The 17th March is St. Patrick’s Day or “the day of the festival of Patrick” on the anniversary of his death. It is a cultural and religious holiday in Ireland and recognises the patron saint Patrick and the arrival of Christianity in Ireland. The day involves attending Church services, wearing green, public parades and processions and lifting restrictions on eating and drinking alcohol which are held during Lent.
What better reason than to look at food that is typically Irish and would be expected to be eaten on St Patrick’s Day? I had to include a Classic Irish Stew which is a bit involved but worth the effort. Corned beef, cabbage and potatoes are always on the table in some form or other and what Irish meal would be complete without soda bread? Just to give the soda bread a modern twist I have used a biscuit recipe which is very easy to make.
Corned Beef and Cabbage Soup
Chop the onion, celery and carrots in a food processor until they are pea-size pieces. Melt the butter in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the chopped onion, celery and carrots and the allspice and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are slightly softened, about 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes to the food processor until finely chopped. Transfer the tomatoes to the pot and add the beef stock, cabbage, potatoes, barley and 4 cups water; cover and bring to a boil. Uncover, reduce the heat to medium low and simmer until the potatoes and barley are tender, about 20 minutes. Stir in the corned beef and season with salt and pepper.
Classic Irish Stew
In a large heavy-bottomed saucepan, cook the onions in oil and butter, on medium-high heat until they are translucent. Add the dried thyme and stir. Add the lamb and brown on a high heat to seal in juices. Add carrots, and pearl barley. Pour in the chicken stock so that it almost covers the meat and vegetables. Season with salt and pepper, and add bouquet garni. Cover and cook on low heat for 2 hours, being careful not to boil. Place potatoes on top of the stew, cover and cook for 30 minutes until the meat is falling beautifully off the bones and the potatoes are tender.
Preheat the stockpot. Combine ingredients in a large heavy-bottomed saucepan and cover with water. Bring to boil and simmer for approximately 30 minutes. Let it cool down, drain and skim off the fat.
Wild Rice in Stuffed Cabbage
Preheat oven to 350ºF. In a medium saucepan, melt butter over medium-high heat. Add ½ cup of the onions, the celery, and apple and sauté for 5 minutes. Stir in rice, seasoning packet from rice mix, ¾ cup of the chicken stock, and garlic. Bring to a boil. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes or until liquid is absorbed. Rice should be al-dente. Transfer to a medium bowl; stir in pecans. Set aside. Place 12 to 15 large cabbage leaves in a large bowl. Cover with boiling water and let them stand for 2 to 3 minutes or until wilted. Cut off thickest part of each cabbage leaf. Place 2 tablespoons of the rice mixture near the stem end of a leaf. Fold over sides and roll up. Do not roll too tightly as the rice will expand as it cooks. Repeat with remaining leaves and rice mixture. Place cabbage rolls, seam sides down, in a shallow baking dish. Pour marinara sauce over the top and sprinkle with remaining onions. Cover pan tightly with aluminium foil. Bake in preheated oven for 1 hour. Serve hot with sauce.
Soda Bread Biscuits
Mix 2 cups flour, 2 teaspoons sugar and ¾ teaspoon baking soda and a pinch of salt in a bowl. Work in 2 tablespoons diced cold butter by hand. Add ½ cup raisins and 1 tablespoon caraway seeds. Mix in ¾ cup buttermilk. Pat out the dough until 1 inch thick; cut into four to six 2½ inch rounds. Bake at 375ºF, 15 to 20 minutes.
Sausage and Potato Bake
Cook the bacon until golden, then drain on paper towels. Brown sausages (prick in several places with fork) in the remaining bacon fat; drain on paper towels and slice into ½ inch pieces. Peel and slice potatoes about ¼ inch thick. In a 3-quart casserole dish, layer the bacon, sausage, onion, and potato, sprinkling each layer with a little fresh chopped parsley. Pour off all but a few teaspoons of bacon dripping from the frying pan. Add the chicken stock or water and bring to the boil. Pour over the potato casserole. Sprinkle the potatoes with salt and pepper, and more chopped parsley. Cover and bake at 350°F for 50 to 60 minutes, until potatoes are just tender. Remove the cover and cook an additional 20 to 30 minutes, until the top is browned and potatoes are tender.