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Two Takes on Irish Soda Bread


Irish Soda Bread

Irish Soda Bread

Never made bread before? Give Irish soda bread a try. It really is that easy. And it really is Irish.

With St. Patrick’s Day around the corner, it’s also a natural.

Soda bread is baked in “countless cottages around Ireland,” writes Hugo Arnold in “Avoca Café Cookbook,” an indispensable souvenir I picked up on a trip to Ireland years ago and have sworn by ever since.

“Simple and cheap to make, with easily obtainable ingredients, it fed hungry farmers and their families for years,” Arnold says. “Today it is as popular as ever, as honest simplicity appealing in an age when food seems to get ever more complicated.”

For a simple variation, try adding raisins. They give the bread a little added sweetness, which makes it a perfect addition for breakfast. And as Arnold points out, it takes so little to put it together that you could serve it hot out of the oven.

Soda Bread

Add the buttermilk slowly.

Add the buttermilk slowly.

1 pound flour
1 level teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon caster sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
14 ounces buttermilk

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Mix the flour, baking soda, sugar and salt in a large bowl. Gradually mix in the buttermilk to give a moist dough. Place in a greased loaf pan and bake for 30 minutes, until the loaf sounds hollow when turned out of the tin and tapped underneath. Place on a wire rack to cool.

Makes 1 loaf.

From “Avoca Café Cookbook”

Fruit Soda Bread

1 pound flour
1 level teaspoon baking soda
1 ounce sugar
Pinch of salt
1 ounce raisins
14 ounces buttermilk

Tap the bottom to see if the bread is done.

Tap the bottom to see if the bread is done.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Dried fruit gives soda bread extra flavor.

Dried fruit gives soda bread extra flavor.

Mix the flour, soda, sugar, salt and raisins in a bowl. Then slowly add the buttermilk and mix well to form a dough. Shape it into a mound, place in a greased loaf pan and bake for 20 minutes. Lower the heat to 325 degrees and continue baking for 25 more minutes.

The loaf should sound hollow when you turn it out of the pan and tap the bottom; if in doubt, turn it upside down and bake for a further 10 minutes. (If you’ve greased your bread pan well, this is easy to do.) Leave the loaf on a wire rack to cool.

Editor’s note: Because you are cooking this bread at a lower temperature than in the recipe above, the crust of the bread will be noticeably lighter.

Makes 1 loaf.

From “Avoca Café Cookbook” by Hugo Arnold with Leylie Hayes

 

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Mint Salsa Goes Great with Lamb


Pair a mint salsa with lamb.

The last of our green recipes for St. Patrick’s Day involves mint, which has started coming back after the brief winter we had.

Some people love lamb with mint jelly. I’m not one of them. In fact, the sticky sweetness of the jelly is so great, to me, that it throws off the balance of the entire meal. (It also destroys any good chance of pairing the meal with wine, as the wine has to be sweeter than the food you are serving it with.) But that doesn’t mean I don’t like lamb and mint together. The two flavors do complement each other, you just don’t need to add sweetness into a perfectly savory pairing.

That’s where the following salsa recipe comes in handy. It’s adapted from a idea celebrity chef Mary Sue Milliken shared with the Washington Post. Her version originally had a teaspoon of honey in it, but I wouldn’t it, especially when there’s already sweet balsamic vinegar.  The garlic and mint in this salsa don’t need much more enhancement, and they make this salsa a worth partner for white fish and chicken.

Mint Salsa

2 heads garlic (24 to 30 cloves)
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 1/2 cups dry white wine
1 cup loosely packed mint leaves
Splash balsamic or sherry vinegar, or more to taste
Salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Heat the oil in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook, stirring often, for 10 minutes, until well browned. Add the crushed red pepper flakes and wine; increase the heat to medium-high and cook for 6 to 8 minutes, until the liquid has reduced to about 1/2 cup.

As the liquid reduces, coarsely chop or chiffonade the mint leaves and add to the saucepan along with the vinegar. Taste and adjust: If the wine is quite dry, you will need less vinegar; if the wine has some sweetness, you might need more vinegar. Season to taste with salt and pepper and remove from the heat.

From Mary Sue Milliken/The Washington Post

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Add Green to Your Breakfast with This Silky Smoothie


Avocado Pineapple Smoothie

Go green for breakfast! Add a touch of color to your wake-up call with this smoothie that uses avocado mixed with pineapple. It’s simple, which is what most of us want if we’re walking about before our eyes are fully open.

Actually, you can enjoy this refreshing treat any time of day, including dessert.

Avocado Pineapple Smoothie

1 fully ripened avocado, halved, pitted, peeled and diced
1 (20-ounce) can pineapple chunks in juice
2 cups ice

In blender container, combine avocado, pineapple plus its juice and ice; whirl until smooth.

Makes 4 cups.

From Avocados from Mexico

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Keep It Green with This Rich Parsley Soup


Flat-leaf parsley

Our second green recipe for St. Patrick’s Day is a soup that derives its color from parsley, a wonderful vegetable that has an unfortunate reputation. Too many people just use the curly variety as a garnish on a plate.

Parsley Soup

But it is actually quite versatile, adding a punch to salads, a note of freshness to vegetable dishes and lively addition to stuffings for fish or chicken.

Many prefer the flat-leaf for flavor, but don’t disregard the curly variety.

“I’ve even used parsley as a vegetable,” says Simon Hopkinson in the ever-helpful “Roast Chicken and Other Stories” (Hyperion, $24.95). “Gently stewed in a little butter for a few moments with a sliver or two of garlic, it is very good with grilled chicken. For this, however, you do have to use the curly variety, as, irritatingly, the flat type sticks to the sides of the pan and doesn’t absorb the butter well. You need the curly type of parsley if you want to deep-fry it, too. I adore deep-fried parsley. It is simplicity itself to prepare. Just drop some well-dried sprigs into hot fat for a few seconds. (One of those electric deep-dryers with a basket is ideal.) Lift the parsley out, drain it on paper towels,and sprinkle with salt.”

Celeriac

This soup recipe, like a great many, original called for a potato, which is strictly verboten to anyone trying to count carbohydrates. But there are substitutes. I tried the following with celeriac, or celery root, which has one-third the carbs (7 grams for the celery root, but 22 grams for the potato per cup), but about the same amount of fiber (about 3 grams). The flavor will change — and in my opinion, for the better. But it still brought a thickness to the soup that gave it a silky texture. It cooked in about the same time as the recipe said the potato would take.

Parsley Soup

6 tablespoons butter
2 large leeks, white parts only, sliced
2 big bunches of flat-leaf parsley, stalks and leaves separated, stalks chopped, divided use
1 celeriac or 1 large potato, peeled and chopped
2 1/2 cups chicken or vegetable stock, or more as needed
Salt, to taste
Pepper, to taste
1/2 cup heavy cream

Use celeriac instead of potato to cut down on carbohydrates.

Melt the butter in a saucepan and sweat the leeks and all the parsley stalks, gently, uncovered, for 20 minutes. Add the celeriac or potato, stock and salt and peppers and simmer for a further 20 minutes.

Coarsely chop the leaves of one bunch of parsley and add to the soup. Simmer for 2 minutes. Meanwhile, blanch the leaves of the other bunch of parsley in fiercely boiling water for 30 seconds. Drain and refresh immediately under cold running water, then gently squeeze dry in a tea towel.

Blend the soup with the blanched parsley to make a vivid green puree. Pass through a fine sieve into a clean pan, if needed or desired. (When testing this recipe, a Vitamix made straining unnecessary. If you want a rustic look and texture, don’t strain.) Add the cream, reheat, and adjust the seasoning. If the soup is too thick, you may want to thin it with more starch.

Use a blender to puree the soup.

Garnish ideas include a fresh parsley leaf, fried garlic chips or a Parmesan-crusted crouton.

Makes 4 to 6 servings.

Adapted from “Roast Chicken and Other Stories” by Simon Hopkinson with Lindsey Bareham

 

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Get Your Greens — And Not Just on St. Patrick’s Day


Just about any kind of tender lettuce is good in this salad.

Don’t wait for Saturday to add some green to your diet. For the next few days, we’ll offer some great green dishes that you can enjoy year round. The recipes will come from around the world, which doesn’t matter since everyone is Irish on St. Patrick’s Day, right?

The following recipe comes from Cafe Pasqual in Santa Fe, N.M. It originated with the aunt of the owner Katharine Kagel, who writes, “As a child, I was so enamored of this dressing that she would give me a mason jar of it as a gift at Christmas. It is tangy, salty and sweet all at once, an engaging range of flavors and better when served the day after it is made. Keep the dressing refrigerated until just before serving.”

By the way, A.J. is short for Aunt June Shane.

A.J. Romaine and Shrimp Salad with Green Goddess Dressing

2 to 3 pounds large shrimp, peeled and deveied
3 to 4 heads romaine lettuce (see note)

For the dressing:
3/4 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice, strained (about 4 lemons)
2 cups firmly packed, stemmed fresh parsley leaves
1 bunch scallions (about 6), including the green tops, coarsely chopped
1 (2-ounce) can anchovy fillets, drained
1 tablespoon sugar (optional)

2 ripe avocados, peeled, pitted and diced (optional)

Bring a saucepan filled with water to a boil. Add the shrimp and boil just until they turn pink, about 3 minutes. Drain, cover and chill.

Use only the hearts of the romaine lettuces; reserve the large outer leaves for another purpose. Separate, wash and dry the leaves, then wrap in a cloth towel or paper towel and chill for at least 1 hour before serving.

To prepare the dressing, combine mayonnaise, lemon juice, parsley, scallions, anchovies and sugar, if using, in a blender and liquify, 10 to 15 seconds.

To serve, tear the romaine lettuce leaves into 20inch lengths and place in a salad bowl with the avocados, if using. pour on the dressing and toss well to coat the leaves and avocados. Arrange the shrimp on top of the salad and serve.

Note: You can use any lettuce but iceberg for this recipe.

Makes 6 to 8 servings.

Adapted from “Cafe Pasqual’s Cookbook: Spirited Recipes from Santa Fe” by Katharine Kagel

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Potatoes Tantalize Combined with Bacon, Mint


The potato may be a New World food that only made its way to Europe in recent centuries, but the Irish have certainly made it their own.

In fact, a chapter of American history in the mid-19th century would not have been written if the Irish diet weren’t so dependent on potatoes. When the Great Famine wiped out the potato crop from 1845 to 1852, 1 million died and 1 million more left for life elsewhere, including the American shores, according to Wikipedia.

“The potato was introduced to Ireland as a garden crop of the gentry,” the site says. “By the late 17th century, it had become widespread as a supplementary rather than a principal food, as the main diet still revolved around butter, milk, and grain products. In the first two decades of the 18th century, however, it became a base food of the poor, especially in winter. The expansion of the economy between 1760 and 1815 saw the potato make inroads in the diet of the people and become a staple food all the year round for the cottier and small farm class.”

Potatoes have long been a staple of the Irish diet.

St. Patrick’s Day is a and a celebration of the Irish that is in all of us, here are three recipes featuring the mighty spud that are perfect for the holiday and year-round. We also include a Green Goddess dressing with its festive green color as a way of making your salad even more fitting for the day.

Beannachtam na Feile Padraig! (ban/ocked/tee nah fail/eh pawd/rig) That’s Happy St. Patrick’s Day to all.

Potato Onion Soup, Irish Style

Potato and Mint Salad

Bacon-Potato Salad

Green Goddess Dressing

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Fresh Mint Enlivens This New Potato Salad


Potato and Mint Salad

“As classic as they come,” Hugo Arnold and Leylie Hayes write of this potato salad in “Avoca Cafe Cookbook.” “Buy the best potatoes you can and leave the rest to nature. And don’t skimp on the salt. This is not the time to be worrying about over-indulgence; reserve that for the next time you are tempted by a packet of crisps.” (Crisps are potato chips, for those who haven’t been to Ireland recently.)

Do not substitute bottled French dressing for the French dressing listed below.

Potato and Mint Salad

2 pounds small new potatoes
2 tablespoons French dressing (recipe follows)
6 tablespoons mayonnaise
2 tablespoons plain yogurt
A large bunch of mint, chopped
Salt, to taste
Pepper, to taste

French dressing:
1 cup sunflower oil
1 cup olive oil
1 cup peanut oil
1 cup red wine vinegar
Salt, to taste
Pepper, to taste
2 garlic cloves
3 tablespoons grainy mustard
2 generous teaspoons honey

Place the potatoes in a pan of salted water and bring to a boil. Simmer for about 15 minutes or until tender, then drain and place in a bowl. Mix with the French dressing and leave to cool. Mix the mayonnaise, yogurt and mint together and pour over the potatoes. Season with salt and pepper, and serve.

To make the French dressing: Place the oils, vinegar, salt, pepper, garlic, mustard and honey in a jar and emulsify. This can be stored in a bottle and shaken vigorously before using. It will keep in the fridge for several weeks. (Modify the ingredients to your taste and what you have on hand.) Use it on any kind of salad.

Makes 4 salad servings.

From “The Avoca Cafe Cookbook” by Hugo Arnold with Leylie Hayes

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Potato Onion Soup, Irish Style


Potato Onion Soup, Irish Style

“During the great potato famine of 1845, many Irish immigrants came to this country with the hope that they could continue to make this wonderful soup,” writes Jeff Smith in “The Frugal Gourmet on Our Immigrant Ancestors.”

Potato Onion Soup, Irish Style

4 tablespoons butter
2 medium yellow onions, peeled and sliced
2 pounds potatoes, peeled and sliced
3 cups milk
5 1/2 cups chicken stock
1/4 cup chopped fresh chives
1/2 teaspoon celery seeds
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme, whole
1 cup half-and-half
Salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Roux:
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour

Garnishes:
1/2 cup chopped fresh chives
6 slices lean bacon, crisply fried and chopped

Heat a 6- to 8-quart stockpot, add the butter and onion, and cook gently. Do not let the onion brown. Add the peeled and sliced potatoes, milk and stock. Add the herbs. Cover and cook gently for about an hour. Prepare a roux: Melt the butter in a small saucepan and whisk in the flour. Let the flour and butter mixture (roux) bubble for 2 minutes on medium-low heat, stirring constantly. Thicken the soup with the roux, whisking carefully to avoid lumps. Cook for 5 to 10 minutes and then purée the soup in a food processor or blender, if desired. (You could also purée half of the mixture, so you have a variety of textures in the soup.) Add the half-and-half and gently reheat, but do not boil. Season with the salt and pepper. Serve with chopped fresh chives and the crisply fried bacon as garnishes.

This soup can be made with the chopped white part of 5 or 6 large leeks instead of onions. Additional garnishes you can use instead of bacon are chopped prawns or  a small dice of lobster.

To make a vegetarian version, use vegetable stock and leave out the bacon.

Makes 8-10 servings.

Adapted from “The Frugal Gourmet on Our Immigrant Ancestors” by Jeff Smith

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The Flavors of Ireland Fill Colcannon


Leave it to the Irish to come up with a one-bowl dinner that combines a rich and satisfying combination of pork, potatoes and kale or cabbage. The resulting magic is called colcannon.

According to Wikipedia, “An old Irish Halloween tradition was to serve colcannon with prizes of small coins concealed in it, as the English do with Christmas pudding. This is still done today and small amounts of money are placed in the potato.”

The dish is served there in autumn because that’s when kale comes into season, but we suggest it as an economical dish for St. Patrick’s Day with its streaks of green floating in the mashed potato mixture.

This is a dish that is great to play around with because you can use what ingredients you prefer or have on hand; and it still comes out great. So, try colcannon with ham or bacon or even Canadian bacon, which is closer to the Irish style of bacon. Use sautéed leeks or onion stirred into the mix or scallions as a garnish. Use the water from steaming the cabbage instead of milk (just keep the butter).

You can also serve colcannon as a meaty side dish or the main course of a meal. A green salad and a slab of brown bread – not to mention a pint of lager – would round out the meal.

Colcannon

1 pound ham, cubed
3 pounds gold potatoes
At least 1 pound green cabbage, shredded or chopped
1 1/4 cups milk (see note)
1 stick butter, cut in pieces
Salt, to taste
Pepper, to taste
1 scallion, chopped, for garnish

Place the ham in a saucepan and cover with water. Boil for 45 minutes until tender. You may have to add more water. When meat is ready, drain and set aside.

Meanwhile, steam the potatoes 30 minutes or until soft. Peel the potatoes.

Steam the cabbage several minutes until soft. Reserve the water.

Heat the milk until hot but not boiling.

Using a stand mixer, add the potatoes and butter and mash until well incorporated and lumps removed. While that is mashing, add the milk slowly until well incorporated. Add the cabbage first, then the ham. Add salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with scallions.

Note: You can make a lower-fat version of this by using the warm water from the steamed cabbage instead of the milk.

Makes 6 main course servings or 12 side-dish servings.

Adapted from “Tyler’s Ultimate”/Food Network

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