I’ve got a big ol’ soft spot for Irish culture. It goes back to when I read Angela’s Ashes in high school. One of my favorite books. Ever. Frank McCourt’s writing is, to choose an umbrella term, saturating– Irish and American history, culture, religion, tragedy, hilarity, humility, and grayness. Lots of gray. Because, well, it is Ireland, and it rains a lot there. Which would explain my term for McCourt’s style…
His brother Malachy wrote a memoir as well, and I met him at a Borders’ where he was giving a lecture and promoting his book. Granted, in the shadow of his brother Frank, but hey, at least he was there. I was at the bookstore randomly when I saw the poster ad for his appearance that afternoon. I freaked out and decided I’d stick around. All I remember about Malachy McCourt’s speech was that Rosie O’Donnell would’ve been a more appropriate match to play his mother in the movie adaptation of Angela’s Ashes (versus Emily Watson), and the part where I raised my hand and said something in regards to the Catholic upbringing. Whatever I said made me feel proud because Mr. McCourt remarked that I was very bright. I think I was about 17. At the end of the very low key event, he bought me his own book since I didn’t have it. And signed it, of course.
How often does a writer buy his own book for you?
This Irish-inspired dish has no potatoes. No cabbage. No beef or bacon, naturally. Not even whiskey or Guinness. (Well, it does have stout, but an American one.) Because, as Angela McCourt would say to her sons Frank and Malachy, Beggars can’t be choosers.
I didn’t have any traditional St. Paddy’s Day ingredients on hand (well, carrots and onions kinda count), but thought I should still crank something out. What is Irish about this recipe is that it’s simple, comforting, resourceful, and Praise the Lard, it’s got beer in-it.
This is one of those non-recipe recipes. It doesn’t require exact ingredients, measurements, or fancy technique. So here’s the gist of it.
Vegan Irish-ish Stew
1) Take a veggie protein of your choice. I had extra firm tofu. Tempeh or seitan would be extra awesome. Slice it into stew-appropriate sizes. Then mix together some some molasses, vegan worcesteshire sauce, and apple cider vinegar. Taste test your marinade before adding the protein.
2) Then roughly chop some other vegetables. Whatever you got. Potatoes (white or sweet), parsnips, beets, leeks, eggplant, butternut squash, leafy greens, etc. As you can see in the second photo, I used carrots, onions, tomatoes and mushrooms. Beans would also be good in this stew.
3) Brown your marinated stuffs in olive oil over medium-high heat. Don’t worry about the marinade sticking to the bottom of the pot. If you’re using mushrooms, add these after your tofu/tempeh/seitan/whatever has browned, and let those cook.
4) Now it’s time to deglaze. Beer is actually pretty important to this recipe. Use a stout. Henry’s a loser and never finished this one. It’s a pretty big bottle, and it was about half full. A regular 12 oz bottle should be enough. Anywho, pour it in, and start scraping the brown bits from the bottom. Then add your other veggies, a bay leaf, a bit of thyme, salt and pepper. If you got some other herbs or spices you wanna use, be my guest.
Let the stew simmer until all the vegetables are tender, about half an hour to forty-five minutes. Taste and adjust. Perhaps it’s the work of the marinade, the beer, both, or fairies… but this broth tasted impressively beefy.
If you want to thicken things up, add some starch dissolved in a bit of cold water. Or, after you’ve browned your protein, stir in a spoonful or two of flour before adding the beer. If you use potatoes, that will help too. You can also use a combination of stout and wine for a fruitier flavor.
Enjoy with an Irish beverage, some soda bread, and watch the Secret of Kells. That movie is awesome. It has a kitty. (You could watch Angela’s Ashes, but then you’d get depressed).
Happy St. Patrick’s Day, and don’t drink green beer. That’s for frat boys. Plus, it’s probably Budweiser, Coors, or Natural Ice. Ew.