Saturday, March 17, 2007

When Irish Eyes Are Smiling

Well, it's been a busy week here in Lake Wo...

Oops, sorry. Wrong script. Ahem.

Though I haven't done much cooking lately, I've been keeping my eye on this weekend and gathering my Irish recipes for a St. Patrick's Day celebration. Unlike last year, when all I could muster was a cup of tea, I decided to try a couple of classic recipes with new twists.

I started off the morning by making a variation on Irish soda bread. Normally, this bread is chock full of raisins and has a large X slashed into the top for a dramatic presentation. I cut the X into the dough, of course, but I ditched the raisins in favor of a more savory flavor, using shredded local organic cheddar cheese (yes! I've finally found some!) and a hefty dash of dried thyme. With half my flour being whole wheat and the sweetener being a bit of Sucanat, the loaf ended up a little more hearty and wholesome, bubbling with cheese:

Later in the day, I cooked a couple of potatoes in order to make a vegetable-laden version of colcannon. Normally colcannon only has potatoes and cabbage for the vegetables, so I threw in some dried cabbage to simmer with the spuds, but I also rehydrated a few strips of dried bell pepper with the leftover cooking water and tossed those into the finished mashed potatoes. Colorful!

Setting those aside, I pulled out another potato and a carrot to peel and shred and add to a cup of the colcannon (along with a few other ingredients) to make boxty. The Irish version of potato pancakes, boxty usually mixes mashed potatoes with grated ones, but again, I couldn't leave well enough alone and added more vegetables. I didn't think to thaw some shredded zucchini in time to make dinner, but I added some snipped chives in order to get a little green in with the orange for a little patriotic appeal.

Heating up the good ol' cast iron skillet, I added dollops of the batter and let them cook like my usual pancakes:

Though the batter was thick, the baking soda in it kept the boxty light and airy, even once I'd flipped them over to brown the other side. And once they hit the plate and I topped them with a sprinkling of dried parsley (from last year's farmers' market), I was definitely hungry and ready for dinner.

How could I resist those golden brown cakes full of local vegetables and herbs? Well, I couldn't. I downed the first four in no time flat and barely managed not to touch the rest, tucking them into the refrigerator for leftovers.

Though I'm not sure I'll get out this evening for a pint of Guinness, my Irish roots are more than happy right now with those good spuds in me.

Irish Cheddar Soda Bread

Though I usually prefer yeast breads, there's something so simple and satisfying about good soda bread. Based on the classic Irish soda bread recipe found in Betty Crocker's International Cookbook, I've changed it from sweet to savory with just a couple of substitutions. If you can find good Irish cheddar (Kerrygold is a favorite), use that; I was just so thrilled to find a locally produced organic cheddar that I stuck with that. Serve warm with creamy butter, and don't forget a pot of Irish breakfast tea.

1 1/2 c unbleached flour
1 c whole wheat flour
2 T Sucanat
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp salt
3 T butter, softened
1/2 c shredded cheddar cheese
3/4 c buttermilk or regular milk with 1 tsp white vinegar added

Preheat oven to 375 F. Lightly grease a baking sheet and set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together flours, Sucanat, baking soda, baking powder, thyme, and salt. Cut butter into the dry ingredients with a pastry cutter until mixture resembles fine crumbs. Stir in cheddar cheese and enough buttermilk to make a soft dough.

Knead the dough in the bowl until smooth, 1 to 2 minutes. Shape into a round loaf and place on baking sheet. Cut an X about 1/4" into the loaf. Bake until golden brown, 35 to 45 minutes.

Makes one loaf


At 3/19/2007 8:19 PM, Blogger Phoenix said...

This looked and sounded so good, I just had to have some!

Since I cook for the house tonight, I decided "why not!", and made four loaves.

We don't have sucanat, so I used brown sugar. And maybe a little extra cheese. Our oven was being cranky, but I scared it into behaving in the end.

So tasty!

The house was thrilled, to say the least.

At 3/20/2007 7:13 AM, Blogger The Baklava Queen said...

Wow! You rock, Phoenix! (But then I already knew that.) What else did you serve with that? I can well imagine that your entire co-op looks forward to Monday night culinary magic. :-)

Glad you're comfortable with substitutions. I think if I were to go back and make a sweet version with raisins or other dried fruit, I might try maple sugar.


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