When I started my side gig working at my local airport the first international trip that I wanted to take was to Ireland. We hadn’t been there and I come from a very Irish family. Our quick trip was everything that I thought it would be and I can’t wait to explore more the beautiful Emerald Isle when it’s safe to do so. Until then, date night in-Ireland theme will have to do. And how fitting that St. Patrick’s Day is just a few weeks away!
What to Eat:
There are so many great dishes to make on your date night. Bangers and Mash, Dublin Coddle, Colcannon, Guinness Stew….so many warm and comforting meals! For your date night I recommend Cottage Pie, similar to Shepherd’s Pie but tastier! This is a perfect meal to make together and you’ll have leftovers, which is always a plus in my house. Cottage Pie was first created by utilizing leftover beef from the Sunday roast and their bumper crop of potatoes. It gets its name from the poor farmers who lived in cottages or modest rural dwellings. Have you ever noticed that “peasant food” is often the yummiest?
- 1 1/2 pounds lean ground beef
- 1/4 cup diced onions
- 2 carrots, peeled and diced
- 3 stalks of celery, diced
- 6 oz mushrooms, sliced thinly
- 1 tablespoon garlic, minced
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 1/2 cup dry red wine
- 2 cups beef broth
- 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
- A couple sprigs fresh thyme
- 2 bay leaves
For the Mashed Potatoes:
- 3 pounds peeled and cubed gold or russet potatoes
- 1/2 cup milk
- 2-4 tablespoons butter
- 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese (Irish cheddar like Kerry Gold is best)
- 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg (freshly grated if possible)
- In a large skillet, brown the beef until no longer pink.
- Stir in the onions, carrots, celery and garlic.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
- Allow the vegetables to soften for 2-3 minutes. Then add the remaining ingredients, mixing well. Cook over medium heat until most of the liquid has been absorbed; approximately 15-20 minutes.
- While the mixture cooks add the potatoes to a large pot and fill with cold water (I get my water boiling first and then add the potatoes but I’ve been told that’s not a great idea) Bring to a boil and allow to cook until the potatoes have softened; approximately 20 minutes.
- Drain the potatoes, put them back in the warm pot and add the milk, butter, cheese and nutmeg. Mash with either an electric mixer or a hand masher.
- Check on your filling. Remove the thyme and bay leaves and place the meat mixture in an oven safe casserole dish. Top with prepared mashed potatoes.
- Bake for 30 minutes, uncovered until golden brown. You can also switch to broil for the last 5 minutes or so to get a nice golden top.
- Remove from the oven and allow to sit for about 20 minutes before serving
For dessert you can whip up a batch of these Guinness brownies or this traditional Irish Apple Cake. I have made both and they are delicious. I only linked the recipes but check out these ladies sites, they have great recipes. The custard cream that you would have on the apple cake is also delicious on the brownie.
What to Drink:
Guinness is the number one beer in Ireland, but if a frothy pint is not your thing Magners Irish Cider is great to pair with your Cottage Pie too. If you’re looking for something a little stronger, Irish Whiskey is a good choice for a cocktail or on it’s own with a couple of rocks. Andrew was a bartender back in the day so I’ll ask him to make an Irish Mint Mojito if I’m feeling fancy. Is this really a proper Irish cocktail? Probably not, but I’m Irish and I like it so here’s the recipe! If you’re not a big drinker, you can make this without the whiskey and it’s just as festive.
Irish Mint Mojito
- ½ cup sugar
- ½ cup water
- ¼ cup mint leaves
- 4 lime wedges
- 4 oz Irish Whiskey
- Tonic or ginger brew
Combine water and sugar over medium heat to create your simple syrup. Make sure to bring the mixture to a boil and let it simmer until the mixture thickens. Set aside to cool. You may want to make this early.
In each glass, mix the mint leaves with the lime wedges using a wooden spoon or muddler. Add desired amount of simple syrup to minty lime mixture. Muddle a bit more. It’s going to smell amazing.
Fill your glasses with ice.
Pour 2 oz of Irish Whiskey into each glass
Stir slowly and top with tonic or ginger brew.
What to Listen to:
The Irish know how to have a good time, especially around St. Patrick’s Day! Check out The Dubliners, The Clancy Brothers and the Irish Rovers if you are looking for an Irish pub feel. Whiskey in the Jar, The Unicorn and Finnegan’s Wake are a few of my favorites. The Pogues and The Cranberries are also top choices in our home year round. There are many playlists on Spotify, the Irish Folk lists tend to have some of my favorites
What to Do:
The game ‘Rings’ was very popular back in the day. It’s similar to darts but less dangerous, nothing pointy to bounce back and hit you or anyone else! It’s a simple board with 13 hooks, each hook has a value and you throw a rubber ring (gasket) and try to get it on a hook. If your rubber ring is hanging down on a hook you to add that number to your score. This looks like something Andrew could make in an afternoon and we could play in our home without worrying I would hit someone with a dart. I’m really bad at darts. You could even use a pegboard for a quick setup. Check out this post for more info about the game and this one too!
If you’re not up for making a new game board, you could always watch a movie! Once is a wonderful, uplifting, movie with original music set in Dublin. The song ‘Following Slowly’ is just one of the lovely songs off this soundtrack.
If you’re looking for a laugh The Young Offenders and Derry Girls are both available on Netflix and will have you in stitches. Andrew and I have rewatched Derry Girls three times….hopefully season 3 will come out soon. It’s just SO funny.
I hope you enjoy my Irish date night ideas and have a wonderful St. Patrick’s Day! Three months into 2021 and this is the 4th date night in I’ve done. I hope you’ve been enjoying them and let me know if you have any requests! I will keep them coming for as long as you enjoy them and we’re stuck at home.
To all the days here and after, may they be filled with fond memories, happiness, and laughter.