“Traditional Irish cooking is homespun, simple, comforting and hearty,” says Margaret Johnson, chef and author of seven cookbooks about Irish fare, including “The Irish Pub Cookbook,” “The New Irish Table” and, most recently, “The Irish Spirit,” in which she explores cooking with Irish spirits ($13, irishcook.com). Here, we match three Irish brews with a trio of simple dishes for a three-course St. Paddy’s Day beer dinner.
COURSE 1: Irish Cheese Board with Tomato Chutney
Fill a cheese board with Irish cheeses (Johnson suggests a selection from Kerrygold like Dubliner, Blarney Castle, Swiss, Aged and Reserve Cheddar), fresh fruit, crackers and breads and serve it alongside this spicy tomato chutney. PAIR WITH: Harp Lager
• Combine 1 cup sugar, 1½ cups cider vinegar, 2 teaspoons sea salt, 1 teaspoon crushed cardamom, 1 teaspoon ground ginger, ½ teaspoon mustard seeds and ¼ teaspoon ground cloves in a saucepan on medium-low heat; slowly bring the mixture to a boil, stirring until the sugar is dissolved.
• Add 6 to 7 quartered medium plum tomatoes and 1 chopped medium onion.
• Add 2 tablespoons minced garlic, 1 tablespoon olive oil and ½ cup golden raisins and reduce heat to a simmer.
• Cook uncovered, stirring frequently, until the mixture thickens, about 1 hour, removing tomato skins as they separate from the pulp. Season with ground pepper to taste.
• Spoon the chutney into a jar or bowl, cover and refrigerate for up to two weeks.
COURSE 2: Beef and Guinness Stew
This crowd-pleasing, Guinness-enriched beef stew can be made a day ahead and reheated in a slow cooker, which keeps it hot for your entire St. Paddy’s party. Serve it with boiled new potatoes. PAIR WITH: O’Hara’s Irish Red
• Cut 2 pounds of boneless chuck roast into 1-inch cubes, and dredge the beef chunks in flour.
• Heat 1 tablespoon oil and 1 tablespoon butter in a Dutch oven over medium heat; add half of the beef to pan and cook 5 minutes until browned on all sides, and remove beef to a plate. Repeat with remaining beef.
• Add 4 chopped medium onions to the pan and cook 3 to 5 minutes or until soft. Stir in 1 tablespoon tomato purée; cook 1 minute, stirring frequently.
• Stir in 4 cups reduced fat, low-salt beef broth and 1 11.2-ounce bottle Guinness Draught, scraping the pan to loosen browned bits.
• Return the meat to the pan. Stir in 1 teaspoon each caraway seeds and raisins, season with salt and pepper and bring to a boil.
• Cover, reduce heat and simmer 1 hour. Uncover and bring to a boil; cook 50 minutes.
• Add 1½ cups sliced carrot, 1½ cups sliced parsnips and 1 cup cubed turnips. Cover, simmer on low 30 minutes, then cook 10 to 15 minutes uncovered or until the stew is thick.
COURSE 3: Sticky Toffee Pudding with Toffee Sauce
This classic dessert is a favorite of both the English and the Irish. Some cooks suggest serving it with whipped cream, but Johnson prefers fresh strawberries. PAIR WITH: Guinness Foreign Extra Stout
• In a medium saucepan, combine ¾ cup water; 8 ounces of pitted, chopped dates; and 1 teaspoon baking soda. Bring to a boil, then remove from heat and let cool.
• Beat 8 tablespoons of butter and 2⁄3 cup granulated sugar with a mixer for 3 to 4 minutes, or until light and fluffy. Beat in 2 large eggs, one at a time, then fold in 1½ cups self-rising flour and ¼ cup milk. Fold in the dates and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract.
• Spoon the mix into a greased springform pan and bake 30 to 35 minutes at 350 degrees.
• For the toffee sauce, bring 1 cup heavy cream, 1 cup dark brown sugar and 4 tablespoons butter to a boil in a medium saucepan, then reduce heat to low and simmer 5 minutes. Stir in 2 tablespoons whiskey or Irish creme.
• Remove the pudding from the oven and immediately spoon some of the warm sauce over the top. Let cool for about 5 minutes, and then remove the sides of the pan.
• Serve slices of pudding with the remaining toffee sauce and garnish with fresh strawberries.