Laura Boyd is a local stylist, interior decorator and caterer. Together with business partner Meg Hale, she owns Strawberry Banke Studio, a full-service lifestyle design firm based in Annapolis.
Prior to opening Strawberry Banke Studios last year, Laura travelled to Ireland to attend a specialized course at Ballymaloe, the country’s most famous school of cookery and hospitality.
She arrived just in time to experience an authentic St. Patrick’s Day celebration, which she says is fundamentally different than it is here.
“St. Patrick’s Day in Ireland is less an opportunity to visit the local pub—though that is fun and popular too– than it is an opportunity to explore the natural and culinary delights that best represent the magic and culture of Ireland”. – Laura Boyd, Strawberry Banke Studio
Laura admits that it didn’t take long for her to became obsessed with the best flavors of Ireland, which is of course is a country synonymous with the color green, mostly for the island’s miles upon miles of grassy fields, made verdant by temperature weather and plenty of rain. “I immediately fell in love with tender spring lamb, hand-smoked salmon, authentic salted butter made from Irish dairy cows, fresh rhubarb and tender spring vegetables like wild garlic and unique, heirloom potatoes. “I think I ate smoked salmon with butter on homemade bread every single morning I was in Ireland,” she laughs.
Laura says an authentic St. Patrick’s Day celebration should forego the heavily processed or overcooked dishes so frequently associated with the Americanized holiday and instead include artisanal and traditional foods that better represent the pastoral farms and plentiful waterways of Ireland.
“When I consider St. Patrick’s Day, I think of delicious flavors that fit perfectly into a more sophisticated menu Stateside”, Laura said. “I imagine a light brunch that marries the fresh flavors of spring and soft reminisces of Ireland”.
The Strawberry Banke rendition of St. Patrick’s Day showcases traditional Irish foods presented with a creative twist and a dash of the Southern flair Laura and Meg are known for. “We would go beyond typical mashed potatoes, Shepherd’s Pie or Beef Stew and instead focus on dishes that use simple, farm-fresh ingredients and deliver a lot of flavor. The brunch buffet would be styled with bountiful springtime flowers and on-trend lettuce ware, in all shades of green, of course!” Laura said.
It isn’t difficult to transform your own favorite St. Patrick’s Day flavors into simpler, more authentic and even healthier dishes. For example, The Full Irish is a large platter of heavy, gut-lining flavors and traditionally includes mushrooms, tomatoes, blood sausage and a fried egg. It is the perfect start to a hard day on the fields or at sea, but maybe not the best preamble to a celebratory sampling of St. Patrick’s Day drinks. “I wanted to elevate elements of The Full Irish and also to make it into a single portion that wouldn’t be overwhelming or filling”, Laura said. “This strata includes all of the essential ingredients of an Irish breakfast in every bite”.
Proper Irish Breakfast Stratas
(Recipe from Laura Boyd)
Serves 8 individual portions
6-8 thick slices challah bread
Kerrygold butter (enough to butter each slice of bread)
1 lb savory sausage and/or or bacon
1 1/2 cup shredded Irish Cheddar cheese (Colliers, Kerrygold, etc)
6 farm fresh eggs, beaten
2 cups whole milk (or 1 cup milk with 1 cup cream)
1 onion, chopped
1 cup of mushrooms
1 cup grape tomatoes (sliced in half)
- Brown sausage or bacon. Remove from pan and add onions, mushrooms, and tomatoes and salute until tender (remember to season with salt and pepper). Let cool. Chop sausage and//or bacon into bite size pieces.
- Mix eggs and milk (I like to pour some of the mixture into a glass measuring pitcher for easy pouring into the ramekins – remember to season egg mixture with a few pinches of salt and pepper).
- Butter slices of bread and cut slices into 1 inch cubes.
- In individual ramekins, place a layer of bread cubes and top with a bit of the onion, mushrooms, tomatoes and sausage/bacon. Top with a layer of shredded cheddar. Repeat with another layer of bread cubes, vegetables, meat, cheese, etc. until the ramekins are full.
- Slowly pour the egg and milk mixture over the bread until it appears that all the bread has soaked up mixture (like bread pudding, you may need to push down the layers a bit to ensure each layer of bread has soaked up the egg). Add more bread, etc. if needed to fill to the top.
- Cover with plastic wrap and chill ramekins on a sheet pan overnight if you want to plan ahead. If not, let the ramekins sit for at least 20-30 min before baking. Bake at 325 until a knife comes out clean and egg mixture is cooked all the way through. Tops should be golden and bubbly.
Hot Potato Cakes with Irish Smoked Salmon and Creme Fraiche
(Recipe from Darina Allen’s “Ballymaloe Cookery Course” Cookbook)
2 lb unpeeled potatoes
2 oz butter (I use Kerrygold for everything)
2 oz flour
1 Tbsp chopped herbs (chives, parsley or lemon thyme – or a mix of all)
half & half or whole milk
seasoned flour (for breading before frying)
4 oz. smoked salmon
freshly snipped chives
clarified butter for frying
- Cook the potatoes in their skins, pull off the peel and mash right away, adding the butter, flour and herbs. Season with lots of salt and pepper and add a few drops of whole milk or half & half if the mixture is altogether too stiff. Mix well. Taste and correct the seasoning.
- Shape into 1″ thick potato cakes. Dip in seasoned flour (flour with salt and pepper).
- Fry the potato cakes in clarified butter until golden brown on one side, then flip over and cook on the other side, for about 4-5 minutes – they should be crusty and golden.
- Serve on very hot plates.Top with a dollop of creme fraiche and slivers of good quality smoked salmon. Sprinkle with chives and serve immediately.
No authentic Irish-themed brunch should be without soda or brown bread, grassy imported butter and good quality smoked salmon. Each of these ingredients is ubiquitous and indigenous to Irish food culture. “ We used Irish Kerrygold butter both in the classroom and for guests at Ballymaloe, and I use it in my cooking here as well”, Laura said. Kerrygold can be found Stateside at most groceries. You can make your own bread, but you might have better luck finding it at a local bakery or restaurant. Try Great Harvest or make a special request at Killarney House, Galway Bay or Pirate’s Cove in Shadyside.
Of course, one can’t forego proper tea and scones for any Continental-style buffet. Laura said the scones in Ireland aren’t the heavy, cakey sort found in America: “Irish scones are light and ethereal little fluffy pillows that rely on fresh cream, Irish butter and Irish flour,” Laura said. “You may not be able to exactly replicate an Irish scone with American flour, but this recipe is very close”, she added. The recipe here is the one used at Ballymaloe. She added rhubarb and strawberry butter for seasonality, but says you can substitute other berries and compound butters. The Irish use Barry’s Tea, a blend of Kenya, Rwandan and Indian Assam leaves with a tan color and strong flavor. You can find it at Irish Traditions on Main Street in downtown Annapolis ($7.99/box, 80 bags).
Mummy’s Sweet Strawberry and Rhubarb Scones
(Recipe from Ballymaloe, flavors adapted by Laura Boyd)
Makes 18-20 scones using a 3 inch cutter.
2 lb plain white flour
pinch of salt
2 oz. caster sugar (very fine sugar – can be found in specialty baking sections)
3 heaped teaspoons teaspoons baking powder
6 oz butter
3 organic eggs
15 fl oz milk, to mix
3 Rhubarb stalks (chopped finely)
1/2 cup fresh strawberries, finely chopped
organic egg wash (1 egg with a splash of water, beaten)
granulated sugar, for sprinkling
- Preheat oven to 475 degrees.
- Sieve all dry ingredients together in a large wide bowl.
- Cut the butter into cubes, toss in the flour and rub in the butter.
- Add the chopped fruit (I like to lightly toss mine in a little flour first to absorb some of the moisture. Separate fruit from excess dusting flour before adding to the bowl).
- Make a well in the center. Whisk the eggs with the milk, add to the dry ingredients and mix into a soft dough (do not overtax! Just until the dough forms).
- Turn out dough onto a floured board. Shape into a round and roll out (I like to use my hands and gently pat it out) until it is about 1 inches thick (the less you touch or smash it down, the softer and fluffier they will be!). Quickly cut out rounds with a floured cutter and put scones on baking sheet.
- Brush the tops with egg wash and sprinkle with sugar.
- Bake in the over for 10-12 minutes until golden brown on top. Cool on wire rack. Serve split in half with homemade jam, honey butter or a blob of whipped cream.
Finish your brunch with an Irish coffee. A strictly traditional Irish Coffee relies on brown sugar and whiskey stirred into dark coffee. Strawberry Banke’s version tops that rich drink with a dollop of handmade whipped cream infused with whiskey. “The cream adds comfort and a subtle flavor boost to the elegance of the coffee and brings a bit of both elegance and fun to the brunch”, Laura said.
For a bunch of traditional Irish recipes like colcannon and such, you can visit this post from last year.Feel free to share...