Sunday, 10 March 2013


St. Patrick's Day must be the most fun saint's feast day that I know. The celebration is so global that everywhere in the world joins in the merrymaking. A good amount of Irish grub and tipple is consumed on this day.

To join in the celebration, I made a classic Irish stew made with Guinness. Beef stew can be quite generic but this one has a rather unusual pair of ingredients that you won't recognize unless you are told that it's there. The base of this stew is Guinness, an Irish black stout made from roasted barley that has a characteristic bitter taste. To counteract that, chopped prunes are added. I know that prunes have been the butt of jokes but it does work wonders for this stew. It is the ingredient here that must not be omitted. The pair made this stew taste so deep and rich and extraordinarily tasty. It is highly scented and exudes an air of celebration. The rest of the ingredients are very ordinary but the whole dish tastes really special, almost Christmassy.

Stew is usually a do what you like simple affair. I searched for recipes of this dish and they did seem pretty ordinary. I stumbled upon this recipe and this is what I used as a guide except for the cheffy bits at the end. Most had carrots and I do believe that carrots adds a more rounded taste to stews so that usually goes in mine. Altogether, a very easy dish, very delicious and well worth repeating and not just on St. Patrick's day.

I served this with another Irish staple, champ which is mashed potatoes with spring onions. 

adapted from Knorr's Beef and Guinness Stew recipe


200 gms. bacon, cut into lardons (about 1 cup)
4 garlic cloves, crushed
2 medium onions, chopped
butter plus oil for frying the beef
1 to 1.2 kg. of stewing beef (cut into 1 1/2" cubes)
3 tbsps. plain flour
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
8 pitted prunes chopped
1 tbsp. tomato puree  (tomato paste)
2 small sprigs of thyme
1 beef stock cube
1 500 ml. bottle of Guinness stout
5 medium carrots, cut into chunks
2 tbsps. chopped parsley


Pre-heat the oven to 300° F/150° C.

Dry fry the bacon lardons in a heavy oven proof pot until it exudes oil and starts to brown (do not let it crisp). Add the garlic and sautee until light brown. add in the chopped onions and cook on low heat until soft and translucent. This will take about 15 minutes. 

While this is happening, prepare the beef pieces. Put the beef in a mixing bowl. Mix the flour, salt and pepper in another bowl. Sprinkle over the beef while stirring until all the pieces are coated.

Heat up a heavy frying pan. Add 1 tbsp. of butter and 1 tbsp. of oil. Add a few beef pieces at a time and fry until seared and browned. Do not crowd the pan. There should be space between the pieces so that they do not steam and release their juices. Do this in batches. Add more butter and oil as needed.

When all the beef pieces are browned, add them to the sauteed mixture. Add the chopped prunes, tomato puree, thyme, stock cube and Guinness. 

Bring to a boil, covered, on the stove top before transferring to the oven. Cook for 1 hour before adding in the carrots. Cook until tender for about 2 1/2 to 3 hours. This may also be cooked on the stove top, on low heat, instead of the oven.

Season to taste with salt if needed. Sprinkle with the chopped parsley before serving. Parsley is not just a garnish here. It adds freshness to the rich dish.

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  1. I am not daring enough to put the Guiness to cook any dishes fearing that it might turn out to be some funny taste. Oh really, prunes are to be pair together for this? I got to cook this to find out and hopefully my family will loves this. Thank you for sharing Adora. Stew is my all time favorites.

    1. Hi Mel. When I first tasted the guinness, I was a bit doubtful on how the dish would turn out. The prunes gave it a sweet and rich flavour. Both went so well with the beef.

  2. Hi Adora! Good dish, good photography and good stout!

  3. Hi Adora, i have read about this dish so many times, yet have not gotten down to trying it yet. Must get my act together your photos and styling!

    1. Hi Esther. It took me some time to try making this dish but now I know that I will be cooking this again.

  4. That is a lovely looking stew. It sounds so comforting! I've never cooked with guinness or any alcohol but I imagine it must add an interesting flavor.

    1. Hi Ruby. I am not an alcohol drinker but I do use it a lot in my cooking. It gives food a very special flavour.

  5. Hi there, am your new follower. Have been admiring your food postings on AFC. This beef in guinness looks great, perfect for St Patrick's Day! -Yen

  6. Wow Adora I love this recipe! The addition of prunes is such a great idea and I can imagine the great taste they add. What a great way to celebrate St. Patrick's day.

    1. Hi Nancy. I have never used prunes in cooking before and I must say that I was very pleasantly surprised. It is so good in this stew and I bet there are a lot of other dishes that could benefit from it.

  7. Ditto to everything that Nancy said above! The prunes were a surprise to see but I bet they add a touch of sweetness along with texture to this dish. I've never made an Irish Stew but this might just be the year in which that changes. It looks SO good!

    1. Hi MJ. You have try this dish to be convinced. It probably wouldn't sound as good as it actually tastes if read from a recipe.

  8. Hi Adora! I just stumbled upon your site via Pinterest. What a wonderful find!

    Question: Do you cover the dish when placing in oven? Also, you stated that the dish could be cooked on the stove top, is this for the entire 2.5 to 3 hours?


    1. Yes, the pot is covered when cooking, in the oven or on the stove top. It will take about the same cooking time on the stove top, depending on how tender the meat is.


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