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Posts from the ‘Sunday Dinners’ Category

Bacon & Cabbage with Parsley Cream Sauce

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Ah, Paddy’s Day.

Those Facebook memories that keep popping up remind me that St. Patrick’s Day isn’t just a fun family holiday. Things just seem to happen for me around this time of year – good things.

Luck of the Irish? Perhaps. Or maybe we’re all just in better moods because the sun tends to come out in March. The trees start to bud, my garden starts to grow, the end of calving season (and; therefore, around-the-clock cow monitoring) is in sight and the air feels significantly warmer.

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Patrick with some Irish fans in Yogyakarta – our most booze-free Paddy’s Day

This time eight years ago, Patrick and I were embarking on a three-month-long backpacking trip around Southeast Asia. Facebook tells me we were in Java, Indonesia. We just climbed Gunung Bromo, a small active volcano, and were en route to Yogyakarta – a city we absolutely loved.

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Paddy’s Day Parade in Seoul, South Korea, 2008 (strange, no?)

This time four years ago, we were getting ready to leave Toronto for good. I was very excited and a little bit worried. After all, I was nearly six months pregnant and we were both leaving good jobs behind, with no work prospects in Ireland. I loved my work in Toronto but didn’t love living in the city. I couldn’t deal with the prospect of raising my kids so far away from family. Moving to Ireland, as you may have guessed, has worked out brilliantly. We are happy and thriving (and working!).

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Beautiful Porto. Take me back!

This time three years ago we were in Portugal on our first-ever family holiday with Maeve. She was seven months old and we had a wonderful time in Lisbon, Porto and Aveiro. The weather was warm and sunny (but not too hot) and we visited with friends I hadn’t seen in years.

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Maeve and her cousins, eating green pancakes.

And this year? One of my best friends is coming to stay with her 10-month-old baby boy. When they go home, Patrick and I are going to Galway for a few nights to eat, drink and relax sans children. So yeah, March brings good things, and St. Patrick’s Day is just one of them.

I remember Paddy’s Days of the past. In university, in Korea, in (yes!) Yogyakarta and, of course, here in Ireland, I’ve had some crazy times. These days our Paddy’s Day tends to be quieter and more kid-focused. Coffee at a friend’s house, taking the kids to the parade, making green pancakes for breakfast – all of these things are quickly replacing the pub breakfasts and day-long drinking sessions of the past.

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Bacon and cabbage is becoming tradition, too. While North Americans gorge themselves on corned beef, the Irish will generally sit down to a family meal of just about anything (Chinese takeaway? I wouldn’t say no). At our house, I usually make a big feed of bacon and cabbage for us and any other family members milling around the farm.

The parsley sauce is entirely optional, but I like it. A lot of people eat their bacon and cabbage with a schmear of English mustard or the ubiquitous brown sauce, but I think it’s more of a complete meal with the parsley sauce (also, it will impress your friends if you want to make this for a Paddy’s Day dinner party). It tastes fancy but is so easy to make.

The dish is called Bacon & Cabbage, but it wouldn’t be the same kind of bacon you have with your scrambled eggs. Here, a loin of ham is called a joint of bacon. You can get them smoked or unsmoked. Just ask your butcher, or, when in doubt, get some uncooked ham. It’s basically the same thing. Bacon and cabbage is usually served with mashed potatoes, but I love boiling new potatoes with the skin-on this time of year.

Whatever you end up doing for Paddy’s Day, I hope it’s great and full of delicious food, drink and loved ones. Sláinte mhath!

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Bacon & Cabbage with Parsley Cream Sauce

Ingredients:

Bacon & Cabbage:

1-2 kg ham/bacon joint (cured and uncooked, ask your local butcher!)

1-2 large head savoy or green cabbage

4L chicken stock

1-2 bay leaves

2-3 sprigs fresh thyme

Parsley Sauce:

½ cup butter

1 clove garlic, minced

¾ glass dry white wine

1 cup heavy cream

1 tsp Dijon mustard

1 bunch fresh parsley, finely chopped

Salt and Pepper, to taste

Directions:

  • In a large pot, bring the ham, stock, bay leaves and thyme to a simmer. Simmer the ham/bacon for about 1 hour – or until the ham is cooked through.
  • While the ham is cooking, prep your cabbage: using a large knife, cut out the core and slice the head of cabbage into large wedges. Leave the wedges whole and set aside while the ham cooks.
  • When the ham is cooked, remove the ham, bay leaves and thyme from the pot. Add the cabbage to the remaining broth and cook until tender, about 10 minutes.
  • Make the parsley sauce: in a hot saucepan, add the butter and garlic. Cook for 30 seconds – don’t let the garlic brown. Add the wine and reduce by half, then add the cream. Let the cream boil and thicken for a few minutes – you want the sauce to coat the back of a spoon.
  • When the cream is thickened, add the chopped parsley and season with Dijon, salt and pepper.
  • Slice the ham and add it back into the broth with the cabbage wedges, just to heat through.
  • Depending on the size of your bacon (I usually buy a 1kg joint), this will feed 4-6 people. Serve hot with boiled or mashed potatoes.
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Derg Cheddar Stove-top Mac & Cheese

17815155688_ba31eb834d_z I hear tales of 30 degree weather in Canada right now, but here in Ireland it still feels like winter. Yes, we have some lovely weather for the month of April, but as my father-in-law says, “That was our summer, right there.” I’m currently bundled on the couch in my housecoat; a cat curled so far into my hip he’s almost invisible. There’s a fire in the fireplace and outside it’s absolutely dismal – wind, rain and very low temperatures. So much for our Irish summer! We’re busy on the farm, as always. We’re beginning to plan for cutting silage, but the growth is not as good as it should be due to the colder weather. We’ll have to wait for nicer weather to do that, anyway. Between our jobs, home life, farm work and Maeve being with her child minder during the week I barely have time to even think about blogging. But I need to keep this website going. It’s my portal to the rest of the world. And I love sharing our lives with you all (and thanks for deeming it interesting enough to follow!).

Diva Bakes stall at Ballymaloe Litfest

Diva Bakes stall at Ballymaloe Litfest

A few weeks ago I went to Ballymaloe Litfest. I’ve been going since the festival began – for about three years – and I have to say, it just gets better and better. The guest speakers, amazing chefs, food writers and food producers who come to the festival make it even more special. This year I ACTUALLY MET ALICE WATERS. For real. She is just as lovely in person as she seems, which is refreshing. She signed a book for Maeve, who will receive said book when she is off to university (yup, I’m going to keep it that long). I’ve looked up to Alice Waters for years and was thrilled to hear her speak and meet her.

The gorgeous falafel from Rocket Man

The gorgeous falafel from Rocket Man

My delicious masala dosa from Ayer's Cafe

My delicious masala dosa from Ayer’s Cafe

The food at Litfest was better than ever this year. The Rocket Man from Cork always impresses with their fresh salads and pickles, but this year they were doing falafel flatbreads which went down an absolute treat. I had an AMAZING dosa from Iyer’s Cafe in Cork – the best I’ve had outside of Asia, in fact – and we got Maeve a little wood-fired pie from Volcano Pizza. So, so good.

The love folk from Ayer's Cafe - such amazing Indian food!

The lovely folk from Iyer’s Cafe – such amazing Indian food!

Miss M was a bit out of sorts, so we couldn’t stay as long as we wanted to, but before we left I loaded up on Arbutus Bread (some of the best loaves in Ireland) and Cloud Confectionery marshmallows (they come in so many awesome flavours!).

Loved all the pickled/fermented product on display from My Goodness

Loved all the pickled/fermented product on display from My Goodness

When we got home we were a) committed to never travelling with a toddler ever again and b) exhausted. We needed some comfort food. I had a block of delicious Derg Cheddar, made just down the road in Nenagh (this cheese is amazing – made only from raw, summer milk when the cows are at pasture; it’s aged but manages to taste creamy and sharp all at once). I decided to make stovetop mac and cheese with crispy garlic breadcrumbs and it saved our lives.

18002974775_4dab097404_z Derg Cheddar Stovetop Mac and Cheese Ingredients:

½ lb pasta

60g plain flour

60g butter

1 bay leaf

½ L full fat milk

½ Tbsp Dijon mustard

Pinch of nutmeg

500g Derg Farmhouse Cheddar, grated

Salt & Pepper

For the breadcrumb topping:

500g fresh breadcrumbs

60g butter

1 clove garlic

Salt & Pepper

Chopped fresh parsley, thyme, chives and/or basil

Directions:

  • Heat a large pot of salted water to boil for the pasta. While the pasta is cooking, start the sauce:
  • In a medium-sized, heavy bottomed saucepan, melt the butter. When it starts to bubbles, add the flour and mix well. The mixture should look a bit doughy – this is called a roux. Let the roux cook for one minute, then add the bay leaf and half the milk.
  • Using a metal whisk, stir the mixture until it thickens completely. Make sure you’ve beaten out any lumps, then add the rest of the milk.
  • Allow the mixture to slowly come to a boil, gently whisking the entire time (the bottom will stick and burn if not!). When it comes to a boil and thickens, remove it from the heat.
  • Stir in the Dijon, salt and pepper, and finally, the cheese. When all is melted and combined, give it a taste and adjust the seasoning as desired.
  • When cooked, strain the pasta and toss with the cheese sauce. Make the breadcrumbs:
  • In a large pan, melt the butter and add the finely chopped garlic. Let it cook for 30 seconds, then add the breadcrumbs. Cook the breadcrumbs until the butter has been absorbed and they become golden brown and crunchy, stirring often. When finished, toss with the fresh herbs.
  • Serve the mac & cheese is bowls with the breadcrumbs sprinkled over-top. This makes four large servings.
We love Ballymaloe!

We love Ballymaloe!

Taking Part in Bumbles of Rice’s A Week in Dinners

Bumbles of Rice is a parenting and lifestyle blog I like to read. Lately, the author’s been posting some of her family’s real life dinners – the good, the bad, and everything in between. I think it’s cool to see how food bloggers really eat – especially since you usually only see the successful dishes on the blog – so here’s my family’s last week in dinners (please note: I’m a mom of one and am still technically on maternity leave, so my dinners probably haven’t changed too much since before Maeve was born).

A week in dinners from April 27th to May 3rd:

Sunday

I had planned a big Sunday roast. We still try to avoid bad stuff during the week (though we fail a lot more these days as you’ll soon read) so Sunday was going to be our big dinner day. But then Maeve hadn’t slept well the night before and I suddenly felt ill and exhausted. Sooo Pat got us Supermacs. That would be a quarter pounder burger with all the fixins and chips with garlic sauce on the side, please. I was “good” and got a bottle of water instead of coke. Maeve had rice porridge for dinner and then complained until I gave her a chip (bad mommy).

Monday

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Maeve goes to a child minder on Mondays and Wednesdays now (as I am flat out busy working on the Top 50 Restaurants in Canada for Vacay.ca). Since she was out of the house, I had a bit of extra time and made that pork roast I had planned for the previous day. So much for eating healthy during the week! I stuffed it with breadcrumbs, lardons, onion and apple. I made mashed potatoes, roasted cauliflower, green beans and a rich gravy to go with. Maeve loves cauliflower and green beans – not so keen on the pork.

Tuesday

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I had some ground lamb in the freezer and we were pressed for time last Tuesday so I made my never-fail, 30 minute baked lamb koftas. Ground lamb, spices, garlic and ginger – mix, shape and bake. I served them with some brown rice, a small salad and a tahini-buttermilk sauce. This is one of my favourite dinners. Maeve had fruit and porridge earlier since we ate past her bedtime.

Wednesday

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I had some leftover spice mix from the koftas, so I sprinkled it on some salmon filets, placed some sliced lemon over top and baked them for about 10 minutes. I served the salmon with sriracha-mashed sweet potato. Maeve loves both salmon and sweet potato – we just have to make sure there are no bones in the salmon before giving her a piece.

Thursday

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I made my version of cashew nut pork. It’s so quick to make, healthy and, in my not-so-humble opinion, better than a takeaway. Broccoli, sliced pork, onion, garlic, ginger, toasted cashew nuts, chili, a sprinkle of brown sugar, soy sauce and rice vinegar and you’re good to go. We had leftover rice in the fridge from the koftas so I fried it with an egg. Simple. Maeve had already eaten at this stage but wanted some broccoli. I sucked off the sauce and let her chew on a floret (gross, I know, but that’s me).

Friday

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I had been craving a curry all week, and as it was the Friday before the bank holiday weekend I went all out and made Vij’s Chicken Curry and homemade naan bread. Vikram Vij is one of Canada’s greatest chefs. His restaurant was #1 on our Top 50 list a few years ago and remains a contender – it is just so good. His chicken curry is full of depth, has a touch of heat and is full of melt-in-your-mouth chicken pieces. You don’t need rice with it – just scoop it up with the naan. Maeve loved her naan bread, but the curry was a bit too spicy for her.

Satruday

We were in Tipperary for the long weekend and it was quite late before Pat and his dad came home from the farm. A new chipper had opened in the village so we tried it out – as suspected, it was pretty terrible. I got curry cheese chips. Blah. Maeve was sound asleep by the time we sat down to supper.

So there you have it – a typical week of dinners for me and my little family. Looking back, I think we eat too much junk on the weekends. That will have to be remedied! Thanks Bumbles of Rice for inviting your fellow bloggers to take part in the real life dinners series! If you want to share your dinners and see what others have shared, click here.

Braised Lamb Gnocchi

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I’m not sure what I was expecting for my first summer in Ireland, but it definitely wasn’t the gorgeous warm weather we’ve been enjoying. I mean, yes, some days are chilly, grey and rainy. Sometimes I have to turn on the heat in the house. But for the most part, the summer here has been lovely. Maybe not as warm as it would be in Cape Breton, but other than that the weather trends have been similar. I have been preparing for an Irish summer my whole life and never even knew it.

Last week, I definitely wasn’t expecting the day to be hot and sunny when I defrosted the lamb shanks my father-in-law had gifted to me the previous weekend (he has a deep-freeze full of lovely, tender lamb joints). I thought it was supposed to rain, and so planned to braise the shanks all day and have them with gnocchi for dinner that night. As soon as I got the shanks in the oven to braise, though, the sun came out, the grass dried and before I knew it Patrick was calling home to ask what we were grilling for dinner.

It had turned into the perfect BBQ day. The lamb would have to wait.

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Finally, even though the weather was nice last Thursday, I took it out of the fridge and we had the dinner I had planned several days prior. It worked out well in the end, since all the major work was done. All I had to do was whip up some gnocchi. I once spent several months making vast amounts of gnocchi every day, so it didn’t take long (especially when you’re only making it for two people as opposed to 500!). We were driving to Tipperary that night to help bring in the silage so the quick dinner was well appreciated.

The lamb in Ireland is so, so good. It must be from all the lush, green grass they and their moms get to munch on. The flavour just can’t be compared to any other kind of lamb I’ve tried – I’m hooked!

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Braised Lamb Gnocchi

Ingredients:

For the lamb:

2-3 lamb shanks, seasoned with salt and pepper

1 large onion, roughly chopped

1 large carrot, roughly chopped

1 stalk celery, roughly chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 bay leaf

5-6 whole peppercorns

2 sprigs fresh thyme

1 sprig fresh rosemary

1 Tbsp tomato paste

2 cups good red wine

1 can tomatoes

2 cups hot beef stock

2-3 Tbsp olive oil

salt and pepper

For the gnocchi:

6 large baking potatoes

2 eggs, beaten

1 1/2- 2 cups plain flour

salt

pinch of nutmeg

extra flour, for rolling

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Directions:

  • Preheat the oven to 325 degrees (160 degrees Celsius, no fan)
  • In a large dutch oven or lidded pot (that is oven-safe), heat 1-2 Tbsp olive oil on high heat until smoking. Sear the seasoned lamb shanks in the hot pot until dark brown on all sides (not burnt – if you think the heat is too high, reduce it to medium-high).
  • When the shanks have been browned, remove them from the pot and reduce the heat to medium-high. Add the remaining Tbsp of olive oil and then add the onion, carrots and celery to the same pot. Brown the vegetables, stirring occasionally. Add the garlic, thyme, rosemary, peppercorns and bay (you can put all of these things in whole as long as they’re washed – the aromatics/flavourings will be strained and thrown out, eventually).
  • Add the tomato paste to the pot and stir until the vegetables/aromatics are covered in the paste. Cook for one minute, then return the lamb shanks to the pot. Add the wine, tomatoes and beef stock.
  • Bring the contents of the pot to a boil. Once a boil has been reached, cover the pot with a lid and put it in the 325 degree oven. Braise the lamb shanks for at least 1.5 hours and preferably for 2.5-3 hours. If you haven’t braised the lamb long enough, it will still be tough. You know the lamb is ready when the meat falls away from the bone easily.
  • When the lamb is finished cooking, remove the shanks from the pot. Using two forks, removed the meat from the bone (and remove any large pieces of fat, as well). Strain the braising liquid into a saucepan and cook over medium heat on the stove top until the liquid has reduced to a sauce that coats the back of a spoon. When your sauce has reduced, add the shredded lamb to the saucepan.
  • Adjust the seasoning. You may have reduced the sauce enough that it doesn’t need any extra salt. Taste it first, then add salt and pepper as necessary.

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  • Make the gnocchi: wash the potatoes and prick each potato with a fork. Place on a baking sheet and bake in a 375 degree (190 degrees Celsius) oven for about an hour, until the potatoes have cooked through and are tender (easily pierced with a paring knife).
  • While the potatoes are still hot, slice them in half and scoop out the flesh (it will be hard to handle – you can use a clean dishtowel to handle the hot potatoes). Put the baked potato through a potato ricer or mash very well to get out any lumps. Add  about 2 tsp of salt to the potatoes and the pinch of nutmeg, then quickly mix in the beaten eggs. You need to mix the egg quickly or it will begin to cook!
  • When the eggs are incorporated, add 1 1/2 cups of flour and knead slightly until you get a soft dough. The mixture should be slightly sticky, but if it’s too sticky to handle add another 1/2 cup of flour until it’s workable.
  • Divide the warm dough into 4 quarters and work with one quarter at a time (the remaining dough should be kept warm under a tea towel until ready to use – once the dough gets cold, it gets very sticky and hard to work with).
  • Set up a baking sheet lined with parchment and generously sprinkled with flour. Set aside.
  • Generously flour your work surface and, by hand, roll the gnocchi dough into long, snake-like strips of dough. Using a pastry scraper or a knife, cut the gnocchi into 1 inch-long pieces. Place the finished gnocchi on the baking sheet.
  • Repeat the process with all of the gnocchi dough. You can cook the gnocchi right away, or save in the fridge for several hours before boiling.
  • To cook the gnocchi, bring a large pot of seasoned water to a rolling boil. Add the gnocchi and wait for it to float to the surface. It’s done! You don’t want to overcook gnocchi or you’ll end up with rubber bullets for dinner.
  • As a general rule, 12 pieces of gnocchi is a good sized serving. This recipe will make about 4-5 servings. Plate the gnocchi and top with the braised lamb and sauce. Garnish with torn basil and/or pecorino cheese.

Savoury Beef Stew with Champ

While my friends and family have been enjoying unseasonable warmth in Toronto, Victoria and Cape Breton these past few weeks, we haven’t had a day warmer than 19 degrees so far in Ireland. Not that I’m complaining about the weather – I’m actually relishing the fact that my final months of pregnancy won’t be spent in the 40 degree sauna that is a Toronto summer. In total fairness, we’ve had very few awful days since we moved.

That said, my winter cooking habits haven’t changed all that much, even though it’s spring. The chill in the air, most days, is enough to make me want to curl up on the couch, in front of the fireplace with a big, hot bowl of something stodgy. Hence this beef stew.

I grew up on stews. When I was a kid, I hated them.

Turnip? I wouldn’t touch the stuff.

When I got older, as one does, I started craving them. But not necessarily the ones I grew up on (which are more like East Coast boiled dinners – another post for another time). I craved rich, caramelized flavours and well reduced sauces. Fork-tender vegetables and falling-apart chunks of chicken, beef or lamb. When I learned the proper technique for stew-making in culinary school, I never looked back.

Instead of chopping potatoes and adding to the stew, I prefer to make a mash and serve it alongside. Champ has been one of the most enjoyable Irish food discoveries I’ve come across over the years – a creamy mash mixed with chopped scallions. Enlivened with buttermilk and a knob of fresh butter, it’s the perfect accompaniment to this rich, meaty stew.

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Savoury Beef Stew with Champ

For the stew:

1 lb beef brisket, cut into cubes

1/2 pkg streaky bacon (or lardons), roughly chopped

1 large onion, diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 Tbsp olive oil

1 Tbsp butter

1 Tbsp tomato paste

1 bay leaf

1 sprig thyme

1 sprig rosemary

1 L (4 cups) beef stock

Salt & Pepper

1 medium rutabaga, cut into 1 inch cubes

2 large carrots, cut into 1 inch cubes

Juice from one large lemon

For the champ:

6-8 potatoes, peeled and cut into large chunks

1/4 cup buttermilk

1/4 cup butter

Salt and Pepper

1 bunch scallions, finely sliced

Directions:

  • In a large pot or Dutch oven on the stove top, heat olive oil on medium. Add streaky bacon (or lardons) and fry until the fat has rendered and the bacon is cooked. Remove bacon from the pot, but leave in the grease.
  • Turn the heat up to high and add the beef. Brown the beef completely on all sides (if the bits on the bottom of the pot are getting too dark, adjust the heat accordingly). When the beef is browned, remove from the pot.
  • Turn the heat back down to medium. Add the butter and chopped onion. Allow onion to cook for about a minute, then add garlic, bay leaf, thyme and rosemary. Continue to cook on medium for 5 minutes, or until the onion is tender and browning from the fond on the bottom of the pot.
  • Add tomato paste and stir to incorporate. Add back into the pot the beef and bacon, including all the drippings and juice from the meat.
  • Add the beef stock and stir the pot until everything has melded. Bring to a boil.
  • Once boiling, turn the heat down to a simmer. At this stage, you can transfer the contents to a slow cooker or just keep everything in the pot. Cover and allow to simmer for 1.5 hours.
  • While the meat is simmering, peel, wash and chop the rutabaga and carrots. Set aside.
  • Peel, wash and chop the potatoes. Put them into a separate pot and cover with water. Set aside.
  • Slice the scallions and set aside.
  • After 1.5 hours, remove the lid from the pot. Simmer uncovered for 30 minutes (to start reducing the sauce).
  • After 30 minutes, add the rutabaga and carrots. Continue to simmer for another 30-45 minutes.
  • While rutabaga and carrots are cooking, bring the pot of potatoes to a boil. Boil until tender, about 20 minutes.
  • After 45 minutes, if your sauce has not reduced enough to coat the back of a spoon, turn the heat up and allow to boil and reduce, stirring occasionally to avoid anything sticking to the bottom of the pan.
  • Once the sauce has reduced to your liking, pick out the bay leaf, thyme and rosemary. Adjust the seasoning with salt, pepper and  lemon juice.
  • When the potatoes are fork tender, drain and mash with butter. Add the buttermilk and season with salt and pepper. Add in the scallions and whip everything together.
  • Serve the stew over the champ (the stew is even better the next day so save your leftovers!).
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