Beer and Curry Pairing: Irish Stew with Japanese Influence
My husband and I enjoy participating as home stay sponsors for foreign exchange programs. One of the many benefits from these programs is sharing meals with our guests. It is one of the better ways to quickly transcend any language barrier.
We prepare “American” meals for them, and generally during the visit, they reciprocate by preparing a traditional meal from their culture. I am always struck by the fact that in meal preparation – as well as our cultures in general – there are far more similarities than differences.
Blending International Recipes
One fine example is a meal that one of our exchange students from Japan prepared. It was her mother’s recipe, and very tasty. It also was our introduction to seasoning with curry. As I watched her prepare this dish – a beef stew with curry added – I realized that I could have been watching my own Irish mother preparing the meal. The recipe’s ingredients were nearly identical to Mom’s Irish stew, sans the curry.
What I enjoyed about Nana’s curry and beef stew was the hot bite of the curry and full body of the dish. It had a thicker sauce, which made it more similar to a New England chowder base consistency, then Mom’s thinner Irish stew. (By the way, Nana is our student’s name, not to be confused with a grandmother or senior member of the family. In the Japanese language, Nana means “seven,” which is her birth date: February 7th. I love learning about other cultures, don’t you? )
St. Patrick’s Day, Irish Stew, Beer and Curry
Did I mention my Irish heritage? Ah yes, any excuse for a party. When the next Saint Patrick’s Day came around, I decided to add some international flavor – literally – to the family’s standard Irish stew. Now, my recipe had already been “Americanized” a bit. Instead of lamb or mutton, I used beef. I already had introduced beer into the ingredients because, well, I’m Irish and it seemed like the thing to do. (The beer adds a very nice subtle taste, merging well with the barley flavor.) Even with those adaptations, I strove to honor the Mc Clennon traditions.
What happened when curry was added to the mix? It was a great combination! (The Mc Clennon clan would be proud.) Since then, I have experimented with different beers, but I always stay with the same curry. Nana introduced us to curry that comes in condensed bricks which can be purchased at grocery stores featuring a large Asian food selection. (Any of the available brands work fine.) I prefer using the curry brick over curry powder, but either works well with this recipe.
For the choice of beer…did I mention that I’m Irish? I began with Guinness, a popular Irish dry stout. It left a slightly heavy taste. The past few years, I switched to Red Ales. Recently I discovered Molings Traditional Red Ale, from Carlow Brewing Company, in (no surprise here) Carlow, Ireland. Lighter then the stout, it leaves a milder fruit flavor and hint of malt, which compliments (and controls) the snappy flavor of the curry. The beef and vegetables anchor the more extreme flavors of the beer and curry, making this dish a simple, yet full-bodied recipe fit for any festive holiday table or served as a warming meal on a cold, winter’s day.
Variations to the Theme
Stew meat: There are many ways to play with this basic stew recipe. For a stronger meat flavor, use the traditional lamb or mutton meat instead of beef. (Mutton is less tender then lamb, but fatter and more flavorful.) Buffalo meat also can be used. (It’s very low in fat content and strong in flavor.)
Beer: Experiment with beer choices. You might want to start with more full-bodied stouts or red ales. Even though I haven’t tried them with this recipe, lager or cream ales may work well, depending on your personal preference. In fact, trying different beers is a particularly fun part of this great cooking experience. Oh! Be sure to buy enough extra ale to serve as the beverage of choice with the meal.
Curry: I always use the condensed curry brick. It dissolves quickly in the stock, and adds a texture that I don’t find with curry powder. Having said that, curry powder is also a fine choice. Again, base it on your personal preference. Note that if the curry tastes too spicy (hot), add a little beer to calm it down.
Recipe for Beer and Curry Irish Stew
- 1 cup barley
- 2 quarts (8 cups) water, (divided, 1 quart each)
- 2 pounds stew meat (cubed)
- 4 large potatoes, peeled amp; cubed
- 2 large onions, peeled amp; diced
- 4 large celery stocks, diced4 medium carrots, diced
- 2 cloves garlic, finely diced
- 1 cup (8 oz.) Molings Traditional Ale beer
- 2 tablespoons curry powder or 1-2 cube(s) from curry brick
- 2 tablespoons parsley
- 2 teaspoons sea salt
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- Simmer barley in quart (4 cups) of water while preparing other ingredients.
- Prepare meat and vegetables. (Note: meat is not browned in traditional Irish stews.)
- Arrange in covered stockpot or Dutch oven: vegetables at the bottom, meat on top.
- Add softened barley and its liquid to the meat and vegetables in the pot. (Do not stir.)
- Add remaining water and Molings Traditional Red Ale to pot. (Do not stir.)
- Add curry to the stock water (break up cubes). (Do not stir.)
- Add parsley, salt and pepper over top of ingredients. (Do not stir.)
- Cover the stock pot or Dutch oven, bring to boil, and then immediately turn to low heat.
- Simmer for 2 hours, or until meat is tender and vegetables are cooked.
- Serve hot with homemade biscuits and Molings Traditional Pale Ale.
Preparation time: 30 minutes
Cooking time: 2 hours
Servings: Family of six (or two Irishmen)