- 3 tbsps olive oil
- 1 tbsp butter
- 1 onion, peeled and finely chopped
- 2 russet potatoes, washed, peeled and diced
- 2 leeks – tough outer green leaves removed, washed and chopped
- ¼ tsp freshly grated nutmeg
- 2 ½ pints chicken stock
- Salt and white pepper
- 6 oz. watercress, washed and chopped.
- ½ cup heavy cream
- Shamrock croutons:
- Shamrock shaped cookie cutter
- 4 slices whole wheat bread
- 4 tsps. butter
- 1/2 cup grated Irish cheddar cheese.
- In a large saucepan or dutch oven heat olive oil and butter over a moderate heat. Add the onion, potatoes and leeks. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Pour in the chicken stock. Season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, then turn down heat and simmer for 20 minutes until the potatoes are tender.
- Stir in the chopped watercress until it wilts. Add the cream and nutmeg.
- Remove from the heat, let soup cool. Puree using a hand blender, blender or food processor.. Adjust seasoning and warm before serving.
- Shamrock croutons:
- Use the cookie cutter to cut out shamrock shapes.
- Butter one side of the shamrock crouton.
- Toast under a broiler or toaster oven on toast setting.
- Remove from the heat, turn the crouton over and sprinkle with grated cheddar cheese.
- Return to the broiler or toaster oven -- cheese side up -- until the cheese is melted and starts to brown.
- Ladle warmed soup into bowls. Place the shamrock crouton on top.
Photo courtesy of Bord Bia, the Irish Food Board.
Warm up after the chilly St. Patrick’s Day parade with this hearty, watercress and potato soup with festive shamrock croutons. Watercress is a semiaquatic plant with a peppery flavor that has been eaten in Ireland for centuries. It was one of the foods given as tribute to Irish kings. Ireland’s second best known saint, Saint Brendan — who according to legend discoverd North America — was said to have subsisted on watercress. If the vegetable provided Saint Brendan with the stamina to cross the rough Atlantic it will surely provide enough energy to get through a weekend of Paddy’s Day activities. Happy St. Patrick’s Day!
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Brian Brady, Phillippa Cannon, Rachel Allen and Nora Gainer at Chicago Irish Georgian Society Gala
Myrtle Allen, the matriarch of modern Irish cooking, celebrated her 90th birthday earlier this week. http://www.irishexaminer.com/ireland/matriarch-of-ballymaloe-celebrates-her-90th-birthday-261396.html When she opened a restaurant in Ballymaloe House, in Shanagarry, Co. Cork, fifty years ago, her constantly changing menus and use of local, seasonal ingredients were considered revolutionary. Her granddaughter-in-law Rachel Allen was in Chicago a few months ago to speak at the Irish Georgian Society Gala about the historic house and promote her cookbook “Rachel’s Irish Family Food.” Rachel continues the Allen family tradition of cooking with local, sustainable ingredients as Ireland’s best known TV chef and instructor at the famed Ballymaloe Cookery School. The school sits in the middle of an organic farm which supplies ingredients for its classes.
“Rachel’s Irish Family Food” includes recipes for family meals that are easy for the home cook and authentically Irish. This St. Patrick’s Day instead of serving the typical corned beef and cabbage, why not try the dish that inspired it – boiled Irish bacon and cabbage? The bacon here is not a crispy breakfast strip, but a cured and smoked pork loin that is similar to ham. Here is Rachel’s recipe from the “Irish Family Food” cookbook. Serve with potatoes, either boiled in their skins with lashings of Irish butter, mashed or champ style — mashed potatoes with cooked scallions or leeks.
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Rachel Allen's Bacon and Cabbage
- 2 pounds (900 g) piece of Irish back bacon or cured and smoked pork loin
- 1 small Savoy cabbage, outer leaves removed
- 2 tbsps. (25 g) butter
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- For the parsley sauce:
- 1 1/4 cups of white sauce:
- 1 1/4 cups (300 ml) whole milk
- A few slices of carrot
- A few slices of onion
- 1 sprig of parsley
- 1 sprig of thyme
- 3 peppercorns
- 2 tbsps. (15 g) all purpose flour
- 1 tbsp. (15 g) butter
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 tsp. Dijon mustard
- 7 tbsps. (25 g) finely chopped fresh parsley
- Put the bacon in a large saucepan,cover with water and bring slowly to the boil. Drain, refill the pan with fresh water and repeat. This is to get rid of the salt which appears as a white froth on top of the water. Taste the water to test for saltiness and keep checking and boiling again until you are happy with the flavor.
- Cover bacon with fresh hot water -- heated in a kettle or saucepan, not from the tap -- and bring to the boil for a final time. Decrease the heat, cover with a lid and simmer for about 40 minutes (allowing 20 minutes per pound/450 g) occasionally skimming any sediment that rises to the surface. Once the bacon is cooked (a skewer inserted in the middle should come out easily), remove from the pan (reserving the cooking liquid) and let it rest, covered to keep it warm.
- In the meantime, prepare the parsley sauce. First make the white sauce. Pour the milk into a small saucepan and add the carrot, onion, parsley,thyme and peppercorns. Bring to a boil, decrease the heat, and simmer for 4 to 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and leave to infuse for about 10 minutes.
- While the milk infuses, make a roux by melting butter in a small saucepan over low ot medium heat and add the flour. Allow to cook for 2 minutes, stirring regularly. Set aside.
- Strain the infused milk through a sieve over a small saucepan. Bring the milk to a boil. Whisk in the roux, a little at a time, until well blended and allow to simmer gently for 4 to 6 minutes, or until thickened to the desired consistency. Season to taste. Stir in the Dijon mustard and 7 tbsps. of freshly chopped parsley. Cover and keep warm.
- Cut the cabbage into quarters, remove the core, and finely shred across the grain. Rinse and drain. Bring the cooking liquid for the bacon to a fast boil. Add the cabbage and cook for about 3 minutes, until just tender (it's easy to overcook.) Drain well, squeezing out any excess water, and return to the saucepan. Add the butter to the cabbage, tossing to melt and season with salt and pepper.
- Remove and discard the rind from the bacon, if necessary, and slice into thick pieces. Serve the bacon, with parsley sauce, cabbage and choice of potato.
Serve this dish with red potatoes boiled in their jackets, mashed potatoes or champ. Champ is mashed potatoes with chopped scallions or leeks cooked in the milk/cream and butter for the potatoes.
Recipe from "Rachel's Irish Family Food" by Rachel Allen, published by Collins. Photo courtesy of Bord Bia, the Irish Food Board.
- 4 large eggs
- 1 cup whole milk
- 1 tbsp. melted butter, plus an additional 1 tbsp. for frying the pancakes
- 1 tbsp. granulated sugar
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 1 cup all purpose flour
- 1/2 cup powdered sugar
- fresh squeezed juice from one lemon
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Blend first six ingredients in a blender. Gradually add flour, blend until smooth. Let stand 15 minutes.
- Heat medium cast iron skillet over medium heat. Brush with melted butter. When pan is hot, add 1/3 cup pancake batter to the center of the pan. Tilt the pan immediately to spread the batter thinly around the entire pan. Cook for about 2 minutes until the bottom begins to brown, then flip and cook on the other side for 2 minutes. Lift pancake out of the pan onto a paper-towel. Repeat with the remaining batter, brushing the skillet with butter as needed.
- Butter an oven proof dish. Sift powdered sugar over the speckled side of each pancake, sprinkle lightly with lemon juice. Fold pancakes into quarters. Overlap the pancakes in the prepared dish. Bake until heated through, about 10 minutes. Before serving, sprinkle with more powdered sugar and lemon juice.
In Ireland and Britain, Shrove Tuesday, the day before Ash Wednesday, is also known as “pancake Tuesday” because in years past many families made pancakes to use up eggs and animal fats which were not eaten during Lent. On Shrove Tuesday, Catholics attended confession to be “shriven” of their sins before the beginning of Lent.
These are thin, crepe style pancakes which are usually eaten as a dessert or as an after school snack, not the fluffy, American breakfast pancakes. Because the pancakes are simply served with lemon juice and powdered sugar, it’s important to use good quality eggs such as organic eggs or eggs from the farmers’ market. This classic Irish pancake recipe is adapted from an Irish Shrove Tuesday pancake recipe provided by Peggy O’Kennedy of County Wexford, and published in the May 1996 issue of “Bon Appetit” magazine.