A cramped pub. Green beer. A parade. A contest for the best-dressed leprechaun. A rousing time. A silly hat. A limerick, a shanty song, a poem about lads and lassies. A wistful ballad sung soft and sweet. In America, that’s a pretty traditional take on St. Patrick’s Day in pre-Covid years, back when camaraderie and celebration could and would run rampant.
This year there will be no raucous clinking of glasses with strangers, no sweaty rock bands stomping out the pace of their songs, or tables stuffed so close together that the entire room sways like one big sea of elbows and shoulders and breath and beer. But there’s more than one way to celebrate the holiday, pandemic or otherwise.
As the only cultural heritage day that has been universally acknowledged and accepted throughout the world, this love of Irish heritage celebrated every March 17th, has meant different things to different people in different parts of the globe throughout time.
In St Augustine, FL in the year 1600, St Patrick (then known to Spanish Floridians as St. Patricio) was celebrated with a gunpowder salute and a day of feasting to honor their belief that St. Patrick was protecting the city’s cornfields. In Boston in 1773, St Patrick’s Day meant a quiet dinner party among a few of the city’s prominent businessmen who celebrated not the love of a country but the love of British-born St. Patrick and his contributions to the Catholic faith in Ireland.
In Ireland at the start of the last century, the national holiday was a day meant for quiet reflection spent in church. For many local, national and international businesses throughout the 1900s and 2000s, the holiday meant and still means a massive marketing campaign that floods the retail world with all things green, lucky and legend-loving.
Here in the Vintage Kitchen, the holiday means the kick-off to springtime cooking. In our Southern neck of the woods, mid-March welcomes strawberry season, onion season, and early leafy green season. The first signs of flowers start dotting the landscape with dancing daffodils and jonquils. The color green in an array of tender shades burst out into the world – on tree tips, on blades of grass, in fresh produce newly arrived at the farmers market. This time of year is when our climate most resembles Ireland’s weather – cool, rainy, sometimes sunny, oftentimes cloudy. It’s the exact weather I remember from my first trip to Ireland many years ago. March marks the month I want to celebrate the country most.
In today’s holiday post, we are featuring five unique recipes from the Emerald Isle that herald the arrival of spring and that will keep you fed, Irish style, from morning til night. Included here are foods fresh from the fields, the streams, and the sea. They are untraditional takes on traditional food gathered from Ireland’s history that I hope will help will inspire your March menus like they always do mine. There’s a stovetop jam you can make in minutes, a soup that spotlights one of the oldest green vegetables in the world, and a seafood dinner that will have you rethinking your love of pork in exchange for this new fare. However you choose to celebrate the day – whether rowdy and pub bound, quiet and thoughtful or fully outfitted in space and spirit with decorations that delight, I hope these Irish themed foods will tempt you into creating some new traditions in your kitchen not just today but for the whole new Spring season ahead as well.
Currant Scones with Strawberry Preserves
There is long-standing uncertainty in the baking world when it comes to England, Scotland, and Ireland. It seems no one can quite determine which country invented the scone first. Lucky for us, all three countries make wonderful versions. This recipe for currant scones is made even better with the inclusion of Irish butter and fresh strawberry preserves made on the stovetop from one carton of fresh berries. Since we are now entering strawberry season, this is the perfect time of year to make your own homemade jam with fruit at its most flavorful stage. If you are like me, and somewhat intimated by the home-canning process, and making your own jams and jellies seems daunting, this strawberry preserve recipe is the next best thing. Made in minutes from one carton of fresh berries and some added sugar, it is simple, quick to prepare, and gives any store-bought jam a serious run for its money. Not as shelf-stable as jarred jams and jellies, this version only lasts for about 7 days in the fridge but heaped on top of a warm scone it’s so good, you probably won’t even have it around that long. Pick the ripest, reddest, more fragrant strawberries you can find for this recipe and you can’t go wong.
Currant Scones with Strawberry Preserves
Makes 10-12 scones
1 cup wheat bran
2 cups unbleached bread flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
3 tablespoons sugar
1/2 yteaspoon salt
1/3 cup cold Irish butter, cut ino pieces
1/3 cup dried currants
1 cup buttermilk
1 egg, beaten
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. In a large bowl, stir the bran, flour baking soda, sugar, and salt until well blended. Using a fork mash up the butter in the flour mixture until the it resembles coarse crumbs. Mix in the currants, then quickly stir in the buttermilk and egg to form a soft dough.
Turn the dough out onto a lighlty floured work surface and pat it to 3/4 inch thickness. Use a glass or biscuit cutter that is 2″ inches in diameter, cut dough into rounds and place on a cookie sheet. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until golden brown.
Makes 1 1/2 cups
1 basket fresh strawberries
3/4 cup cane sugar
Rinse strawberries and remove green tops. Place berries in a medium saucepan and mash them coarsely (either using a potato masher or your hands). Cook the strawberries over medium heat, stirring frequently, until they begin to thicken (about 10 minutes).
Reduce the heat to low, add the suagr and stir until it dissolves. Increase heat to medium and boil, stirring frequently for 20 minutes or until the mixture thickens to thick jam-like consistency. Remove from heat and let cool. Store in an air-tight container in the fridge for up to one week.
Watercress and Lime Soup
Next up on the menu is Watercress and Lime Soup. Packed with nutrients, watercress is one of the oldest and healthiest leafy greens on earth dating all the way back to ancient times. Containing Calcium, Copper, Iron, Magnesium, Manganese, Niacin, Pantothenic Acid, Phosphorus, Potassium, Riboflavin, Selenium, Thiamin, Vitamin A, Vitamin B6, Vitamin C, Vitamin D, Vitamin E, Vitamin K and Zinc, it grows wild in clear, slow-moving streams all over Ireland.
Often used in Irish cooking like spinach, it appears in all sorts of hot and cold dishes as well as fresh salads, and on sandwiches. Watercress Soup is a traditional heritage food that usually involves potatoes, but this recipe, adapted from the kitchen of Adare Manor in County Limerick changes things up a bit by adding lime juice and removing the potatoes.
The result is a creamy soup with a lot of depth, thanks to the peppery watercress and the tangy lime juice. Like the optimal seasonal timing of the strawberry preserves, this is a lovely springtime soup that blends flavorful watercress with cream and butter. Thin but nourishing, it is ideal fare for the rainy weather March and April often bring and shows off the bright bouquet of spring onion sets that are now coming into season.
Watercress & Lime Soup
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 leek, white part only, chopped
3 celery stalks, chopped
1/2 cup diced celery root (if you can’t find celery root substitute 1 small white potato (peeled) and chopped and one extra stalk of celery, chopped)
6 cups vegetable broth
2 lbs. watercress
1 cup heavy whipping cream
Juice of 4 fresh limes
Salt & Pepper to taste
Freshly shaved parmesan cheese to taste
In a large soup pot over medium-low, heat the oil and saute the onion, leek, celery and celery root (or potato/celery stalk substitute) until tender but not browned, about 12 minutes. Stir in the vegetable broth and simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Add the watercress, raise the heat to high ad bring to a boil. Remove from heat and puree.
In a deep bowl, whip the cream until soft peak form. Add the lime juice to the soup puree and mix thoroughly. Then gently fold in the whipped cream until well blended. Season with salt and pepper. Serve in bowls with shaved parmesan cheese and a sprig of watercress for garnish.
This recipe, like most soups gets better the longer it sits. The lime retains its flavor and helps keep the color of the soup bright and green even after a few days in the fridge. For a heavier meal, a nice companion is a baked potato or a few slices of rustic country bread.
Seafood Sausages with Chive Sauce
The last two spotlights on Irish cooking for the springtime kitchen feature two recipes in one, although they can both operate independently as well. Fish based in one and sauce based in the other, both feature go-to ingrediants (seafood and chives) favored by Irish eaters all over the country. Salmon and cod are the two most commonly enjoyed fish in Ireland. This recipe contains both, along with the addition of scallops, turning it into a trifecta of seafood-loving delight.
Originating from the kitchen of Caragh Lodge, an ideal nature lover’s getaway that has sat on the shores of Caragh Lake in County Kerry since 1875, the former house now turned hotel has been associated with good fishing and good cooking for more than a century.
The recipe, Seafood Sausages with Chive Sauce is similar to crab cakes but in a sausage shape. Protein-laden, it is an extravagant dish that you might reserve for special occasions or jubilant merrymaking holidays like today when you want to surprise your dinner mates with something out of the ordinary. Rich, filling, and full of flavor, the sausages are fun to make, and they involve a unique technique. Like a fleet of canoes bobbing on the Irish Sea, the sausages are simmered in plastic wrap where they steam and plump their way into shape before being rolled in bread crumbs and sauteed in butter. Once plated, they are drizzled with more butter in the form of a silky chive sauce. The result is a totally decadent dining experience that sits on the same level of other indulgent foods like lobster with drawn butter, Eggs Benedict, and Beef Wellington. Colorful and unique, this is a recipe that offers much in the way of interest and would be lovely for other spring-time holidays like Mother’s Day or Easter in addition to St. Pat’s.
Seafood Sausages with Chive Sauce
12 oz salmon
1 tablespoon butter
4 oz. cod filet, finely diced
4 oz. scallops, finely diced
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2 teaspoons fresh chives, minced
2 egg whites
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
1 cup fine fresh bread crumbs
2 tablespoons butter
Finely dice 4 oz. of the salmon. In a large saute pan or skillet,melt the unsalted butter over medium heat and saute the cod, diced salmon, and scallops for 5 minutes or until opaque. Remove from heat and season with salt, pepper, and chives. Set aside.
In a blender or food processor, puree the remaining 8 oz of uncooked salmon. Add the egg whites, salt, and pepper and process until smooth. Place the pureed fish mixture in a bowl set inside a bowl of ice and slowly whisk in the cream.
Remove fish mixture from fridge. Place one soup spoon size dollop of fish mixture onto a piece of plastic wrap and shape into a sausage.
Roll it up and tie a knot at each end with kitchen string. Repeat with the rest of the mixture.
Bring a large pot of water to a simmer and poach the sausages for 10-20 minutes depending on size and thickness.
When the sausages are done look for the plastic wrap to take on an air bubble shape. The sausages should be plumped up like hotdogs get when boiled in water, and the sausages should be firm to the touch. (The firmer the sausages are the easier they will be to roll in the bread crumbs and saute in the pan without breaking apart). While the sausages are cooling make the Chive Sauce.
Once the sausages have fully cooked in the water remove them to a baking rack and let them cool completely (about 30 minutes).
Roll the sausages in bread crumbs. Melt the butter in a large saute pan over medium heat and fry them until golden brown on each side.
3 tablespoons dry white wine
3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon minced shallots
One pinch of pepper
1 tablespoon heavy whipping cream
3/4 cup butter, cut into pieces
1 tablespoon fresh chives, minced
In a small saucepan combine the wine, vinegar, shallots, and pepper and bring to a boil over high heat. Boil until the liquid reduces to about 1/2 tablespoon. Add the cream and boil again until it begins to thicken. Whisk in the butter, a few pieces at a time keeping the sauce just warm enough to absorb the butter as you whisk. Add the chives. (If your sausages are not ready to serve at this point keep the sauce on low heat and stir occasionally until the sausages are cooked. Drizzle the sauce over the sausages and serve.
As mentioned earlier, both the sausages and the sauce are lovely together but also lend themselves to enjoyment with other foods. The chive sauce would be delicious drizzled over baked potatoes, eggs or tossed with pasta. The seafood sausages would be wonderful crumbled on top of a salad, stuffed inside a summer tomato or spread out on toast points. Kitchen creativity rules the day when it comes to these two recipes, including experimenting with different blends of fish for the sausage and different types of herbs for the sauce.
The thing I love about Irish cooking most, is the country’s ability to blend fresh ingredients with comfort foods. Cream and cheese and butter are rife in so many recipes but when balanced with fresh vegetables they don’t feel overwhelming in the gastronomy department. And I love how there’s a little bit of everything for everyone in Ireland – whether you prefer humble provincial food or fancy fare, there’s something to please every palate.
If you are interested in learning about more Irish recipes, some favorites we’ve highlghted previously here on the blog include… a recipe from Katharine Hepburn’s Irish cook, how corned beef brisket came to America, and a recipe for a Guinness-infused Irish cocktail.
Cheers to Ireland and to Spring and to new foods and flavors on this happy St Patrick’s Day! Hope your day (and your season!) are the most delicious one yet!
Photo Credits: Ross Sneddon, Father Ted