If you're Irish and abroad on St. Patrick's Day, there is always nostalgia. It's a time to reflect on your own identity—who you are, where you came from. And a fun day we always have, too!
Oh God. There have been some long, alcohol-fueled St. Patrick's Days. What we do now is start at Corrigan's Mayfair and have a breakfast which is liquid, of course. Something in the hand—probably Champagne—and some cocktails. We invite all the Irish chefs in London and there's at least 20, all really good guys. We invite them down to Corrigan's and we have a bit of a party—a "chef's party" you could say. This starts at about 8.30 in the morning and it goes on until around 11. Maybe half 11.
There's lots of Champagne on ice and I always have Irish actor Adrian Dunbar sing something. Rarely do we all get together, now we're getting a little older, so it's friends and some food writers too. Anyone with a good Irish connection, really is entitled to come to the party. It's the same faces every year.
After that, I head back into my kitchen and we have a really nice lunch.
I always do an Irish stew, which I love dearly. You can't pigeonhole it. The French might call it a white daube but it's the most delicious wholesome, gorgeous thing you're ever going to eat. We just keep the menu homely and Irish-inspired—a reflection of who we are.
It's basically a white stew and a lovely good lamb stock. I use the scraggy end of the shoulder on the bone, then I tend to blanche it off to get rid of any impurities. I cover it in water and simmer it for around an hour and a half, and then I let it set and take the meat and the bones out. I'll take the meat off the bone and pass the stock back onto it. Then I add onions and two types of potatoes—the first lot of potatoes goes to mush but the last lot, I add ten minutes before it's finished. Then I add back in my cooked lamb and season it with lashings of sea salt and pepper, and add some scallions or spring onions. It's really simple.
But if you feel like putting a carrot into your stew, please do. It depends on my mood—sometimes I do, sometimes I don't. Every day is a different day, there's no rule book when it comes to enjoying yourself.
After the stew—my God—I head to Bentley's [Oyster Bar and Grill, Corrigan's Mayfair grill restaurant], probably around late afternoon. It's a very busy day in Bentley's, as you can imagine, but we always have a little evening party there. That's a really good, eclectic crowd. There's a lot of English people with Irish parents—same customers, same faces every year. Last year, I had Louise Kennedy the Irish designer and Mr. O'Leary of TV fame and all his jolly mates. You're not getting something that's about swilling dark beer in dungeons, it's a light event.
And it has developed into a wonderful dinner, too. We always get our hands on meat from Sally Barnes' Woodcock Smokery in Cork—they do me some wonderful stuff. I really leave it to the artisans from Ireland with the cheeses and smoked food, and also serve aged Tipperary beef from farmers who supply the Parisian market.
The restaurant scene in Dublin is quite international—there's a lot of that "post-Copenhagen" vibe going on—but there's a robustness about what you would class as Irish food.
You don't put things into a box and say, "That's Irish," though. It's food from the land grown by people who can come from everywhere—Giana Ferguson is a Londoner with a fantastic cheese business in Ireland, for example. So what is "Irish" food? I think there is a little quirkiness about Irish artisans or artisans living in Ireland, they really do make a difference at whatever they put their hands to.
Ultimately, Irish food is made by people who care, in a region that we class as Ireland. I hate the stupidity of pigeonholing things. You understand what's going on in the world and you take the best from here or there. It's food of the grass fields, milk and cream, cheeses and good meat, and nice things made by nice people.
For our St. Patrick's Day dinner, I also always make a lovely Mam Corrigan-inspired apple tart. It's a Dutch apple tart, really but I certainly put an Irish twist on it. I've made it bigger and chunkier inside—and creamier. We serve it with lots of homemade custard.
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Normally we finish up at at least 2 in the morning and I'm shattered. Jesus Christ, when I was 20 or 30, I could party without any handicaps. Now I need litres of water to recuperate. My advice is to start on Champagne and finish on Champagne, if at all possible.
But that's what you want on St. Patrick's Day. You're not sitting down to some quasi chef's tasting menu, you want food and drink overflowing until you're saying, "Please stop!" It's a different day, it's a day of friendship and inviting people to the party.
It's another excuse for us to say, "Isn't it fucking good for us to be alive?"
As told to Phoebe Hurst.
Richard Corrigan was born in Dublin in 1964. He grew up on a 25-acre farm in County Meath, rearing pigs, tending vegetables, and eating his mother's hand-churned butter. After cooking at restaurants in Europe, he opened Lindsay House in London's Soho and was awarded a Michelin star in 1997. He is chef patron of Corrigan's and Bentley's Oyster Bar and Grill in Mayfair, two restaurants that specialise in modern—but no less hearty—Irish dishes.