If you’re an enthusiastic observer of Saint Patrick’s Day, the holiday will most likely find you with a pint of Guinness in one hand and a plate of corned beef and cabbage in the other. While corned beef is a beloved American tradition, you’d be hard-pressed to find it in Ireland. Lucky for us, Ireland’s best-selling cookbook author has brought her newest title to the U.S. just in time to bring a deliciously authentic taste of the Emerald Isle to our Saint Patrick’s Day merriment.
In Rachel’s Irish Family Food, Rachel Allen features the recipes she loves to cook for her own family and friends for everyday meals and special occasions alike. Allen attended the famous Ballymaloe Cookery School, which sits in the middle of an organic farm, and which instills into its students the ethos “that the best food comes from the best ingredients and that means carefully grown crops and lovingly raised animals,” as Allen explains. Consequently, her recipes are straightforward preparations that really allow the ingredients to speak for themselves, and she encourages anyone cooking from her books to shop at their local farmer’s markets and source humanely raised meats whenever possible.
Allen shared some recipes from her book that are riffs on some foods you’re used to eating on Saint Patrick’s Day, but, we think, just a degree or two more delicious.
Cabbage with Bacon and Cream
This dish turns cabbage into something truly luxurious. The saltiness of the bacon works perfectly with cabbage. It is particularly good served with roast pork or chicken.
Serves 6 to 8
4 tablespoons butter
6 slices (rashers) of smoked regular (streaky) bacon, thinly sliced
1 large Savoy or green cabbage (about 1 1/2 pounds/600 g), outer leaves removed
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tablespoon water
3/4 cup (200 ml) light or heavy (single or double) cream
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1. Melt the butter in a large frying pan or wok over high heat, add the bacon, and fry for 4 to 5 minutes, until crisp and golden. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels.
2. Meanwhile, cut the cabbage into quarters, removing the core from each piece, and thinly shred across the grain. Add the cabbage to the pan, along with the garlic and water. Saute for about 5 minutes over medium-high heat, tossing frequently, until wilted and just tender.
3. Increase the heat a little and return the bacon to the pan. Pour in the cram and allow to bubble for a few minutes until thickened slightly. Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve immediately.
This is a rich white soda bread with dried fruit added to make it “spotted.” A real family favorite of ours, it’s divine served straight from the oven, cut into slices, and smothered in butter and jam, or toasted and topped with cheese.
3 2/3 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for dusting
1 tsp baking soda (bicarbonate of soda)
1 tsp salt
1 Tbsp superfine (caster) or granulated sugar
2⁄3 cup golden raisins (sultanas), raisins, or dried currants (or a mixture)
1 2⁄3 cups buttermilk or soured milk (see cook’s note below)
1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F (220 degreesC/Gas mark 7). Lightly dust a baking sheet with flour.
2. Sift the flour, baking soda, and salt into a large bowl. Stir in the sugar and dried fruit.
3. In a separate bowl, beat together the egg and buttermilk. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour most of the buttermilk mixture (leaving about 1/4 cup/50ml in the bowl).
4. Using one hand with your fingers outstretched like a claw, bring the flour and liquid together moving your hand in circles around the bowl, adding a little more of the buttermilk mixture, if necessary. Don’t knead the mixture, or it will become too heavy. The dough should be soft, but not too wet and sticky.
5. Once it comes together, turn onto a floured work surface and bring together a little more. Pat the dough into a round, about 2 1/2 inches (6cm) in height, and cut a deep cross in it, from one side of the loaf to the other. Transfer to the prepared baking sheet.
6. Bake for 10 minutes, then decrease the oven temperature to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C/Gas mark 6), and bake for another 30 to 35 minutes, until the bread is golden and sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom. I often turn the loaf upside down for the last 5 minutes of baking to help crisp the bottom. Allow to cool on a wire rack before cutting into thick slices to serve.
Cook’s Note: To make your own soured milk, gently heat milk (the quantity required for the recipe) until warm. Remove from the heat, add the juice of 1/2 lemon and leave at room temperature overnight. If you are allergic to dairy products, this recipe works well with soy milk or rice milk soured in the same way.
Spotted dog scones: Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F (230 degrees C/Gas mark 8). Make the spotted dog dough as above but flatten into a round about 1 inch (3cm) in height. Cut into scones using a cookie cutter or knife and bake for 15 to 20 minutes.