Pub grub: hearty food that keeps so many Irish eyes smiling

Gathering places offer simple dishes along with fancier fare

March 15, 2006|By MARGARET M. JOHNSON | MARGARET M. JOHNSON,TRIBUNE MEDIA SERVICES

Long before Michelin began anointing Irish chefs with stars, pub grub - simple sandwiches, thick soups, hearty stews, jacket potatoes, salad plates and big joints of meat - was considered quintessential Irish food.

Writing about it 20 years ago, tourism expert Arthur Frommer said, "The Irish never were great eaters. Big eaters, yes, gourmets, no. Potatoes and buttermilk were the great staples before the Irish famine and even in current, more prosperous times, the Irish have prided themselves on being meat-and-potato people - `nothing fancy' - with a great taste for thick slabs of brown bread and apple tart."

RECIPES Dishes adapted from "The Irish Pub Cookbook," by Margaret M. Johnson. See recipes on PG 5F and at baltimoresun.com/taste.

Cheddar-Herb Biscuits

Makes 12

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons sugar

1 tablespoon baking powder

3/4 teaspoon cream of tartar

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted Kerrygold Irish butter, cut in pieces, plus extra for serving

4 ounces Kerrygold Vintage Cheddar (1 cup), grated

2 tablespoons minced fresh herbs such as parsley, rosemary and tarragon

1 large egg

1 1/4 cups buttermilk

To make the biscuits, butter a 12-cup ( 1/3 -cup capacity) muffin pan. Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, cream of tartar and salt in a food processor. Pulse 2 to 3 times to blend.

Add butter and process for 10 to 15 seconds, or until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add cheese and herbs, and pulse 2 to 3 times to blend. Add egg and buttermilk, and process for 10 to 20 seconds, or until a soft dough forms.

Spoon batter into muffin cups and bake in preheated 400-degree oven for 20 to 23 minutes, or until biscuits are lightly browned and a skewer inserted into center comes out clean. Serve warm with butter.

Per serving: 226 calories, 7 grams protein, 12 grams fat, 7 grams saturated fat, 24 grams carbohydrate, 1 gram fiber, 49 milligrams cholesterol, 312 milligrams sodium

Beef-Pepper Pot

Serves 4

A popular alternative to Irish stew or beef-and-kidney pie, this beef-and-pepper dish originated at the Mills Inn, a country pub in Cork, Ireland.

It's delicious with Cheddar-Herb Biscuits.

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 pound beef tenderloin, cut in thin strips

1 red onion, sliced and cut in thin strips

1/2 Spanish onion, sliced and cut in thin strips

1 clove garlic, minced

1/2 red bell pepper, seeded and cut in thin strips

1/2 green bell pepper, seeded and cut in thin strips

2 stalks celery, cut crosswise into 2-inch lengths and lengthwise in thin strips

2 tablespoons tomato paste

2 cups homemade beef stock or canned low-sodium beef broth

salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

minced fresh flat-leaf parsley for garnish

In a large, deep skillet over medium heat, warm the oil. Cook beef for 3 to 4 minutes, or until browned.

With a slotted spoon, transfer beef to a plate and set aside. Add onions and garlic to skillet and cook for 3 to 4 minutes, or until lightly browned.

Add bell peppers, celery, tomato paste, stock or broth, and salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes or until peppers are tender and sauce has thickened.

Stir in beef and cook until heated through. To serve, ladle into shallow bowls and sprinkle with parsley.

Per serving: 348 calories, 25 grams protein, 23 grams fat, 7 grams saturated fat, 10 grams carbohydrate, 2 grams fiber, 70 milligrams cholesterol, 177 milligrams sodium

Warm Scallop Salad With Cider Dressing

Serves 4

CIDER DRESSING:

1 1/2 cups Magners Irish cider or a similar brand of fermented cider

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

1/3 cup sunflower oil

2 tablespoons hazelnut oil

salt and freshly ground pepper

SALAD:

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

2 pounds sea scallops

salt and freshly ground pepper

1 head bibb or Boston lettuce, shredded

1 avocado, peeled and diced

2 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and diced

1 tablespoon minced fresh flat-leaf parsley

1 tablespoon minced fresh dill

1 tablespoon minced fresh chives

To make the dressing, bring cider to a boil in a small saucepan over medium heat. Cook for 8 to 10 minutes, or until reduced by about two-thirds. Remove from heat and let cool 5 minutes. Whisk in mustard, sunflower oil, hazelnut oil, and salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.

To start the salad, in a large skillet over medium heat, warm the oil. Cook scallops, turning once or twice, for 2 to 3 minutes or until opaque. Remove immediately from heat and season to taste with salt and pepper.

To compose the salads, in a large bowl, toss lettuce, avocado, apples, parsley, dill and chives with half the dressing. Divide into neat piles in centers of 4 salad plates and top with scallops. Drizzle remaining dressing over top and add a few grindings of pepper.

Per serving: 643 calories, 40 grams protein, 42 grams fat, 5 grams saturated fat, 30 grams carbohydrate, 4 grams fiber, 75 milligrams cholesterol, 445 milligrams sodium

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