Everyone knows that St Patrick’s Day falls in mid March. It’s a great day to shake off the winter blahs by wearing some green and eating plenty of Irish goodies. But there is also another holiday this week, revolving around a very important number.
Mathematicians will know that today, 3/14 is Pi Day. This number, which is so crucial to math and science applications, is celebrated in math classes and by math aficionados all around the world. While it is not to be confused with National Pie Day, which falls on January 23, you can still celebrate by baking a mouthwatering pie with your kids.
Cooking with kids is a great way to give them hands on practice with mathematical concepts, especially when you start increasing and decreasing recipes. You can give them a real life example of how fractions work with measuring cups and teaspoons. And how can you incorporate a mathematical lesson into making a pie, you might ask?
Easy, a pie is a round circle and pi (approximately 3.14) is the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter. So you can give your children a geometry lesson before even cutting into your first piece of pie, by measuring around its outer edge, and then across. Divide the first number by the second, to get the result of pi. Then whether you divide up the pie into equal sized wedges or other more uneven sizes, you can teach an easy lesson in fractions.
But wait a minute, St. Patrick’s Day is coming up. Is it possible to get in two fun food holidays for the price of one? Yes, you can. How do the worlds of math and Irish cuisine collide, you ask? The answer is in a savory traditional Irish meat pie, which can serve the purpose of celebrating both holidays at once.
This year you can skip the same old Corned Beef and Cabbage in favor of a Beef and Guinness Pie or a Ham and Cabbage Pie. Both are traditional dishes that are true to Irish cuisine and make a hearty celebration meal.
These savory pies originated as a way for frugal housewives to use up leftover meat and are close cousins to the British Shepherd’s Pie. Just like Shepherd’s Pie, the Ham and Cabbage pie can be topped with mashed potatoes. It really is an easy way to use up some leftovers and makes a perfect one dish meal.
The Beef and Guinness Pie is made with Ireland’s most famous stout beer, but any other stout beer will do. And parents, don’t worry, the alcohol in the stout beer cooks out, but if you prefer you can skip that ingredient and increase the beef stock or replace with a non alcoholic beer.
It can be topped with mashed potatoes or delicate puff pastry. The recipe below really is easy as pie, and just requires some time for the stew to cook and develop flavor before topping with a crust and baking until it’s golden brown. You can also cook the stew in a slow cooker, and then when it’s time to eat, simply transfer to a pie dish or baking dish, and proceed with the recipe.
Continue your theme of St Patty’s Day circles with a traditional Irish soda bread, cut into the traditional cross shape to form wedges. Top off the meal with round or clover shaped St Patrick’s day sugar cookies for dessert, rolled in green decorative sugar.
So round out your St Patrick’s Day celebration this year with a savory pie straight from the Emerald Isle and celebrate all things enclosed in a crust. Happy St Patrick’s Day!
Beef and Guinness Pie Recipe
Ready in: 2-5 hrs
* 2 tablespoons tomato paste
* 2 1/2 cups beef stock
* 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
* 3 pounds boneless beef chuck, cut into 1-inch pieces
* 1 pound white mushrooms, cleaned and quartered
* 1 large onion, coarsely chopped
* 2 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
* 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves, chopped
* 1 1/2 cup Guinness stout beer
* 1 cup flour
* Salt and freshly ground black pepper
* 1 egg
* 1 pound frozen puff pastry, thawed
Preheat oven to 325 degrees F and place oven rack in middle position.
In a large bowl, combine tomato paste, beef stock and Worcestershire sauce. Add beef, mushrooms, onions, garlic, thyme, and stout and stir well. Sprinkle flour over beef mixture, season to taste with salt and pepper, and stir.
Transfer to a deep pie dish and set on a large baking sheet. Cover dish with foil. Bake, stirring occasionally, until meat is very tender, 3 1/2 to 4 hours. Alternatively, place in a slow cooker for 6-8 hours on low, until beef is tender.
Beat egg and 1 tsp. water together in a small bowl and set aside. Roll puff pastry out on a lightly floured surface to a 1/4" thick circle, 2" wider than baking dish. Remove pie dish from oven and uncover. Drape pastry over dish and brush with egg wash. Return baking dish to oven and bake until pastry is puffed and golden brown, about 40 minutes.