Irish Soda Bread

Irish Soda BreadPandemic Patty’s Day
I celebrated St. Patrick’s Day over the weekend because I decided to corn my own beef this year. And, since the cooking time is measured in hours, there was no way I would be able to make it on a Wednesday night. Hence the Saturday night celebration.

We had all the fixin’s: Corned beef, Champ (a.k.a. mashed potatoes with fresh chives), Irish butter, cabbage, and of course, the Guinness—which was in the cake as well as a pint glass. I also made Irish soda bread. But, here’s where things got sideways.

Soda bread is probably the easiest bread product you could possibly make. And, warm out of the oven with a generous smear of Irish butter…it’s heaven. I feel compelled to say that the soda bread you often see with the currents and/or caraway is not authentic Irish soda bread. Neither is the sweeter scone-like version. Tasty? Yes. Authentic? No. Traditionally soda bread is made with half wheat flour and half all-purpose flour. Last Saturday, this is where everything went wrong.

Like thousands of other people, I stocked up last year with ingredients for my pantry that were rapidly disappearing. Because of the lockdown I used a lot of those items. But, there were some that I didn’t use as much as I thought I would. I still have a significant collection of dried beans. Another example? My White Whole Wheat flour from King Arthur.

I knew the bag I had in the cupboard was old and I even bought a new one and had it on the shelf ready to go. For the life of me I can’t explain why I didn’t throw the old one out. I didn’t and I used the old one by mistake. Needless to say, the soda bread tasted stale right out of the oven—not a good experience to be sure and a big disappointment for me personally. I was looking forward to the bread.

Tonight I will be making another batch, this time with fresh flour. I have also started what I call the Pandemic Purge and have been going through my canned goods and everything else I stocked up on to see what’s expired. Thankfully, the Guinness is just fine.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!!!

Traditional Irish Soda Bread
Yields 1 loaf Read more…

Irish Porter Cake

Irish Porter CakePorter-able Breakfast
I’ve sorta been into cakes lately. I made the chocolate Bundt cake from last week for a friend that was in town and joined us for dinner on Saturday. Surprisingly, there were leftovers which meant I had a piece with coffee for breakfast the next morning.(I know, my devotion to health knows no bounds.) It was glorious. So it should come as no surprise that while searching for something a wee bit Irish for this week, I found myself thumbing through Irish cake recipes.

When you think of Irish sweets, the first thing that comes to most people’s mind is scones or shortbread. Well, at least that’s what I think of.(I blame it on the Irish butter. Can’t get enough of it.) While making some scones this Sunday morning for St. Patrick’s Day would be fantastic idea, (I mean do you really need it to be a special occasion for scones to be a good idea? Or shortbread for that matter?) I will be on the road before the sun is up to attend yet another sporting event which means breakfast needs to be portable. So cake for breakfast it is! Again. Any excuse, right?

This Porter cake is an Irish classic and goes well with any meal of the day.

Irish Porter Cake
Yields 10 to 12 servings  Read more…

Champ (Irish Potatoes)

ChampThe Irish Table
My friends, we are knee deep in March, which apparently means rain, basketball, and that day of green, otherwise known as St. Patrick’s Day.

For the record, I’m not really a beer kind of gal—though I did have a pint of Guinness at St. James Gate in Dublin years ago. Best pint I’ve ever had before or since. My guess is it was because I was in Dublin. Other than that, I just can’t do it, green or not. Which is why when I celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, I do it with food. (Imagine that…)

Nothing is more synonymous with Ireland than potatoes. The tragic history of Ireland and the potato is a major reason that we celebrate St. Patrick’s Day in America. If not for the famine, we wouldn’t have as many Irish on this side of the pond. (I know, thanks, Captain Obvious…)

Potatoes have always been a friend of mine. I like ‘em mashed. I like ‘em baked. I love ‘em scalloped and I love ‘em French fried. Turns out, I like ‘em Champed too. Champ is a simple Irish peasant dish consisting of pouring scallion-infused, warm milk over mashed potatoes and served with a large dollop of butter melting on top. The butter is essential because Champ is supposed to be eaten from the outside with a spoon, dipping it into the butter in the center. Can I get an Amen?

I had Champ for the first time on the same Ireland trip I mentioned before. While it may not be the national dish of Ireland it is certainly top five. No matter where we went to eat, I ordered some on the side with my meal—I couldn’t get enough of it. It helped that there were so many different versions of the dish, each with a new ingredient to add. Though the original remains my favorite, Champ and Crispy Onions is probably a close second.

Champ (Irish Potatoes)
Adapted from Irish Traditional Cooking By Darina Allen
Serves 4 Read more…

Cashel Blue, Spinach, and Smoked Salmon Tartlets

Cashel Blue, Spinach, and Smoked Salmon TartletsGo Green
To most people mid-March means St. Patrick’s Day. When they think about Irish food and drink, those same people generally think of potatoes, corned beef, cabbage, lamb and Guinness.

While those ingredients are frequently featured in Irish cooking, the Emerald Isle has so much more to offer. Their cheese alone could occupy most of your time—and don’t get me started on the charcuterie. The Irish know their way around a butchery. While traveling through Ireland years ago, one of the things that surprised me most was the incredible seafood. (I’m not sure why I was surprised. It is an island after all.) The seafood…it was sensational.

Mussels, Herring, Shrimp, Cod, Crab, Haddock, Skate and Salmon (both fresh and smoked) could be found on most menus along with many other native species. Fish was mostly prepared simply but elegantly, and with obvious skill. Occasionally, if you were lucky, you could find a seafood pie. (Yes, topped with potatoes). Yum!

This year for St. Patrick’s Day, set the green beer down and do something truly Irish like these Smoked Salmon tartlets from the cookbook The New Irish Table by Margaret Johnson. You’ll be glad you did. Erin Go Bragh!

Cashel Blue, Spinach and Smoked Salmon Tartlets
Adapted from The New Irish Table by Margaret Johnson
Yields 30 Tartlets

Oak-smoked Irish salmon is often eaten simply with a squeeze of lemon and a slice of brown bread. But its flavor pairs so well with other ingredients, It’s no surprise to also find it in a paté, atop roasted potatoes, or combined with blue cheese and fresh spinach in these tartlets from David Foley, chef-owner of the Wild Geese Restaurant in picturesque Adare, County Limerick. Chef Foley fills handmade pastry cases with the mixture, but these use frozen filo dough shells. Read more…