I trust that by now you're all nursing your post-post-St. Patrick's Day hangovers. And here is, in this author's humble opinion, the perfect, hangover-salving meal.
306. The Irish Club's Irish Stew (Dinner)
307. Birthday Cake (Basics etc.)
The choice of Irish stew is a pretty obvious one, I must admit. But the birthday cake is more of a stretch. You see, in the run-up to St. Paddy's day, my friend DG made a dreamy-looking version of Nigella's Chocolate Guinness Cake. Ever since she showed me the gorgeous photo, I'd been craving it. Bad. I didn't have any chocolate cake. And unfortunately for me, the Chocolate Guinness Cake is in Feast, not How to Eat. Help was at hand though, with Nigella's chocolate birthday cake, in the Basics etc. chapter of How to Eat. Phew!
The birthday cake is a pretty basic double-layered chocolate cake, covered in a ganache. To make the cake, you melt butter, chocolate, sugar and condensed milk together, and then stir it into sifted flour and cocoa together, followed by 100ml recently-boiled water and 2 eggs.
I put the cake into 2 sandwich tins, and baked it at 180C for 25 minutes. While it was baking, I got on with the stew.
Nigella's Irish stew consists of layers of ingredients. Firstly browned lamb chops, then vegetables (carrots, onions, parsnips), then par-boiled pearl barley. Between the layers you sprinkle a mixture of parsley, sage and rosemary.
Then you pour some warm stock over, and cover the whole lot with thinly sliced potatoes.
It only take 1.5 hours in a 160C oven,which is a lot less than some of the other stews I've made. After it's cooked, there's the option of browning the potatoes under the grill, which I chose to do. Nigella says that the whole point of the stew is that it needs no accompaniment, except for a lot of bread and butter.
Oh my goodness, I cannot even begin to tell you how much I loved this stew! I love a stew at any time, but this one was especially divine. The meat had softened during cooking, and all the flavours melded together fantastically. Even the parsnips, which I normally don't like, tasted good in this context. Both my mother and I ate heroic quantities, and went back to dunk our bread in the delicious sauce. There's just something about the richly flavoured, fattily gelatinous sauce coating the pearly grains of barley which keeps you going back for more.
Fortunately, the dessert was just as good, although I didn't end up eating it until much later at night. I iced the cake while the stew was in the oven, and left it sitting, majestically, on our kitchen bench. The icing is a chocolate ganache - equal quantities of chocolate (half dark, half milk) and cream. You chop up the chocolate into fine rubble, then heat up the cream and pour it over. Let it sit for 5 minutes, and then beat it with an electric mixer until thick and smooth. Ideally, I imagine that you would start by slicing the cakes flat, leaving you with a perfectly flat surface upon which to pour your ganache, letting it set glossily with minimum interference from a spatula. In this way, the finished product would be a hat-box shaped, "sachertorte shiny" affair.
However, I never bother to slice the domed top of my cakes flat. (That's laziness and greed in equal measure). And putting two domed cakes together results in some excess space which needs to be filled. I poured most of the ganache on top of the cakes, and then whipped up the rest quite stiff before spreading it around the sides to fill in the gaps.
So as you can see, the result isn't a perfect one, but I hardly think that you'd turn your nose up at it. In fact, when you really, really need chocolate, any old thing will do.
As I said previously, I didn't get to eat any cake until a bit later that evening. As soon as lunch was over, I had to dash to the train station to get to work. I cut a couple of slices, stashed them in an old tofu container, and took them to work to eat on my break. One for me, one for my friend-slash-workmate Daniel (emphatically NOT my brother), who just loves to eat chocolate cake. We ate them out the back, on nice serving plates, sprinkled with cocoa from the cocoa duster we use for cappuccinos. Rocking.
Daniel: That is an amazingly chocolatey cake.
Too right. I'm taking the cake around to share with other friends and family, so stay tuned for another post on the verdict of the cake!