March 18, 2010 9:27:00 AM
Jan Swoope - [email protected]
It never fails. When St. Patrick’s Day rolls around each March, it seems there is a touch of the Irish in all of us.
Shamrocks, spuds, Guinness and leprechauns tend to be the first things to mind when we hear of the Emerald Isle, but when it comes to food, it’s worth knowing the old country’s culture is built on more than just potatoes.
To understand Irish cuisine, it helps to look at the history of the land itself. In the seventh century, when monks first documented Ireland’s agriculture practices, the potato wasn’t even buried beneath the landscape at that time, writes James Patrick Kelly for The Daily Fork.
For centuries, Irish diets were influenced by crops grown and animals raised in its temperate climate. Its earthy cooking — sometimes called a peasant cuisine — was centered around filling dishes like corned beef and cabbage, a meal often associated with the sainted Patrick’s special day.
Eire’s beef, mutton and pork, shellfish, domestic poultry and geese, as well as native berries and nuts, were at the heart of the dinner table. The potato was introduced in the sixteenth century and became increasingly ubiquitous, at least until the devastating potato blight of the 1800s, a crisis of far-reaching effects in both Ireland and America, where many of its people immigrated.
In today’s Ireland, there is a new pride in traditional Irish cooking, combined with new approaches spurred in part by cooking guru Darina Allen. Her Ballymaloe House and Cookery School took the top Good Food Ireland Award. The school located near the sea, in County Cork, is situated in the middle of a 100-acre organic farm and has invigorated an emphasis on cooking with high quality regional ingredients.
“The connection between farming and cooking is vital,” Allen has said.
Large cities like Dublin and Cork are becoming world-class food towns, offering inventive cuisine. A European influence is increasingly evident throughout the green isle. A survey of “best restaurant” sites such as tasteofireland.ie/index/html reveals listings for La Picolla Italia in Carlow, Et Voila French Bistro in Wexford and a Spanish restaurant and tapas bar in Galway.
Some things, of course, don’t change. Potatoes remain ideally suited to the country’s soil and climate and are used in dishes ranging from soups to cakes. Those Irish recipes handed down from generation to generation still have their place of heritage in a busy and modern Ireland.
Enjoy these recipes from http://www.littleshamrocks.com/Irish-Recipes.html. And a Happy St. Patrick’s Day — Beannachtam na Femle Padraig, in Gaelic — to you.
ON THE WEB:
IRISH PUB SALAD
For the dressing:
1/2 cup regular or low-fat mayonnaise
2 tablespoons malt vinegar or white wine vinegar
2 teaspoons chopped fresh tarragon, or 3/4 teaspoon dried
1 teaspoon whole grain Dijon mustard
2-3 teaspoons water
For the salad:
4 cups torn romaine lettuce
4 cups selected salad bar ingredients (pickled beets, sliced cucumber, sliced tomatoes,
sliced celery, sliced onions, grated red cabbage)
Five hard-boiled eggs, peeled, sliced
4 ounces cheddar cheese, cut into wedges
4 ounces blue cheese crumbles
n Arrange lettuce on a platter as the base of the salad. Place salad bar ingredients, eggs and cheddar cheese on top in an attractive pattern. Top with crumbled blue cheese. Drizzle dressing over salad.
IRISH CORNED BEEF
One corned beef brisket (about 5 pounds)
Two medium onions, peeled and quartered
Four black peppercorns
One bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon rosemary, crushed
1 quart water
Six medium potatoes, peeled and quartered
Six medium carrots, peeled and cut into 2-inch pieces
1 cup celery, cut into 2-inch pieces
One medium head green cabbage, cut into eight wedges
3 cups chopped potatoes
1/2 cup chopped onion
Two large eggs
2 tablespoons flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
AND CHEESE PIE
Servings: Four to six
One 9-inch deep dish pie shell
One 10-ounce package frozen chopped broccoli, about 1-1/2 cups
8 ounces fresh mushrooms, thinly sliced
1 cup milk
Three eggs, beaten
1 tablespoon margarine, melted
1 tablespoon flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 to 1 teaspoon pepper
1 cup Kerrygold Irish Vintage Cheddar, divided
Three large egg whites
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
Kiwifruit or any kind of sliced fresh fruit or berries
Yields: About 20
Four 1-ounce squares unsweetened chocolate
2-1/2 cups confectioners sugar
6 tablespoons butter, room temperature
1/4 cup Bailey's Irish Cream
Jan Swoope is the Lifestyles Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.