With only seven days to go to the holiday of Ireland’s Patron Saint it is time to think of survival strategies. Whilst Guinness is not compulsory the day generally begins with a Full Irish Breakfast with bacon, sausages, eggs, potato Farls, or the famous Boxty, (Irish griddle cakes) to get you started. Add a few slices of Soda Bread or wheaten bread. Wash all this down with, of course, lashings of tea and you will be set up for the day ahead which is always a good idea on Paddy’s Day. Sometimes the Day can become a bit arduous!
In every Irish establishment in America, and many others, around St. Patrick’s Day, corned beef and cabbage will make its way onto the menu, marking a ‘tip of the cap’ to the Irish around St. Patrick’s Day. Another annual occurrence is Irish people complaining that this is not, in fact, an Irish dish at all, but is this true? Beef was not readily available in Ireland and was considered a luxury. That’s why the traditional Irish meal centered around ham, the bacon.
But when these Irish got off the boats in America it was quite the opposite. Corned beef was the meat that they could easily and more cheaply get their hands on and, so, this became the meal of choice for generations of Irish Americans to come. In New England, a tradition formed of having a boiled dinner. For this dish the corned beef, cabbage, and root vegetables such as carrots, turnips, and potatoes were boiled.
Many maintain that the dish is simply not Irish at all. The close proximity of the Irish and Jewish communities at the time is said to be largely responsible for the popularity of corned beef among the Irish immigrants. They lived adjacent to each other in New York, the Irish in Hell’s Kitchen (Today called Clinton by Realtors) by the wharves and Jewish immigrants in the Garment District. While the men sought work on the Wharves, Warehouses and the Meatpacking District the women with their backgrounds in weaving and lace making found work in the Garment District.
Irish Corned Beef and Carrots
What better way to start to your day than with a hearty fill of potatoes, corned beef and carrots? Whether it’s a filling brunch before a day of celebrations on St Patrick’s Day or a warming dinner on a brisk March evening you’re after this is the one for you.
Try topping off this dish with a fried egg or two. Delicious.
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
5 large Spuds (potatoes) peeled and cut into 1/4-inch cubes
1 large carrot, coarsely shredded
2 pounds cooked corned beef, cubed
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
salt to taste (optional)
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper, or to taste
Melt butter with the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat, and cook the onion just until it begins to brown, about 8 minutes; stir in the potatoes and carrot, and cook until tender, about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in the cubed corned beef, parsley, thyme, salt, and pepper. Let the mixture cook until hash is crisp and browned, stirring often, 10 to 15 more minutes.
Bacon and Cabbage
Bacon was the traditional meat for the poor in Ireland as there were many factories and it was a major export to England and for provisioning ships as a preserved meat in the days before refrigeration. Many Irish dishes featured Offal as workers in the industry could use off cuts and Offal sold cheaply.
4 pounds Irish boiling bacon
1 Savoy cabbage, trimmed, quartered, and cored
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
Freshly ground black pepper
Spuds ( potatoes) for serving
Place bacon in a large pot and add enough water to cover. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. If bacon is very salty, a white froth will form on surface of water. In this case, discard water and start again. Repeat process until no froth forms on surface of water; drain.
Cover bacon with hot water. Cover pot and simmer until almost cooked through, about 1 hour.
Meanwhile, slice cabbage across the grain into thin shreds; rinse with cold water if necessary. Add the cabbage to pot with bacon and continue cooking 20 minutes more.
To serve remove bacon from pot; strain cabbage and transfer to a large bowl or serving platter. Add butter and season with pepper; toss to combine. Serve bacon and cabbage with parsley sauce and potatoes.
The trick with this classic one-pot is to use a cheaper cut of meat, which means you’ll skimp on price but not quality. Traditionally in Ireland it was made with the cheaper cut, neck of lamb.
1 tbsp sunflower oil
200g smoked streaky bacon, preferably in one piece, skinned and cut into chunks
900g stewing lamb, cut into large chunks
5 medium onions, sliced
5 carrots, sliced into chunks
3 bay leaves
small bunch thyme
100g pearl barley
850ml lamb stock
6 medium potatoes, cut into chunks
small knob of butter
3 spring onions, finely sliced
Heat oven to 160C/fan 140C/gas 3. Heat the oil in a flameproof casserole. Sizzle the bacon for 4 mins until crisp. Turn up the heat, then cook the lamb for 6 mins until brown. Remove the meats with a slotted spoon. Add the onions, carrots and herbs to the pan, then cook for about 5 mins until softened. Return the meat to the pan, stir in the pearl barley, pour over the stock, then bring to a simmer.
Sit the chunks of potato on top of the stew, cover, then braise in the oven, undisturbed, for about 1½ hrs until the potatoes are soft and the meat is tender. The stew can now be chilled and kept in the fridge for 2 days, then reheated in a low oven or on top of the stove. Remove from the oven, dot the potatoes with butter, scatter with the spring onions and serve scooped straight from the dish.
Colcannon is a traditional Irish recipe and a particular St Patrick’s Day favourite. As you can see from this recipe, it is quick, easy and simple to make. Colcannon was traditionally used for predicting marriage on Halloween. Charms were hidden in the Colcannon and any unmarried girl who found one would place socks with spoonfuls of Colcannon and the charms on their front door handle. The first man to enter the house was their intended.
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 25 minutes
Total Time: 35 minutes
1lb 6oz/675g potatoes, peeled and quartered
4oz/100g curly kale, chopped (or Spring cabbage if kale not available))
1/2 cup scallions/spring onions, roughly chopped
1/4 cup scallions/spring onions, finely chopped
1 stick/100g butter
salt and pepper
Simmer the potatoes in lightly salted water until cooked – when pierced with a sharp knife the potato is soft in the middle.
Blanch the curly kale in boiling water for one minute. Drain and reserve.
Chop half of the spring onions roughly and the other half finely. Add the roughly chopped scallions/spring onions to the drained kale and pulse in a blender for 10 seconds.
Drain the potatoes and add the butter. When the butter has melted, mash the potatoes until smooth and creamy. Add the kale mixture and mix.
Finally, add the finely chopped scallions/spring onions and season to taste.
Irish Soda Bread
The smells which defined Irish country houses were the smell of the peat fire and the fresh Soda Bread cooking on top of it. It was normally baked on top of the open fire on a metal skillet as homes often didn’t have ranges or ovens and served with freshly churned butter, often as a meal in itself. Nowadays it is the preferred accompaniment to traditional Irish fare.
170g/6oz self-raising wholemeal flour
170g/6oz plain flour
½ tsp salt
½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
290ml/½ pint buttermilk
Preheat the oven to 400F/200C/Gas 6.
Tip the flours, salt and bicarbonate of soda into a large mixing bowl and stir.
Make a well in the centre and pour in the buttermilk, mixing quickly with a large fork to form a soft dough. (Depending upon the absorbency of the flour, you may need to add a little milk if the dough seems too stiff but it should not be too wet or sticky.)
Turn onto a lightly floured surface and knead briefly.
Form into a round and flatten the dough slightly before placing on a lightly floured baking sheet.
Cut a cross on the top and bake for about 30 minutes or until the loaf sounds hollow when tapped. Cool on a wire rack.
There can be no mention of Ireland, or Irish food and drink without a ‘Pint of the Black Stuff,” and Irish Beer putting in an appearance. Guinness is considered Ireland’s national drink and is known around the world however in Skibbereen the local creamier dark stouts of Beamish and Murphy’s are preferred. A great drink for St Patrick’s is of course Mead, the sweet, delicious honey wine that has been made and enjoyed by Celtic nations for centuries.
And of course, there’s also Irish Whiskey, here is the Eagle’s recipe for Irish Coffee and a little bit about its place in aviation history.
Fly with Irish Coffee