Which lets me very nicely segue into the next topic I want to touch on: St Patrick's Day. Yes, the day when the whole world turns green. Or Irish, depending on how you look at it. While just about every other country in Europe sent its sons and daughters out to the New World to seek their fortunes, Irish culture, possibly more than any other, seems to have made an indelible impression.
Which brings us to Irish food, which in turn nicely closes the circle of my chatter right back to Kylemore Castle. Mrs. Henry's beautiful gift from her husband fell on hard times and in the 1920's was purchased by another group who were also on hard times – Benedictine nuns who had earlier fled the
country and now returned to find themselves without a fitting home. With some help from the public purse, they purchased and restored the abbey, and the lovely 'gothic' church that stands in its grounds. I'm sure the mystical setting was a great help to those ladies as they set about their worshipful work. They began a boarding school for girls, and later a restaurant which is open to the public and is one of those wonderful little surprises that the traveller may happen upon while wandering the West of Ireland's winding country roads.
When you think of Irish food, what comes to mind? Soda bread, both white and brown, yes? Corned beef and cabbage? (which I'm told is more New World than Old World) and, of course, potatoes in all their glory. There's a tradition in Ireland of offering food to visitors – it dates back to the famine back in the mid 1800's. At that time, people would always offer food to visitors, even though they may have had very little in store themselves, because they knew that their visitors could well be starving. So it became a social gaffe to refuse a little bite of something if you're offered hospitality.
Back to food again. Keylemore Abbey, as it's now called, has a delightful restaurant, and the Sisters have put together a cookbook with some of their specialities. Here are two:
Mikey's Lettuce Soup
½ pound lettuce, carefully washed
3 tbsp butter
4 oz potatoes, peeled and diced
5 cups chicken stock
Yolk of one large egg
2/3 cup cream
Salt and pepper to taste
Melt butter and add the chopped lettuce, cook until gently wilted. Add potatoes and stock, bring to boil and reduce heat. Dimmer til potatoes are cooked, then liquidise the soup, return to the pan and reheat gently. Whisk egg yolk with cream, add to soup and continue to whisk. Do not bring soup back to the boil after adding cream! Check seasoning and serve immediately.
Great for when lettuce is in abundance.
Kipper Cheese Souffle
2 Hard boiled eggs
2 tbsp cream
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tbsp butter
11/4 cups milk
3 eggs, separated
½ cup freshly grated cheddar cheese
Put boiled eggs ad kippers into food processor, blend at low speed until smooth. Place in a bowl and add the cream, mix well and season. Spoon mixture into greased soufflé dish. Melt butter in saucepan, add flour and cook for one minute, then gradually stir in milk and bring to boil. Turn down heat and cook until thickened, stirring all the time. Slowly beat egg yolks into sauce, sprinkle in cheese, season and mix well. Whisk egg whites until stiff, fold into sauce, then pour over kipper mixture in soufflé dish, Bake in preheated oven (375F) for 30 minutes until risen and brown. Serve immediately!