I love cooking with a theme in mind. It could be a British Summer Time barbecue, a get well soon chicken soup or, this week, a St Patrick’s Day feast with wonderful food sent over from the Emerald Isle.

The St Patrick’s Day challenge was particularly interesting because there were some different ingredients involved.

The good people Food Matters sent through several delightful ingredients, and my challenge was to make something tastier than the Blarney Stone.

The first bit was easy. Ummera Smoked salmon, available online or at Mortimer and Bennett, Chandos Delis in Bath, Bristol and Exeter, served on a fresh baked loaf from Helen’s Brilliant Bread mix.

I may have undercooked the bread slightly, but it still tasted great, and the organic salmon was fantastic, with a bit of Sarah’s Wonderful Honey, with ginger, to zing it up.

The starter was gone very quickly indeed.

Then the main course, and what better way to say St Patrick’s Day than a hearty Guinness steak stew, served with colcannon, black and white pudding, cooked with Irish whiskey and honey (Sarah’s Wonderful Honey, this time the walnut version) roasted parsnips.

Yes please!

There is some controversy, I discovered while doing a little research. Irish stew should be mutton, and one school of thought is that onions should be the only veg. I disagree.

For this one, you need:
- Irish beef (600g stewing steak)
- Flour
- Salt and pepper
- Olive oil
- butter
- Bay leaf
- Two white onions, roughly chopped
- 3-4 carrots, peeled and chopped
- Half a swede, diced as chunky as you like
- 500ml Good beef stock
- 2-300 ml Guinness
- 4-5 parsnips, peeled and sliced lengthways
- Sarah’s Honey with Walnuts
- Connemara whiskey
- Clonakilty Black and White pudding, sliced to 1cm thickness
- 600g potatoes for mashing, peeled and cut into small-ish chunks
- Chive, finely chopped
- Spring onion, chopped
- Curly kale
- 2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
- Butter
- Cream
- Sour cream

This is relatively simple to cook, but takes a decent amount of time, as you want it bubbling nicely and slow cooked.

Season some flour and coat the beef, browning off with the olive oil in batches to ensure you’re not boiling the beef.

Put the beef to one side and add a bit more oil and the melt the butter. Add the onions and cook on a medium heat for a few minutes, until browning.

Then add the diced swede and carrots and allow to soften for a few more minutes.

When softening nicely, add the Guinness, bubble and then the stock. Put the bay leaf in and you’re done on the stew. Cover and allow to cook for at least two hours, stirring regularly. Remove the cover after an hour or so to thicken the sauce, if needed.

About half an hour from serving, start the spuds boiling in slightly salted water for 20 minutes or so, until they’re ready to mash. While this is happening, get the parsnips in the oven, coated in the honey, and cooking for about 30 minutes at 180c. Turn once, if burning .

Also, while the spuds are on their way, fry the spring onion in a bit of oil with some garlic, until softening, and move to one side.

Mash the potatoes, add butter and cream as you mash. Add the spring onions and garlic, cook the curly kale very quickly and then fold that in too, with the sour cream (100-200 ml is plenty) and the chive. Season to taste.

That’s now ready to serve, so fry off the black and white puddings with a slug of whiskey (watch the flames). Season the stew to taste Check the stew for seasoning and serve it all in a glorious Irish feast fit for any St Patrick’s Day.