Slow Days: Lamb Stew for Saint Patrick’s Day

People who are new to Fasting often pose the questions: “Can I really eat ‘anything I want’ on a Slow Day?” and “What should I eat on Slow Days?” To answer those questions, I have decided to add some blog posts to show some of the foods we eat on what the world calls NFDs [non-fast days] but which, in our house, we call ‘Slow Days.’ This feature will appear sporadically. 

Now for the answers. Can you really eat ANYTHING you want on a Slow Day? Not really. If you eat too many calories every Slow Day, you will not lose weight. There are many questions asked on the Fast Diet Forum which attest to that. Once in a while you can splurge, as long as it isn’t everyday. For what to eat on Slow Days, Dr. Mosley recommends a Mediterranean Diet. As for how we eat, an example follows.

Saint Patrick’s Day is an occasion that demands to be celebrated with special foods. No, not green beer. No, it doesn’t have to be Corned Beef & Cabbage. Look in most common cook books [James Beard, Fannie Farmer, Joy of Cooking, et alia] for ‘Irish Stew’ and you will find that it is made of lamb. Thus lamb, even better, lamb stew is appropriate for March 17th. When young Patrick was enslaved in Ireland, he worked as a shepherd — so there’s another reason to celebrate good Patrick with lamb. Most recipes are really plain and basic: cubed raw lamb, cubed potatoes, sliced onions, water, salt. We tried many of those recipes, and although they are surely authentic, they are just plain DULL.

How happy we were to find this recipe in the book Salute to Healthy Cooking by the French Culinary Institute! We prepare a large batch periodically, and serve it twice a year: on St Patrick’s Day in March and also in December during the run-up to Christmas. Lamb has much symbolic significance to Christians, so serving it during Lent and Advent makes sense to us.

Lamb Stew for two can double or triple!Need: saute pan + Dutch oven with lid + non-stick pan 
½ pound boneless lamb shoulder, cubed cooking spray
salt + pepper
Sear lamb cubes on all sides in a heavy pan spritzed with non-stick spray or oil. Cook meat in batches so pan doesn’t cool. Put cooked meat in a Dutch oven, sprinkle with salt and pepper.
½ cup onions, choppedPut onions in saute pan and cook until tranluscent with enough water to make them sizzle .
1 oz dry red wineDeglaze pan with wine, stirring up brown bits.
Heat the oven to 350 F. 
¾ tsp white whole wheat flour
water ½ Tbsp tomato paste
Sprinkle deglazed pan with flour and stir. Add to lamb in Dutch oven.
Add enough cold water to go to top of the lamb but not cover it. Stir in tomato paste.
1 tsp thyme  1 bay leafAdd herbs. Heat to a simmer over medium heat. Cover casserole and put in oven. Bake 1 hourmaking sure stew is not boiling. 
¾ c. carrots, cut in 2” batonsAdd carrots, cover pan, bake 15 minutes.
½ cup cubed potatoesAdd potatoes, cover pan, bake 45 minutes. Remove bay leaf. 
Salt + pepperAdd salt and pepper. Take off heat and cover until vegetables are cooked.
6 pearl onions, trimmed and peeled 1 cup/5 oz turnips, in 2” batons
water ½ tsp sugar  1 tsp butter
Put vegetables in a small non-stick pan with sugar and butter. Add enough water to cover the vegetables half-way up.
Simmer 10 minutes, uncovered, shaking pan occasionally. 
Plate stew with the glazed vegetables.
Here is the stew in all its glory, served with an individual Soda Bread from Friend Ann.

And while you are doing your Irish thing, the best item to go with Irish Stew is Irish Soda Bread. I usually prepare a batch in the morning, so we can enjoy them for breakfast. Then the remaining ones are served at dinner with the stew. The recipe that I use is based on the Fannie Farmer Cookbook, with a few tweaks.

Makes 12 individual biscuits or 1 large loafPreheat oven to 400F. Buttered cookie sheet.
1 cup white flour
1 cup white whole wheat flour 1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
1 Tbsp sugar
3 Tbsp butter
Cut the ingredients together, using two knives or a pastry blender.
Purists would do it with their fingers.
Non-purists might blitz this in a food processor.
½ – 1 cup raisins [black or golden] or currants 1 Tbsp caraway seedStir these into the dry mixture.
¾ cup buttermilk or soured milk – all of the milk may not be needed, or you might need moreAdd milk bit by bit, stiring with a fork, until the dough is moistened and forms a ball.
For 12 individual biscuitsRoll/pat out dough on a lightly floured surface. Cut with a 2” or 3” round cutter. Use a knife to mark an ‘X’ on top of each.
For one large loafGather the dough into a single ball, and flatten slightly. Use a knife to incise an ‘X’ on the top.
Bake at 400F 10-15 mins or 20 mins for large loaf
A portion of Irish Stew with a fruited slice of Soda Bread loaf.

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