It’s fitting that St. Patrick’s Day falls on a Sunday this year. Patrick is, after all, a saint. And his miraculous service to Ireland, ridding it of snakes in the 5th Century, is just one of the acts that got him noticed by the clerical hierarchy. So, what are you planning on doing to celebrate his memory today?
There’s an old saying that you don’t have to be Irish to get in the swing of St. Patrick’s Day. I extend that to include enjoying the country’s trademark food and drink. A couple of years back, I posted a playful list of ‘Green’ foods that some restaurants and food manufacturers were offering for St. Paddy’s Day. I also listed some classic Irish dishes any of us could make to celebrate. This year, I’m going to go into greater detail about those hallmark menu items. Rather than offer complete recipes, I’ll leave you to Google them and choose the versions that most closely match your own style.
This hearty dish may be the only item of Irish cuisine that you’re aware of. But it’s a revered classic across the western world, which makes it a good place to start.
It’s a simple stew of Lamb (preferred) or Beef Chuck (shoulder cuts), Potatoes, Onions and Carrots (or Parsnips, or both). Different cooks use different Herbs and Spices and some add savoury flavours such as Worcestershire Sauce or Guinness Beer. (See ‘Guinness’, below.) But all cut the Meat and Root Veggies in large pieces and simmer the Stew for hours.
Serve Irish Stew with Irish Soda Bread (see below) to sop up the rich, Meaty gravy!
Corned Beef and Cabbage
Just simmer your Corned Beef (the whole piece) with coarsely cut Cabbage (1.5 – 2 in. / 3 – 5 cm pieces) and large chunks of Potato (2 in / 5 cm) until the Veggies are very tender. Google the dish for details and popular variations. This Irish classic is closely related to our next menu suggestion…
Simmer together Large chunks of Potato and Cabbage. When both the Potatoes and Cabbage are soft, mash the Spuds with lots of Butter and a little Cream, and chop the Cabbage medium fine (1/2 to 3/4 in. / 1 – 2 cm) and blend together with lots of Black Pepper, and enough Salt to balance all the flavours. Serve with any roast.
These little puck-shaped savoury, single-serving pies are traditionally eaten by Irish field hands at lunch. But since they’re easy to carry and not prone to spoilage at room temperature, they’ve become the unofficial national take-out and Pub Food dish of Ireland. They’re usually made from Pork, but are also found in Beef and, occasionally, Lamb. And they’re equally tasty hot or cold.
This is the Irish cousin in the Hash Brown/Latke family. It can be served as a starch on a full plated meal or in place of Fries with a Pie or Burger. Or just as a snack by itself. The recipe is simple, but do Google this one diligently to bring yourself up to speed on the little techniques and tips that will ensure success!
Irish Soda Bread
Irish Soda Bread goes with everything Irish – and lots of things that aren’t Irish, too! It’s a perfect bread for anyone who doesn’t want to mess with Yeast.
Soda Bread is really just an Irish implementation of the classic and universal Soda-raised baking dough on which Soda (Tea) Biscuits, Cornbread, Muffins, Steamed Dumplings and many desserts are based. It’s distinguished from the mainstream, however, by its use of Baking Soda only (no Baking Powder) in company with Buttermilk, which supplies the Acid needed to activate the Soda and produce the leavening. It’s traditionally baked in a round, dome-shaped loaf with a cross cut in its top. Purists serve it cut in wedges with lots of Butter and any number of sweet or savoury toppings.
Guinness is the unofficial official Beer of Ireland. The Dark heavy brew is equated with its home island from Southampton to Singapore. They call it ‘Stout’ because of its character and consistency, similar to British Porter. It’s an ideal accompaniment to any of the hearty Irish dishes we’ve surveyed today.
Honour St. Patrick!
…By making any of the foregoing treats today. You’ll be glad you did; your eyes will be smiling even if they aren’t Irish!
~ Maggie J.