St. Patrick’s Day | March 17

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Some holidays are culturally specific, while others have utterly transcended their roots, and St. Patrick’s Day is clearly one of the latter. Ireland has about six and a half million people, including both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, a number dwarfed by the population of New York City alone. Yet through some alchemy of immigration, history and the flat-out exuberance of the Irish people, Ireland’s largest holiday has become a global phenomenon. While the Irish fondness for a good party is surely part of St. Patrick’s Day’s worldwide appeal, there are lots of ways to celebrate the country that gave us “wearing the green,” leprechauns and shamrocks.

You likely have some St. Patrick’s Day traditions of your own, even if you don’t have a drop of Irish in you. Drinking green beer? Irish whiskey? Hanging out at your local Irish bar, or just donning a green sweater for the day? Whatever your past St. Paddy’s Days have been like, we encourage you to explore some culinary options today as well. You can’t serve your children Guinness, after all. There are some delicious traditional foods from Ireland, and if your imagination runs out at potatoes, you’re in for a treat. To honor the three-leaved shamrock–tradition says St. Patrick used it to explain the Holy Trinity to his converts–we’re offering three dishes for your Irish dinner. Together they make a hearty meal that will help soak up the more liquid parts of your Irish celebration.

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Irish Soda Bread

As long as Jeannine can remember, her mom has been baking this Irish Soda bread (a recipe handed down from a dear old neighbor) and gifting it to friends and family to enjoy on St. Patrick’s day, tied up in a green ribbon, of course. This is best straight out of the oven slathered with butter, but also excellent the next day toasted with some of your favorite jam.

4 cups all-purpose flour

½ cup sugar

1 ½ tsp baking soda

1 ½ tsp salt

4 tbsp (½ stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut into ½ inch pieces

1 ¾ cups buttermilk

1 large egg

1 cup raisins, a mix of black and golden is nice

1 tbsp caraway seeds

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Combine the flour, sugar, baking soda and salt in a large bowl. Add the butter and mix until the mixture resembles coarse cornmeal. Stir in raisins and caraway seeds.

In a separate bowl or measuring cup, lightly beat the buttermilk and egg with a fork.

Slowly add the buttermilk mixture to the flour mixture and stir until dough is evenly moistened. Transfer the dough to a floured surface, halve and gently knead into 2 loaves. Transfer loaves to baking sheet lined with parchment.

Bake for 35-45 minutes or until bread is golden brown.

Makes 2 loaves.

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Shepherd’s Pie

This hearty meat pie with a cheesy mashed potato crust couldn’t be more satisfying, for both kids and grownups. We made individual pies, because they feel a bit more celebratory, but this recipe also works well in a 2 quart baking dish.

1 onion, diced

2 carrots, diced

1 stalk celery, diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 tbsp tomato paste

2 lbs ground lamb or beef

2 tbsp worcestershire sauce

1 cup beef or chicken broth

1 tbsp fresh rosemary, chopped

1 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped

1 cup frozen peas, thawed

Salt & pepper to taste

For mashed potatoes:

3 lbs yukon gold or baking potatoes

6 tbsp butter

¼ cup heavy cream

1 cup grated cheddar cheese (Irish cheddar, preferably)

Salt & pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Add 1 tbs oil and 1 tbsp olive oil to large skillet over medium high heat. Saute onions, carrots, celery and garlic for about 5 minutes. Add the meat and cook until lightly browned, about 7-10 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste, broth, and worcestershire sauce.  Season with salt and pepper. Add rosemary and parsley and simmer for another 10 minutes.

Then mix in peas. Set aside.

While meat is simmering, make the mashed potatoes. Peel and quarter the potatoes. Add them to a pot of salted cold water and bring to a boil. Cook for about 20 minutes or until tender. Drain, and mash the potatoes (we use a ricer) with the butter, cream and salt. Stir in the grated cheddar.

Now transfer the meat mixture to oven proof baking dish or 6 individual ramekins. Top with mashed potatoes. Place the dish in the oven and cook until browned, about 30 minutes. If using ramekins, place on a baking sheet.

Serves 6.

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Guinness Gingerbread Cake

adapted from The Marrow

This cake isn’t for the faint of heart–it’s got a deep, spicy flavor and a dense, chewy texture. Because it’s oil-based, it keeps well and even improves the day after it’s made. The original recipe called for using butter to grease the pan, along with a coating of crunchy demerara sugar, but we find that buttering a bundt pan too often leads to turn-out disasters, no matter how thoroughly you do it. So unless you know you have a pan that you know will turn out easily, use cooking spray. You can always sprinkle some demerara on after the fact if you want that little bit of crunch; the sugar won’t be caramelized but your cake will come out whole.

cooking spray oil

1 cup Guinness or other stout beer

1 cup molasses

½ teaspoon baking soda

340 grams all-purpose flour (approx 2.5 cups)

1 tablespoon ground ginger

1 teaspoon cinnamon

¼ teaspoon ground cloves

¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

¼ teaspoon allspice

¼ teaspoon fine sea salt

3 tablespoons grated fresh ginger

3 large eggs, at room temperature

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

210 grams dark brown sugar, lightly packed (1 cup)

200 grams granulated sugar (1 cup)

¾ cup safflower oil

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a bundt pan thoroughly with the cooking spray. (If you are confident in your pan, grease instead with two tbsp softened butter and sprinkle inside with with ⅓ cup of demerara sugar.)

Add the stout and molasses to a medium saucepan (mixture will froth up when you add baking soda) and bring to a simmer. Remove from the heat. Carefully whisk in the baking soda and let cool to room temperature.

Sift together the flour, ground spices, pepper and salt. Set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, mix the fresh ginger, eggs, vanilla extract, dark brown sugar, and granulated sugar on medium speed for 5 minutes.

Turn the mixer down to low speed and add the oil. Mix for another 5 minutes. Slowly add the stout mixture and mix for another 5 minutes.

Carefully add the dry ingredients in two parts, mixing well in between each addition.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 65-80 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean. Let the cake cool for 15 minutes and then flip upside down onto a rack to release while still warm. Let cool completely.

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