With the greens and scallions mingled like a picture in a dream.
Did you ever make a hole on top,
To hold the melting flake,
Of the creamy, flavoured butter that your mother used to make?” – a traditional Irish ditty
My kids love St. Patrick’s Day. My son pulls out a much cherished, bright green leprechaun hat and wears it. All day. All over. My husband likes Irish whiskey and Irish stout and Irish Stew and Irish bread pudding. Basically, our home becomes an Irish tavern for a couple of days. Here is a recipe for some Irish Cream if you need a little something to take the edge off of this holiday that isn’t even a real Irish holiday!
Any excuse to party, right?
My article for last week’s Flavor section in the Capital Gazette was all about Irish food. I recently interviewed Sean Lynch, General Manager of Galway Bay and the Irish Restaurant Company in Annapolis, as well as Head Chef Kevin Duffy. Sean comes from Cork, and has a wonderful infectious affection for authentic Irish foods.
Irish cuisine has long had a sad reputation for potatoes, lamb and more potatoes. In fact, Ireland’s verdant fields, along with a food culture long steeped in farming and artisanal, small batch production, are the genesis for a bounty of cheeses, butters, creams, vegetables, greens and yes, particularly delicious lamb.
Sean helped me identify some traditional Irish foods, in case you plan to visit a local pub and want to know what’s on your plate. If you want to make your own St. Patty’s celebration, there are also links to recipes.
Colcannon is made by mixing mashed potatoes with cream or milk, seasoning simply with salt and pepper, then flavoring with scallions, leeks, onions or chives. There are many regional variations of the dish, which is typically eaten with boiled ham or Irish bacon.
Recipe Here, Here and Here
Black and White Pudding * Black Pudding is a sausage made with pork blood and spices, held together with oatmeal or barley and stuffed into a pork casing. White Pudding is a similar rustic sausage, though made with pork meat and fat rather than blood. Black and White Puddings are an essential element of the Full Irish, served boiled, fried, grilled or broiled, whole or sliced. If you want to make the black pudding, you need several cups of fresh pigs blood as well as suet. I’m thinking you might want to order it.
The Full Irish or the Ulster Fry * Ireland has traditionally been a country of laborers. Folks headed to farm and field need a filling breakfast, known as “the Full Irish”. The elements of this diner-style dish vary by region, but typically include fried eggs, Irish bacon rashers, sausage, Black and White Pudding, field mushrooms, fried or grilled tomato, toasted soda or brown bread and boxty. Lately, many of these parts have been pushed together into a “breakfast roll” similar to an American breakfast burrito, that is commonly sold as fast food. An Ulster fry is eaten at any time of day and omits the white pudding.
Recipe idea here.
Irish Stew is a hearty soup made with lamb (mutton), a vegetable broth and only a few vegetables. Traditionalists claim a good Irish stew has just meat, potatoes, carrots and onions. It is not typically seasoned with Guinness, which an Irishman would rather just drink! That being said, Irish stew doesn’t rely on herbs or spices for flavor and can be a bit bland, so a little stout does give it some body. Recipes for Irish stew vary by cook, so you may find a more seasoned or veg heavy rendition and it will be no less authentic or delicious. In America, lamb is more expensive than beef so many stateside recipes use cubes of cheap beef cuts.
Rashers are thin slices of Irish bacon, which comes from the back of the pig, and is less “streaky” or fat than American bacon, which typically comes from the pork belly. Irish bacon may also be the eye of the pork loin. Boiled, grilled or fried rashers are common on menus and are almost always included in The Full Irish. You will need to order Irish rashers, or ask your local butcher.
Corn Beef and Cabbage- Few dishes are more ubiquitous to St. Patrick’s Day than Corned Beef and Cabbage. In fact, corned beef more likely came from Eastern European, Jewish immigrants who shared the tradition with Irish newcomers. It’s a dish not popular in Ireland itself, though it is common on American Irish Pub menus because it is flavorful, filling and contains cabbage—that most Irish of vegetables.
Soda Bread– soda bread is not sandwich bread, though folks unfamiliar with Irish cuisine may think so given how easy it is to find in stores this time of year. It is a slightly sweet bread with a beautiful brown crust and soft, chewy interior, made with baking soda and buttermilk and eaten with salty Irish butter and jam at breakfast or tea. Irish Brown Bread is a dense loaf made without yeast, eaten with swaths of butter or as a sandwich. Sean says everyone’s mother makes a different version of soda bread, so I guess its a bit like NDN fry bread, in that my mom’s is better than yours but I’ll eat it wherever I can get it….
Dublin Coddle is like an Irish hot pot that uses up leftover sausages, rashers and meats. It’s a rest Thursday night recipe when you need to clean the fridge and don’t eat meat on Friday.
Boxty is an old, hearty potato recipe that has recently become a hot culinary trend not only in Ireland but also across the entire Irish diaspora.
My Irish friend Carole Coleman sent me this folk poem when I asked her last week about boxty, since I know it has become a trendy dish on Ireland itself. It goes like this:
Boxty on the griddle
Boxty in the pan
If you can’t make boxty
You’ll never get your man.
Sean described boxy as basically a potato pancake made by frying finely grated raw potatoes mixed with flour, baking soda, buttermilk and egg. Boxty differs from hash browns, latkes or Indian aloo tikka by its smooth,creamy texture. I hesitate to say cake….but that’s the word commonly used to describe it…. A cakey boxy looks like this (keep in mind there are all sizes and thicknesses of the cake, this is just an example.)
I had a lovely boxy at Fado in Annapolis the other day at a Jameson Whiskey dinner. It was more of a crepe, with steak and yumminess inside and a delicious gravy poured over. In fact, the Irish meaning of bacstaí or arán bocht tí is “poor-house bread”. I take that to mean a simple batter made into a poor mans sandwich filled with leftovers….
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