A Different Shade of Green
Photo credit: www.irishoakforests.com
St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland, is a bit of a mystery. Many myths and stories of his early life swirl about, including the tale of Patrick ridding the Emerald Isle of all its snakes. That myth has been debunked, put down to hundreds of years of, shall we say, overly colourful storytelling. Imagine that, the Irish, telling a colourful story! Well, personally, I’m glad the snake is not associated with the celebrations, ’cause it’s hard to find snake meat around these here parts.
It was always a religious holiday in Ireland. The day, March 17th, marks the day of the saint’s death in the 5th century. Because the date falls right in the middle of lent, this day was like a get-out-of-jail-free card. Church was attended in the morning, then all bets were off–just for one day–with drinking, music making, dancing, and feasting on traditional dishes, such as bacon and cabbage. The next day, it was back to lent. It wasn’t until it was brought to the New World that it became an excuse to go a little crazy, wear green, and be Irish for a day. According to Patrick McMurray, owner of the authentically Irish pub, Ceili Cottage, in Toronto, “St.Paddy’s is not hugely celebrated in Ireland. Tends to be an “away” thing. Something the ex-pats, and those who emigrated, whether by choice or not, celebrate to remind them of their heritage.” However, in 1995, the Irish government decided to market the day as a tourist attraction, and now the day is celebrated as far afield as Japan and Russia!And what is it all about here? Green beer, greasy pub grub–Irish nachos?–and extreme excess.Fine
if you’re a 21-year-old frat boy with a cast-iron stomach and the taste
buds of a goat. But we’re smarter than that, non? A tad more
sophistimecated? Not to mention, our guts can’t take that kind of abuse
anymore. Still, I believe, on St. Patrick’s day, we’re all at least a little bit Irish. So let’s celebrate by calling family and friends around the table to share a pot of Guinness-braised lamb shanks, buttery champ, Irish soda bread, mussels steamed in cider, and a few fantastic organic ales, micro-brews, and an Irish staple, Guinness. Even better, break out yer fiddle, or at the very least, pop some Celtic tunes into the CD player and get yer kitchen ceili on! Slainte! That would be cheers to the uninitiated. And just so you’ll be ready when you raise your pint o’Guinness, here are a few delightful Irish toasts.
“May your fire be as warm as the weather is cold.”
“Here’s to your coffin; may it be built of 100-hundred-year-old oaks, that I will plant tomorrow!”
“May God bring good health to your enemies enemies!”
And one of my all time favourites; “May you be in heaven a half hour before the devil knows you’re dead!”
Guinness Braised Lamb Shanks
This one pot meal is about as heart-warming as a litter of puppies swarming a toddler in a field of wildflowers!!! You can serve it as it is, or omit the potatoes and serve it over a dollop of mash or champ.
6 lamb shanks
Flour, for dredging
Sea salt and pepper to taste
1/3 cup olive oil, does not have to be extra virgin
12 small white onions (cipolini are good), peeled
3 large carrots, sliced into coins
3 stalks celery, sliced
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 tsp of fresh rosemary
1 tsp of fresh thyme
1 cup Guinness
3/4 cup beef stock
12 small potatoes, well scrubbed, not peeled
In a large bowl, combine the flour, salt, and pepper and dredge the shanks. Add the oil to a large covered, heavy-bottom pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Shake off any excess flour, and add the lamb shanks, cook on all sides until browned, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a plate, and set aside. Add the onions, carrots, celery, garlic, rosemary, and thyme to the pot and cook for 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Add the lamb and any juices back to the pot. Add the Guinness, and beef stock, cover, and simmer for 45 minutes. Add the potatoes, taste for seasonings and correct if necessary, recover, and cook until the meat is tender, about 1 1/2 to 1 3/4 hours.
Yield: Serves 6
Think, mashed potatoes extreme. Scalded cream and green onions elevate the humble potato to great heights.
6 large Yukon gold potatoes; plan on 1 large or 2 small potatoes per person
1 cup 18% cream, milk can be used in stead of high-fat cream–if you insist.
1 bunch green onions, green and white parts, finely chopped
Sea salt and pepper to taste
4 Tbsp butter, or more to taste, but that’s between you and your cardiologist.
Scrub and quarter the potatoes, add them to a large pot of water, and bring to a boil. Test the potatoes for done-ness by inserting a knife or poking with a fork. It should be soft. Drain in colander. In the same pot, over low heat, add the butter, salt, pepper, and green onions. Cook, stirring constantly, until the green onions begin to soften, then add the cream to heat through. Gently add the drained potatoes back to the pot, and mash.
P.E.I. Mussels steamed in Harp Cider
About 2 kilos live mussels, washed in cold water and de-bearded
2 leeks, sliced into rings, washed in cold water
1 apple, diced
2 Tbsp butter
ï¿½ cup chopped Irish bacon
Sea salt and pepper to taste
1 can or bottle Harp or other Irish hard apple cider
1 Tbsp fresh whole tarragon leaves
In a large pot with lid over medium heat, add butter, bacon, and leeks, and cook, constantly stirring until bacon begins to brown and leeks have softened. Add the apple, salt, pepper, and tarragon, and stir. Now, toss in the mussels, turn the heat up to high, and pour in the cider. Cover tightly, and give the pot a wee shake. Shake the pot a couple more times with the lid on. Check to see if the mussels have opened. As soon as they open wide, they are done. DO NOT overcook or they will be tough and start to shrivel. Serve immediately with soda bread and butter for sopping up all the broth!
Margaret Wagner’s Irish Soda Bread
Margaret is a home baker, with a special love for soda bread. She’s happily shared her recipe with us. Keep an eye out for her breads in markets in the near future….let’s hope she has the luck o’ the Irish! Here’s her contact info if you want to try some for yourself: [email protected].
2 cups all purpose unbleached flour
2 cups cake
and pastry flour
1 ï¿½ teaspoons salt
1 ï¿½ teaspoons baking soda
2 tablespoons room temperature butter
1 ï¿½ cups
buttermilk or soured milk
Baily’s Bread and Butter Pudding
I small Barmbrack loaf (raisin bread, even pre-sliced will do just fine)
2 oz butter (this is approximate)
4 large eggs
4 oz sugar
1 pint whole milk
1 shot of Baily’s (about 2 oz)
pinch of nutmeg
Slice the loaf and butter liberally. Cut into triangles and layer into a buttered ovenproof dish until filled. Mix the eggs, sugar and milk together. Add the Bailey’s and pour over the bread. Grate fresh nutmeg over the top. Bake in a medium oven (350), or until custard is set.