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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- 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.