Tasty Tuesday: Irish Fare

March 15, 2022

I am Irish and quite proud of it. My grandmother’s family came to America from Northern Ireland by way of Scotland, and on to America during the potato famine time in Ireland. I’ve always been told you must wear green on St. Patty’s Day, or you stand to be pinched. And her father, my Great Grandpa Stewart always said – wear green Lassie (Irish for girl), never wear orange for in our family, those who wear orange are the “enemy”. I was too young to question why. As I got older and into genealogy research, I learned the orange was from the south of Ireland and primarily Catholic and the green from the north of Ireland, primarily Christian. Even if you are not celebrating St. Patrick’s Day, I hope you will find something delicious to try.

A river dyed green in Chicago, Illinois

St. Patrick’s Day or the Feast of Saint Patrick is a cultural and religious celebration on March 17 each year. The day commemorates the arrival of Christianity in Ireland and celebrates the culture and heritage of the Irish people. Usually, there are parades, festivals, the wearing of green, shamrocks, and specific Irish foods. Fun fact: St. Patrick’s Day is celebrated in more countries than any other national holiday.

In Chicago, Illinois, and many other parts of America, the rivers are dyed green just for the day! (Don’t worry, it is totally harmless to the natural elements – no harm done.) 

A four-leaf clover with the sun backlighting it

My grandmother always said when looking for shamrocks – to look for the 4 leafed ones because they bring you extra good luck!

They are never easy to find. I remember as a little girl (and even now if I’m in a shamrock/clover patch) looking for a 4-leaf clover.

I have some favorite foods that I associate with St. Patrick’s Day. Let’s get started cooking – St. Patrick’s Day is just around the corner.

The traditional basic foods for our St. Patty’s Day are potatoes, cabbage, pork, corned beef (a highly spiced/flavorful brisket beef cut), Irish Stew, Irish Soda Bread, Shepherd’s Pie, Irish Apple Cake, and of course – Blarney Stones!

Blarney Stone? For over 200 years people have climbed the stairs to kiss the Blarney Stone and gain the gift of eloquence.  The trick is to bend backward to kiss it. It’s been there since about 1314 as the prophetic power of royal succession.

Although I have yet to visit Ireland, I do eat and enjoy all the Irish Fare!

Corned beef and cabbage

CORNED BEEF AND CABBAGE

In past years we had to brine the brisket ourselves and make our own spice mix. Today, however, most Beef Briskets that are packaged as “corned beef” come with a little packet of spices for you to use in making your Corned Beef and Cabbage dinner.

To serve 10 or so people, buy a 6–8-pound beef brisket.

Ingredients

  • 1 large head of green cabbage, cored and quartered (large pieces)
  • 1 bunch carrots, peeled and thickly sliced
  • 1 large turnip cut into 2” cubes (optional)
  • 6-8 large boiling potatoes, peeled and halved

Instructions

  1. You can either roast the meat in the oven at 350 deg F on a rack in a roaster pan with at least ½” water in the bottom, for 3-4 hours until tender. Cook the vegetables separately. OR You can put the brisket in water and simmer it for 3-4 hours until fork-tender. Then add the vegetables and cook another 45 minutes until tender. You can boil the vegetables separately if you want and serve them with the beef.

Then with any leftover meat, slice thin and serve on rye bread (your choice) with mayonnaise, swiss cheese (or your preference), and sauerkraut – buttered on the outside and grilled. A REUBEN SANDWICH!

A bowl of Colcannon with a pad of melting butter on top

COLCANNON

One of my very favorite Irish dishes ‑ mashed potatoes and cabbage.

A fun tradition if serving for a group is to take a toy gold ring, wrap it very well in plastic wrap, hide it in the dish of potatoes and cabbage. Whoever finds it on their plate is likely to marry within the coming year.

This recipe serves 4-6 usually.

Ingredients

  • 1 pound cabbage (cored, quartered, and shredded or cut into bite-size pieces)
  • 2 pounds boiling potatoes (peeled and cut into 2” pieces)
  • 2 small leeks (white and green part only washed and sliced or sweet onions diced)
  • 1 cup milk
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • ½ teaspoon mace (optional)
  • 8 Tablespoon butter

Instructions

  1. In separate saucepans cook the cabbage and the potatoes in salted water until tender – about 12-15 minutes. Drain cabbage and chop, Drain potatoes and mash.
  2. In a large saucepan combine the leeks (or onions) and milk and cook over medium heat until tender – 8-10 minutes.
  3. Add the potatoes, salt, pepper, and mace (if using) to the leeks and milk.
  4. Stir over low heat until well blended.
  5. Add the cabbage and 8 T. butter, stir again to the consistency of mashed potatoes.
  6. Dot with butter, fried bacon pieces, and green onion garnish. Serve.

Cabbage is second only to potatoes in the Irish food popularity. Boiled cabbage goes well with ham, corned beef, and chicken while cold shredded cabbage is good in salads for lunch.

A bowl of buttered green cabbage

BUTTERED GREEN CABBAGE

Ingredients

  • 1 small head cabbage
  • 4 cups broth or stock
  • 4 slices bacon
  • 2 Tablespoons butter
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon ground mace

Instructions

  1. Cut cabbage into quarters, cutting through to about ½” of the stem.
  2. Tie together with cotton string to reshape into a head.
  3. In a large saucepan bring stock or broth to a boil.
  4. Add the cabbage carefully. Cover and reduce to low. Cook until tender 15-20 minutes. Using 2 slotted spoons lift cabbage out and drain.
  5. In small skillet cook bacon until crisp. Transfer to paper towels to drain.
  6. Preheat broiler, untie cabbage, and place in ovenproof casserole dish. Drizzle with melted butter and sprinkle bacon on top. Season with salt/pepper. Place under broiler just until lightly browned on top.
A cross-section view of Irish Soda Bread

IRISH SODA BREAD

Irish Soda Bread is fantastic as a breakfast bread and easy enough to bake daily if you should choose to do so. There is no rising required and is good to eat in a short time. It’s kind of like a cross between a biscuit and bread.

Ingredients

  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ¼ cup superfine or table sugar
  • 2 cups buttermilk (or sweet milk with vinegar or lemon juice to sour it)

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 425 deg F. Lightly grease a 9” round cake pan or a 9”x5” loaf pan.
  2. Sift the flour, baking soda, cream of tartar, and salt together into a large bowl. Stir in sugar.
  3. Make a well in the center and add the buttermilk.
  4. With a fork work the milk into the flour until a soft dough is formed.
  5. Turn into the prepared pan and bake for 10 minutes.
  6. Reduce the heat to 400 deg F and bake until the bread is golden and firm to the touch. About 45 minutes. Let cool slightly before slicing.
Close up of Irish Stew with meat, potatoes, carrots, onions and garnish

IRISH STEW

Typically, Irish Stew is made with lamb, but I often use roast beef (chuck cut) or the leftover corned beef, including leftover vegetables if there are any.

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds of boneless lamb (or leftover corned beef or chuck roast)
  • 2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2-3 sliced onions
  • 2 carrots peeled and sliced
  • Small turnip peeled and sliced
  • 2-3 large baking potatoes peeled and sliced (or use leftovers from corned beef dinner, you can even include any leftover cabbage)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 Tablespoon minced thyme
  • 1 ½ cups water, stock, or broth (lamb, beef, or vegetable)

Instructions

Use a large Dutch oven or casserole dish that can take the heat of a hot oven and stovetop flame.

  1. Cut 2 pounds of boneless lamb into cubes and brown in 2 T vegetable oil. (Or use leftover beef – corned beef or chuck roast.)
  2. Then in the same pot — layer 2-3 sliced onions, 2 carrots peeled and sliced, a small turnip peeled and sliced, and 2-3 large baking potatoes peeled and sliced (or use leftovers from corned beef dinner, you can even include any leftover cabbage.)
  3. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, and 1 T. minced thyme. (If using beef, be careful with the salt and pepper, add the thyme.)
  4. Add 1 ½ cups water, stock, or broth (lamb, beef, or vegetable.)
  5. Cover tightly with a lid and cook until the meat is tender – 2 to 2 ½ hours if using the raw lamb. (If using leftovers, cook until everything comes together – be careful not to overcook the leftovers.) OR bake in 300 deg F oven for the same amount of time – just watch if using leftovers.
  6. Check occasionally and add water or broth if getting dry.
  7. You will want gravy in the pot. If it is too thin for your liking when meat is tender, make a slurry of corn starch and water to thicken it – adding to the hot pot of ingredients.
Shepherd's Pie

Taking the leftovers one step further — you can turn your Irish Stew into a Shepherd’s Pie.

It’s very easy – just make some mashed potatoes, put the meat and vegetables in a casserole dish, add frozen peas to the meat and potatoes, top with the mashed potatoes, and bake uncovered in a 350 deg F oven for about 20 minutes. If you want the potatoes to be browned, brush with an egg yolk and milk combined, bake for 10 minutes, and put under the broiler for about 5 minutes to be brown.

IRISH APPLE CAKE

Irish Apple Cake

Ingredients

  • 4 Tablespoons butter at room temperature
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 egg beaten
  • 4 Granny Smith apples, cored, peeled, and diced (2 cups)
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • Whipped cream or vanilla ice cream for serving

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 deg F. Generously grease an 8” square cake pan.
  2. In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.
  3. Add the egg, apples, nuts, and vanilla and stir well.
  4. Sift in the dry ingredients and mix well.
  5. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake until the cake is lightly browned and a skewer into the center comes out clean, about 45 minutes.
  6. Let cool in the pan for 5 minutes then unmold and serve warm or at room temperature with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.
The castle in Ireland where the blarney stone is

Blarney Stones — many have never had one, but those that know about them, love them! My mother used to make these, then I started, then my daughters, and now my granddaughters.

For over 200 years, millions of pilgrims have been climbing the stairs to kiss the blarney stone and gain the gift of eloquence. There are many stories as to its origin, but it last served as the Prophetic Power of Royal Succession, the Stone of Destiny. The stone itself is set in the wall below the battlements and is said once you’ve kissed the blarney stone, it bestows the gift of eloquence upon the one kissing the stone.

BLARNEY STONES

Two plates of Blarney Stones

Makes about 36 squares.

Ingredients

CAKE:

  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 cups All-Purpose flour
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

FROSTING:

  • ¾ pound butter (3 sticks)
  • ¾ pound of granulated sugar (1 2/3 cups)
  • Ground nuts (such as peanuts, walnuts, or pistachios)

Instructions

  1. Cream the sugar and egg yolks until well beaten.
  2. Add the boiling water.
  3. Sift flour, baking powder 3 times. (This is important.)
  4. Then add to the first mixture.
  5. Add stiffly beaten egg whites.
  6. Add vanilla.
  7. Combine well.
  8. Bake in a greased cake pan in a hot oven 350 deg F. just until a toothpick or cake tester in the cake comes out clean.
  9. Cool and cut into squares. Frost with ¾ pound butter (3 sticks) and ¾ pound of granulated sugar (1 2/3 cups) Cream until well combined.
  10. Spread frosting on each square on all sides. Roll in 1-1 ½ pound (at least) ground nuts.  (Your choice but we prefer peanuts – if allergic to peanuts, try walnuts or even pistachios would be fabulous!)

I hope you enjoy these dishes as much as my family does.

Bon Appétit!

With love,

Granni K

To download this recipe, click here.

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