. Topped with a second slice of bread and served with tall glasses of German beer, this was pretty much the perfect sandwich experience, and made a really delicious lunch. Genuinely worth the effort!"

Some really wonderful recipes this week--thanks to everyone who joined in. If you have something to share for Souper Sundays, just click on the logo on the side bar for all the details.

Have a great week!


  1. glad you able to save that stew!

  2. WoW! That's one good stew save. I don't like to give up either. I'm surprised the Guinness added bitterness only because I have seen so many Guinness sweet treats baking on the blogs this week.

    I must tell you, I love the idea of the potato scones. I may be just "whipping" them up on Wednesday. I'll let you know if I do. For some reason, they remind me of boxty with the addition of oats, which by the way sound intriguing. Thanks for sharing, Deb...

  3. I'm wondering if your thyme may have added to the bitterness. I remember hearing Sara Moulton saying that thyme stems are really bitter when cooked? Did you add the whole sprig or just the leaves?

    Either way, it's great the you were able to salvage your stew! It would have been a shame to see it go to waste.

    Everything looks scrumptious!

  4. Wow- a learning experience with the stew indeed. I'm glad to hear that you didn't give in and toss it, great save! The potato scones look delicious. I'm quite sure I would overindulge in them:D

    Great roundup!

  5. Whew! Glad the stew worked out in the end.
    Great looking spud scones too - they look like they would be good with so many things.
    Thanks for the round-up, I am still in shock that Foodycat cured her own pastrami.

  6. Kat--Me too! ;-) I was beginning to think I couldn't.

    Loiuse--thanks! I don't know what it was for sure that made it so bitter. I hope you like the potato scones--I loved them. ;-)

    biologie--Hmm..., there was not a lot of thyme and although it was the stems they came out in the end, but you never know!

    Kim--I just made a small batch but easily could have eaten more--especially with butter! ;-)

    Natashya--thanks. The scones were very good and of course we know Foodycat is amazing! I am in awe too.

  7. Such a great round-up this week!

    You did some intense recovery on that stew! I wouldn't have thought to add chocolate and brown sugar to Guinness but I guess it makes sense given the flavor profile. I'm glad it worked out in the end! Thanks so much for the submission :D

    Those potato scones look delicious. They kind of remind me of boxty which is an Irish side that I came across in my research!

  8. What a shame the stew wasn't quite right. I have also had that experience with beef cooked in beer, I don't know what it was!

    I'm starting my own cook from every book initiative. Those puppies have to earn their shelf space!

  9. You were certainly determined to solve that bitterness problem! :) So glad it worked out. Those potato scones sound delicious!

  10. I'm glad you were able to salvage the stew. Lamb stew meat is quite expensive and it would be a shame to waste it. The scones look fabulous. It looks like you had a fantastic early St. Pat's Day meal.

  11. What a delicious looking lamb stew. And made with beer! Love it. Sounds like you're ready for St. Patty's Day!

  12. Great save on the soup! It would of been such a shame to have to throw it out. Love the potato scones and the idea of eggs with them for breakfast.

  13. wow love lamb this stew looks amazing

  14. The lamb stew with guinness is perfect for St. Patrick's day! Very yummy with potato scones!

  15. Good ole Cooks Illustrated to the rescue. Great save, Deb! I don't like Guinness, though I love beer.I'm in the minority, I guess. Now, Irish Harp... that's my kinda beer. Great roundup, once again.


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