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Erin Go Dine

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    Posted: 28 August 2018 at 13:00


An interesting coincidence. Just as I was casting about for another food culture to study, a co-worker brought in a book he’d gotten from the library. It was all about Irish pub food.

Irish? Whoever heard of Irish cuisine? If I thought of it at all, what came to mind was Corned Beef & Cabbage, and Irish Soda Bread. Other than that, with perhaps Irish Stew thrown in, I figured there’d be parallels with British cookery, with some modifications due to history and location. Boy, was I wrong. Ireland has a cuisine all its own, with much of it dating back several thousand years.

The Irish, it’s been said, are a gentle people, willing to forgive and forget anything but their grudges. You can add food to that short list of things they don’t forget. While quite willing to adapt new ingredients and techniques, they do not abandon traditional dishes. As Biddy White Lennon and Georgina Campbell note in Irish Food & Cooking, “What emerges through time is that, while the Irish are always ready and willing to take what they like and make it their own, they rarely abandon a favorite food.”

Here in America, where most of us have suffered through more than our share of St. Paddy’s Day overly salted corned beef and watery cabbage, it comes as a surprise that true Irish food is diverse, and a pleasure to eat. Rather than painfully working through soggy cabbage and salty beef, says David Bowers, in Real Irish Food, “they’d be closer to the mark (and doubtless happier) with a pint of Guinness, a dozen fresh oysters, a sliced lemon, and some buttered brown bread.”

Corned Beef & Cabbage, as it turns out, is strictly an Irish/American invention, all but unknown in Ireland. Most Irish, particularly those living outside the few big cities, have never heard of it. Literally!

Of course, our misconceptions about Irish food date from the mid-19th century, when the great potato famine (in which at least a million people died of starvation) sent thousands of poor, literally starving, Irish to America. Here, as is the way of all poor immigrants, they made do with what they had. Balancing that, keep in mind that part of the “Irish Problem,” was that, while multi-thousands starved to death, the well-to-do landowners were exporting millions of dollars’ worth of foodstuffs to Europe.

The fact is, as Bowers says, “In the 18th and 19th centuries, landowners and “strong farmers” ate a diet that would be sophisticated even today from elaborate meat and vegetable preparations to a glittering array of desserts, sweets, and imported wines.”

“Strong farmer,” perhaps needs explaining: By the 18th century, Celtic Ireland had evolved to a feudal society, as was much of Europe. But there was a twist. At the top were the wealthy landowners, many of whose extensive holdings would make a Texan blush. Numbering only about 5% of the population, most of the country’s wealth was concentrated in their hands.

At the bottom were peasants, who were basically in thrall to the landowners, and small tenant farmers, trying to eke out a living from only a couple of acres. These folks comprised the bulk of rural Ireland, and were, obviously, poor.

In the middle were the strong farmers. Essentially an agrarian middle-class, they were tenants with fairly large, prosperous farms. When it came to foodways, they ate pretty much the same foods, prepared the same way, as the landed gentry.

Long before that, however, more than 1,200 years ago, the Brehon Laws were codified. Based on an ancient oral tradition, these were the legal rules governing Gaelic Irish life, and covered everything from religious celebrations, business dealings, land values and ownership, farming practices, and even foodstuffs---generally in the form of their relative value as rent. Many of those foods are still in use today.

The Irish, too, continue their long tradition of celebrating festivals with specific foods. Many of these celebrations date to Celtic rituals and Christian feast days (many of which, themselves, were adaptations of pagan festivals).

Many of those celebrations, particularly as food was concerned, were seasonal in nature. For instance, Samhain, which corresponds to Halloween, marked the end of the Celtic year. It was a time for gathering the herds, and slaughtering them for both immediate use, and preserving.

To show how these converted to the Christian calendar, Samhain was a time when the barriers between the natural world, and the “other” world were opened, and humans could encounter fairies.

As can be seen, Irish food and cookery, of necessity, was based on fresh, seasonal ingredients, what we nowadays call “farm to table,” supplemented, especially in the winter, with salted and preserved foodstuffs.

It remains that way today.

Irish cuisine remained what it was well into the 20th century. New ingredients were adopted, of course, and there was some foreign influences. But, in general, it was on hold. In the latter part of the 20th century, and continuing unabated, comes a revolution.

In the mid-1960s, the Allen family opened Ballymaloe House, the first of the Irish house restaurants and hotels. In America we’d call them “country inns.” Ballymaloe did more than serve well prepared, good tasting food. Their menu was based on traditional Irish cuisine, sometimes modernized, often not. Myrtle and Darina Allen have been collecting and preserving traditional Irish recipes for more than 50 years; an incredible record of foodways stretching back hundreds of years.

House restaurants and hotels now abound throughout the Emerald Isle.

The next change came from the pubs. Pub grub had always been just that; pub grub. In the latter part of the century, pubs began discovering a great market for traditional foods updated to modern tastes. For instance, one of the things that caught my eye examining my co-worker’s book find, was a recipe for Beef & Guinness Pie.

There is a long tradition, in Ireland, of making beef & Guinness stews. Pub owners took this idea, and converted it into individual savory pies. This was, in fact, the first Irish dish I prepared, and it’s as wonderful as it sounds.

The gastropub idea now permeates Ireland, and some of the best restaurant foods can be found in those places.

More lately, there has been a resurgence of food crafters. This “artisan” movement exists in many parts of the world, of course. But it’s something new to Ireland. Now, everything from cheese, to meats, to sweets, mustards, and even ciders, are being produced by small, specialty makers. These products have found great acceptance in Ireland.

We’ll have more to discuss about Irish ingredients and methods next time.




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Ireland is a small island, about the size of Maine. What it produces has been based on its location, environment, and climate. The soil is thin, not the best for growing vegetables. Livestock, therefore, has always played a more important role. Still and all, certain crops, particularly roots, due well there. Thus, it’s no surprise that potatoes---easy to grow and inexpensive---have played a major role in Irish cuisine since their introduction from the new world.

Irish food preparation has always been based on fresh, seasonal ingredients. This includes, of course, what is raised and grown there. But being a small island, seafood plays a large part in the Irish diet. Even inland, freshly harvested fish and shellfish are readily available. Indeed, many Irish spend their weekends and holidays at the shore, harvesting oysters, mussels, cockles and other ingredients that the sea provides.

There are a couple of issues American cooks need to be aware of, though.
First and foremost is language. It’s off been said that the British and Americans are two people separated by a common language. When it comes to Irish culinary matters, you can say that in spades.

As one would expect, in a country that still cherishes its Gaelic heritage, many ingredients have no English equivalent; or, at best, are poorly translated. But that’s the least of it. Time after time, we find, that the same word used in Ireland has a different meaning than it does in the States. Take “bacon” for instance. In America, bacon is almost always made from the pork belly, or, sometimes, the jowl. In Ireland, those cuts would be called “streaky bacon,” referring to the alternating lines of fat and lean. If only the word “bacon” is used, it refers to other cuts, often the loin. Canadian bacon is more akin to the Irish type, and makes a good substitute.

Or, consider the word “pie.” In America, pie is typically a sweet dish, typically enclosed in a pastry shell. While there are sweet pies, similar to that, made in Ireland, there are many more versions of savory pies. And the definition is slightly different. In Ireland, a pie consists of a bunch of stuff topped with a crust (sometimes there is a bottom crust as well). But that crust doesn’t have to be pastry. Just as often, it’s made from potatoes, or even colcannon (a dish made of potatoes and either cabbage or kale).

Even something as simple as oatmeal can be confusing. In the States, we have quick oats, rolled oats, and steel-cut oats. As you read Irish recipes, however, you constantly come across “pinhead oats” as an ingredient. “Pinhead?” I hear you ask. Turns out, that’s just what the Irish call steel-cut oats.

Another problem: Unless you live in a large city, many Irish ingredients just aren’t available. Take cheese, for instance. There is a growing craft-cheese industry in Ireland, but most of them are not exported. So, here again, substitutions have to be found.

As with Americans, Ireland has shied away from metric measurements. But that doesn’t make things easier. Imperial measurements are not the same. So adjustments have to be made, particularly if you’re not sure if the recipe you are using has been translated. When possible, it’s always better to measure by weight, for that reason.

It would be impossible to provide conversion charts for all these things. In the recipes I provide, standard American measurements are used. If an unusual or not-available product is called for, I’ll provide possible substitutions.

A real problem with Irish cuisine is cost. Because it remains, predominately, a rural, agrarian nation, many ingredients that are commonplace there are incredibly expensive here. Lamb is the most obvious example. For most of us, given its price tag, lamb is a special occasion ingredients. In Ireland it’s daily fare, and very affordable. Price differences really show up in seafood. The most glaring example: Dublin Bay Prawns. Sounds like some sort of shrimp, right? In fact, they are langoustines, which, when they can be found at all in American markets, take a king’s ransom to buy.

I don’t want to frighten you off with all this. They’re just issues to be aware of. And making substitutions, or biting the bullet for an occasional high-ticket item, is worth the effort.

Before going any further, I want to provide my source materials. For a cuisine that’s relatively unknown out of its homeland, there are an incredible number of books and web sites devoted to Irish cookery. Amazon has pages and pages of them. I actually bought four, and found a few others in my local library, which was a big surprise.

I’ve been asked, as a result of these threads, how I can afford so many cookbooks. Simple: Whenever possible I buy them used. I’ve ordered dozens of them, over time, and have had only one bad experience. In fact, most of the time Amazon’s affiliated used book dealers under-rate the condition. You order a book identified as in “good” condition, and what you get is “very good” or, even, excellent. The one bad experience, and subsequent level of service, came from World of Books. But if you avoid ordering from them there’s little chance of repeating my problems.

Here is the list of books I used:

The Irish Pub, Unauthored, Paragon Books, Bath, UK, 2012
Irish Pub Food, Unauthored, Paragon Books, Bath, UK, 2009
Real Irish Food, David Bowers, Skyhorse Publishing, New York, 2012
The Best of Irish Breads & Baking,, Georgina Campbell, Wolfhound Press, Dublin, 1996
The Complete Book of Irish Country Cooking, American Edition, Darina Allen, Penguin
            Books, New York, 1996
Irish Food & Cooking, Biddy White Lennon and Georgina Campbell, Hermes House,
            London, 2004 (Note, Irish Heritage Cooking, is the same book in hardcover, just
            with a different name and cover art.)
The Best of Irish Country Cooking, Nuala Cullen, Interlink Books, Northampton, MA, 2015

Irish cooking is based on letting the flavors of the food predominate. So there is little in the way of exotic spices and flavorings. Salt, pepper, and a few herbs such as parsley, tarragon, and mint comprise the basic larder. Onions and other aromatics, all grown locally, are used to add flavor as well.

Note that, historically, the Irish preferred white pepper to black. So, if you’re concerned about authenticity, that’s the way to go.

For some reason, most of us associate lamb as Ireland’s primary protein. While lamb is common, sheep are raised primarily for wool. Historically, pork was the main protein eaten, and remains popular. Beef, game, chicken, and the aforementioned seafood are also high on the list of Irish preferences. Steak is eaten with relish, but not to the degree it’s popular in America. Instead, it’s used other ways, as in stews, pies, and soups.

Root vegetables of all kinds are raised in Ireland, and are found on every table. Potatoes, it goes without saying, are king. Parsnips run them a close second. But also popular are carrots, beets, turnips, and rutabaga.

Wheat, barley, and, to a lesser extent, corn are used frequently. Which brings us to bread. Ireland does not have a long history of yeasted breads. Most of those date only from the early 20th century. Now, a hundred years might normally not qualify as “recent.” But when you’re talking about a culinary tradition whose roots go back about 7,000 years, it’s hardly a blink in time.

The majority of Irish breads use baking soda as the leavening, and Irish Soda Bread---both the brown and white versions---are one of the few items to achieve an international reputation. We’ll have a discussion of Irish breads later on.

If there’s one foodstuff the Irish are more passionate than others, its dairy. Milk, and dishes made with it, abound. This is a tradition going back to Celtic times, and there’s a whole category of dishes based on the idea of “banbhianna,” various translated as white meats or white foods; i.e., dishes made from milk. By and large, the Irish prefer sour milk to sweet, so buttermilk is a better choice for most dishes.

Irish butter takes second place to none! It has a higher butterfat content than others, and brings a richer depth of flavor to dishes using it. One of the few commonly available Irish products, it can be found in most supermarkets in America. Kerry Gold is the most common brand, but there are others. It’s premium priced, to be sure. But the difference isn’t all that great. I recommend that you use it---it truly makes a difference.

As noted, there’s been a renaissance of cheese making in Ireland. But hard cheeses in particular have been part of the cuisine for time out of mind.

What the Irish eat isn’t all that different than other cultures. How they prepare their foods is what makes it special. We’ll explore some of that in further installments.



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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TasunkaWitko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 29 August 2018 at 08:54
This is a very nice introduction, Brook; thank you for taking the time to share it.

What strikes me is what I perceive to be the interplay with Old and New, as well as how both interact so comfortably with each other. In some ways, it seems it might as well be a couple of hundred years ago, but in other ways, we are right there in the modern age. This is something that's always struck me about Ireland, and the food seems to be no exception.

Of interest to a project of my own: did you find any cross-over with what you know of Scottish cooking, or would you say that Ireland is fully and wholly its own thing? I see some similarities in the ingredients you mentioned, but that could be a product of geography, rather than culture.

I'm looking forward to more - keep up the good work!
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I'm not all that familiar with Scottish food, Ron. But, from the little I do know, I'd say, while there is a similarity in ingredients, they are two different food cultures.

Among other reasons is isolation. Being an island, that did not suffer the successive waves of conquest of other locales, Ireland was able to develop its own foodways.

Yes, there have been introductions of "foreign" foods---the potato, itself, bears introduction to that. But, by the same token, the food lists in the Brehon Laws, promulgated in the 600s AD, would not be unfamiliar to a modern Irish homemaker.
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If there’s one ingredient every one associates with the Emerald Isle, it’s the humble potato. And for good reason: Ireland and potatoes are inexorably wound together; and have been since spuds were introduced in the 1500s.

Potatoes were a Godsend to the Irish peasantry. They are easy to grow, even in thin soils, very productive (important when one’s homestead is only an acre or two), and inexpensive. Plus they are nutritionally packed.

Worldwide, our association stems from the great potato famine in the mid-1840s. But that was only the worst of a series of crop failure on and off through the early 19th century. The problem stemmed from the fact that only three, genetically similar, varieties were grown. When a new blight appeared, those potatoes had no resistance. The result: a catastrophic crop failure, in which a million people died, leading to the Irish diaspora to other lands---primarily North America.

Today there are at least a dozen varieties grown, with, it is hoped, enough genetic diversity to prevent such failures. Many of these varieties are all but unique to Ireland, and not grown anywhere else. Which, sometimes, makes it difficult to replicate Irish recipes.
What they have in common is the Irish penchant for floury (as opposed to waxy) potatoes. This is such a mania, that the highest compliment you can pay to an old-timer, is to describe his or her potato dish as “a real ball of flour.” Here in the States, small russets and Yukon golds are the best choices. Even large russets will do, so long as you boil them instead of baking. If you can find them, Kennebec is probably the best choice of all. More than likely, however, you’ll have to grow your own to get them.

No Irish meal is complete without potatoes, and there are, literally, hundreds of ways to prepare them. But there are three iconic dishes. So let’s start our potato discussion with them.

Boxty: Boxty comes close to being the national dish of Ireland. It’s found everywhere, from homes, to pubs, to the menus of high-end restaurants.

“Potato pancake?” I hear you say. That’s it?” Yep! But with a twist. While every culture that uses potatoes has a version of potato pancakes, what makes Boxty special is the use of both cooked and raw potatoes, which brings them their special taste and texture.

BOXTY
(Irish Potato Cakes)


1 cup grated raw potatoes     
1 cup mashed potatoes
1 cup all-purpose flour     
2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp salt     
2 eggs, lightly beaten
¼ cup (approx.) milk     
Butter or oil for frying
Sugar (optional)

Place the grated raw potatoes in a clean cloth and twist to remove excess moisture.

Whisk together the flour, salt, and baking powder.

Combine flour with the raw potatoes, mashed potatoes, and eggs. Add enough milk to make a batter.

Heat a heavy skillet over medium heat and add butter or oil. Drop batter by the tablespoon into the hot pan. Brown on both sides (about 4 minutes per side).

Butter each boxty and serve hot, with or without sugar.

CHAMP: Champ exemplifies the way a simple peasant dish can be elevated to haute status. Essentially mashed potatoes with something---usually a vegetable---added, it now appears on upscale restaurant menus around the world.

What makes it special is the presentation. The potatoes are served in a bowl, with a well created in the middle. A large lump of butter is added to the well, where the heat of the spuds melts it. Forkfuls of potato were dipped in the melted butter.

Historically, champ was made by pounding the potatoes, using a wooden, pestle-like tool called a beetle. This is not an easy task, and, traditionally, it was men’s work to beetle the champ.

It’s not just people that enjoy champ. Tradition has it that a bowl of champ be set out on Halloween night, to feed the fairies.

As would be expected, there are reginal and house-to-house variations. Basic champ is made with scallions. But, among the variations are Crispy Onion Champ, Dulse (seaweed) Champ, Nettle Champ, Pea Champ…..the list goes on and on. I’m partial to the Crispy Onion version, but here’s a recipe for the basic dish:

Champ
(Irish Mashed Potatoes)


6-8 unpeeled potatoes (russet or Yukon gold)
1 bunch scallions, white bulbs and green tops
1 ½ cups milk
4-8 pats butter
Salt and pepper to taste

Scrub the potatoes and boil them in their jackets. Finely chop the scallions. Cover the scallions with cold milk and bring slowly to a boil. Simmer for 3-4 minutes, then turn off the heat and leave to infuse.

Peel and mash the freshly boiled potatoes and, while hot, mix with the boiling milk and scallions. Beat in some of the butter. Season with salt and pepper.

Serve in one large or four individual bowls. With the back of a spoon, create a well in the center of the bowl. Add a lump of butter to the well, and let it melt before serving.

For the crispy onion version, cut two or three large onions into quarter-inch rings. Melt some butter in a skillet and cook until nicely browned. Put a helping of Champ in each serving bowl, and arrange some of the onions around the edge.



COLCANNON:   Perhaps the most Irish of Irish potato dishes, Colcannon is a mixture of potatoes and some type of cabbage. By far the most common form is to use so-called spring cabbage (essentially, young heads) or, barring that, savoy. But kale is a popular alternative, and there is a raging argument over which is the correct version.

It goes without saying there are many regional and individual preference versions. In Dublin, for instance, they include parsnips in their Colcannon. I haven’t tried that version, yet. But it’s certainly on my list.

FWIW, for both color and flavor, I prefer Colcannon made with kale. And, as we’ll see in a future installment, it makes a better topping for savory cottage pies. But I’m not getting into the middle of that fight. If you want to use cabbage, go to it.

Colcannon is usually served as a mash; with the potatoes and cooked cabbage mixed together. This version is a bit different, in that the mixture is fried.

COLCANNON
(Irish Potatoes and Cabbage)


1 lb potatoes, peeled & boiled     
1 lb kale
Milk, if necessary     
1 tbls butter +
1 lg onion, finely chopped     
Salt & pepper to taste

Mash the potatoes. Chop the kale, add it to the potatoes and mix. Stir in a little milk if mixture is too stiff.

Melt some butter in a frying pan over medium heat and add the onion. Cook until softened. Mix well with the potato mixture.

Add the remainder of the butter to the pan. When very hot, turn the potato mixture into the pan and spread it out. Fry until brown, then cut it roughly into pieces and continue frying until they are crisp and brown. Serve in bowls or as a side dish, with plenty of butter.



     








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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TasunkaWitko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 30 August 2018 at 08:47
I would love to give any of those a try, Brook.

We actually have an "Irish Pub" a couple of doors down from my office; in March, they serve Boxties (Boxtys?) that are slightly different. The ones they make are bigger, with a filling of some sort wrapped up in them like a burrito. One that I especially like is filled with grilled steak tips and onions with a creamy mushroom sauce based on Irish whisky. Authentic? I don't know...but very good!

I'm with you on the Crispy Onion Champ - that sounds like it would be really nice. When I was a kid, I would do the trick with the butter (make a well with a spoon, add butter and let it melt), until someone told me that wasn't healthy.

Colcannon is another one that I need to try. I like fried cabbage, and I like potatoes. I always think of it with some crispy-fried onions and some sort of bacon, but just by itself would really hit the spot.
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None of my references have anything quite like that, Ron. But, as a pub dish, it makes sense. Pubs and restaurants have, I understand, really pushed the concept of boxty. There's even oven-baked bread versions.

I'm imagining their boxty batter as being thinner than mine, so it spreads out in the pan---sort of like a crepe. Then the fillings get wrapped in it.

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Originally posted by Brook Brook wrote:

I'm imagining their boxty batter as being thinner than mine, so it spreads out in the pan---sort of like a crepe. Then the fillings get wrapped in it.


That's exactly correct, Brook - probably not completely traditional, but it does seem to keep in style with the modern "gastropub" idea.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote HistoricFoodie Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 03 September 2018 at 07:12
I'd originally had a note about colcannon about how it's prepared. Somehow or other it got dropped from my post. A friend in Europe alerted me, and I've edited that post.

Just thought I'd let everybody know.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote HistoricFoodie Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 03 September 2018 at 10:31
Savory pies are endemic to the British Isles, with a tradition going back hundreds of years. But, an argument can be made that Ireland surpasses all others in its love of them. They’re served everywhere; in homes, in pubs, and in up-scale restaurants.

We’ve discussed savory pies in the past, such as here: http://www.foodsoftheworld.activeboards.net/savory-pies_topic2496.html That thread barely introduces the topic, however. Anything can be turned into a pie, and likely has been.

What, after all, is a savory pie? As one Irish wag put it, a pie is a bunch of stuff enclosed in a crust.   And so it is.

Originally, savory pies were primarily a way of using up left-overs. Meat from a Sunday roast, some carrots, perhaps a handful of peas, and some stock, and there you have a filling. At its simplest, leftover stew, with no further manipulation, makes a perfectly acceptable pie.
The crust could be pastry, as we tend to think of pies, or something else; mashed potatoes or other roots, for instance. In Ireland, parsnips, usually mixed with potatoes, are popular.

If there’s one dish we think of as quintessentially Irish, it’s Shepherd’s Pie. And, the fact is, versions of it are found all over Ireland. However, I am not including a recipe, here, because, as it turns out, Shepherd’s Pie is not Irish. It’s not even English, despite its ubiquitousness in England. As it turns out, Shepherd’s Pie originated in Scotland. If you’d like making one, here are a couple of links:

http://www.foodsoftheworld.activeboards.net/traditional-english-shepherds-pie_topic5007.html

http://www.foodsoftheworld.activeboards.net/shepherds-pie_topic2305.html

One comment, though. To be a Shepherd’s Pie, the protein must be lamb. If other meats are used it is called a cottage pie.

Traditionally, if a pastry topping was used, it would have been a short crust. Most pies made at home are still done that way. Up-scale pubs and restaurants have taken to using puff pastry instead. This makes a more dramatic presentation---particularly when service takes the form of individual pies. It also is a way of justifying the high prices. Or maybe I’m just an old cynic.

I’ve taken to using puff pastry myself. No, I’d never consider making my own. But, nowadays, puff pastry is inexpensively available in the frozen foods section of most supermarkets. So, why not?

My tendency is to make individual pies. Because I use the same baking dishes for these, I made a template out of a manila folder. This is merely a disk, one-inch more in diameter than that of the pie pans. This makes it much easier to cut out the crust, leaving a half-inch overhang all around.

In Ireland, the tendency is to not attach the pastry directly to the pie plate. Instead, they use various techniques, which I’ll highlight in the recipes.

In general, the liquid used in Irish pies is stock, stout, or a combination of the two. But there are notable exceptions, particularly if seafood is the filling.

Here are a few examples:

BEEF & STOUT PIES

When my coworker first showed be the book on Irish pub food, I say the picture of this dish and fell in love. It was the first Irish dish I made, and was a great introduction to the food of Ireland.
     It also puts a point on the idea of recycling leftovers. Beef and Guinness Stew is an old dish, found throughout the Emerald Isle. Guinness, Ireland’s famed black stout, was first brewed in 1759. It’s more than likely that, by 1760, it was being used as a braising liquid.
     Note the instructions for fitting the crust. First, I’d never seen that technique before, and thought it might have something to do with making individual pies. But another recipe, in which it’s made in a large, rectangular baking pan, uses the same technique.
     You may find, as I did, that it’s easier to cut the strips after rolling out the dough, before cutting the circles.


3 tbls all-purpose flour     
1 tsp salt
½ tsp black pepper     
2 lbs boneless chuck or eye of round, cut in 1-inch pieces
Oil for frying              
1 ¼ cups beef stock     
1 onion, coarsely chopped
8 oz mushrooms, quartered     
1 tbls tomato paste
2 tsp chopped fresh thyme     
1 cup Stout
1 pound puff pastry     
1 egg, lightly beaten

Combine the flour, salt, and pepper in a bowl, then toss the beef in the mixture until evenly coated.

Heat 3 tablespoons oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Cook the beef, in batches, and transfer to a flameproof casserole dish. Deglaze the skillet with ¼ cup of stock, and add the liquid to the casserole dish.

Heat another 1-2 tablespoons of oil in the skillet and cook the onion and mushrooms for 6-7 minutes, until soft. Add to the casserole dish with the tomato paste, thyme, stout, and remaining stock. Heat the casserole dish over medium-high heat, bring to a boil, then simmer gently with the lid slightly askew for 1 ½ hours. Check the seasoning.

Drain the meat mixture in a strainer set over a bowl, reserving the liquid. Reduce liquid by about one quarter. Let rest until cool. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 425F. Put a baking sheet in the oven to heat.

Divide the meat mixture among four 1 ¾-cup pie plates with a flat rim or ovenproof bowls. Pour in enough of the liquid to not quite cover the filling. Dampen the rims of the pie plates.

Cut the pastry into quarters. Roll out each piece to about 1 inch bigger than the pie plates. From each quarter, cut a ½-inch strip and press it onto a dampened rim. Brush with egg yolk, then drape the pastry quarter on top, covering the strip. Trim, crimp the edges with a fork, and make three slashes. Decorate with shapes made from dough scraps. Brush with remaining egg yolk.

Place the pies on the baking sheet and bake 20 minutes. Reduce heat to 400F and bake an additional 5 minutes.

CHICKEN AND HAM PIE

If you’ve ever had one of those frozen chicken pot pies you need to try this. It’s a real eye-opener on what a pot-pie can be, rich, full-bodied, and flavorful.
     Here, again, we find an unusual method of fitting the crust. You center the dough on the pie plate. Then, instead of crimping the overhang, you tuck it into the plate. For the dough-handling-challenged, such as myself, this technique is a God send. It also has another advantage. The crust doesn’t pop off in one piece, as is the tendency for pie crusts attached to the rim.


¼ cup butter     
¼ cup all-purpose flour
1 large leek, thinly sliced     
2 cups chicken stock
1 cup cream     
2 ½ cups diced cooked chicken
1 cup diced cooked ham     
1 cup canned or frozen peas
2 tbls parsley, minced     
Salt and pepper to taste
1 sheet frozen pastry, thawed     
1 egg

Preheat oven to 400F and lightly butter a large, deep-dish, 9-inch pie plate.

In a large saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the leek slices, tossing to coat. Cover the pan and cook for 10 minutes until the leek is tender but not browned. Mix in the flour and cook for one minute. Gradually pour in the chicken stock, stirring all the time to prevent lumps. Add the cream and bring to a gentle simmer. Add the chicken, ham, peas, and parsley. Cook for 3-4 minutes until thickened slightly. Season with salt & pepper, and spoon into the prepared pie dish.

Roll out the pastry and cut into a circle about 12 inches in diameter, so there’s plenty of overhang n the pie plate. Lift the pasty on top of the pie and tuck the overhang down the inside rim.

Beat the egg with 1 tablespoon water and brush this glaze on top of the pastry. Using a sharp paring knife, cut slits in the top of the pie. Bake for about 20 minutes, until pastry is golden and the pie is bubbling.

FISHERMAN’S PIE

Being a small island, fresh seafood is readily available everywhere. And, compared to American prices, it’s very affordable.
     I used haddock for the main protein, and salmon, because it’s the only smoked fish available in our markets. It’s a great combination.
     The original recipe uses a mashed potato crust. I choose to go with colcannon, but for color and additional flavor. Do not use the specialized version I posted earlier, but, rather, a more traditional one, using about 1 ½ pounds potatoes, half a pound or so of kale, and some sautéed onion slices. Blanch the kale in boiling water until wilted, drain, squeeze out the excess water, and chop fine before mixing with the potatoes and onion)

     
2 lbs white fish (cod, haddock, etc)     
½ lb smoked fish
2/3 cup white wine     
1 tbls fresh herbs, chopped
1 ¼ cups mushrooms, sliced     
Scant ½ cup butter
6 oz cooked shrimp     
¼ cup all-purpose flour
½ cup cream or buttermilk     
Salt & white pepper
Colcannon

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease a baking pan. Place fish in pan with the wine, cover with foil, and bake until it states to flake, about 15 minutes. Strain off the liquid, reserving it for sauce. Increase oven to 425F.

Cook the mushrooms in a skillet with 1 tablespoon of the butter, then spoon over the fish. Scatter with the shrimp.

Heat 4 tablespoons of the remaining butter in a pan and stir in the flour. Cook for a few minutes without browning, then remove from the heat and add the reserved cooking liquid, stirring well between additions. Return to the heat and gently bring to a boil, stirring to ensure a smooth sauce. Add the cream and season to taste with salt and pepper. Pour over the fish mixture and smooth the surface.

Pipe the colcannon over the fish mixture. Bake 10-15 minutes until golden brown.








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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TasunkaWitko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 04 September 2018 at 10:22
These appear to be three excellent offerings, Brook, with enough variety in ingredients and technique to give anyone a great place to start in their exploration.

At first, I gravitated toward the Beef and Stout Pie; but as I read the descriptions of the other two, I became more and more interested. I especially like the idea of alternative top crusts; I really, really love a short-crust-topped pie, but having other choices give much more versatility, it seems, to work with a theme or a desired profile.

This might be a question better suited for a future installment, but do you see any different treatment of wild game in the recipes, or would you say that game is used pretty much as its domestic counterpart would be? For instance, would you say that a Venison and Stout Pie would be much different than the beef one above?
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Significantly different? I'd guess not, Ron. Just the normal flavor differences between beef and venison. Game has always played an important role in Irish cuisine, so a venison & stout pie is right in keeping with the tradition.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote HistoricFoodie Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 08 September 2018 at 09:16
As many of you know, I’m a soup fiend. A day without soup, I’ve often said, is a day without sunshine.

For somebody like me, Ireland is a culinary Mecca. The Irish love their soups. Literally anything that is found on the Emerald Isle, or in the sea that surrounds it, can be made into a soup; and likely already has.

We tend to use the words “soup” and “broth” interchangeably. In Ireland that isn’t quite the same. If the word “broth” is used, it generally means a hearty soup, one that can easily be a one-pot meal.

The list of Irish soups is endless. Among them: Lamb and Vegetable; Nettle; Mushroom, Pea; Pea Tendril; Sunchoke; Kidney and Bacon; and even Oatmeal. Seafood isn’t left out, and the bounty of the sea is often made into a soup. Included would be lobster, mussels, oysters, cockles, and even limpets, among others.

In addition to the recipes below, which are Irish soups I’ve made, high on my to-try list are Crab with Saffron; Chestnut and Lentil; and Brotchan Roy---that last being a soup made with leeks and oatmeal.

As should be obvious, if you have a taste for a particular soup, there are Irish versions of it. Here are the ones I’ve tried so far:

SKINK
(Irish Chicken Soup)


“Skink” is an old Gaelic word that simply means “broth.” I kind of fell in love with it, although it’s not commonly used, much, anymore. Obviously, there are many versions of it. This one is based on chicken.

2 celery stalks, diced
4 small carrots, thinly sliced
1 small leek, halved and sliced into half-moons
3 ½ cups chicken stock
1 bay leaf
1 heaping cup diced cooked chicken
½ cup fresh or frozen peas*
4 green onions, whites and some green, sliced
1 egg yolk
1/3 cup cream
4 leaves soft lettuce (Boston or butter type), shredded
Salt and pepper to taste

Put the celery, carrots, and leek in a soup kettle or large saucepan. Add the stock and bay leaf, and season with salt and pepper. Cover, bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until vegetables are tender, about 15 minutes.

Add the chicken, peas, and green onion Simmer for about 8 minutes until the peas are tender.

Remove the pan from the heat. Lightly beat the egg yolk and cream together, temper it with some of the stock, and stir the mixture into the soup. Reheat gently, stirring. Do not let it boil.

Ladle the soup into warm bowls, add the lettuce, and serve immediately.

*If using frozen peas, let them defrost and add to the soup a couple of minutes before the cream, so they heat through but do not turn mushy.

POTATO and FRESH HERB SOUP

It should come as no surprise that the potato stars in many Irish soups. Thick and thin consistencies, rustic and refined, you name it. If there’s a way of manipulating spuds into a soup, the Irish long ago invented it.
     I like soups like this one a little on the rustic one, so only pureed about half the solids
     

4 tbls butter     
1 ¼ cups diced onion
1 ½ lbs diced potatoes     
1 tsp salt
Freshly ground pepper     
1 tbls mixed chopped herbs (parsley, thyme, lemon balm, etc)
3 ½ cups chicken stock          
½ cup creamy milk

Melt the butter in a heavy saucepan. When it foams, add the onions and potatoes and toss them in the butter until well coated. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cover and sweat on a gentle heat for 10 minutes. Add the fresh herbs and the stock, and cook until the vegetables are soft. Puree the soup in a blender or food processor. Adjust seasoning. Thin with creamy milk to the required consistency.

Serve garnished with some of the herbs.

BEEF & BARLEY BROTH

It probably comes as a surprise to many people, but barley is one of Ireland’s favorite grains, perhaps even surpassing oats. It is, after all, the basis of Irish Whiskey. But it’s also used extensively in cookery, in everything from soups, to breads, to main dishes.
     Beef & Barley Broth was traditionally served by dividing the cut-up and cooked meat among individual bowls. The broth was then poured over the meat, and a floury potato added to each bowl to help sop of the juice. That’s still a fun way of serving it.


1 ½ lbs chuck steak
1/3 cup pearl barley, rinsed
1/3 cup green split peas, rinsed
1 large onion, thickly sliced
½ tsp black peppercorns
3 carrots, halved lengthwise and sliced
¾ cup rutabaga, diced
1 small leek, thinly sliced
1 celery stalk, sliced
6 small, floury potatoes
1 ½ cups green cabbage, shredded coarsely
2 tbls chopped fresh parsley
Salt

Put the beef, barley, and split peas in a soup kettle or large saucepan along with the onion and peppercorns. Pour in enough cold water to just cover. Slowly bring to a boil, skimming off any foam, then reduce the heat, cover, and simmer gently for 1 ½ hours.

Add the carrots, rutabaga, leek, and celery to the pan. Season with salt and simmer an additional 30 minutes, adding more water if the soup starts looking too thick.

Meanwhile, put the potatoes in another saucepan with water to cover. Add salt to taste and bring to a boil. Cook for 7-10 minutes, until tender but not disintegrating. Drain, return to pan, and cover with a dish towel (which will absorb rising steam).

Remove the meat saucepan from the stove. Carefully lift out the meat. Cut into small cubes and return them to the pan. Add the cabbage and simmer an additional 5 minutes, or until the cabbage is just tender. Adjust seasonings.

Ladle the soup into warm, wide soup bowls. Place a potato in the middle of each bowl and sprinkle with the parsley.

PARSNIP & APPLE SOUP

This is a more modern Irish soup, as evidenced by the use of “exotic” spices. Traditionally, Irish cuisine doesn’t use much in the way of these spices. They were rare and expensive. Landowners would use them. But, in general, they never caught on until well into the 20th century.

3 tbls butter     
1 onion, chopped
1 lb parsnips, sliced thin     
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 lb cooking apples, peeled, cored, and chopped
1-2 tsp curry powder     
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander          
5 cups chicken stock
Salt and pepper to taste     
½ cup cream
Snipped fresh chives for garnish

Melt the butter in a soup kettle. Sauté the onions until just beginning to soften. Add the parsnips, apple, and garlic, and cook until softened but not browned. Stir in the spices and cook 2 minutes, stirring.

Add the stock and bring to a boil, stirring continuously. Season with salt and pepper. Reduce heat and simmer until parsnips are tender, about 30 minutes.

Puree mixture in a blender until smooth.
Return soup to kettle. Add the cream, mixing well, and reheat gently, but do not let boil.

Serve hot, sprinkled with chives.






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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Margi Cintrano Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 08 September 2018 at 16:59
Brook. 

Wow,  heavenly Parsnip & Apple  Soup.   I am a grand fan of parsnips and they are quite alien in the Mediterranean ..  

They are very much a staple in northern  France, central Eastern and Eastern  Europe ..  

However,  I have seen them during the  late autumn and Winter at the farmer´s market .. So, just copied your récipe and when the season begins, I definitely shall be preparing .. 

My French mom used to make a parsnip soup with carrots and she used a very small potato verses cream to thicken ..  She also used curry and cumin too ..   Very aromatic and can be a Marvel once the weather gets a bit chillier here ..    

Thank you very mich for posting ..  
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TasunkaWitko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 10 September 2018 at 09:08
Nice soups, Brook - all of them look delicious, but the Skink caught my eye. I did a little Googling (and found out it is important to put the word "soup" after "Skink!" ); what I saw looked very good.

The potato/herb and beef/barley soup also really look good, especially as summer draws to a close; and the parsnip/apple one would surely be a treat right at the end of October or beginning of November.

Great choices!

Once you've tried the Brotchan Roy, I'd like to hear about that one, as well.

Ron
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Irish Stew! Is there anything more iconic to Ireland?

But, just what is an Irish Stew? Ask ten cooks from the Emerald Isle, and you’ll get 16 different recipes.

At base, it’s a stew made with lamb, potatoes, salt, herbs, and other stuff. Maybe. Some include onions, some don’t. And there is a raging controversy over whether or not an “authentic” Irish Stew has carrots. Purists maintain that they’re never found in the Stew. Celery, common to many modern versions, seems to be missing in older ones. There even are versions that incorporate barley into the dish.

Nowadays always lamb, the meat, itself, can be cubes, chunks, or, as is often the case, actual chops, with the bone in.

As, Nuala Cullen stresses, “….I suspect the “authentic” dish is the one served in our families.” But that still begs the question.

Most authorities point out, for instance, that Irish Stew was originally made with mutton. If so, probably for the same reason that early Kentucky dishes did so. The cash crop from sheep is, primarily, wool. So why butcher your productive animals? Once the critter stopped producing good wool, it could go in the pot.

Cookery writer Florence Irwin, examining the origins, says, “In the “big house,” when a pig or sheep was killed, the griskins, spare ribs or scrag end of the neck of mutton where shared among the farm laborers and neighbors. The meat was put straight into the big pot with onions and peeled potatoes and then covered with water.”

That “big pot,” by the way was a three-legged iron kettle called a “bastable,” that resembles a pregnant-belly Dutch oven. They were in common use well into the 20th century, and some cooks continue using them. Their most common usage was for baking bread, over a turf fire. But, obviously, they were used as a kettle as well.

But even mutton might be a Johnny-come-lately when it comes to Irish Stew. There is strong evidence that goat was the original protein of choice. Although it’s long been out of favor in Ireland, goat goes back to early settlement of the Isle.

In quite a few households, Irish Stew is actually served as two courses. First, the broth, richly flavorsome with the flavors of the lamb (particularly when made with bone-in lamb) and herbs, is served as a soup. The stew, itself, is then dished out as a main course.

I’m not going to bore you with all the permutations of Irish Stew. I’ve examined several dozen recipes, and have made half a dozen or so. Instead, I’m going to present my favorite. If you’re interested in others, the web is covered up with them. One interesting surprise: if you search under “Irish Stew” and “Traditional Irish Stew,” you’ll find many differences.

All that said, here is my favorite:

BALLYMALOE IRISH STEW

Shoulder lamb chops are hen’s teeth around here. When I make this stew I use loin chops instead. This does, I have to admit, make for an expensive stew. But, it’s so good, I can stand the strain on my wallet.

2 ½-3 lb shoulder lamb chops at least 1” thick
5 med or 12 baby onions     
5 med or 12 baby carrots
Salt and pepper     
2 ½ cups lamb or chicken stock
8 potatoes     
1 sprig thyme
1 tbls roux (optional     
1 tbls parsley, chopped
1 tbls chives, chopped

Preheat oven to 350F.

Cut the chops in half and trim off some of the excess fat. Place the trimmed-off fatty pieces in a heavy pan and cook over gentle heat so that the fat runs out. Discard the solid bits that remain.

Peel the onions and scrape or thinly peel the carrots. Cut the carrots into large chunks, or, if they are young, leave them whole. If onions are large, cut them small.

Toss the meat in the hot fat in the pan until it is slightly brown. Transfer the meat into a casserole, then quickly toss the onions and carrots in the fat. Build the meat, carrots, and onions up in layers in the casserole, carefully seasoning each layer with freshly ground pepper and salt. Pout the stock into the pan, stir to dissolve the caramelized scraping, and pour into the casserole. Peel the potatoes and lay them on top of the casserole, so they will steam while the stew cooks. Season the potatoes. Add a sprig of thyme and bring to a boil on top of the stove. Cover and transfer to a moderate oven or allow to simmer on top of the stove until the stew is cooked, 1-1 ½ hours.

When the stew is cooked, pour off the cooking liquid and skim off the fat. Reheat the liquid in another saucepan. Slightly thicken it with a little roux if you like. Check the seasoning, then add chopped parsley and chives and pour it back over the stew. Bring it back up to boiling and serve directly from the pot or in a large pottery dish.







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Nice soups, Brook - all of them look delicious, but the Skink caught my eye. I did a little Googling (and found out it is important to put the word "soup" after "Skink!" ); what I saw looked very good.

I somehow missed this comment, Ron. Although it's often done so, to say the word "soup" after "Skink," sort of overstates the case.

"Skink," which is used in both Ireland and Scotland, translates as "broth." That being the case, skink soup is sort of redundant, which is why I didn't use that phraseology.

No matter. It's a great version of chicken soup, whatever you call it.
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Hi, Brook -

I meant mostly that it seems to be necessary to add "soup" when "googling" the subject; otherwise, the results seem to be on the reptilian side.

I enjoyed reading your installment on the Irish stew; your descriptions and recipe are very close to what I have read and tried, except they are undoubtedly more "authentic" (bad choice of words, but...you know how that goes) than what I have seen and tried. My own attempt turned out very good, but I had to use beef rather than lamb; it never ceases to amaze me that in a town surrounded by sheep, lamb is very hard to come by; and when it is found, the prices are so prohibitive. I do have an inexpensive source for shanks, so I will be seeing what I can do with them, as time goes by.
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Ahhh. I misunderstood. But, knowing Google, I can see the possibilities.
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Ireland has a vast array of breads and breadstuffs, such as scones. What it doesn’t have, however, is a long tradition of yeasted breads. Those that are popular mostly date from the beginning of the 20th century.

Historically, the leavening agent used for bread was barm, which is a by-product of the brewing industry. Then, in about 1845, baking soda was introduced, and took off with a vengeance. So much so, that Irish Soda Bread is one of the few culinary items to achieve worldwide reputation.

If you’re inexperienced with soda as a leavening, as I was, be aware that there is a whole range of techniques and methods that are different from yeast breads. I’m not going to detail all of them. Heck, I’m still learning the “rules” myself. But there are three keys you should pay strict attention to.

1. Do not overwork the dough. Once the liquid is added, work the mixture only until everything comes together. Many recipes say to give the dough a quick kneading at that point. Yeah, right! Don’t do it. It will make the bread tough, and hinder the rise.

2. Yeasted breads, of course, require time to proof and rise. The opposite is the case with soda breads. As soon as the dough is prepared it should go right into a hot oven. This means you should pre-heat the oven before starting to mix the dough.

3. Soda requires some acid to activate the process. So buttermilk should be the liquid of choice. The Irish prefer “sour” milk in all things, anyway, so there’s a perfect match. Doncha just love it when a plan comes together!

BTW, you can substitute baking powder, on a one-to-one ratio, if you want.

Another surprise: Historically, Ireland’s flour was made from soft Red Wheat, imported from the northern plains and Canada. When I first learned that I was taken aback, wondering how the lack of gluten held things together. But then came an epiphany. I’m a southerner, after all, where biscuits are supreme. Biscuits are made with soft flour, and have no trouble rising---providing the dough has not been overworked.

I can’t stress enough the idea of not over-working the dough. Many southerners won’t even twist the cutter when punching out biscuits, because they believe doing so work-hardens the edges.

If you live in the South, finding soft flour is not a problem. In other parts of the country it may be hard to come by. If so, all-purpose flour will work. Do not use bread flour, though. It won’t rise properly, and produces a dense, chewy bread. But not in a good way.

in mind, too, that soda breads do not rise as high as yeast breads. So don’t be disappointed when they don’t.

Irish Soda Bread is made in two forms; white and brown. The only significant difference is that the brown version uses both white and whole wheat flours. Irish whole wheat flour is very coarse, so try and find a grind like that. Finely ground will work, but not as well. King Arthur sells what they call Irish Style Flour. It’s coarser than regular whole wheat, but not as coarse as the true gelt. Even so, it’s a good substitute. Stone ground whole wheat comes even closer, if you can find it.

There are, it goes without saying, numerous variations on these themes, differing primarily with the amounts of each ingredient, or the addition of other ingredients such as sugar. So, once you’ve tried your hands on them, don’t be afraid to experiment as necessary.

Despite the plethora of recipes that include other ingredients, The Society for the Preservation of Irish Soda Bread (yes, there really is such a thing) insists that real soda bread contains only four ingredients: flour, baking soda, sour milk, and salt.

As with so many other things in the culinary world, ya pays yer money and takes yer choices.

Here are basic recipes for the two types:

Irish White Soda Bread
3 ½ cups soft or all-purpose flour
2-3 tbls sugar
1 ½ tsp salt
1 rounded tsp baking soda
1 ½-1 ¾ cups buttermilk

Preheat the oven to 475F. Lightly grease a baking sheet, or line with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, stir together the flour, sugar, salt, and baking soda. Stir in enough buttermilk to make a softish dough. Shape the dough into a large round, about 1 ½ inches thick. Transfer the round to the baking sheet.

Cut an X into the dough, about an inch deep, with a sharp knife. If you want to be traditional, use a fork to prick the dough in each quarter, to let the fairies out.

Immediately put the pan in the oven, and bake 35-40 minutes. The bread should sound hollow with tapped on the bottom. If not, turn it over directly on the oven rack, and bake 5-10 minutes more.

Wrap the bread in a slightly dampened tea towel, and leave it, wrapped, to cool on a wire rack.

Irish Brown Soda Bread

4 cups coarse whole wheat flour
1 ½ cups soft or all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1 rounded tsp baking soda
2 cups (approx.) buttermilk

Preheat oven to 400F. Prep a baking sheet as above.

Mix he dry ingredients in a large bowl. Stir in enough buttermilk to make a fairly soft dough. Form into a round about 1 ½ inches thick. Transfer to the baking sheet.

Cut a deep X across the top of the dough with a sharp knife. Don’t forget the fairies!

Bake for about 45 minutes until bread is browned and sounds hollow with tapped on the bottom. Wrap in a slightly dampened tea towel and cool on a wire rack.

TRADITIONAL IRISH PLAIN SCONES

Scones, plain and fancy, are a traditional part of Irish breakfasts and teas. Although this is a simple version, many of them are perked up with the addition of fruits---particularly raisins---cheese, or even oatmeal.

2 cups all-purpose flour
Pinch salt
1 rounded tsp baking soda
½ stick butter
½ cup buttermilk
Egg wash for glaze (optional)

Preheat a very hot oven, 450F.

Sift the dry ingredients into a mixing bowl. Cut in the butter and rub it in to make a mixture like fine breadcrumbs. Make a well in the center and add enough milk to make a soft dough, just firm enough to handle.

Turn out the dough onto a floured work surface and roll or pat it out to a thickness of about an inch. Stamp out rounds or cut into squares or triangles with a sharp knife.

Lay the scones on a floured baking sheet. Glaze with the egg wash, if using.

Bake for about 7-10 minutes, until brown and well-risen.

IRISH BOXTY BREAD

Here we have an indication about how popular boxty is. The basic ingredients have been manipulated into a bread. As it turns out, it’s become one of my favorites.

7 starchy potatoes, matched for size, about 1 ¾ lbs total
2 tbls butter     
2/3 cup milk (buttermilk pref)
2 tsp salt     
1/4 tsp white pepper
1 ½ tsp dill or caraway seeds (opt)     
2 ¾ cup all-purpose flour
5 tsp baking soda

Preheat the oven to 375F. Peel four of the potatoes, cut them into even chunks, and bring to a boil in a large saucepan. Simmer gently until soft, about 20 minutes. Drain well and mash with the butter until smooth.

Meanwhile, peel the remaining potatoes and grate coarsely. Wrap in a clean cloth and squeeze tightly to wring out the moisture. Put the grated potatoes in a large bowl with the milk, ¾ teaspoon salt, the pepper, and herb seeds if using. Beat in the mashed potatoes.

Sift the flour, baking powder, and remaining salt onto the potato mixture. Mix to a smooth dough, adding a little more flour if the mixture is too soft.

Knead very lightly, then shape into four flat, round loaves about 4 inches in diameter. Place on a nonstick baking sheet. Mark each loaf with a large cross. Bake in the preheated oven for 40-45 minutes, or until well-risen and golden brown.

Break each loaf into quarters. Serve warm, spread with butter.

Given the number of traditional Celtic festivals and Christian feast days, the Irish naturally have celebration breads. Perhaps the most well known is:

IRISH BARMBRACK BREAD

One of the very few traditional breads made with yeast, Barmbrack is associated with Samhain (Halloween). It’s a time when gates between the normal world and the other world are open, and humans can mingle with the Fairy folk.
     As with the King’s Cake of Mardi Gras, objects such as rings, coins, and so forth, are often baked into the Barmbrack, each with a symbolic meaning.
     There are numerous versions of Barmbrack bread. This one is really different, as it brings tea to the table, as the liquid.


4 cups unbleached bread flour
2 tbls butter
¼ cup superfine sugar, divided use
2 tsp instant yeast
½ tsp ground ginger
¼ tsp ground nutmeg
1 cup golden raisins
1 cup currants
¼ cup mixed candied peel, chopped
1 ¼ cups strong, warm tea

Put the flour into a mixing bowl and rub in the butter until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Stir in 1 teaspoon of the sugar, then add the yeast, ginger, and nutmeg. Mix well. Stir in the raisins, currants, and mixed peel.

Make a well in the center of the mixture, and work in enough of the warm tea to make a soft, but not sticky, dough. Knead well until the dough leaves the sides of the bowl cleanly.

Transfer to a lightly floured work surface, and knead about 10 minutes (or 5 minutes if using a stand mixer). Put the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover with plastic film, and set aside to rise until doubled in bulk, about an hour. Punch down the dough and shape into a large round and place on a lightly oiled baking sheet. Cover with oiled plastic film, and set aside until the dough has again doubled in bulk, about 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 450F.

Shape the dough into a lightly oiled and lined large loaf pan, and bake 15 minutes. Rotate the pan, and lower the temperature to 400F, and bake 20 minutes more until the bread is well risen, golden brown, and sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom

Dissolve the remaining sugar in 1 tablespoon hot water and brush the syrup over the loaf. Return to the oven for two minutes.

Let cool on a wire rack.

Finally, I’d be remiss to not include one of the contemporary yeast breads:

IRISH OATMEAL & POTATO BREAD

Although yeast entered the Irish culinary world about a century ago, the past three decades have seen an upsurge in the development of yeasted breads, thanks primarily to the emergence of country house restaurants and upscale pubs. In most cases, such as this, they maintain their Irish heritage while using modern ingredients and techniques.

Oil for oiling     
1 cup mashed potatoes
3 ½ cups bread flour     
1 ½ tsp salt
3 tbls butter, diced     
1 ½ tsp instant yeast
3 tbls rolled oats     
2 tbls skim milk powder*
Scant 1 cup lukewarm water*     
1 tbls water
1 tbls rolled oats

Oil a 9x5x3 inch loaf pan. Put the potatoes in a large pan, add water to cover, and bring to a boil. Cook 20-25 minutes until tender. Train, then mash until smooth. Let cool.

Sift the flour and salt into a warmed bowl. Rub in the butter with your fingertips. Stir in the yeast, sugar, oats, and milk powder. Mix in the mashed potato, then add the water and mix to a soft dough.

Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead 5-10 minutes, or until smooth and elastic. Put the dough in an oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let rise until doubled in size, about an hour.
Turn out the dough again and knead lightly. Shape into a loaf and transfer to the prepared pan. Cover and let rise 30 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 425F.

Brush the surface of the loaf with the water and carefully sprinkle over the oats. Bake in the preheated oven for 25-30 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool slightly Serve warm.

*Or substitute skim milk for the powder and water.

But we hae meat and we can eat
And sae the Lord be thanket
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