Beef and Guinness Irish Stew

Every picture tells a story (or so they say). Well if that’s so, this picture tells a story of Ireland …


… and brown paper bags


… in the beautiful Ring of Kerry


… and of succulent tenderness …


… with homegrown beauties …


… and Irish family brewers


… and a hot pan of steaming Irish stew.


Beef and Guinness Irish Stew

1 kg/2 lb rump or shin beef, cubed
50 g/2 oz plain flour, seasoned
sunflower oil
2 medium onions, thickly sliced
3 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
2 medium potatoes, peeled and cubed
2 large carrots, peeled and diced
1 tsp dried thyme
1 bay leaf
salt and pepper to taste
300 ml/ 1/2 pint beef stock
600 ml/ 1 pint Guinness

Roll the cubes of beef in the flour to lightly coat them, then brown them quickly in hot oil in a frying pan to seal them. Transfer to a large saucepan.

Soften the onions and garlic in the meat residue left in the frying pan, then add to the beef.

Add the potatoes, carrots, thyme, bay leaf and beef stock to the saucepan.

Deglaze the frying pan with the Guinness and add to the stew.

Bring the stew to the boil then reduce the heat and simmer for 30 minutes.

Lift the lumpy things out of the pan with a slotted spoon, then reduce the gravy to half the original volume over a high heat.

Pour the gravy over the meat and veg and serve.

(the broad beans came with us to Ireland from our garden in Devon … we had a glut before leaving and didn’t want to waste them …!)


Calling Young Chefs for CiTV Cooking Show!


It only takes a quick glance through the archives to realise that A Merrier World has grown up over the last seven years alongside my three young (and now not so young) children.

(Seven years?? I mean, really? 7?? Wow! How did that happen?)

Sorry … picking myself up from the floor again …

L (now nearly 12 years old), M (now 9 years old) and T (now 7 years old) have featured in, inspired and even written many posts during that time. Just a few examples ……

Way back in October 2007, I made Gingersnaps after taking “my younger daughter (M) and baby son (T) to a local toddler group.”

Two years later in 2009, M baked Smarties Cookies after drooling over some in a bakery window while we were out shopping.

Fast forward another couple of years to 2011 and L wrote a guest blog about her Mum’s Random Bread Recipe as part of a homework assignment she was set for the weekend.

When M was set a cross curricular challenge at school a year ago in July 2013, she also wrote a guest blog to present her Sweet Salad Trifle invention.

And earlier this year in February 2014, T revealed the secret of making the best chocolate brownies in the world in the Singing Baker Brownies.

One of my own most fondly remembered cooking sessions with my ‘kids in the kitchen’ was in September 2009 (five whole years ago!!! … sorry, I’m still in shock over the timescale) when we made Look and Cook Vegetable Soup

Last month on her seventh birthday, L read proudly to us all from her new, special Aunty-Lucy present – Look and Cook, a gloriously vintage cookbook for children by Tina Davis. Not only does this superbly illustrated book provide recipes for such evocative things as popcorn balls and forgotten cookies, L was also captivated by the various sections that name each different kitchen utensil, discuss safety in the kitchen and describe how to measure, chop, dice, boil, steam and sauté with skill.

“Now I can cook dinner for all of us,” L announced, feeling sophisticated and grown-up.

She took her job very seriously. In her role as Mummy, she knew that cakes and cookies, however tempting, were not what she should be serving to her children as their main source of nourishment. I watched as she slowly thumbed her way from the delicious puddings and sweet treats at the end of the book, through the pasta and rice of the middle sections, towards the vegetables and main dishes in the opening chapters.

Then her eyes lit up as she spotted a recipe for vegetable soup.

So … are you getting the idea that I think it’s important to involve children as much as possible in kitchen adventures? Not only is it enjoyable, educational, etc for them … but also … I mean … who wouldn’t want to be friends with someone who can bake the most sinfully sinful chocolate cake? Give your children some cooking skills and you’re setting them up for life (and a great social network at University).


I was therefore very interested when I received an email yesterday about the CiTV cooking show for children, The Munch Box, and I’m more than happy to pass on the call for young chefs to my readers …

Hi there,

I wondered if you might be able to help me in my quest to find children to take part in the next series of the hugely popular Saturday morning cooking show, ‘The Munch Box’ which is going to be filming in London during the Autumn. The show features a mix of cookery challenges alongside fun food-related games and the chance for the children to learn from a celebrity chef.

I’m looking for children aged 9-12 who love cooking, can do it on their own, and who have the confidence to come into a TV studio with two friends (who can help them out) to cook their favourite food in front of the cameras. In addition, I’d also like to speak to children of that age-range who are very vocal and have a great love of food to potentially be our ‘Masterchef’-style judges, telling the chefs what they think of their cooking! In both cases, we’re not looking for children who can sing, dance and have a background in TV performance, just children who can speak confidently and are able to cook or talk about amazing food.

As well as being fun, the children who took part in the filming last year benefitted hugely from the experience. Not only did it encourage their love of cooking, but one child became determined to improve his reading because he wanted to learn how to read complicated recipes. It really is a great experience for them so any help you can provide is hugely appreciated.

Many thanks, look forward to hearing from you soon.

I say, “Go for it!”

If you are aged 9-12 and are interested, ask a parent/guardian to send an email by Saturday 9th August to:


Great British Wind Meal


I received an unexpected invitation a few weeks ago to something called a ‘windmeal’.

Yes, that’s right. Wind. Meal. Okay, okay – snigger away. Finished? Can I continue?

Well … the invitation was not only unexpected but also unusual in that it was happening locally (and therefore accessibly) to me here in Devon. Breakfast at Tiffany’s is all well and good, but I’d have to be up very early to get there on time.

RenewableUK and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall are delighted to invite you to their Great British Wind Meal and panel discussion … To celebrate the wind industry’s role in sustaining Britiain’s farming communities RenewableUK are working with energyshare and food campaigner Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall to host a roundtable discussion and meal where the ingredients are from farms and suppliers powered by wind energy.

By now I was more than interested, and the deal was sealed when I read the menu (see below*) for the seasonal wind-powered lunch at the River Cottage Canteen and Deli on Plymouth’s Royal William Yard.


And so that’s how I found myself arriving at Mount Edgcumbe House on the Cornish side of the River Tamar yesterday morning. Putting aside memories of the SW Coast Path marathon that doubled as our honeymoon, I joined a group of around 50 delegates keen to discover the advantages of wind power in the context of UK farming.

A panel of experts was equally keen to tell us.

The discussion was chaired by Bill Martin, the Editor of the Western Morning News. He highlighted the salience of the event by pinpointing wind turbines as the number 1 point of discussion in the newspaper’s letters pages. I’m guessing that most of those letters go something like this

“Wake up people of course farmers think its a great idea to have a sodding great wind turbine on their land because they then get all their electricty paid for by every other electricty bill payer in the area inculding their family, friends and neighbours and whilst they are driving around in their brand new 4X4 they have just bought with the thousands of pounds of YOUR MONEY you are all struggling to pay your electricty bill and freezing your nuts off!!” [sic]

Maf Smith, Deputy CEO of RenewableUK set the scene however with a call to rise above the adversarial debates about wind power. Rather than circle acrimoniously around the contentious (and easily refutable) issues of house prices, infrasound and net energy costs, the central questions should be those that recognise the complex and subtle nuances of a mature, informed discussion about the key concerns. Where will our energy come from in the future? How will we create that? Who will benefit? How do communities get involved?

But further, what are the links between wind and food? Why do we need a banquet to celebrate food produced with green energy?


Maf Smith explained that the actions of farmers are important – these are people who know about energy. Not only are food and energy global products with the produce of farmers meeting the calorific needs of consumers, but also energy is a significant cost on most farms. From building insulation to lighting, heating systems, pumps, ventilation, water heating and milk cooling, wind power is one of the ways in which farmers and producers can bring down their energy costs, lower their carbon footprint and provide an additional source of much-needed income.

As a fuel, wind costs nothing. This allows farmers to sidestep the butterfly effect of changing energy prices and concentrate their efforts on the provision of quality produce.

Nicky Conway, Principal Sustainability Advisor from Forum for the Future, acknowledged that smaller farms that don’t have the capital or size are taking on a big risk if they invest in generating their own renewable energy. She emphasized that it has to be about “the right technology on the right farm at the right scale.” Although, as Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall highlighted, wind power is hardly a new concept and wind turbines should be seen as a vital and normal part of the future, nobody on the panel yesterday was advocating a wholesale blanket approach to the installation of wind turbines across the country.

I can hear some mumbled coughing in the background. Harumpph subsdiharumphies.

Okay. Perhaps it’s not so mumbled. Yes, it’s coming across loud and clear

“In the most part, for ‘UK farmers’ read ‘extremely wealthy UK landowners who already benefit from obscene levels of agricultural subsidies’.”

It is at exactly this point that it is easy to fly away on emotive-driven wings of narrative. The issue is neither as black nor as white as sources on either side of the debate often attempt to portray. While it is true that all forms of renewable energy generation benefit from specific government support, the ‘external’ subsidies related to power generation from conventional fuel sources are usually not included in the calculations. Pollution, fuel spills, accidents, clean ups, health costs … when these costs are not covered by the industry responsible, then they are effectively subsidised by society through taxation.

Robin Hanbury-Tenison provided a compelling example of how wind power can become ‘an additional crop’ for farmers. Renowned explorer, author and hill farmer on Bodmin Moor in Cornwall, Robin’s farm hosts a wind turbine, solar array and an electric car. Each year, he exports enough energy into the grid to power around 30 households.


And so, armed with this new set of information and questions, I stepped onto the ferry that would carry me across the water to Plymouth’s Royal William Yard. Whilst originally having accepted the invitation to the Great British Wind Meal largely on the basis of the deliciously tempting menu that was dangled in front of me, I was now entering the River Cottage Canteen with a different focus. Yes, the food was superb (aka Wow, Drool, OMG I’m in heaven) … but the concept of the meal took on a greater meaning through being able to sit, chat and mingle with not only the 50 or so delegates but also with the speakers, organisers, farmers and producers who had combined to present such an informative, entertaining and, above-all, thought-provoking day.


* The Great British Wind Meal was a completely unique meal, with the menu specially put together by River Cottage Canteen and Deli Plymouth. The menu was designed with consideration for the ingredients supplied by its donors, with remaining ingredients locally sourced, using River Cottage knowledge and expertise.

Vine House Farm organic cauliflower soup with Lincolnshire Poacher fritter
Lower Gazegill Farm pork terrine with spiced pear chutney


Vine House Farm butternut squash, Greenvale potato gnocchi, merguez spice and
Dewlay Garstang blue cheese
Sheepdrove Organic Farm lamb, parsnip and thyme gratin, green sauce


St Helen’s Farm goat’s yoghurt panna cotta with Vine House Farm honey
Caramelised apple tart with Mackie’s traditional ice cream & Yummy Yorkshire vanilla
ice cream


Selection of beer from Wold Top Brewery specially matched to each course:
Hello Velo (chilled) with the cauliflower soup,
Scarborough Fair IPA with the pork terrine,
Wold Gold with the butternut squash,
Headland Red with the lamb,
Wold Top Against The Grain (chilled) with the panna cotta,
Shepherd’s Watch (room temperature) with the apple tart.

Selection of wine from Dedham Vale Vineyard:
Dedham Vale Bacchus 2011
Dedham Vale Reserve 2009

Pulled Shoulder of Lamb (Recipe by River Cottage Canteen and Deli Plymouth, exclusively for the Great British Wind Meal in association with RenewableUK)

For the marinade:
3 tbsp. honey
3 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
2 tbsp. smoked paprika
2 tbsp. rapeseed oil
2 whole bulb of garlic chopped
½ bunch of fresh thyme
½ bunch of fresh rosemary
3 big pinches of salt
330ml of pale ale
3lt of chicken or lamb stock

Put the shoulder of lamb into a roasting tray.

Mix all the marinade ingredients together in a bowl then cover the lamb in
the marinade and leave for 10/12hours. This can be done first thing in the
morning ready for overnight cooking at 10pm in the evening.

Pre-heat the oven to 240°C.

Put the lamb into the oven for 20 minutes or until nicely coloured.

After 20 minutes take the meat out, add the stock and cover with foil.

Reduce the heat to a cooler 110c for 9 hours to slow wet roast the lamb.

9 hours later it should pull from the bone and will be lovely and tender.

While it is still warm, remove all the meat and fat from the bone into a
large bowl and break it down into small pieces, shredding some of it.

Pass off the remaining stock into a container as this will form your sauce

Combine really well and check the seasoning, then roll into clingfilm
barrels, about 70/80mm in diameter.

Refrigerate until set.

Goat’s Yoghurt and Vanilla Panna Cotta (Recipe by River Cottage Canteen and Deli Plymouth, exclusively for the Great British Wind Meal in association with RenewableUK)

125g un-refined caster sugar
7 leaves of gelatine
1080ml double cream
415ml whole milk
600ml Goats yoghurt
7 vanilla pods

Combine milk, cream, sugar and split pods – scald in a clean pan.

Allow to cool slightly.

Soak leaves in cold water until soft.

Add leaves to mixture mix well and pass a sieve into a bowl.

Allow to cool to blood temp or cooler.

Add the yoghurt, mix well.

Pour into moulds and chill 8 hours plus.

Dip moulds to turn out.

My Broken Kitchen

My 8-year-old daughter has been food blogging for four days. On her second day of blogging, she apologised to her readers … “I am not cooking because of my kitchen – it is broken!”

I’m sorry. I have been blogging for six years and despite writing only sporadic posts over the last several months, I have not had even the slightest bit of decent courtesy to explain that I haven’t been cooking because my kitchen is broken.

But it’s true. My kitchen is broken.

In times well past, there was once a family kitchen complete with unidentifiable fridge and very raidable cupboards.


But then something terrible happened. We ran out of wine.

Oh. Sorry – no. Getting sidetracked. It was something much, much more terrible than even that.

We lost the plot.

We couldn’t find it anywhere.


We were totally devastated.


It was so bad, we soon realised there was only one thing that could possibly save us now.

Chocolate cake.

But the baking gods were against us …


… and our kitchen was still falling down …


… and there was nowhere to put a cake pan.


But sometimes you just have to laugh in the face of impossibility (and ceiling dust and plaster dust and all the other sorts of dust that hang in the air and make you cough lots), especially when there’s a birthday …


… and especially when your 8-year-old daughter is determined …


… to bake some Spludge.


Go visit Madmu for the recipe.

You’ll make her day if you leave her a comment there. She’s one excited little baker-blogger!

Christmas Hampers

Before now, the only hamper I’ve ever received was a basket of smelly stuff wrapped tightly in blow-dried cellophane from The Body Shop. This was when I was twelve years old and White Musk was a coveted scent among teenage girls. Do you remember those little sniff bottles they had with tester samples from each range? Seaweed, tangerine … Perhaps they still have them – I haven’t been into a Body Shop for decades, so they’re firmly placed in the realms of nostalgia for me. Like Pizzaland …

Okay, I seem to have strayed from the point a bit. The important thing is that I’ve never received a gourmet food hamper. Never, that is, until a couple of weeks or so ago when Hampergifts sent me some Yuletide Delight in the form of foodie heaven – a beautifully-parceled hamper from their lovely Christmas Hampers range.


I have to confess that a large part of Hamper Fun lies in the unwrapping. Firstly, there’s a knock on the door and a courier hands you a large – a very large – brown, cardboard box. My childhood dream is instantly fulfilled at this point. But then comes the tearing off of sellotape, the opening of the box, the discovery of a bow-tied basket, the satisfying splitting of the cellophane and the feverish excitement as the bursting goodies tumble out. Never mind what’s actually in the basket – I’m having too much fun already with just the packaging!


Fortunately, my husband and children are less easily pleased than me and have questions that need to be answered before they will consider endorsing my fave review. Is the bottle of wine drinkable? Is the chocolate delicious? How good is the Turkish Delight? What are the yellow things in that jar there?

After judicious tasting, the answers turned out to be yes, yes, very and preserved pears.


So, I’m happy to report that if you’re stuck on what to send those friends and relatives who live further away from you than on your doorstep, one of the gift hampers from Hampergifts may be the answer to your problems (unless you think your friends would share my delight in receiving just a cardboard box, of course – admittedly a cheaper alternative, but don’t blame me if they fail to recognise the Christmas spirit in that idea).