by Nancy Sweet, director, LLCC culinary programs and operations
I love a reason to cook something that has a history to it. And, not just history, but also something that is incredibly important to a group of people. I think it can be a great way to expand one’s worldview to think about a different culture’s customs, and more specifically, their food customs. Knowing the ingredients, the techniques and the traditions of food customs can be a wonderful insight to a new culture.
St. Paddy’s Day is just around the corner. I’m not Irish, but if the holiday means spending time with friends cooking new recipes and eating good food, then I’m all in!
In Irish cooking, the potato, of course, makes an appearance in many traditional Irish dishes. From shepherd’s pie (a meat and veggie pie topped with mashed potatoes), to boxty (a sort of potato pancake made with mashed and grated potato), to Guinness Stew (often made with potatoes and local lamb, mutton, or goat), tradition can always be a comforting approach to Irish cooking.
However, recent years have certainly seen an increase on the emphasis of more modern takes on traditional Irish foods. More chefs are incorporating the abundance of seafood from Ireland’s coastline and appreciating the beauty of Irish farmhouse cheeses from dairies throughout the countryside. In addition, menus from fine dining to gastro pubs to street food vendors now even see influences from international travelers, immigration and acceptance to the EU, making Ireland’s cuisine also rich in global flavors.
Below are some traditional and not-so-traditional Irish recipes you may want to try for this year’s St. Patrick’s Day festivities.
Serve with eggs or smoked salmon for breakfast, a simple salad for lunch, with “bangers” (sausages) and some sautéed Swiss chard or spinach for a more hearty dinner.
Adapted from Chowhound.com
2 pounds (3 to 4 large) Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled
3/4 cup whole milk
1 1/4 teaspoons salt, plus more for seasoning the potatoes before cooking
1 large egg
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 to 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
Heat the oven to 200°F.
Chop half of the potatoes into large dice, place in a medium saucepan, salt generously and cover with cold water by 1 inch. Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce the heat to low, and simmer the potatoes uncovered until fork tender, about 8 minutes.
Meanwhile, grate the remaining potatoes on the large holes of a box grater. Toss with 1/4 teaspoon of the salt and place in a fine mesh strainer set over a medium bowl; set aside.
When the boiled potatoes are ready, drain them, return them to the pot, add 1/4 cup of the milk, and mash until the potatoes are smooth. Transfer to a large bowl.
With a plastic spatula, press the grated potatoes against the sides and bottom of the strainer to remove any liquid. Add the grated potatoes to the mashed potatoes along with the egg, remaining 1/2 cup milk, flour, pepper and remaining 1 teaspoon salt mix until thoroughly combined.
Heat a large nonstick frying pan or griddle over medium heat. Once hot add enough butter to lightly coat the bottom when melted. Drop 3 dollops (about 1/4 cup each) of the batter into the pan and spread each to about 1/4 inch thick. Cook until the pancake bottoms are golden brown, about 4 to 5 minutes. Flip and cook the other side until golden brown, about 4 to 5 minutes more. Place on a baking sheet and set in the oven to keep warm. Repeat with the remaining butter and batter. Serve warm.
Beef and Guinness Stew
Serve with roasted or mashed potatoes for a hearty meal.
Adapted from donalskehan.com
1 – 2 tablespoons salad oil
2 pounds stew meat, cubed
1 onion, chopped
3 carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
2 stalks celery, roughly chopped
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 cup beef stock
1 pint (16 ounces) Guinness
2 tablespoons flour
Heat a tablespoon of the oil in a large Dutch oven pot over medium heat. Season meat with some salt and pepper. In two different batches so as not to overcrowd the pan, sear meat until browned on all sides, about 4 – 5 minutes. Remove from pan and set aside on a plate.
Add another tablespoon of oil if needed, and sauté the onion, carrots and celery until onion starts to become translucent, about 3 – 4 minutes. Add garlic and sauté another 30 seconds. Add the meat back into the pot and sprinkle flour onto meat. Stir thoroughly and let cook 1 minutes.
Add in stock, Guinness, bay leaf, and season with some salt and pepper. Simmer for about 1 to 1 ½ hours, tasting for seasoning and tenderness of meat. Once meat is tender, serve.
Adapted from The Food Network
For the potato topping:
1 1/2 pounds russet potatoes
1/4 cup half-and-half
2 ounces unsalted butter
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 egg yolk
For the meat filling:
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 cup onion, diced
2 carrots, peeled and diced small
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 pounds ground lamb or beef
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons tomato paste
1 cup chicken broth
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
2 teaspoons freshly chopped rosemary leaves
1 teaspoon freshly chopped thyme leaves
1/2 cup fresh or frozen corn kernels
1/2 cup fresh or frozen English peas
Peel the potatoes and cut into 1/2-inch dice. Place in a medium saucepan and cover with cold water. Set over high heat, cover and bring to a boil. Once boiling, uncover, decrease the heat to maintain a simmer and cook until tender and easily crushed with tongs, approximately 10 to 15 minutes. Place the half-and-half and butter into a microwave-safe container and heat in the microwave until warmed through, about 35 seconds. Drain the potatoes in a colander and then return to the saucepan. Mash the potatoes and then add the half and half, butter, salt and pepper and continue to mash until smooth. Stir in the yolk until well combined.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
While the potatoes are cooking, prepare the filling. Place the canola oil into a 12-inch sauté pan and set over medium high heat. Once the oil shimmers, add the onion and carrots and sauté just until they begin to take on color, approximately 3 to 4 minutes. Add the garlic and stir to combine. Add the lamb or beef, salt and pepper and cook until browned and cooked through, approximately 3 minutes. Sprinkle the meat with the flour and toss to coat, continuing to cook for another minute. Add the tomato paste, chicken broth, Worcestershire, rosemary, thyme, and stir to combine. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer slowly 10 to 12 minutes or until the sauce is thickened slightly.
Add the corn and peas to the lamb mixture and spread evenly into an 11 by 7-inch glass baking dish. Top with the mashed potatoes, starting around the edges to create a seal to prevent the mixture from bubbling up and smooth with a rubber spatula. Place on a parchment lined half sheet pan on the middle rack of the oven and bake for 25 minutes or just until the potatoes begin to brown. Remove to a cooling rack for at least 15 minutes before serving.
Irish Soda Bread
Adapted from Bon Appetit
Nonstick vegetable spray
2 cups all-purpose flour
5 tablespoons sugar, divided
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons butter, chilled, cut into cubes
1 cup buttermilk
2/3 cup raisins or currants
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spray an 8 inch diameter cake pan with nonstick spray. Whish flour, 4 tablespoons guar, baking powder, salt, and baking soda in large bowl to blend. Add butter. Using fingertips, rub in until coarse meal forms. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture. Add buttermilk. Gradually stir dry ingredients into milk to blend. Mix in raisins (or currants).
Using floured hands, shape dough into a ball. Transfer to a prepared pan and flatten slightly (dough will not come to edges of pan). Sprinkle dough with remaining 1 tablespoon sugar.
Bake bread until brown and tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 40 minutes. Cool bread in the pan for about 10 minutes and then remove from pan. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Want to know more?
Lincoln Land Community College offers associate degree programs in Culinary Arts and Hospitality Management and academic credit certificates in Culinary Arts and Baking/Pastry. For more information call 217-786-4613 or visit www.llcc.edu/hospitality-culinary-arts.