Monday, March 17, 2014

St. Patrick's Day, A Celebration of Irish Food!

Happy St. Patrick’s Day! I hope everyone’s day is filled with good luck, and good cheer, great food and great beer. Today is the first year in three years that I haven’t actually had to work on St. Patrick’s day, that feels pretty special to me, and yet - funnily enough, this year is also the one year I don’t feel like doing anything! Ha. Every year there’s something I want to do and can’t, this year I can do whatever I want but there’s nothing to do - oh well, I could use a little relaxation anyway.

But that doesn’t mean I wasn’t up to the challenge of cooking an Irish theme meal, I do it every year regardless of how busy I am or how I’m feeling, in fact some of you may remember that last year I spent the entire week prior to St. Patrick’s Day Veganizing Irish Classics. Man that was fun, if only I’d had the time to do it again this year. Instead I opted for a simpler affair.

For Breakfast I made two different versions of Irish Soda Bread - because what’s St Paddy’s without Soda Bread? The reason I made two is simply because I couldn’t decide which recipe I wanted to make more, and since my husband loves Soda Bread I knew it would all get eaten regardless.

The first recipe I tried was Alicia C. Simpson’s Irish Soda Bread Recipe from her book “Quick and Easy Vegan Celebrations.” I’ll admit I was kind of skeptical about this recipe, yet still intrigued enough to make it. Sour Cream in a Soda Bread? That sounded like blasphomy to me, but since I had a carton of vegan sour cream sitting in my fridge, begging to get used I thought “why not?” The end result really blew me out of the water, I mean Wow! Normally I make Colleen Patrick-Goudreau’s Soda Bread which I love dearly - it’s my favorite soda bread - but this one, man, I hate to say it but I think Alicia might have Colleen beat with this recipe. I just love the subtle hint of sour that the sour cream lends to the bread, mixed with the sweetness of sugar, and savory salt and soda, plus the dried fruit - it just works. I used the suggested mix of raisins and cranberries, which I think was a great idea.

However, the recipe states to cook this all as one loaf, and man does it make a heck of a lot of dough! I think next time I make this I’ll divide the dough in half and make two smaller more manageable loaves, but damn was this a fantastic breakfast. Moist, and delicious, especially spread with a little Earth Balance.

The Next Irish Soda Bread I made was from Mark Reinfeld’s book “The 30 Minute Vegan’s Taste of Europe.” This loaf is more traditional in the respect that it’s low on Sugar and High on baking Soda. It also only uses raisins - no other dried fruit, and vegan buttermilk made with soy milk mixed with lemon juice. Reinfeld also leaves out the caraway - which he claims is an American invention - and uses whole grain spelt flour. This is a dense and hearty loaf, that’s more savory then sweet. Definitely delicious but in my opinion it doesn’t hold a candle to either Colleen, or Alicia’s versions. Of course if you prefer savory over sweet then this is exactly the loaf for you.

To wash down my Soda Bread this morning I made a batch of Alicia C. Simpson’s Irish Cream Liqueur which is a mixture of Coconut Milk, Irish Whiskey, vanilla extract and agave. After making the cream I used it to make her Irish Cream Latte which is a simple - yet tasty - mix of espresso, almond milk, and her homemade Irish Cream Liqueur. Quite satisfying, even though I’ve never been particularly fond of coffee liqueurs before.

For Dinner I decided to go with something simple, and so I went back to Mark Reinfeld and his “Taste of Europe.” From it I decided to make the Irish Stew, and the Parsnip Colcannon. I’ll admit I was a bit skeptical of the colcannon recipe. As much as I love a good vegan colcannon these days, and as much as I like a good parsnip the thought of including parsnips in colcannon seemed crazy to me. Of course, I have a lot of trust in cook book authors - especially those I rank among my favorites - and so I was willing to go against my instincts and make the dish as directed.

Lucky that I did, because holy guacamole guys! This colcannon is amazing, in fact it may just be the bed damn colcannon I’ve ever eaten. I love that the parsnips lend a subtle sweetness and snappy bite to the otherwise bland potato. They cream just as well as a potato does, and I love how simple the whole recipe is. Steam potatoes, parsnips and garlic. Mash with almond or soy milk, add finely chopped kale and parsley, salt, pepper, red pepper bam done! For something so simple there is so much flavor here!

Now, I was also a tad skeptical about the Irish Stew, mainly because it looked too simple. I thought briefly about going with a more complicated dish but then decided simplicity is what I wanted. Though I enjoy cooking, and don’t mind being in the kitchen for over an hour, today I wanted something I could just kind of throw in a pot and forget about. This recipe is actually very similar to the Seitan and Guinness Stew I made for Paddy’s Day last year, except mine has more ingredients. Of course I was tempted to ‘add’ to this stew but followed the directions as noted, taking the suggestion at the bottom of the page to add in a cup of diced carrots or ‘other’ vegetables as desired. I added a cups worth of carrots and parsnips - because I had extra, and then added some peas because who doesn’t love peas in a stew? But the peas were my only creative tweak. In the end I was mighty amazed by how good this stew turned out. For such a simple recipe it again packs a powerful punch of flavor. I used homemade seitan for it - which I think makes a huge difference, and home-grown Rosemary too.

On a still somewhat cold, not-quite-spring day, this was the perfect warming, comforting meal. Irish food has a reputation for being bland, but I think this is a grievous misconception. If you know what you’re doing Irish food is some of the most soul-satisfying and comforting fare around. It’s stick to your ribs good, and it always cheers me up. Especially on long cold nights.

However you choose to spend St. Paddy’s Day I hope you have a good time! Now go eat some potatoes and cabbage and blast some Pogues and Flogging Molly! Oh, and if you’re interested in more Irish recipes or perhaps a little Irish History then check out some of my posts from previous years!

Happy St. Patrick's Day

Memories of Ireland Potato and Leek Soup 

Irish Style Seitan In Mustard Cream Sauce with Wild Rice and Crispy Cabbage

Irish Tea Time Seed Cake

Irish Seitan and Guinness Stew with Champ

1 comment:

  1. This was a really awesome meal! I loved it all & I wish I had a larger stomach to fit more into it. haha Everything was so tasty & quite filling. There wasn't 1 thing that I thought was just okay.
    & looking back at all those pictures from your previous entries has made me want all of those meals again! haha They were all so good! This was a great St. Patrick's Day!