There aren't very many stew days left in the year, but even if Mr Summer is breathing down Mr Winter's neck, you can always break this one out for St Paddy's Day, if nothing else.
It takes a good hour and a half, but most of that time is just watching it simmer on the stove, which frees you up to make the scones, clean everything up, and set the table, so once dinner's on, there's nothing to do but sit back and enjoy it all.
2 pounds stew meat (beef or lamb), cut up into one inch cubes
1 large onion or 2 med/small ones
2 Tbs chopped garlic
2 Tbs tomato paste
1/4 cup flour
One bottle stout or porter beer
4 cups broth — 2 cups beef, 2 cups chicken
Thyme: either a couple of fresh sprigs or a shake or two of dried
*2 pounds potatoes (Yukon works best)
*1 cup carrots
*1 cup frozen peas
*1 cup savoy cabbage
*you won't need these until after the stew simmers for an hour, so you have time to chop it all later
(Adapted from Cuisine at Home.)
Season the stew meat with salt and pepper. In a Dutch oven or large pot, brown the meat for 5-8 minutes on med-high in 1-2 Tbs of oil. Move it to a bowl (or a plate, but you want to catch and save any liquid from the meat for the broth) and drop the heat down to medium.
Add a bit more oil and saute the onion for 5 minutes. Add the tomato paste and garlic, stir well and cook for 2 more minutes, until the paste darkens. Add the flour and stir until everything is evenly coated, and cook for 1 more minute. Then deglaze with your beer, scraping the bottom for a couple of minutes to free up the meat and onion bits from the bottom of the pot.
Most folks will tell you to use a Guiness, but this time I used an Odells Cutthroat Porter. Any dark beer will work, but avoid anything sweet (eg, your vanilla or chocolate stouts).
Once you've deglazed, add both broths, the stew meat and its juices, and the thyme. Simmer for one hour on low heat. (Now you can work on the cheddar scones and clean up a bit.)
Chop the potatoes and carrots. Stir in to the stew and cook for about 10-12 minutes (potatoes should be tender). Cut the savoy cabbage into slices and add with the peas, and cook for 5 minutes more.
The cheddar scones take about 20 minutes to make and 25 minutes to bake, so you can make these while the stew is simmering.
2 1/2 cups flour (up to one cup whole wheat, the rest all-purpose)
2 Tbs sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking soda
10 Tbs butter (keep it cold until you need it)
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1/4 cup minced chives
*1 cup buttermilk
2 Tbs water
1 egg whisked with 1 Tbs water
*or water and Saco cultured buttermilk powder
Preheat the oven to 375ºand line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. (Ahh, parchment paper... one of the world's greatest inventions.)
Mix the flour, sugar, baking power and baking soda, and salt. Combine until evenly mixed. (If you're using the buttermilk powder instead of real buttermilk, add that now as well.) Cut in the butter until pea-sized.
(Scott Peacock says to cut in the butter by hand, mashing it and tearing it between your fingers until it crumbles. I tried that but make too much of a mess. And I'm not a huge fan of pastry cutters, because I hate cleaning them. So I use my three dollar, all-purpose utility knife to cut the cold butter into tiny cubes and then mash it with a fork.)
Add the cheddar and chives (or a dash of onion and garlic powder, if you forget to get green onions) and then add the buttermilk and 2 Tbs water. Mix very gently, just until blended. Move the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and pat into a large square, 8-10 inches on a side. Cut in half both ways, and then cut each section in half both ways again. Then cut those squares into triangles. Place on the parchment paper and brush the tops with the egg/water mixture. Bake for about 25 minutes, until golden.
Clean up the kitchen, get back to the potatoes and carrots, and get ready for a slow dinner.
Cheers, and Happy Birthday, Naomh Pádraig!