Wednesday, March 16, 2011


I was lucky enough to live in a small town North of Dublin called Monaghan.  Even though I was only there for 2 months, I feel more festive now when St. Patrick's Day arrives.  It was the first time I’d ever experienced a pint of Guinness (very exciting) and frequented a real pub, The Squealing Pig.  I remember every time I walked into the The Squealing Pig, I was greeted with friendly faces and comforting aromas.  
My home away from home.
I think the second best way to experience a culture is by way of their cuisine. The best way, obviously, is to travel to that country, but that's not always an option!  When you actually break it down and compare the cuisines from countries around the world, it's fascinating to think just how different, for instance, Thai Curries are from hearty English stews.  Same idea, really, but completely different dishes.  In LA, I think we are fortunate (spoiled) to have so many restaurants featuring international cuisines.  Rachel and I have always been daring with trying new cuisines/restaurants, but now that we're blogging about our adventures, we have more motivation to really go for it. We shall continue to report back with our finds!

As for tomorrow, it's St. Patrick's Day and I’m getting nostalgic for some Shepherd's Pie.  It’s very much like Greek Moussaka and Italian Lasagna, but it actually originated in England.  It's traditionally made with minced lamb or mutton, hence the name of the dish.  Since I can't skip town, I'll have to make it at home!


1 Tablespoon Vegetable oil

1 large onion, peeled and chopped
2 large carrots, peeled and chopped
1/2 lb. ground lamb (you can use 1 lb. of whatever meat you like)
1/2 lb. ground beef
1 cup beef or chicken broth

1 Tablespoon Worcestershire Sauce
1/3 tomato paste

1/4 cup all purpose flour
1 teaspoon chopped fresh or dry rosemary

1 teaspoon chopped fresh or dry thyme
1 Tablespoon chopped Italian parsley

1/4 – 1/3 cup red wine
1 cup frozen peas

2 pounds russet potatoes, peeled and sliced

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1/2 cup milk (any fat content)
1 cup sharp white cheddar cheese

Kosher salt to taste

1. Preheat oven to 375°F.

2. In a large sauté pan over medium heat, heat the oil, then sauté onion, carrot, and celery.  Cook until softened, about 8 minutes.   Add meat and herbs and cook for about 6 minutes, until meat is no longer pink.

3. Add the herbs, broth, tomato paste, red wine and flour.  Make sure you sprinkle the flour and quickly blend, as this will thicken the sauce.  If you dump the flour onto one spot, it will turn into a dumpling.  You don’t want this to happen!  Simmer until the juices thicken, about  8 - 10 minutes, then add the peas.

Depending on a number of factors, you may have to adjust the amount of liquid you add to the dish.  When adding broth or wine, add a little at a time.

4. Pour the mixture into an 8x8 baking dish; set aside.

5. Meanwhile, place potatoes into a pot of cold water.  Bring the potatoes to a boil.  Add 1 tsp of salt to water after it begins boiling.  Continue to boil on medium low and cook until tender, about 15 - 20 minutes; drain.  
Place the pot of potatoes back on medium low heat and make sure all the water evaporates. 
Turn off heat.

6. Mash the potatoes with the butter, milk, and salt.

 Sprinkle in the cheddar cheese. I went one step further and pureed the potatoes using a food processor. This gives the potatoes a velvety creaminess.

7. Using a spatula, drop dollops of the mashed potatoes over filling; spread to edges.  Using a fork, make decorative peaks.  

8. Bake until topping is browned and filling is bubbling rapidly, about 25 minutes.  Let stand 5 minutes before serving...if you can wait that long!

Mouthwatering, if I may say so myself.
Since this dish is very rich, I wanted to pair with it some lighter sides:

Sautéed Cabbage with Shallots and Garlic 
Melt 1 TBSP Butter over medium heat and saute 1 shallot and 2 cloves of garlic

Add 1/2 head of shredded cabbage

It wilts to this amount!  Add salt & pepper to taste.
Roasted Root Vegetables with Rosemary
Preheat oven to 400 F.  Cut 2 Parsnips and 1 Sweet Potato into bite size pieces.  Throw in a handful of Baby Carrots, along with about 12 Cipolini Pearl Onions, as well as 3 sprigs of fresh Rosemary.  Drizzle 2 TBSP Olive Oil plus Salt and Pepper over vegetables and toss.  Roast for about an hour in the oven, tossing every 15 minutes so olive oil coats evenly.

Oven Roasted Garlic Tomatoes
Preheat oven to 325 F.  Spray baking dish with oil.  Cut 3 Tomatoes in half, placing cut side up on baking dish.  Sprinkle with Salt and Pepper.  Slice 6 cloves of Garlic and place on top of Tomatoes.  Drizzle generously with Olive Oil.  Roast in oven for about an hour, checking doneness around 45 minutes.
To serve, I preferred to take off the bits of roasted garlic, as the flavor has penetrated the tomato and you won't have awful garlic breath!
I saw this loaf of Soda Bread at the market and quickly threw it into my cart.  It really is delicious.  It tastes a bit like a muffin.  Mmm.

All this with a pint of Guinness.  I feel like I'm in Ireland again...

Don’t forget to wear green tomorrow!