I’ve been a fan of St. Patrick’s Day for as long as I can remember, even though I’m not really Irish. I say not really because there’s only a small part of my genetics that are Irish (a whopping 5%). I’m primarily German, with some roots in the Amish community. While German food is great, I’ve always been a huge fan of Irish food, Irish culture, and well, Ireland itself. One of the extra bonuses I got from marrying my husband is that I picked up a legit Irish surname—McNew. That, and my husband is 75% Irish, so in this McNew house, I feel totally justified making a big deal of St. Patrick’s Day.
Even before I got married, however, nothing ever kept me from being enthused about St. Patty’s Day and Ireland in general. I’ve been to Dublin a few times and spent three glorious weeks there—I’ve toured St. Patrick’s Cathedral, saw the Book of Kells at Trinity College, and tossed money into the instrument cases of buskers at Temple Bar. But my favorite part of Ireland, by far, was the food and the awesome people who made it. Irish pubs are full of authentic people, music, and stories, and there was never a shortage of entertainment or enthusiasm. Every pub added their own flair to traditional Irish dishes, so while I ate shepherd’s pie almost everywhere, I felt like I had a fresh meal every day because of the nuances added by each pub’s chef. Plus, it was always fun to hear the Irish accents everywhere I went, and my Irish friends felt the same way about my “American” accent. All in all, we all enjoyed talking and being talked to.
Shepherd’s pie has remained one of my favorite dishes since my time in Dublin. Even after going Paleo, I knew it was one that would have to stick around. I’ve made it several ways, but probably my favorite is deconstructed. The components come together more quickly, and it has a bit of a fancier feel to it instead of dumping all the ingredients together into a cast iron skillet. My deconstructed shepherd’s pie could easily be served in traditional Irish pubs today and no one would know it was gluten free, let alone Paleo. And it wouldn’t be an Irish meal without the soda bread, either, so after some trials and errors, I made a Paleo recipe that tastes great with shepherd’s pie or on its own as a tasty treat.
But What About Potatoes?!
When most people think of Ireland, they think of leprechauns and four leaf clovers, but they might also think of potatoes because of the devastating potato famine of 1845. This national catastrophe was largely responsible for the nearly one million Irish who moved to the U.S. during the famine and in the immediate years after. Potatoes are almost inseparable from Irish food, and if you’re lucky enough to visit Ireland, you will notice a wide variety of them on most menus.
So are these potatoes Paleo? Actually, they are, and I’ve included them in my St. Patrick’s Day dish this year. Paleo people shouldn’t fear the spud! Sure, there are reasons not to eat them (think diabetes or blood sugar issues), and I don’t eat them regularly because there are much more nutrient-dense veggies available. Should you wish to avoid them, it’s easy to swap them out for other veggies, like sweet potatoes, turnips, or cauliflower. But since the real potatoes are Paleo, I think that they belong with this holiday. They turn out perfectly creamy paired with ghee and some chicken stock, too, so you don’t need dairy products to make them melt in your mouth.
12 oz. buffalo steak(s) or grassfed beef steaks or lamb
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
6 oz. tomato paste, organic
24 fl. oz. chicken stock, organic
2 teaspoons rosemary
2 teaspoons thyme
2 teaspoons garlic powder
2 teaspoons onion powder
1 teaspoon sea salt (or more, to taste)
1/2 teaspoon black pepper, ground (or more, to taste)
6 large carrots, washed and cut into 1 inch sections
24 small red potatoes, halved
2 cups green beans, washed
2 cups portobello mushrooms, washed
4 tablespoons ghee
1 cup almond flour
1 cup tapioca, rice, or potato flour (or blend of the three)
2 tablespoons tapioca or potato flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar or fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 tablespoons raw honey
Instructions to Prepare Both Recipes:
1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. In a large stock pot, bring 12 oz. of chicken stock and 8 cups of water to a boil.
2. In a medium saucepan, combine 6 oz. chicken stock, the tomato paste, and 1 cup of water. Heat on medium-high until boiling.
3. Remove the steaks from the fridge and let rest at room temperature.
4. Add the potatoes to the large stock pot when the water is boiling. Boil until potatoes are soft—about 20 minutes.
5. To the medium saucepan, add 1 teaspoon each of rosemary, thyme, garlic powder, and onion powder. Stir and add the mushrooms, green beans, and carrots. Cover and let boil for 10 minutes, then reduce to medium heat. Continue cooking until carrots are soft, about 15-20 minutes.
6. Prepare Soda Bread: In a large mixing bowl, combine all the soda bread ingredients. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and place the dough on there, shaped like a ball. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons of tapioca flour over the top of it, and place in the pre-heated oven. Bake for 35 minutes or until the outside of the bread is hard and a knife inserted comes out clean.
7. Steak Time: In a small bowl, add the buffalo steaks, apple cider vinegar, and the rest of the thyme, rosemary, and black pepper. Heat a skillet over medium-high heat.
8. When the skillet is hot, add 1 tablespoon of ghee and the steaks. Cook for approximately 3 minutes each side. Then reduce heat to medium-low. Cook for 5-7 minutes or until cooked to taste.
9. When the potatoes are soft, drain liquid and transfer to a large mixing bowl. Combine with 6 oz chicken stock and 3 tablespoons of ghee and use a potato masher to “smash” the potatoes. (You can leave the skin on.) Add sea salt, black pepper, and garlic powder to taste. Set aside.
10. Remove the soda bread from the oven when it’s done and let cool for a few minutes while you plate the steaks, veggie mix, and potatoes. Serve warm.
You can even repeat some Irish blessings while you eat to really get into the spirit: “May the road rise to meet you, may the wind be always at your back; may the sun shine warm upon your face, the rains fall soft upon your fields and, until we meet again, may God hold you in the palm of His hand.”
Finally, just for fun, I leave you with some images from my last trip to Dublin. (The photos from Ireland were all taken by Tori Watson Photo
Aimee McNew, Certified Nutritionist, MNT