Being a “wee-bit Irish” has always been fun for me, especially on St. Patrick’s Day. My mother’s family name was O’Haver, so my claim to being Irish was helped by the apostrophe! For years I have collected little cookbooks featuring classic Irish recipes and I’d like to share a few of them in recognition of St. Patrick’s Day on March 17.
Let’s start with Colcannon or “cal cean fhionn” which literally means “white-haired cabbage.” This Irish ditty preceded the recipe in a book titled “So You Think You’re Irish” by Margaret Kelleher:
Ingredients and Directions:
Peel and boil four pounds of potatoes. Drain, mash until smooth. Add six chopped scallions to 10 ounces of milk and bring to boil. Add to potatoes and beat well until fluffy. Beat in one pound cooked curly kale or savoy cabbage (finely chopped) and one ounce butter. Reheat if necessary, Serve with butter.
Note: Another recipe called for two pounds of shredded cabbage cooked in two cups of water for 10-12 minutes, then drained. Use the reserved liquid to cook the potatoes. Additional water is needed to cover the potatoes before bringing to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and cook for 15-17 minutes or until tender. Drain and keep warm.
The remaining directions are the same as above except that crumbled bacon and minced fresh parsley are stirred in at the end.
This next recipe was found in “Classic Irish Recipes” by Georgina Campbell that has turned out to be a wonderful “go-to” source for Irish dishes.
Braised Steaks in Guinness
A little good oil for frying
4 round steaks
1 cup button mushrooms
8 ounces Guinness
Sprig of thyme
Few strips of orange peel (optional)
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Heat the oven to moderate (350 degrees). Heat a little oil in a large frying pan and brown the steaks quickly on both sides. Remove from the pan and set aside. Trim the mushrooms, halve or quarter them if necessary, then peel and finely chop the onion. Add a little more oil to the frying pan if necessary and toss the mushrooms and onion in for a few minutes until they just begin to color, then spread the mixture over the base of a medium-sized baking dish. Lay the steaks over the mushroom and onion mixture. Barely cover with Guinness, add the thyme and orange peel, if using, and season well. Cover the dish with a lid or foil and braise in the preheated oven for 1-1 ½ hours or until the meat is tender. Baked potatoes, which can be cooked in the oven at the same time, are ideal for soaking up the delicious juices when served with the steaks.
Finally, here’s a recipe for a moist cake known as Irish Apple Cake. Pears can be substituted for the apples as a good way to use under-ripe pears that are unsuitable for eating fresh. If using pears, substitute ground ginger for the cloves.
Irish Apple Cake
2 cups self-rising flour
Pinch of salt
1 teaspoon ground cloves
8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter, at room temperature
3-4 cooking apples
About ¾ cup granulated sugar, or to taste
A little milk to mix
Granulated sugar to sprinkle over cake dough
Grease an 8-inch springform cake pan and line the bottom with wax paper. Preheat a fairly hot oven (375 degrees). Sift the flour, salt and cloves into a bowl, cut in the butter and rub in until the mixture is like fine bread crumbs.
Peel and core the apples, slice thinly, and add to the rubbed-in mixture with the sugar — the amount depends on how much sweetening the apples need. Mix in the eggs and enough milk to make a fairly stiff dough, then turn the mixture into the prepared pan and sprinkle with granulated sugar. Bake in the prepared oven for 45 minutes, until crisp, golden brown and springy to the touch. Serve as a cake, or warm with cream or custard as a pudding.