Thursday, March 8, 2012

More Than Soda Bread - Special Irish Recipes....

Ah, March – the month with so many special days to celebrate – International Women's Day, Ash Wednesday, Daylight Savings Time, Purim, the first day of spring, my birthday..especially my birthday!

                And if anyone out there has some spare cash, I wouldn’t mind receiving a nice little gift like the one  Victorian surgeon and financier Mitchell Henry gave his wife in 1868 – Kylemore Castle. Take a look at this beautiful mansion situated in breathtakingly beautiful Connemara, Ireland,  and drool, folks:

                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.

                Of course, St Pat's as it is celebrated in Ireland isn't quite the St. Pat's that the rest of the world enjoys. Sure, there are parades in most of the little villages and a pretty big one in Dublin, and the wearing o' the green is still a fashion statement on March 17th. But the day doesn't have the same kind of commercial impact that it has in the rest of the world. The sending of St. Pat's Day cards is starting to creep in, and leprechaun hats and other outfits can be had at dollar stores, but  somehow St. Pat's celebrations tend to be more low key – it's more to do with national identity and pride.  Irish eyebrows were raised when a certain internation fast food chain trumpeted its St Patrick's Day only green milkshakes – the expressions turned to horror at the mention of green beer. "Are you completely mad?" came the response. Some things you don’t mess with.

                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

½lb  kippers

2 tbsp cream

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 tbsp butter

4tbsp flour

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!

                If you're hungry for more, you can get the Kylemore Abbey cookbook on Amazon, where coincidentally, you can also get my romantic suspense/comedy, Winters & Somers:



Jannine Gallant said...

Wow, that castle is something. But lettuce in soup just seems wrong! LOL

Jerri Hines said...

We're going to Ireland this summer. I've never been. I don't think Kylemore Castle is on our list, though. The scenery is absolutely breathtaking. Your book looks like a great read!

glenys said...

I hear you, Janine, yet how can something so wrong taste so right? :-) I remember feeling that way, too, about a Persian recipe containing lamb & plums, but that's also delish. Although I used to raise sheep and now I can't eat lamb - feels too much like eating a friend...

glenys said...

Jerri - you're so lucky! Where are you going? Do try to get out to Clare & Connemara if you can - in my view it's the most beautiful & mystical, unspoiled part of Ireland. Send us a postcard!

A.D. said...

What, no mention of colcannon? I've driven past Kylemore a couple of times when in Ireland and looking back across the lake or pond or whatver in front of it, it truly is mystical and heart-stopping. Thanks for the reminder.

Vonnie Davis said...

Love the castle. Wow. Lettuce soup? Who knew???

Jerri Hines said...

My husband has it all planned out. I know we're flying into Dublin. Somewhere along the line we're going to be in Dingle, Kilkenny, and we are going to Clare. Should be fun!

glenys said...

Jerri - you're going to the loveliest parts! I had a play performed a few years ago in Dingle, and we liked it so much we went back to visit a couple of times.

glenys said...

AD - ah, yes, colcannon - I have a recipe but for some reason I've never tried making it. Do you recommend?

glenys said...

Vonnie - thanks for commenting. Yes, lettuce isn't exactly the first ingredient you think about for soup, is it? LOL.