Irish stew with pearl barley

Serves 4–6 as a main course

There’s no point in trying to reinvent the wheel when it comes to our great national dish. Having said that, I do love sneaking in lots of gutsy garlic. For the best result, be sure to ask for thick chops on the bone. When made well it’s not hard to see why this is one of Ireland’s favourite dishes.

  • 4 x 350g (12oz), 3cm (1¼in) thick gigot lamb chops, with bone in (1.4kg/3lb 2oz total weight).
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper.
  • 250g (9oz) carrots (small carrots scrubbed and halved at an angle, or large carrots, peeled and cut at an angle into 4cm/1½in pieces).
  • 250g (9oz) celery, trimmed and cut at an angle into 4cm (1½in) pieces.
  • 3 onions, peeled and each cut into 6 wedges.
  • 8 large cloves of garlic, peeled and left whole.
  • 50g (2oz) pearl barley.
  • 600ml (1 pint) lamb or chicken stock.
  • 8–12 potatoes.
  • 2 tbsp chopped parsley leaves.

  1. Preheat the oven to 170°C (325°F), Gas mark 3.
  2. Place a flameproof casserole (or large saucepan) on a medium–high heat. Trim the excess fat from the chops and place the scraps of fat in the pan so that they can render. Meanwhile, cut the chops in half lengthways so as not to go through the bone. When some fat has melted into the pan, pick out the unmelted/unrendered bits (and eat them or give them to your dogs!), turn the heat up to high and place the chops in the pan. Cook on both sides, seasoning with salt and pepper, until brown, then transfer them to a plate.
  3. Add the carrots, celery, onions and garlic to the pan, season with salt and pepper and toss on the heat for a couple of minutes until starting to go slightly golden at the edges. Return the meat (and all the juices) to the pan with the barley and stock and stir to combine. Bring to the boil, cover and cook in the oven for 1 hour.
  4. Meanwhile, peel the potatoes and halve if large. Once the hour is up, take the pan out of the oven and place the potatoes on top. Cover and put back in the oven for 35–45 minutes until cooked. Scatter with parsley and serve from the pan.
Published: December 2017

Almond fingers

Makes about 24 fingers

I was telling my friend Nessa’s Mum, Margaret, about this cookbook that I was writing and she very kindly offered to show me her little notebook where she keeps some recipes. The next time I saw her she had in her hand a small leatherbound notebook that was only just being held together by threads from decades of use. It contained probably a hundred recipes that had been handwritten by her mother and grandmother, with Margaret’s own notes and recipes jotted down in between. What a precious heirloom that book is. Here’s one of the recipes from it. Thanks, Margaret.

  • 75g (3oz) butter, cubed, plus a little melted butter for brushing the tin
  • 175g (6oz) plain flour, plus extra for dusting
  • 50g (2oz) caster sugar
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • 1 egg, separated
  • 50ml (2fl oz) milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 4 tbsp sieved apricot jam
  • 50g (2oz) icing sugar
  • a few drops of almond essence
  • 25g (1oz) flaked almonds

  1. Preheat the oven to 180ºC (350ºF), Gas mark 4. Brush all over the inside of a 20 x 30cm (8 x 12in) Swiss roll tin with a little melted butter. Or you can line the tin with baking parchment, if you prefer.
  2. Place the flour, sugar and baking powder in a bowl and whisk to mix. Rub the butter into the dry ingredients. Place the egg yolk in a small bowl. Add the milk and vanilla extract and whisk to mix. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and mix to a dough.
  3. Tip the dough out onto a floured work surface, dust with a little flour and roll out to a rectangle to fit the prepared tin. Transfer to the tin and smooth out so that it is evenly spread in the bottom of the tin. Spread the apricot jam evenly over the dough.
  4. Place the egg white in a bowl and whisk until frothy. Sift in the icing sugar and add the almond essence, then spread thinly over the jam. It will be quite sloppy. Scatter the flaked almonds over the top.
  5. Bake in the oven for 20–25 minutes until golden brown all over.
  6. Take out of the oven and allow to cool for a few minutes, then cut into fingers to serve.
Published: December 2017