A bit out of order, this week we cooked Ireland. It is St. Patrick’s Day, after all. Ireland is a country that is near and dear to my heart, not only because I was born there, but because seven of the best days of my life were spent there in 2006 with my dad and sister. All this time later, we still regularly refer to the memories made on that trip, which was full of good food, good beer, and lots of laughs. I love Ireland; the gorgeous greens, the friendly people, the way that time hasn’t seemed to catch up with the rest of the world in some parts of the country. It’s one of the places that I am most anxious to get back to. Tonight’s dinner was a little voyage back.
Tonight’s meal was definitely an ode to rustic food, the kind that warms your heart and fills you up, without requiring a lot of technique or fancy ingredients. To wit:
I really am so grateful for the Global Table Adventure blog. I don’t think a week has gone by that I haven’t used a recipe featured there and today was no exception. The soda bread recipe was divine. Really easy to make, this came out beautifully. Crunchy on the outside, dense and heavenly on the inside, with a smear of Irish butter to make it perfect. There was nothing I would change about this bread. Just make it.
Next, the soup. Michael just spent a week in Denmark and described the food as “meaty,” so I knew I wanted to avoid something really heavy like a beef stew (although that would have gone beautifully with the bread) or a cottage pie (which I have made a hundred times before and love, so nothing new). Soup seemed like a good choice. And, really, what is more Irish that potatoes and cabbage?
I thought the soup was quite enjoyable, though I wish I had cooked my bacon a little more. The recipe called for Irish bacon, which I could not find at QFC, so I just used thick cut bacon. It definitely contributed flavor, but it’s texture was a little squishy. The rest of the soup was pleasant – nice chunks of potato and cabbage, and the broth was satisfying. I didn’t puree it until completely smooth, but you could if you so desired.
And then the cake. Oh Lord, the cake. This cake was the best thing I have put into my mouth in a while. “Cake” isn’t really the right word to describe it – it had a texture more like a cobbler; very moist and smooth, not fluffy like you would expect. It was full of apples and nuts. Each bite was a al dente explosion of sweet with bursts of cinnamon and nutmeg. Served with whipped cream, it was amazing. Michael’s review: “Better than apple pie.”
This is a dense dessert, so do follow the directions and LIBERALLY grease the pan. I used shortening and still had a little bit stick. Also, a food processor makes dicing the apples much easy, as does an apple corer. (This meal was great not only because it was tasty, but also because I got to use so many of my kitchen tools!). I had initially planned to make cupcakes and changed my mind when I saw the batter. Thank God, because I don’t think this would have worked in cupcake form.
The cake was Quinn’s favorite part – or at least the whipped cream on the cake! She took a few bites of soda bread as well, but wasn’t interested in the soup. She’s not a potato kind of girl. (Notice that she is wearing green; specifically her Sue Bird jersey.)
Ireland was a smashing success. I loved everything about this meal (except the bacon, but that’s just a quibble) and would definitely make each component again. It was also one of those magical meals where I timed everything perfectly (I cooked the cake and bread together at 350 degrees for 45 minutes – the bread was perfect, despite the recipe calling for a 375 degree oven). The soup took about 30 minutes total and was ready to eat just as the bread finished cooling. Bliss.
So a big Sláinte to you and yours! Happy St. Patrick’s Day.