Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Irish Eyes

Happy St. Patrick's Day!  I hope everyone is wearing their green and drinking a Guiness.  We celebrated St. Patrick's a little early last night and went to see my friend Lucy's father's band perform, The Boys of the Town.  They're an Irish trio and they are great!  Lucy is also in a band that performed last night, and she rocked it out on lead vocals singing a couple Cranberries songs.

In honor of St. Patrick's Day, I also made a traditional Irish meal.  I usually make Irish Soda Bread for this holiday, but I've always made the Americanized version, which is slightly sweet with raisins and caraway seeds.  But in Ireland, soda bread is a heartier brown bread.  This month's Bon Appetit featured this recipe that I decided to try.

Mrs. O'Callaghan's Soda Bread
adapted from from Bon Appetit, March 2010
olive oil for brushing pan
3 cups all purpose flour
3 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 stick chilled butter, cut into 1/2" cubes
2 cups buttermilk
  • Preheat oven to 425º
  • Brush a heavy nonstick baking sheet with olive oil
  • Whisk together both flours, sugar and baking soda in a medium bowl
  • Cut in butter until its reduced to pea-sized pieces
  • Add buttermilk and stir until a shaggy dough forms
  • Turn dough onto lightly floured surface and knead 10 times until dough holds together.
  • Shape into a 7" round
  • Transfer to prepared baking sheet and cut an "x" in the center
  • Bake about 45 minutes, until deeply browned and bottom sounds hallow when tapped
  • Transfer to baking rack to cool

This bread called for something soupy to sop up.  A traditional Irish stew is made with lamb and root vegetables, so I decided to make a vegetarian version.  It was very hearty soup that made great use of all the winter vegetables we still have tucked away.

Irish Vegetable Stew
3 Tbl olive oil
1 Tbl unsalted butter
1 medium onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
3 sprigs thyme, leaves removed and chopped
1 sprig rosemary, leaves removed and chopped
1 large leek, well washed, halved and thinly sliced
1/2 cup pearled barley

2 1/2 pounds assorted root vegetables, such as potatoes, sweet potatoes, turnips, parsnips and carrots, peeled and cut into 1" pieces
1 cup dark beer (like Guiness!)
1 quart vegetables broth
1/2 medium cabbage, thinly sliced
salt and pepper to taste
  • Melt butter in olive oil in a large dutch oven or heavy pot over medium heat
  • Add onions, garlic and herbs and cook for 1 minute until fragrant
  • Add leeks and cook for about 10 minutes until softened
  • Add barley and stir until grains are coated
  • Add root vegetables and cook 2 more minutes
  • Pour in beer and cook 2 minutes
  • Add vegetable broth and bring to a boil
  • Reduce to a simmer and cook for about 15 minutes hour
  • Add cabbage and simmer another 30 minutes until vegetables are tender
  • Season with salt and pepper to taste

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