If you’re looking for the perfect meal to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day you’re in the right place, because this year we’re going traditional with an amazing Irish comfort food menu: Irish Lamb Stew and Chunky Apple Cake.

Traditional Irish stew comes in many forms, but the most widely used recipes usually revolve around lamb, potatoes and onions. The tradition of Irish stew dates back many centuries, and before lamb became common, mutton or kid goat would have been used.

Especially popular during winter months (and unpredictable March weather) Irish stew is comfort food at its best. Please note that while this stew recipe contains lamb, feel free to substitute beef if you prefer. And since no St. Patrick's Day celebration would be complete without dessert, try easy Chunky Apple Cake. It’s lightly sweet, super-moist, and topped with a decadent butterscotch sauce.

Have a wonderful St. Patrick’s Day and enjoy these recipes; they’re so tasty, you’re going to want to serve them way beyond the 17th of March.

Lamb stew

• 2 pounds lamb stew meat, cut into 1-inch cubes

• 1 tablespoon butter

• 1 tablespoon olive oil

• 1 pound carrots, sliced

• 2 medium onions, thinly sliced

• 2 garlic cloves, minced

• 1 1/2 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth

• 1 12-ounce bottle Guinness stout or additional reduced-sodium chicken broth

• 6 medium red potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes

• 4 bay leaves

• 2 fresh thyme sprigs

• 2 fresh rosemary sprigs

• 2 teaspoons salt

• 1 1/2 teaspoons pepper

• 1/4 cup heavy whipping cream

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. In an ovenproof Dutch oven, brown lamb in butter and oil in batches. Remove and keep warm. In the same pan, sauté carrots and onions in drippings until crisp-tender.

Add garlic; cook 1 minute. Gradually add broth and beer. Stir in lamb, potatoes, bay leaves, thyme, rosemary, salt and pepper. Cover and bake 1 1/2 to 2 hours or until meat and vegetables are tender, stirring every 30 minutes. Discard bay leaves, thyme and rosemary. Stir in cream; heat through.

Freeze option: Place individual portions of stew in freezer containers and freeze up to three months. To use, partially thaw in refrigerator overnight. Heat through in a saucepan, stirring occasionally and adding a little water if necessary. Serves eight at about $2 per serving.

 

Chunky apple cake

• 1/2 cup butter, softened

• 2 cups sugar

• 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

• 2 large eggs

• 2 cups all-purpose flour

• 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

• 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg

• 1/2 teaspoon salt

• 1/2 teaspoon baking soda

• 6 cups chopped peeled tart apples

Butterscotch sauce:

• 1/2 cup packed brown sugar

• 1/4 cup butter, cubed

• 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream

In a large bowl, cream the butter, sugar and vanilla. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Combine the flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt and baking soda; gradually add to creamed mixture and mix well (batter will be stiff). Stir in apples until well combined.

Spread into a greased 13-by-9-inch baking dish. Bake at 350 degrees F. for 40 to 45 minutes or until top is lightly browned and springs back when lightly touched. Cool for 30 minutes before serving.

Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, combine brown sugar and butter. Cook over medium heat until butter is melted. Gradually add cream. Bring to a slow boil over medium heat, stirring constantly. Remove from the heat. Serve with cake. Serves 12 to 14 at about .78 cents per serving.

Penny Hawkins is a former Times-News Cook of the Month. Contact her at twodollardinners@yahoo.com or visit her blog at twodollardinners.blogspot.com. Her “$2 Dinners Cook Book: Easy Delicious Meals for $2 or Less Per Serving” is available for $14.99 at www.tatepublishing.com.