Tired of cold? This saint turns water to beer and says spring is near

loaf of bread
This classic barmbrack recipe, adapted from Darina Allen, founder of Ballymaloe Cookery School in Shanagarry, Cork, Ireland, is best eaten while steaming hot from the oven, slathered with good, local butter that melts on the slice.
Courtesy of Beth Dooley

Here we are, the first of February and still in the iron grip of winter. But it's worth noting that today is also an Irish feast day (and no, we're not getting ahead of ourselves with St. Patrick's Day.)

Today is St. Brigid's Day, and though long-celebrated, it’s a national holiday in Ireland for the first time this year. Chef and cookbook author Beth Dooley says Irish families are likely cooking up breads and stews, and feasting on fresh cheese today — and she urges you to do the same.

Barm Brack

Makes 1 loaf

This classic recipe, adapted from Darina Allen, founder of Ballymaloe Cookery School in Shanagarry, Cork, Ireland, is best eaten while steaming hot from the oven, slathered with good, local butter that melts on the slice. It’s a fine accompaniment to the beef stew below, whether you make it for St. Brigid’s Day or just for breakfast.

Create a More Connected Minnesota

MPR News is your trusted resource for the news you need. With your support, MPR News brings accessible, courageous journalism and authentic conversation to everyone - free of paywalls and barriers. Your gift makes a difference.

3½ cups all-purpose flour

½ teaspoon sea salt

¾ teaspoon baking soda

1½ cups buttermilk, more if needed

¼ cup melted butter

¼ cup orange marmalade

½ cup dried currants or raisins

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Generously butter a baking sheet. In a large bowl, sift together the flour, salt and baking soda. Make a well in the center and pour in the buttermilk and the melted butter. Using a wooden spoon or your hands, mix the flour from the sides of the bowl to make a soft dough. Work the marmalade and the currants into the dough.

Lightly flour a work surface. Using floured hands, transfer the dough to the work surface and knead the dough lightly for a minute or two. Pat the dough into a round, about 2 inches thick. Transfer this to the baking sheet. Using a sharp knife, cut a deep cross into the center of the dough.

Bake the loaf for about 15 minutes, then reduce the oven to 350 degrees and continue baking until the top is golden brown and the bottom of the loaf sounds hollow when tapped, about 30 more minutes. Serve warm.

Irish Beef Stew

Serves 6

This stew takes some time to simmer, but is certainly worth the wait. Once it’s in the pot, there’s not much else to do. Be sure the meat is well-browned before adding the remaining ingredients. Be sure to top it with plenty of horseradish cream (recipe follows).

3 pounds beef chuck, trimmed of fat, cut into 2-inch chunks

¼ cup all-purpose flour

Coarse salt and black pepper

4 tablespoons vegetable oil

4 cloves garlic, chopped

2 tablespoons tomato paste

2½ cups Guinness or other stout

2½ cups beef stock

3 sprigs fresh thyme

1 pound Yukon potatoes, cut into 2-inch pieces

1 pound carrots, cut into 2-inch pieces

1 pound turnips, cut into 2-inch pieces

2 celery sticks, diced or 1 cup diced celeriac

2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce, to taste

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. In a large bowl, toss the beef with 2 tablespoons of the flour and season with salt and pepper. Film a deep pot or Dutch oven with about 2 tablespoons vegetable oil, set over high heat and, working in batches, brown the meat thoroughly on all sides, about 2 minutes per side, adding ore oil as needed. Transfer the browned beef to a plate.

Reduce the heat to medium, add the remaining oil and sauté the garlic and tomato paste until lightly browned, about 1 minute. Stir in the remaining flour and cook, stirring and scraping constantly, until the paste is thick and dry, about 1 minute. Whisk in the beer and stock. Increase the heat to high and bring to a boil, scraping any browned bits from the bottom of the pan, until the sauce is smooth and thickened, about 1 minute. Season with salt and pepper and remove from the heat.

Transfer the beef and juices to the pot along with the thyme, potatoes, carrots, turnips and celery. Cover and transfer to the oven. Cook until the beef and vegetables are tender, about 2 to 2½ hours.

Stir in the Worcestershire sauce, taste and adjust the seasonings. Discard the thyme. Serve garnished with horseradish cream and chopped chives 

Horseradish Cream

Makes 1 cup

This makes a fabulous garnish to beef stew, roast beef and baked potatoes.

¾ cup Greek yogurt or sour cream

3 tablespoons jarred horseradish sauce, or more to taste

Chopped scallions for garnish

In a small dish, stir together the yogurt and horseradish sauce. Serve garnished with the chopped scallions.


Serves 4 to 6

This makes great use of mashed potatoes. It’s delicious as a vegetarian meal on its own and terrific as a side to stew or a roast.

4 big russet potatoes, about 2½ pounds, peeled and cut into chunks


¼ cup butter

5 to 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more for serving

3 lightly packed cups chopped kale, cabbage or chard

3 green onions, minced

1 cup milk or cream

Salt and pepper, to taste

Put the potatoes into a large pot and cover with water by 1 inch. Add the salt (about 2 tablespoons). Set over heat, bring to a boil, reduce the heat to simmer and cook until tender, about 15 to 20 minutes. Drain.

Set the pot over medium heat, add the butter and, when it’s melted, add the greens. Cook until they are just wilted and have released their water. Add the green onions and cook one minute more.

Pour in the milk, mix well and add the potatoes. Reduce the heat and, using a fork or potato masher, mash the potatoes into the greens. Season with salt and pepper and serve with a big knob of butter.