Happy St. Patrick’s Day! If you grew up (as I did) in a family with an Irish heritage, this day probably conjures up memories of dry corned beef and soggy cabbage. For those of you who are only Irish on St. Paddy’s, green beer probably comes to mind.
But neither tradition has much to do with the wonderful food found in Ireland today. The country is full of chefs and culinary experts at the forefront of the slow food movement, dedicated to making the most of local meat and dairy products and seasonal produce grown in the lush green countryside.
(Photo: Fin Facts)
Nothing prepared me for the quality of the meals that I had on my trips to the Emerald Isle. Whether it was a simple lunch at a cheap n’ cheerful pub or a gourmet 5-course spread at an upscale hotel, the focus was on fresh, local ingredients.
(Photo: Eat Boutique)
At almost every meal, I was served freshly baked brown bread. Always afraid of bread-making, I was awed by the national dedication to this daily task but several B&B owners assured me that the recipe was a simple one. While I never wheedled the secret from these home cooks, the delicious recipe from Eat Boutique is reminiscent of those dense, hearty loaves. Once you try it, you will never be able to imagine eating soup or stew without it.
This bread doesn’t keep well, so plan to enjoy it warm from the oven, slathered in butter. And if you can, splash out and use Irish butter. You really can taste the difference: it is noticeably richer and creamier than the North American version. Brands like Kerrygold are sold at Whole Foods and through online gourmet stores.
(Photo: Kyle Books)
Darina Allen, Irish cookbook author and owner of the Ballymaloe Cookery School, is perhaps one of the greatest advocates of the Irish slow food movement. And while her classes are international in scope, she is best known for her traditional local recipes. One of my favourites is her Irish stew, a simple recipe that is full of flavour. It would be the perfect main for your St. Patrick’s Day feast.
(Photo: Financial Times)
I do think all holiday dinners should have a fun dessert. While not traditional, Epicurious’s Chocolate Guinness Goodness looks like a pint of the popular Irish stout and incorporates the beer into this rich chocolate mousse.
So this St. Patrick’s Day give the green beer a miss and indulge in these wonderful and (mostly) authentic Irish recipes. It will make you wish that every day was St. Paddy’s Day!