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Add Irish food to the menu today

Wednesday, March 17, 2004

Every member of our family has his or her holiday calendar all mixed up. My husband, Scott, and our 9-year old son, Ross, are going around the house singing "It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year." The two of them are celebrating the arrival of March Madness and tournament time. Basketball is nearly a religious event in our home with the boys. Then there is our 7-year-old, Lexie, rejoicing that St. Patrick's Day is here. She loves this holiday just about as much as our friend Michele Moon does. While both events are significant in each of their own lives, I am struggling just to keep the house running. I suppose this crazy madness will pass in time.

In past columns I have highlighted recipes to help cheer on your favorite team, but it has been a while since I shared recipes to celebrate St. Patrick's Day. So, Lexie's favorite holiday gets top priority today. Top 'o the mornin' to you, as you try some of these Irish favorites.

Irish Soda Bread

1 cup sifted flour

2 teaspoons baking soda

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1/4 cup butter or margarine, softened

3 cups whole wheat flour

1 2/3 cups buttermilk

Sift together flour, baking soda and salt in a large mixing bowl. Cut in butter with a pastry blender until mixture resembles coarse meal. Stir in whole wheat flour, mixing well. Add buttermilk, stirring until the dry ingredients are thoroughly moistened. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface, and knead about 5 minutes. Shape dough into a round loaf; place on a greased baking sheet. Using a sharp knife, cut a cross 1/4-inch deep on top of loaf; lightly sprinkle cross with flour. Bake at 400 degrees for 40 minutes or until bread sounds hollow when tapped. Remove from baking sheet, and cool completely on wire rack.

Many Irish soda bread recipes call for raisins as an ingredient, and may be added if you desire.

We went up to the Murphysboro, Ill., St. Patrick's Day festival over the weekend and enjoyed watching the teams competing in the Irish Stew Cook-off. The competitors started early to have their stew finished for judging at 2 p.m. Although none of the teams would share their recipe with me, I do know they were using lamb and it smelled very good. This is a recipe I found to share with you.

Irish Lamb Stew

3 to 3 1/2 pounds boneless lamb

2 1/2 teaspoons salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

3 cups water

3 Irish potatoes, peeled and cubed

2 onions, coarsely chopped

3 chicken bouillon cubes

1 bay leaf

1/4 teaspoon ground allspice

1/4 teaspoon garlic salt

1 (10-ounce) package frozen English peas, thawed

Remove fell (tissue-like covering) from lamb; cut meat into 1 1/2-inch cubes. Combine lamb, salt, pepper and water in a large Dutch oven. Bring to a boil and cover; reduce heat and simmer 20 minutes. Add remaining ingredients except peas, cover and simmer 1 hour or until potatoes are tender. Add peas, stirring gently; cook until thoroughly heated. Remove bay leaf before serving. Yields about 9 cups. Serve this stew with a heaping pile of piping hot cooked cabbage on the side.

The Irish version of the Dutch oven was called the "oven-pot," or bastible. It came with a concave lid on which to pile the hot turf or peat used for fuel. Now doesn't that make you thankful for your modern-day cooking range? Boxty is a side dish made from mashed and shredded potatoes, most often served for breakfast, and usually served with applesauce on the side. Add your favorite "rasher" (slices of bacon or ham) for a breakfast sure to wake up any leprechaun in a hurry.

Boxty

4 large potatoes, about 3 pounds, peeled and divided

2 teaspoons salt, divided

3 green onions, diced

1 teaspoon caraway seeds

1/2 teaspoon pepper

1 large egg, lightly beaten

2 tablespoons whipping cream

1 cup flour

6 tablespoons vegetable oil

Cut 2 potatoes into cubes; add 1 teaspoon water to cover potatoes and cook until tender. Drain and mash with a potato masher; set aside. Shred remaining 2 potatoes; press between layers of paper towels to remove excess water. Combine mashed and shredded potatoes in a large bowl; stir in remaining 1 teaspoon salt, onion and next four ingredients. Gradually add flour to form a soft dough; shape into 12 patties. Fry patties, in batches, in hot oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat 6 to 7 minutes on each side or until golden brown. Drain on paper towels.

This recipe is an Irish version of fruitcake and takes a very long time to bake. It is a very heavy and dense cake when finished.

Irish Festive Cake

1 (15-ounce) package golden raisins

1 (10-ounce) package currants

1/2 (8-ounce) package candied red cherries, chopped

1/2 (4-ounce) package chopped candied lemon peel

1/2 (4-ounce) package candied orange peel

1 cup brandy

1 1/2 cups butter or margarine, softened

1 1/2 cups sugar

7 eggs

3 1/2 cups flour

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

2 cups coarsely chopped pecans

Combine fruit and brandy in a large bowl. Cover and soak overnight. Cream butter in a large mixing bowl; gradually add sugar, beating well. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Combine flour, cinnamon and nutmeg; gradually add to creamed mixture, mixing well. Stir in fruit-brandy mixture and pecans. Spoon batter into paper-lined and greased 10-inch tube pan. Bake at 250 degrees for 3 hours; reduce heat to 150 degrees and continue baking an additional 1 hour or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pan; cover and let stand overnight. Remove from pan; cover tightly and store until serving time.

I hope this very small sampling of Irish foods will inspire you to try new recipes for the celebration of St. Patrick. And, of course, don't forget the all-time favorite for this day, corned beef and cabbage. However you choose to celebrate, have a happy and safe holiday today.

Until next time, happy cooking.

Susan McClanahan is administrator at the Cape Girardeau Senior Center. Send recipes to her at smcclanahan@semissourian.com or by mail at P.O. Box 699; Cape Girardeau, Mo. 63701. Recipes published have not been kitchen-tested by the Southeast Missourian staff.


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Susan McClanahan
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