Celebrating St. Patrick’s Day with Brown Soda Bread and Irish Stew

March 16, 2014 Updated: April 23, 2016

Celebrating St. Patrick’s Day can come in many forms. There are so many different ways we can have adventures. One of my favorite methods is to discover new recipes and learn about their origins. With St. Patrick’s Day right around the corner I thought I would come up with an Irish meal to share with my family. I decided on a Brown Soda Bread and Irish Stew made with Guinness Stout.

Brown Soda Bread has an interesting history. There has actually been a debate about whether it comes from Ireland. According to Rory O’Connell, a famous Irish chef, in an interview with Epicurious, brown soda bread is indeed Irish. In fact, it dates back to the1800s. It was common bread baked then that people could easily make without yeast and without an oven. Most people did not have ovens at that time. Instead they would make the bread with baking soda and bake it in a cast-iron skillet placed right in the coals of the fire. There are different variations of the bread depending on the season and where in Ireland it is baked. Caraway seeds and wheat germ are common ingredients. Dried fruit, like raisins is more common now but not back then. Here is a recipe I found and liked from Cooking Light that is easy to make, made from whole grains and tasty: Brown Soda Bread. Two tips from me on altering the recipe: remember, you can use white whole-wheat flour; it will make the bread a little less heavy and lighter in color. Also, you can always use substitute egg to lower the cholesterol and calories in a recipe. It will not change the consistency or flavor.

There are so many different versions of Irish stew. It all comes down to what you have available. Irish stew is an economical dish that historically varies with the seasons and what you can afford to put in the stew. It is traditionally slow cooked so even the toughest meats become tender. The most common vegetables are potato, carrot and parsnip. Originally the meat was probably goat but then was replaced by lamb. In the USA we tend to use beef. There is no wrong ingredient. The main thing is to let the stew simmer for a while. I also think adding a little stout can’t hurt and sure does help the flavor and sense of celebration on St. Patrick’s Day. A tasty recipe I found on myrecipe.com for an Irish stew using Guinness Stout is: Beef and Guinness Stew. Three tips from me on changing up the recipe to make it lighter are: change out the stout for Becks Light, it will lower the calories (by more than 100) and still provide the beer flavor without the bite. Instead of using tablespoons of oil, only use teaspoons and cooking spray; you only need 2 teaspoons for browning and flavoring. This will save you hundreds of calories. I tend to use olive oil, rather than canola because I find it has more flavor for the same calories. Finally, if you are not a turnip fan, you can replace them with potatoes.

As the Famous Irish Toast goes:

May your thoughts be as glad as the shamrocks,
May your heart be as light as a song,
And each day bring you bright happy hours,
That stay with you all year long.

Enjoy! And Live Vibrant!