By Tim Hazell
Iron Age Celts (600 BC to the Christian era), are noted for their ornaments, weapons, and ritual vessels of extraordinary beauty. Their presence in Ireland centered on the Fine or clan, from the Irish/Gaelic for “children of the family.”
Ireland’s history erupts with clan relationships: liaisons, wars, and intermarriages. Gaelic Ireland was a patchwork of kin-groups or túatha ruled by a rí túaithe (king of a túath); several kin-groups or mór túath ruled by a rí mór túath; and provinces formed of several mór túatha, ruled by a provincial king.
Celts engaged in brisk trade with mainland Europe in Roman times, exporting textiles and basic commodities in exchange for luxury items. Before their conversion to Christianity, the Draoithe or Druids passed down Irish oral history and traditions. Beginning with Christianization in the 5th century and the first written documents, monks aided in the diffusion of poetry, music, storytelling, and literature.
The Irish fondness for drink goes back millennia. Recently discovered, an ancient Celtic brewery dates from about 500 BC. The site consists of six oblong ditches containing thousands of grains of charred barley intended for the production of high-quality malt. The resulting beer would have been opaque and cloudy, with a smoky flavor. Ireland’s Guinness, the world’s most famous dark beer or “stout,” owes its deep color and aroma to the introduction of roasted, unmalted barley. Here it infuses a rich marinade for a memorable Irish stew!
Guinness Irish Stew
3 cups Guinness stout
1 tbsp. Dijon mustard
1 tbsp. fresh rosemary
2 bay leaves
3 lbs. beef stew meat, cubed
3 tbsp. oil
3 tbsp. butter
2 large onions, peeled and sliced
3 stalks celery, chopped
3 carrots, peeled and thickly sliced
1 large potato, cubed (optional)
1/2 lb. mushrooms, scrubbed and sliced
1 tbsp. flour
3 garlic cloves, crushed
2 cups beef broth
1 cup water
2 tsp. salt
Ground black pepper to taste
1 tbsp. brown sugar
Combine Guinness, mustard, rosemary, and bay leaves in a large bowl. Add beef cubes. Toss to combine ingredients. Cover and marinate in refrigerator overnight. Drain the meat and reserve marinate. Measure flour onto a plate. Season to taste with a touch of salt, pepper, and rosemary. Add beef cubes and coat with the flour mixture. In a large skillet, melt 1 tbsp. butter and oil and brown the meat for three to five minutes. Transfer to a casserole dish. Do not clean the skillet. Gradually add the remaining butter and oil. Fry the onions until translucent and slightly browned. Add to the casserole. Repeat the process for the celery, garlic cloves, carrots, mushrooms, and potatoes (if used) and add to the casserole, followed by the marinade, beef stock, water, and sugar. Simmer for two hours, partially covered, until meat is tender, stirring occasionally. Add more Guinness or beef broth if liquid looks too reduced. Taste and correct seasoning. Garnish with parsley. Serve with traditional apple mash, colcannon, or potato leek bake.