Ploughman's lunch

Ploughman's lunch

Seeking an easy, filling lunch without sparking up the stove on a warm summer day—maybe a perfect option for a picnic? Look no further than the Ploughman’s. There’s a reason the classics stick around. Hearty, simple and delicious, the Ploughman’s lunch was just a formalization of a meal enjoyed by working folks and a marketing ploy by the Cheese Bureau to push their product in the UK during the 1950s. Essentially the Cheese Board took the tradition of scavenging around the home for whatever bits a farmer could throw together for sustenance, gave it a name and ensured cheese was in the definition (after the World War’s rationing of the delectable stuff). And it stuck.

There are arguments back and forth about what exactly is entailed in a traditional Ploughman’s, but the basics often include cheese, rustic crusty bread, pickles and an apple. At Irish Food Revolution, we figure it doesn’t matter all that much. After all, our focus is on the changing culinary landscape in Ireland. So we like to play loose with this meal, with no apologies to the few stubborn traditionalists. We figure, if you like it, throw it on the plate and if you don’t, leave it off.

For our sample, we’ve combined a lot of the traditional Ploughman’s offerings, but feel free to toss in whatever you have lying around. One of the reasons this meal works so well is that there’s sweet, salty and sour. Plus, items like pickles, fruit, greens and berries cleanse the palate after a bite of the fatty offerings. (It also helps to clear out the fridge.)

Some people will insist that you eat the meal with your hands, that the only cutlery needed is a knife for the cheese and condiments, but if you want a fork, have at it.

Included in our pictured sample:

  • Thick cut ham
  • Boiled eggs (cover uncooked eggs in cold water, bring to a boil, remove from heat and cover for 12 minutes, then soak in cold water to stop the cooking)
  • Buttered brown soda bread
  • Pickles
  • Pea shoots
  • Bleu cheese
  • Cheddar
  • Dijon mustard
  • Chutney (pictured is cranberry apple)
  • Gooseberries (also called Golden Berries)
  • Perhaps most importantly, a pint of ale or stout

Other possibilities? Try any combination of an apple, pickled onions, cold sausages, just about any type of greens, olives, prosciutto, turkey or chicken, pork pie, hard cider instead of beer, cole slaw, tomato, beet root, any type of berry, celery, carrots or cucumber. And if you’re a teetotaler, by all means substitute tea for the alcohol. It’s all about making a quick meal you’ll really appreciate.

"Mighty" Beef Stew

Mighty beef stew

We love beef stew and for the past year, have wanted to create our own version. So finally here is our stew! It turned out “mighty” good. Beara Irish Brewing Company is a local brewer, who uses imported Irish barley for their beers. Owners Michael and Louise Potorti have roots in the Beara Peninsula in County Cork (Louise is from there). So they are huge fans of the farm to table movement both here and in Ireland. Using local brews and local beef (from Tendercrop Farm) was the perfect combination for our vision as well here at Irish Food Revolution.

If you cannot find a strong local brew for yours, then Guinness works just as well, of course. However, Beara Irish Brew’s “Mighty” does have a stronger flavor than Guinness, which we loved in this stew. It added a zestier ale taste to the stew. If you live in the Seacoast New Hampshire area, then we highly recommend snagging Mighty. They are brewing a new batch as we speak!

Before heading to the recipe, a word about Dutch ovens, which are the best things on the planet. For years, we swooned over the Le Creuset versions, which were out of our price range. However, we found Lodge Cast Iron that makes great Dutch ovens for a very reasonable price.

Mighty stout from Beara Irish Brewing

Serves 6-8 (great for leftovers!)

  • 3 ½ pounds of grass fed beef, buy pre-cut or cut into 1 and1/2 inch pieces (grass fed is expensive, yes. But the more we read, the more convincing the argument. It is simply better for our bodies.)
  • 4 Tbs of vegetable oil
  • l large yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 Tbs tomato paste
  • 2 minced garlic cloves
  • 2 ¾ cups of organic beef stock
  • ¼ cup of all purpose flour
  • 1 ¼ cups of Beara Irish Brew Mighty (or similar dark brew)
  • Fresh thyme (4-5 sprigs, leaves only)
  • 1 ½ pounds of Yukon Gold Potatoes, unpeeled, cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 1 pound of peeled carrots, sliced into 1 inch long pieces

1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees (adjust the oven rack to lower middle of oven)

2. In a large bowl, mix the beef with 2 Tbs of oil and flour until fully coated. Heat the remainder of the oil in a large Dutch oven (6 quarts).

3. Brown the beef in the Dutch oven for about 8 minutes. Add in chopped onions, garlic, thyme, and cook another 5-8 minutes or so. Add in tomato paste and cook another 2 minutes. Stir often during these steps.

4. Stir in beef stock and ¾ cup of ale, scraping off the bottom brown bits in the Dutch oven. Bring to a boil and then put in the oven for 80-90 minutes.

5. Take it out of the oven, add in carrots, and stir. Return to the oven. Cook for 15 more minutes.

6. Take it out of the oven, add in potatoes, remaining ale, and stir. Return to the oven. Cook for 45-50 more minutes.

7. Serve with bread and eat!

Enjoy with a slice of rye bread

Pub sandwiches

Party sandwiches

So the big rugby match is on and you’re looking for something simple and satisfying. Maybe some friends are coming over for tea and you don’t have time to run to the store. Rest assured, the Irish have an answer and there’s a good chance you already have the ingredients: party sandwiches. These little goodies are proof that the simplest foods can be the tastiest.

I’m making three types — egg, cucumber and ham — and they’ll be scarfed down by the score. Vegan friendly butter can be substituted on the cucumber sandwiches to accommodate vegan friends.

Traditionally the Irish have used white bread for these bites, but increasingly you’ll find healthier options. I’ve used seeded rye for the extra flavor.

Ingredients (makes three sandwiches)

  • 2 peeled hard boiled eggs (I place eggs in a pot covered in cool water, bring just to a boil, remove from heat and cover with a towel for 12 minutes)
  • Sliced ham
  • Cucumber
  • Butter
  • Bread
  • 2 Tablespoons Mayonnaise
  • Dill weed
  • Salt

Slice crusts off bread

Egg salad

For the egg sandwich:
Dice eggs and combine in bowl with mayonnaise, a pinch and a half of dill weed and a dash of salt. Spoon egg mixture onto one slice of bread (there will be a little leftover); cover with second slice of bread.

For the ham sandwich:
Cut several layers of thinly sliced ham to fit the bread; place them flat on one slice of bread; butter second slice generously and cover.

For the cucumber sandwich:
Cut cucumber into ¼“ slices (or paper thin if you prefer); layer on first slice of bread; butter second slice generously and cover.

Quarter each sandwich and serve.

Party sandwiches open

Grilled Veg Cottage Pie (aka Sunken Cottage Pie)


Serves 5-6

I was planning on focusing on lighter fare this week; however, the recent cold snap we had here in New England demands a warming, comforting meal. And a cottage pie is perfect! Cottage pie is quite similar to shepherds pie, except it uses ground beef as opposed to ground lamb.

I prepared the meal for a dinner party, and the guests said I could quote them: "Absolutely delicious!" And they asked for seconds so that must be a good sign! It certainly is serious comfort food! And makes for tasty leftovers.

A few tips and lessons learned:

I had a slight mishap - the filling bubbled over the potato/cauliflower topping as it cooked. I believe the mashed mixture was too cool and did not spread over the beef easily – gaps were left around the edges of the pie. Make sure the topping completely covers the filling and you should be fine. If not….call it Sunken Cottage Pie! Still tastes great!

Also, you’ll also want to make sure you leave enough time to grill the vegetables. With one small grilling pan, it took me a good hour and a half working in stages. You will need a grilling pan, available at most kitchen stores.

Roasting Option: If grilling is not an option, you can roast the vegetables. Grilling adds a certain smoky complexity, which is lovely. But roasting works too! Usually 400° for 20-25 minutes does the trick. First toss all the veggies with oil and salt. You can work on the filling while they roast. Take them out and turn the oven down to 350°. Then follow the directions for after grilling.


(To make roux: melt 4 tablespoons butter in a saucepan over low heat; blend in ½ cup all purpose flour and stir for 2-3 minutes.)

For the topping

  • 2½ lbs. white potatoes, rinsed, peeled and cut into 1½” chunks
  • 1 head cauliflower rinsed and cut into bite sized pieces (a bit smaller than potatoes)
  • 3½ tablespoons vegetable oil
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 lb. parsnips rinsed, peeled and cut into small bite sized pieces
  • 1¾ cup organic whole milk
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons chopped chives
  • ½ cup grated pecorino romano cheese
  • 2 tablespoons chopped parsley

For the filling
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 1 medium onion
  • 1½ lbs. lean grass fed ground beef (90 percent)
  • 2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves
  • ¾ cup red wine
  • 1¾ cups organic beef stock
  • 1 cup frozen pea/carrot mix
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon HP sauce (available at Irish import shops) or steak sauce of your choice
  • 1½ tablespoons tomato paste
  • Roux (see above)
  • Salt and pepper

Prepare roux. Preheat oven to 350° F.

Grilling Method (see above tips for roasting option)

Parboil potatoes and cauliflower for 7 minutes. Remove them from the pot with a hand strainer and place in a large strainer to fully drain, reserving the boiled water. Working in two batches, place potato/cauliflower mix into a sealable gallon plastic bag with 1½ tablespoons vegetable oil and ⅛ teaspoon salt. Shake to coat and place in large bowl. Repeat with the second batch.


Working in small batches, cook the potato/cauliflower mix in a grill pan on a grill set to high (550-600° F) until well charred (about 15 minutes) stirring often, placing the cooked veg in a large bowl. The grill lid should remain closed except for stirring. (This process could take an hour or more, so pour a glass of wine and add slowly to mouth. Repeat as necessary.)

When about half the vegetables are done grilling, return the water to a boil and parboil the parsnips for 6 minutes, straining. Set milk and butter on countertop to warm to room temperature.

When the potato/cauliflower mix is fully grilled, reduce the grill to medium-high (450-500° F) and toss the parsnips in ½ tablespoon vegetable oil and sprinkle with a pinch of salt, using the gallon bag method if desired. Grill the parsnips in the grill pan until well charred (about 8 minutes) stirring often.

After grilling or roasting….

Heat olive oil over medium heat in Dutch oven or large oven-safe pot. Add garlic and onion and sauté until onions are soft and becoming translucent. Add the ground beef and thyme, breaking up the beef with the back of a wooden spoon and cook until the meat is browned. Add the wine, half the beef stock, Worcestershire sauce, HP sauce, tomato paste, parsnips and pea/carrot mix. Bring to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes.

Mash the roasted or grilled potato/cauliflower/parsnip mixture with the milk and butter, adding more milk if needed for a rough mashed consistency. Mix in chives. Taste and season with pepper and more salt if needed.


Add the remaining beef stock to the filling and bring to a boil, adding the roux as needed to thicken. It should be thick, but juicy. Spread potato/cauliflower mixture on top, making sure to completely cover the filling so it doesn’t bubble up over the top. Spread cheese over the top and bake for half hour or until the top is golden and slightly crispy.

Sprinkle with fresh parsley before serving.

An Irish Breakfast


Beginnings, fresh starts, warmth, comfort – breakfast has all these connotations for me. I feel there is no better way to embark on our journey than for Irish Food Revolution’s inaugural blog post to feature breakfast. And the Irish do it right.

It is no wonder that James Joyce begins Ulysses with the morning meal playing such an important role. Leopold Bloom starts his celebrated day on a quest to find and cook a pork kidney for his breakfast. No kidneys will be fried up in the making of this blog; however, Bloom’s satisfaction with the kidney’s earthiness and decadence seems to transcend a single breakfast, speaking to the importance of a hearty meal for the Irish.

Breakfast was actually my indoctrination to Irish food over twenty years ago, and after embarking from any plane trip back to Ireland, I always head out for the quintessential Irish fry up (for restaurant suggestions head to the ever-growing locator page). But at home, I make it myself; it brings me back twenty years to my first day in Ireland.

What I’m creating here is one possible version and does not include black or white pudding, but the Irish sausage, Irish beans, and fried tomato do it for me!

For a simple nod to an Irish Breakfast, and I stress simple:

1. Fry up the following (I use Kerrygold butter rather than oil for a truly decadent experience):

  • Half a fresh, ripe organic tomato- till it is soft and has a nice crust
  • One cage free, organic egg- made to your liking
  • Two Irish sausages (you can find links to online Irish food sales on the locator page-if there aren’t any stores near you that sell any). Heat the sausage until it reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees. The sausage needs to be golden brown all over.

2. Warm up some authentic Irish canned beans- I bought my can of Batchelors at a local Irish shop. They use tomato in the beans, which gives them a distinctive flavor.

3. Serve with soda bread or brown bread with more butter (and even a bit of honey too).

4. And plate.

Note about beverage

No Irish breakfast is complete without a cup of tea. In Chapter 1 alone of Ulysses, tea is mentioned ten times as Joyce’s alter ego, Stephen Dedalus, eats his breakfast. And Clodagh McKenna has a wonderful recipe for an authentic cup of tea in her book, Clodagh’s Irish Kitchen. But one simple directive: you must use a kettle and bring the water to a rolling boil before pouring over tea bags or leaves. The tea flavor will be that much richer!

At this moment, I am actually craving a cup of tea-so until next week, where I will explore great breakfast alternatives.

Here is to your own new beginnings. May they bring you joy.