Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with traditional Irish cuisine
Mar 13, 2012 | 4545 views | 0 0 comments | 12 12 recommendations | email to a friend | print

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Some people have trouble pinning down traditional Irish cuisine. As with many cultures, the stereotypical foods that come to be associated with a people tend to outshine the more authentic fare that is more indicative of a culture as a whole.

For example, the Greek gryo or the Italian spaghetti are generalized “authentic” foods of these regions. Chinese should not be measured by their General Tso’s chicken, nor the Turkish for their meat on a stick. When it comes to the cuisine of Ireland, many people immediately think potatoes, corned beef and cabbage -- foods that have become synonymous with the St. Patrick’s Day holiday. However, there are many other delicacies that are representative of Irish descent, particulary the Irish Breakfast.

A visit to the inns or bed and breakfasts of the Emerald Isle will most likely provide a glimpse into the traditional Irish Breakfast. Historically, farmers’ wives would prepare and serve these foods to ensure their husbands would be satiated throughout the morning working hard on the farm. This hearty meal is so filling, that often there is little need for lunch later on in the day.

Irish Breakfast consists of a few different menu items:

•Rashers: A type of Irish bacon that is more like Canadian bacon than American bacon. It is not cooked to a crisp, and is softer in texture.

•Bangers: These are Irish sausages made of beef or pork, spices and rusk (bread crumbs). The bangers get their name from their propensity to bang or burst open while frying at high temperatures.

•Black pudding: American’s think of pudding as a dessert food. However, pudding to the Irish is another type of sausage. This dark variety is made from oatmeal, spices and pig’s blood.

•White pudding: This consists of pork meat and fat, suet, bread, and oatmeal formed into the shape of a large sausage. It is like black pudding without the blood.

•Beans: Irish baked beans are similar to American baked beans cooked in a tomato-based sauce. However, they’re not sweetened.

•Potatoes: Boiled, sliced potatoes are served with sliced tomatoes, all warmed in the pan used to cook the puddings and other meat products.

•Eggs: Several eggs served sunny-side up and cooked with Irish butter.

•Brown bread: This is an Irish soda bread made with whole-wheat flour.

This traditional Irish Breakfast can be served with strong Irish tea.

Irish Beef Hand Pies

courtesy of Marthastewart.com

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

1/4 head green cabbage, shredded

1/2 pound red potatoes, diced

1 pound ground beef sirloin

3 tablespoons tomato paste

1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

Coarse salt and ground pepper

All-purpose flour, for rolling

2 piecrusts (9 inches each)


Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a medium saucepan, heat oil over medium; add cabbage and potatoes. Cook until beginning to brown, 7 to 9 minutes. Add beef; cook, breaking up meat with a spoon, until no longer pink, about 5 minutes. Stir in tomato paste, Worcestershire, thyme, and 1 cup water. Cover, and cook until potatoes are tender, about 15 minutes. Lightly mash mixture with a fork. Season with salt and pepper. Let cool completely.

On a lightly floured work surface, roll each crust into a 14-inch square; cut each into 4 equal squares. Place 1/2 cup filling on one half of each square, leaving a 1/2-inch border around the filling. Brush borders with water; fold dough over filling to enclose. Crimp edges with a fork to seal. With a paring knife or scissors, cut 3 small vents in each.

Transfer pies to 2 foil-lined rimmed baking sheets; bake until golden brown, 10 to 12 minutes, rotating sheets halfway through.

Soda bread has become a staple of St. Patrick’s Day celebrations. But the tradition of Irish soda bread is a relatively recent one, especially when considering the extensive history of Irish culture.

In the 1800s, yeast breads were practically unheard of in rural Ireland. Yeast bread took a while to make and the results were not consistent to make it a worthwhile venture for many households. Instead, people began experimenting with baking soda as a leavening agent. Not only was it a quick way to produce the aeration necessary for bread, the results also were more consistent than using yeast.

The first soda breads featured only a few basic ingredients in addition to the baking soda, including salt, buttermilk and flour. The bread was served often with fresh, churned butter. It is a recent change to the recipe to include other flavoring agents, like sugar, currants, caraway seeds, and raisins.

Irish Soda Bread With Raisins courtesy of Epicurious.com.

Irish Soda Bread With Raisins

(Makes 1 loaf)

Nonstick vegetable oil spray

2 cups all purpose flour

5 tablespoons sugar, divided

11/2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

3/4 teaspoon baking soda

3 tablespoons butter, chilled, cut into cubes

1 cup buttermilk

2/3 cup raisins

Preheat the oven to 375 F. Spray an 8-inch-diameter cake pan with nonstick spray.

Whisk flour, 4 tablespoons sugar, baking powder, salt, and baking soda in a large bowl to blend. Add butter. Using your fingertips, rub in until coarse meal forms. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture. Add the buttermilk, gradually stirring dry ingredients into the milk to blend. Mix in the raisins.

Using floured hands, shape dough into a ball. Transfer to the prepared pan and flatten slightly (dough will not come to the edges of the pan). Sprinkle dough with remaining 1 tablespoon sugar.

Bake bread until brown and when the tester inserted into the center comes out clean, about 40 minutes. Cool the bread in the pan for 10 minutes. Transfer to a rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.
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