Although mutts of Irish, English, and probably some other descents, my family solely identifies with being Irish...and not just on St. Patrick's day! I don't have the red hair of my mom and brother, but I do have the name (Erin). Of course, when I lived in Ireland, everyone laughed at the name, saying that would be like naming their child "America".
Growing up, our traditional St. Patrick's day food was definitely more Irish-American than Irish. I think every recipe you read about St. Patrick's day food is prefaced with "well, of course no one in Ireland eats this", so I decided to just stick to what I like instead of searching out the authentic. I *do* remember throwing a hissy fit on my birthday (which falls near St. Patty's Day) one year because mom made corned beef and cabbage for my Irish Nana instead of what I wanted for my birthday meal (probably pizza). I have since come around on corned beef.
During my summer in Dublin in 2003, J and I were too poor to eat anything except simple home-cooked meals, an unhealthy amount of ludicrously tasty Crunchy Nut (now available in the US!), and the occasional shawarma. The most memorable meal (for food quality, value, relaxed-ness, and company quality) we had was at a small bistro in Athlone, a town in the middle of Ireland. I think that was the first time I ever had risotto. Yes, I was very sophisticated.
For this auspiciously-timed Thursday dinner, I wanted to make corned beef, but keep it lighter than a boiled corned beef, cabbage, and potato dish. I thought that the ploughman's lunch sounded like a perfect solution because of the quantity of fresh veggies. Of course, I also had to make my Nana's Irish Soda Bread recipe. There was also much experimenting with the green food coloring and various beverages.
Side Note: I am biased, but if you haven't been to Ireland, put it at the top of your vacation list. There are few places more beautiful than the Ring of Kerry on a sunny summer day.
Ploughman's Lunch Platter with deviled eggs and slow-cooked corned beef
A ploughman's lunch is basically a collection of veggies, cheese, meat, brown bread, and chutney. I love mix-and-match compartmentalized meals like that. My veggies were celery sticks, baby carrots, and radishes (some cut out like shamrocks). I used pre-cut apple slices from Trader Joe's, since I know they don't turn brown when left out for a long time. The cheeses were: Kerrygold Dubliner cheese, gruyere, a delicious onion and chive gloucester that K brought, and a porter cheese (freaky color!). Instead of ham, I used corned beef, and instead of soft-boiled eggs, I made deviled eggs because A loves them. I picked up Major Grey's chutney (a mango-based chutney) from the import aisle. Next time, I would love to try this with my favorite rhubarb chutney. Instead of crusty bread or brown bread, I served Irish Soda Bread (below).
I despise deviled eggs, but everyone else seemed to like them :) The rest was delicious.
Modifications: Since I wasn't serving the corned beef as part of a boiled dish, I left out the veggies mentioned in the recipe and just threw in some celery and onions. I was surprised that it still tasted great even with water as the cooking liquid (last year I used beer, forgetting it wasn't gluten-free!), but I guess that's what the included pickling spices do for you. I left out the smoked salmon and roe from the deviled egg recipe.
Gripes: The filling for the deviled eggs was way too mushy. Next time, I would cut back significantly on the add-ins like lemon juice and sour cream. One of the few times that an Ina Garten recipe hasn't worked for me.
Irish Soda Bread
There are many, many variations on soda bread. There are the eternal arguments about raisins/currants, caraway seeds, or other add-ins versus authenticity. Not only does my family's recipe use raisins, but we also take a bigger departure and use molasses. This produces a sweet soda bread, but one that works equally well for breakfast, dessert, or pairing with cheese and chutney.
- 2 1/4 c. flour
- 3/4 tsp. baking soda
- 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
- pinch of salt
- 4 tbs. sugar
- 3 tbs. unsalted butter, cold, cut in cubes
- 1 c. raisins
- 1/2 c. molasses
- 1/2 c. buttermilk
Modifications: I made a gluten free version by substituting the flour for Jeanne's gluten free flour mix. I found that the loaf seemed to "wet" and gummy after over an hour of cooking, so it definitely wasn't quite right. The work continues.
I love the Shamrock Shake at McDonald's, so I was curious about trying to make my own. It was a fun experiment, but I think I'll let the experts make it in the future!
Modifications: I scaled up the recipe by a half to increase the servings, and made the servings very small for the health conscious. I used rainbow sprinkles instead of chocolate, since they are the most fun!
Gripes: I couldn't get this to blend properly, which I think was operator error. It ended up a little chunky, perhaps more milk was needed? I thought the texture was a little bad because the chocolate chips from the mint chocolate chip were suspended in the liquid (instead of the smoothness of a shamrock shake). I don't think they make mint chocolate chip ice cream without the chips though.