Nigella Lawson's St. Patrick's Day Baking Tip: Guinness There's so much more to St. Patrick's Day food than Irish soda bread and corned beef and cabbage. Celebrity chef Nigella Lawson shares some delectable recipes for a holiday feast you'll want to raise a glass to.
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Nigella's St. Patrick's Baking Tip: Just Add Guinness

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Nigella's St. Patrick's Baking Tip: Just Add Guinness

Nigella's St. Patrick's Baking Tip: Just Add Guinness

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LINDA WERTHEIMER, host:

Since the wearing of the green is nearly upon us, we thought we'd take a few minutes to talk about what to eat on St. Patrick's Day. There's the traditional corned beef and cabbage and Irish soda bread, if your tastes run in that direction. And, of course, St. Patrick's Day has long been known as a day when many like to dye beer green and drink a lot of it.

But there are many delicious ways to celebrate Ireland's patron saint that go beyond a drop or two of Jameson, or a pint of Guinness.

And the food writer, Nigella Lawson - and yes, she is a Brit - is here with us this morning, to offer a few slightly revisionist suggestions.

Welcome to the program.

Ms. NIGELLA LAWSON (Food Writer): I like the idea of being a revisionist...

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. LAWSON: ...in this context. I think anything that doesnt issue an edict to dye you beer green and drink a lot of it is a good revisionist, as far as Im concerned.

(Soundbite of laughter)

WERTHEIMER: Before we get any further, I should mention that you're not entirely opposed to Guinness. And, in fact...

Ms. LAWSON: Oh, not at all.

WERTHEIMER: ...we hear that you have an unconventional and very good use for it. But let's with the main course: Irish stew. You write that until you tried the version that is made at the Irish Club in London, you weren't really that fond of the dish. What was wrong with it?

Ms. LAWSON: Well, really, the Irish stew was very commonplace when I was growing up. But what it consisted of was some scraggy, fatty bits of lamb, and a lot of water, and potatoes either overcooked or not cooked enough on top. I think it was what something that children were just given to eat.

And if I think of the meals that I was sat at a table at, and being told you have to sit there till you finish it, I think Irish stew is what I rather think of.

But sadly, the Irish Club, which was a huge sort of historical and iconic place in London, is no more. So Im rather glad that I got to taste their Irish stew and get the recipe from them.

WERTHEIMER: Now, they did two things that people dont usually do. One is including veal stock, which, you know, I mean you got to round those bones and cook them for hours.

Ms. LAWSON: No. No. No, there I must stop you because Im a lazy person and I'm very happy to get my veal broth out of a jar, provided it's good quality. You know, a jar or so of that will make it seem as if you've got 30 employed, cutting up bones and brining them for you. And, in fact, you just open a jar and that makes a real difference.

WERTHEIMER: You also in this recipe use lamp chops, little rib chops.

Ms. LAWSON: I do. The bone gives you so much flavor, as it cooks slowly. I mean it doesn't make for dainty eating. But it's such sort of wonderful robust, sort of rapturously robust stew, really, that I think it's okay to take out each little chop as you eat it, and gnaw away and fling the bones away into the fireplace.

(Soundbite of laughter)

WERTHEIMER: Here's something that has always concerned me. And that is that these stewy dishes, very often I can get the gravy right. But I dont get the meat right. The meat turns out stringy and horrible even if it went in lovely.

Ms. LAWSON: Well, these days, and I think this is probably more common stateside, the meat is too lean. And I think in order for meat to be cooked long and slowly, to get tender and yielding, it needs to have fat in it. And I think that where butcher do not exist, fat fades, take over meat packaging.

(Soundbite of laughter)

WERTHEIMER: You write that the stew needs nothing to accompany it but bread. And you sent us a potato bread recipe. How would that go with the stew?

Ms. LAWSON: Well, any bread - I mean and certainly a soda bread, which is very simple would go in the stew. But this potato bread is so exceptionally good because there's - it's got a tenderness, I mean and robustness and also a tang, which is partly due to just a teeny bit of - either you can use Greek yogurt or you can use buttermilk.

But there's something about potatoes in bread which it seems to give a spring in the step of the loaf. I mean sometimes when you make bread at home, you feel wonderful and it looks wonderful, but it has a certain heaviness and you think it could actually be classified as a weapon.

Whereas when you put potato into it, something - you'd think it would make it heavier, but it gives it a kind of bounce.

WERTHEIMER: Also, I guess it gives a kind of an Irishness.

Ms. LAWSON: Ah, certainly does.

WERTHEIMER: Let's get to the Guinness.

Ms. LAWSON: Yes. Yes, the heart of the matter.

WERTHEIMER: It's not for drinking on this menu. It's an essential ingredient in your Chocolate Guinness Cake.

Ms. LAWSON: Indeed.

WERTHEIMER: What does Guinness do for cake?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. LAWSON: Well, I suppose, if you think of stout and what it has, which is an almost sort of licorice intensity, when you mix that with chocolate, it gives it more complexity. There's a lot going on and it's kind of a grown-up cake.

WERTHEIMER: Im looking at the picture in the book, and - in your cookbook, and the frosting does look a little bit like sort of a creamy head on a pint.

Ms. LAWSON: When I did the frosting, I did very much aim for that. Although I mean Im not sure I get employed to pull a pint on this strength of the proportions of froth to body of bear. And actually, it is delicious like that. But it's sort of very good just with a light dusting of powdered sugar.

And why I loves this cake as well, is that it's very easy to make because instead of mixing it up in a bowl, you just melt everything together in a big pan on the stove.

WERTHEIMER: Well, I like that. Now, we dont want to ignore completely the fact that people do like to drink things that are green on St. Patrick's Day. So your suggestion is a minty martini?

Ms. LAWSON: Well, it's a minty martini which in a way I feel is always obligatory to drink on St. Patrick's Day, because it's called Emerald Isle. And what you add to, say, what is a regular shot of gin is a teaspoon of green cr�me de menthe. And I put a few drops of bitters.

And, you know, if youve got a cocktail shaker, you know, shake it about with ice or you could put two glasses together. Or frankly, you could just mix it in a glass and put some ice in.

It sounds like an odd drink and you certainly wouldn't want to be knocking back pints of the stuff. But when everyone else is drinking, you know, a lot of green beer, this is an elegant martini to have that shows you're in the spirit. And actually it's enormously refreshing, I love the way that the cr�me de menthe gives you a bit of a sort of a sudden sparkle.

WERTHEIMER: Nigella Lawson is the author of several cookbooks, and most recently a holiday cookbook, "Nigella Christmas."

Nigella Lawson, thank you very much.

Ms. LAWSON: And the top of the morning to you.

(Soundbite of laughter)

WERTHEIMER: There's still time to cook for St. Patrick's Day. You'll find recipes for Guinness cake and Irish stew at our Web site, NPR.org.

This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Im Linda Wertheimer.

RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

And Im Renee Montagne

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