St Patrick’s Day is almost upon us but it’s more than wearing green and necking Guinness in Irish pubs while singing Danny Boy.
St Patrick is a patron saint of Ireland and his day –17th March – is when Irish culture is especially honoured. Legend has it that St Patrick drove every last snake from Ireland, although it is also thought that the snakes were a metaphor for pagan worshippers who did not believe in Christ.
The day itself was originally narked as a day of feasting. Ireland has a unique culinary history – one which is tainted with sadness. The horrendous famine caused by widespread potato blight which saw mass fatalities (around a million people) because such great swathes of the population were reliant on potatoes is a sobering reminder never to take even the simplest food for granted.
And Irish food remained beautifully simple and utterly delicious. It’s earthy and rustic and characterful. One of the best things in any Irish pantry is surely the Soda Bread. It offers a distinctive, mealy flavour and uses baking soda rather than yeast to make it rise. The ingredients are basic, but the result is not. We love Paul Hollywood’s recipe although we recommend doubling it and making two loaves as one is quite small and this bread is super moreish!
Ireland also serves up a delicious stew which includes lamb, carrots and celery as key ingredients. Some chefs top their stew with dumplings, but many will use potatoes, including Donal Skehan whose recipe is a rich delight. Irish Stew should, we think, always be served with buttered cabbage.
For the perfect St Patrick’s Day pudding, you can’t really do without a Guinness cake, can you? There are plenty of takes on this classic, but we have to say that Clodagh McKenna’s recipe really does take the, er, cake (sorry couldn’t help it).