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The best of my Irish heritage for your table and mine

 

Last updated 3/15/2007 at Noon



’Tis said one cannot improve on the best. Thus, today’s recipes are my very best for St. Patrick’s Day which are reprinted from prior columns that longtime readers may recall. Still, you might have lost or tossed. So, even if you’ve never been one to celebrate this holiday, be encouraged in that these recipes are almost fool-proof.

Once a year we are all Irish. My father’s family came from Ireland when being Irish wasn’t quite okay. They dropped the “O” in the family name in order to blend into the American social landscape more quickly. Some of us would have preferred otherwise. So those of us who have Irish roots adopt all in our St. Patrick’s Day feasting. On the day set aside to honor St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland, we cook a wee bit more, sing the Irish songs with a wee bit more gusto and give a nod to those of the Old Country who had the courage to come to America. We thank them for our rich heritage.

As for food, I must confess Ireland is one the countries on my “I’d like to visit” list. My knowledge and experience with Irish foods is strictly Americanized. Still, I do love everything I’ve ever tasted that is said to be Irish and prefer this simple fare to many other cuisines that are more complex and varied. It must be my Irish DNA.

So here, then, is a classic presentation of simple old fashioned Irish foods… none take more than a few minutes to make… that will make your St. Patrick’s Day and the days to follow filled with the joy and satisfactions of my O’Dorrell kitchen.

As a quick bread, they don’t get any faster than an Irish soda bread. It can ready for the oven in just a few minutes. Serve with good butter and jam… yummy!

Irish Soda Bread

1 tbsp. butter, softened

4 cups flour

1 tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. salt

1 ¼ to 1 ½ cups buttermilk

Brush a baking sheet with softened butter.

Whisk together flour, baking soda and salt in a deep mixing bowl. Gradually add 1 ¼ cups buttermilk, beating constantly with a spoon until the dough is firm enough to be gathered together. If dough crumbles beat in up to ¼ cup buttermilk, 1 tablespoon at a time, until the flour particles adhere.

Turn dough out onto a lightly floured board and pat and shape into a flat circular loaf, about 8 inches in diameter and 1 ½ inches thick. Transfer shaped loaf to the buttered baking sheet. With the tip of a knife, cut a deep X into the loaf, dividing the top of the loaf into quarters.

Bake in a 400-degree oven about 45 minutes or until loaf is well risen and top is golden brown. Serve warm.

As simple as a shamrock, this stew can be put together faster than you can sing “O Danny Boy.” It’s a simple, humble and satisfying soup-stew… and that’s no blarney.

Easy Oven Baked Irish Stew

6 medium potatoes

4 large onions

3 lb. boneless lamb stew meat (shoulder or neck preferred)

1 tsp. salt

Fresh ground black pepper

¼ tsp. thyme

Chopped parsley, optional garnish

Peel potatoes and cut crosswise into thick slices. Peel onion and cut into thick slices. Trim fat from lamb and cut meat into 1-inch cubes.

Spread half of the potatoes on bottom of a heavy 4-5 qt. casserole or Dutch oven. Cover with half of the onion. Top with the meat. Sprinkle with ½ tsp. salt, fresh ground pepper and thyme. Top with remainder of onion. Finish with remaining potatoes.

Sprinkle with ½ tsp. salt. Add enough cold water to just cover the potatoes.

Bring the stew to a boil over high heat. Cover tightly. Transfer to the lower third of a 350-degree oven for 1 hour. Take from oven and test for doneness. Add water if liquid seems to be evaporating too rapidly. Cover and return to oven for 30-45 minutes or until meat is fork-tender. Taste and adjust seasonings. Thicken, if desired, with a thin flour and water paste. Serve in soup bowls. 4-6 servings.

There are probably hundreds of versions for the Irishman’s classic of Corned Beef and Cabbage. This recipe has been in my collection for many, many years. Unlike others, it features cabbage, carrots and onion… all staples in the Irish countryside for eons.

Corned Beef, Cabbage and Carrots

1 pkg. lean corned beef brisket with seasonings

1 lb. small onions, peeled

12 small carrots, peeled or scraped

½-1 small head cabbage

Place brisket in a 5-6 qt. casserole. Add enough water to cover by at least ½ inch. Bring to a boil over high heat, meanwhile skimming off scum and foam as they rise to the surface. Reduce the heat, partially cover the casserole and simmer for 2 ½ hours.

Cut onions in half. Cut carrots in half. Cut cabbage head into eight wedges (leave part of the core with each piece so cabbage holds together as it cooks). Add the onion and carrots and cook, partially covered, for another 30 minutes or until vegetables are tender and meat is easily pierced with a fork. Take meat from casserole and cut into thick slices. Serve on a platter accompanied with vegetables.

Irish desserts of today sometimes have a wee bit of influence of other cultures. This raspberry-flavored custard dessert would use the famous Irish cream and the butter for the cake… the raspberries and almonds might be imported.

“Almost Irish” Raspberry Trifle

1 12-oz. pkg. pound cake

¼ cup seedless raspberry jam

½ cup slivered blanched almonds

1 tbsp. sherry or l tsp. almond or vanilla

2 cups heavy whipping cream

2 tbsp. superfine sugar

2 cups prepared vanilla pudding, chilled

2 cups fresh raspberries or two 10-oz. pkg. frozen raspberries, thawed and drained

Mint for garnish

Cut pound cake into slices and coat with jam. Place a few slices in the bottom of serving dish (a glass dish at least 3 inches deep is traditional and works well). Cut remaining slices into 1-inch cubes. Scatter over slices and sprinkle with ½ cup slivered almonds. Sprinkle with sherry or almond or vanilla.

Whip cream until it thickens slightly. Add sugar and continue to whip until the cream is stiff.

Select 8-10 of the best berries and set aside for garnish. Scatter remainder over cake. Spread cooked pudding over berries and top with half the whipped cream. Pipe or spoon remaining whipped cream decoratively around the edge of the serving bowl.

Garnish with reserved berries and sprinkle with remaining nuts. Refrigerate at least 1 hour. 6-8 servings.

Shortbread is a universal cookie for much of the European world. On St. Patrick’s Day they can be cut into shamrocks and embellished with a dusting of green sugars.

Shortbread Cookies

1 ½ cups butter, softened

½ cup sugar

4 cups flour

Mix butter and sugar. Work in flour with hands. If dough is crumbly, work in 1 to 2 tablespoons additional softened butter. Roll to ½-inch thick on lightly floured pastry cloth. Cut into small squares or triangles or shamrock shapes (probably best not larger than 2 ½ to 3 inches in any direction). Transfer to an ungreased baking sheet. Bake in a 350-degree oven in the lower half of the oven for about 18 minutes or until set. Take from oven and immediately remove from baking sheet to cooling racks. Makes about 3 ½ dozen cookies.

 

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