Category Archives: Irish

Why Don’t You Go to St. Paddy’s Parade with Us?

St. Patrick’s Day Parade, Montreal QC ©

I asked my daughter the other day and she said: ‘Thanks Mom, but NO – it’s too cold outside to be able to enjoy things.’ Fair enough. In more ways than I care to admit, I absolutely loathe humid cold and ice wind.  Imagine facing a combination of both standing at the corner of Saint Catherine and University (OOPs, I think it was renamed recently into Robert Bourassa Boulevard, so tourists have less hard times to read French maps of the downtown Montreal), underdressed for an hour – you get the picture. The nose and ears take some good few hours to defrost after. 
St. Patrick’s Day Parade, Montreal QC, 2015 ©
And yet, we did go to the parade.  How can we miss all that buzz and honking of ceilidh ceremony? It’s festive, it’s fun, it’s traditional and there’s always something new to discover.  Like, when else can you see an openly drinking, pot-smoking crowd in front of the tons of police without being disturbed? Now, that’s the power of Saint Patrick who drove the snakes out of Ireland.
Bagpipe Musicians at St. Patrick’s Day Parade, Montreal QC ©
The bagpipe musicians, leprechauns, princesses, munchkins and all other fairy tale characters from  the Emerald Island were there facing the severe cold with us.
St. Patrick’s Day Parade, Montreal QC ©
St. Patrick’s Day Parade, Montreal QC ©
After, we were planning to join Freeway and Natasha from Virgin radio at the Irish pub for brunch, but the freezing cold and wind completely coiled us so we went home instead. It felt like the only person who was dressed properly for the weather at the parade was this highly respected Irish participant in the traditional Canadian beaver coat.
Man in the Beaver Coat, St. Patrick’s Day Parade, Montreal QC ©
The cold reminded us of how good a bowl of hot soup with dumplings can be. No beer would taste as good as this soup to bring us back to life from the mess of the freezing torture. In my head I was already half-way to this bowl. The soup had to be green in honor of the shamrock and all things Irish. And it was. Stay tuned for the must-try vivid green Spinach Herb & Egg Drop soup which will follow shortly.
Spinach Herb & Egg Drop Soup ©
Irish Flag, St. Patrick’s Day Parade, Montreal QC ©
Cheers to St. Paddy!

Savory Potato Boxty Bread Recipe

This winter is the neverending story, and today we had yet another mini snow storm. However, it is St. Patrick’s Day, about the time we invite some spring into our lives and table travel to the Emerald Isle of soda bread and potatoes.

The apple tree branches I put in the water last week upon pruning our fruit trees have given tiny pastel green burgeons. They make some wonderful spring house decorations and an amazing background to feature the Irish savory potato soda bread called Boxty we baked for today’s particular occasion. Ready to follow? Buckle up to this fine old school gem of Sleepy Maggie’s Canadian rendition performed by an icon fiddler Ashley MacIsaac and scroll the images first to determine if this recipe will hook you up.
The word Boxty stems from the old Irish bacstaí, which means ‘poor house bread’ and pertains to the mix of flour and potato from which you can make a pancake or bread.  This Irish rural recipe is believed to have been created during the times of famine to feed big families and make potatoes, which were the only means of survival, stretch further.  The pancake or loaf was served with milk and salt and Irish kids used to call it ‘dippity’. Today Boxty is a huge come back food trend in Ireland and potato bread and pancakes are served in restaurants all over the country.
Obviously, the Boxty Bread is a tribute to the Irish terroir, which includes:
DILL or CARAWAY seeds, sea salt, pepper, BAKING SODA
Mixed together, they make quick and tasty savory bread. Note: you do need to prepare a piece of cheesecloth to drain the grated potatoes for the recipe.
Without yeast as a leavening agent, the Boxty soda bread is very easy and fast to knead and pull off.  

It tastes amazing with some extra butter or the rarebit cheese melt and pickles when freshly baked. Or in the form of Croque Monsieur or mini-pizza with all kind of garnish the day after.

I also love to add it to all kinds of pan-fried or baked breakfasts and brunches, from omelet to frittata.

This bread keeps up to one week in the fridge and slices better when cold. 

It is said to have inspired the following folk rhyme:
‘Boxty on the griddle,
boxty on the pan,
If you can’t bake boxty
sure you’ll never get a man…’

Check if it’s true and stay tuned for more Irish soda breads.

PS: A friend of mine has just sent me a nice St. Paddy’s greeting, here’s mine in return-
‘May you live a long life
Full of gladness and health,
With a pocket full of gold
As the least of you wealth.
May the dreams you hold dearest,
Be those which come true,
The kindness you spread,
Keep returning to you.’
Happy St. Paddy to You All!
Former St. Paddy’s Recipes: Dublin Lawyer
Yields: 4 small loaves
7 (about 1 ¾ pounds) starchy potatoes
2 tbsp lightly salted butter, plus extra to serve*
2/3 cup of milk*
2 tsp sea salt
½ tsp black pepper, freshly ground
1 ½ tsp dill seeds OR caraway seeds
2 ¾ cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for dusting
5 tsp baking powder
Preheat the oven to 375F. Peel four of the potatoes, cut them into even chunks, cover with water, add the heaped teaspoon of salt and bring to boil in a medium-size saucepan. Cover and simmer gently for about 20 minutes, until tender. Drain and mash with butter until smooth pure.
Peel the remaining three potatoes and grate coarsely. Wrap in a clean piece of cheesecloth and squeeze tightly to remove the moisture. Put the grated potatoes in a large bowl with the milk, ¾ teaspoon of salt, pepper and dill seeds. Beat in the mashed potatoes.
Sift the flour, baking powder, and remaining salt onto the potato mixture. Mix to smooth dough, adding a little more flour if the mixture is too soft.
Knead lightly, then shape into four flat, round loaves, about 4 inches in diameter. Place on a non-stick baking sheet. Mark each loaf with a large cross. Bake in the preheated oven for 40 minutes, or until well-risen and golden brown.
Break each loaf into quarters. Serve warm, spread with butter.
Adapted from: The Irish Pub – Fabulous Food from the Emerald Isle, Parragon Books, 2012

Dublin Lawyer

I absolutely have to post this, because I can’t stop falling in love with Dublin Lawyer and what can be a better occasion than St. Patrick? It’s hard to imagine more festive and luxurious dish made in a jiffy from just a few ingredients, such as lobster or crab, butter, cream and whiskey (preferably Irish). Yes, it is the opposite of a typical Irish budget meal, but that is why it is deservedly famous as a rare treat called the Dublin Lawyer, ‘’named after the city’s wealthy lawyers and their liking for large amounts of whiskey’’.* I assume more whiskey is applied towards dinner wrap up, but it’s totally optional.

If you want to be a hero or act like a pro, you can take your time to dismember and remove the meat from a freshly cooked lobsters or crabs, which would ultimately deliver the tastiest results. I however, took a shortcut (because ‘we are worth it’ during holidays) and used canned crab/lobster meat to complete the dish in less than 10 minutes. I did the first batch specifically for the photos during the sunset using the canned crab. 

The best part of the process was flambéing the crab meat by drenching it in whiskey and setting it on fire until it extinguishes itself. It infuses the dish with additional layer of aroma and flavor and moderates the harshness of the spirit. A touch of smoked Spanish paprika enhances the exquisite richness of the dish.  Finally, I also happened to have a real Irish butter this time procured from Costco in Vermont.

Later I repeat the same spectacular process with 320 g of canned lobster meat to have 4 generous serving portions. Now, let’s check the final breakdown approximation for 4 portions (from a store bought prices) to see if it is really that expensive: one 320 g can of lobster meat, which is now on special at Loblaws ($15.00); ½ cup Jameson whiskey (around $6.00); cream & butter ($3.00); plus one optional shallot and a pinch of Spanish paprika: total around $28.00. Divided by four, makes around $7.00 a portion – totally worthy holiday dish made in 10 minutes!  What $7 can buy you at the restaurant these days? Perhaps a ‘soup of the day’ or a little ‘crappetizer’ but never something as luxurious. 

Served with some lightly cooked baby carrots and asparagus or peas on the side and a little green salad St. Patrick dinner doesn’t get any better, except it just did.

One year ago: Fish Chowder
Yields: 4 generous portions.
4 large freshly cooked crabs OR lobsters OR, 320g canned crab or lobster meat
4 tablespoons lightly salted butter
2 shallots, minced
½ cup Irish whiskey
1 cup heavy cream
Pinch of cayenne pepper
Pinch of paprika, (smoked Spanish paprika is my choice)
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Pull the claws and legs from the crabs/lobsters and separate at the joints into sections, if using freshly cooked lobsters or crabs. Crack with a mallet. Use a skewer to pick out the meat from all the sections except the claws. Set aside. Pick out the meat from the body section, discarding the pointed gills, the stomach sac, and any sludgy brown sediment.
Melt the butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add the shallot and cook for 5 minutes, until soft. Add the crab meat and the reserved cracked claws.
Pour in the whiskey and ignite it. When the flames die down, stir in the cream. Season with sea salt, freshly ground pepper and a pinch of cayenne. Stir for a few minutes until heated through.
Divide between four warm plates. Garnish with a pinch of paprika. Serve with lightly cooked baby carrots and asparagus or peas.
Adapted from: The Irish Pub: Fabulous Food from the Emerald Isle, Love Food, 2012*

Fish Chowder

Oprah Winfrey has cited this fish chowder recipe as President Kennedy’s Favorite Chowder. Jackie, the First Lady, said it was ”one of her husband’s favorite American recipes for fish, which he frequently enjoyed”.
via Wikimedia Commons
Well, last night I had 2 lbs pack of (sustainable) blue cod thawing in my fridge waiting for me to just do this dish. As simple as it looks, this chowder is a wonderful showcase for any fresh catch, but my experience shows that frozen filleted fish can do perfectly well in it on a chilly mid-March day (as long as it’s of a good quality). A trick to prevent even slight mushiness while thawing fish, is to never let it to be fully defrosted. I tried this chowder with different kind of fish: haddock (for which the recipe calls), sea bass, ocean perch, cod – they all worked well – just make sure that fish is mildly -flavored, firm and not fatty (i.e. keep your mackerel or bluefish for the grill). Here are the steps on how to prepare the fish chowder:
Personally, I like the lightness of this dish: it has a mild fish taste and is easy on fat or roux (there is no heavy cream or flour in it). Bacon bits make a tasty decadent garnish, however, you may wish to replace them with just some chopped parsley.  
This recipe might not be a knockout compared to the upscale varieties of chowder available today. But it is definitely a good-looking and tasting comfort food, the reason why it found its place in the menu of the White House in its ’60s heyday. Feel free to layer it with wine, seafood, spices and herbs of your choice to turn it into something that will become YOUR favorite. In my case, I just added a pinch of nutmeg and a splash of Sauvignon Blanc. When serving, I paired the dish with a glass of the same wine:
Mrs. Kennedy called this dish New England Chowder, however a quick glance into the history reveals that the same recipe can be called old Irish Chowder, Canadian Sioux Indian Fish Chowder and many more. One thing is for sure, the word ”chowda” came to New England from Newfoundland in the days when Celtic Breton fishermen would throw the daily catch into a boiling pot along with other available food.
Newfoundland before and today via Wikimedia

Whether this dish has travelled to Newfoundland from the Ireland, England, Brittany or any other place, it has truly become one of the early spring staples in my family.

Finally, here is an old Irish fish chowder recipe-poemone chef fella digged out to put in his blog:
And now, back to the Jackie Kennedy’s fish chowder recipe:
Serves 6.
2 lbs haddock fillets (or other non-fatty white fish, such as: perch, pollock, grouper, cod)
2 cups water
2 oz diced salt pork lard
2 onions chopped
4 large potatoes, diced
1 cup celery, chopped
1/2 cup white wine (optional)
1 bay leaf, crumbled
1 quart milk
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 teaspoon salt (for simmering fish)
1/2 teaspoon salt (for sauteing veggies)
freshly ground pepper
pinch of nutmeg (optional)
fresh parsley for garnish, finely chopped
Cover the fish with 2 cups of water, bring to boil, add salt and simmer for 10 minutes. Drain. Reserve fish broth. Brake the fish in coarse chunks, removing bones if any.
Saute diced pork until crisp, remove and reserve half of the pork. Add onion and saute until translucent. Add potatoes, celery, bay leaf, salt, pepper and keep sauteing on low-to-medium heat for about 10 minutes. Add fish, pinch of nutmeg and a good splash of white wine to the mix, raise the heat and give it a quick stir.
Transfer the mix into a large pan, pour in reserved broth, add some boiling water to make 3 cups of liquid. Simmer for 25 minutes. Add milk and butter. Simmer for 5 minutes.
Serve sprinkled with the rest of the diced reserved crisp pork, or just garnish with fresh chopped parsley.
Adapted from:
Happy St-Patrick and I am off to the parade…
via Wikimedia Commons
Today & in 1909: any similarity?

Erin go bragh!