Time of year for Irish cuisine
I have an authentic cookbook on Irish cooking and baking that I go to as soon as St. Patrick’s Day rolls around each year.
It is by Ruth Isabel Ross – doesn’t sound Irish to me – and the book has authentic Irish recipes and gives measurements in ounces, the way ingredients are determined in Ireland, and in cups, tablespoons and grams.
The book tells that visitors to Ireland go home with glowing accounts of Irish baking and especially exclaiming over the Irish breads that are usually dark brown, crusty and available in first-class restaurants, served with fresh butter and sometimes smoked salmon.
The rough brown bread has been made in Irish homes for hundreds of years, a tradition that has never lapsed from the time when people lived too far from towns to go to bakeries.
The breads were made in skillets or a potoven over an open hearth. The skillet swung over the turf fire on a homemade crane, and there was an open fire below the utensil that had an iron lid. Burning embers were shoveled on top of the lid to make the bread cook from above as well as below.
Here is a recipe for that brown bread that calls for whole wheat, cornmeal and white flour. I can smell it baking right now.
Did I tell you that one of my favorite foods is dark and crusty bread? I would choose that over dessert any day. I am writing the amounts of the ingredients in the English cup measurements, not ounces and grams.
Rough Brown Bread
3 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup white flour
4 tablespoons oatmeal, uncooked
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/4 cups buttermilk
1 large egg
2 tablespoons olive oil
Sift dry ingredients together. Then mix the buttermilk, egg and oil together in a small bowl. Stir the egg mixture into the flour. Mix well and knead for a time. Form a round loaf and cut a cross into the top of the dough. Put on a baking tray at 400 degrees for 6 to 10 minutes. Reduce the heat to 375 degrees for up to 30 minutes. Remove from baking tray with pot holder-gloved hands and knock on the bottom of the bread. If it sounds hollow at the base, it is done. Place on a wire rack and wrap in a clean towel to keep soft.
Note: The dough can be broken into portions the size of a tennis ball, made round and flattened to about 3/4-inch thick. Grease an iron skillet and fry for 10 minutes on each side over moderate heat. Split in half, spread with soft butter and enjoy. You might add some orange marmalade as well.
The cookbook notes that the Irish have a weakness for glace cherries, the same thing as the candied cherries we use in fruit cakes. Some other candied peel can be substituted for a portion of the cherries if desired. Again, this is spread with butter to serve. They use butter over there. Didn’t they ever hear of peanut butter?
1 cup self raising white flour
Pinch of salt
1 cup almonds, ground fine
1 stick butter or margarine
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs beaten
2 cups glace cherries, cut in half
Mix flour, salt and ground almonds and set aside. Cream the butter and sugar, then mix in the beaten egg. Add flour mixture and mix well. Then add the cherries. When well mixed, turn into a greased 2-pound loaf pan. Bake for nearly 1 hour at 375 degrees. Test it with a toothpick inserted in the center of the loaf to see if it comes out dry. Cool in the tin for at least 10 minutes before turning onto a wire rack to complete the cooling or serve warm. It can be sprinkled with confectioners’ sugar after it is cooled.
This is a sandwich cake with apples in the center. It can be smothered with cream. The Irish do not whip their cream very often – they merely pour it over a serving in a dish. Or it can be sprinkled with confectioner’s sugar or their caster sugar, a superfine sugar.
Irish Apple Cake
1 3/4 cups self-raising white flour
1 stick butter or margarine
1/3 cup sugar
1 egg beaten, saving about 2 teaspoons for the glaze
1 to 1 1/2 tablespoons milk
1 large cooking apple, sliced
1 to 1 /4 teaspoons cinnamon
Rub the butter into the flour. Add all but 1 tablespoon of the sugar. Add beaten egg slowly. Mix well. Add the milk and mix again.
Form the mixture into a dough and knead it slightly with floury fingers until it is soft and pliable.
Divide into two equal pieces. Roll one piece on a floured board and place it in a pie dish. Spread the apple slices over the dough. Sprinkle the remaining sugar over the apple slices. Cover with the second piece of dough, rolled out to fit over the first. Press the edges down. Cut two or three vents on the top and brush with the remaining beaten egg. Bake at 350 degrees for about 35 minutes, until golden brown.
To be sure, gooseberries are a light green, so they fit in with the Irish green, but this is a berry that is seldom used here in the USA. It is popular in Ireland and especially enjoyed in June when they become ripe. I have never heard of this type of pie before, and think I will give it a try if I can find gooseberries in the summer.
Gooseberry Lattice Tart
3 1/2 cups white flour
2 sticks margarine or butter
2 tablespoons sugar
2 beaten egg yolks, saving about 2 teaspoons for the glaze
A little water
Milk to glaze
1 pound gooseberries
1/2 cup granulated brown sugar
Remove the tail from the gooseberries – I think this means the stems – and set them aside. Check to see if there are seeds in a few. I don’t know if there are or not, so the best thing would be to remove them if so. Make the dough and set aside.
Cut off one-fourth of the dough and reserve for the lattice. Roll out the large piece of dough and place in a 10-inch pie plate. Let the edges of the pastry dough come 1 inch over the sides. Then turn the dough back, wet and pinch together. Put the gooseberries over the pastry and sprinkle with the brown sugar.
Roll out the reserved dough and cut into strips. Arrange these in a lattice pattern over the gooseberries and sugar.
Brush the top of the lattice work with the remaining egg yolk mixed with a little milk. Bake at 400 degrees for 6 to 20 minutes to set the pastry and brown a little, then reduce the heat to 375 degrees. Cover the top with damp aluminum foil to cook the gooseberries, about 45 minutes. Keep warm. Before serving, sprinkle with confectioners’ sugar.
This recipe is not Irish, but it has been around for many years. It came about at the same time as the pistachio cake, where everyone ran out to buy pistachio pudding, and it became hard to get. It is a green dessert that would be enjoyed on St. Paddy’s Day.
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup butter or margarine
1/2 cup chopped nuts
8-ounce package cream cheese, light or full calories
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
8-ounce tub frozen whipped topping, divided
Two 3 1/2-ounce packages instant pistachio pudding mix
3 cups milk
A drop or two of green food coloring to give it more of a pistachio color.
Mix flour, margarine and walnuts together. Press into a 13-by-9-inch pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 18 minutes; cool. Combine cream cheese, powdered sugar and half of whipped topping. Fold together until well mixed and smooth.
Spread on cooled crust. Mix together pudding mix, milk, green food coloring and remaining whipped topping. Spread over cream cheese mixture.
Sprinkle with chopped walnuts if desired. Chill for two hours. Serves 12 to 16.
Happy St. Patrick’s Day to all. Remember to wear green on that day as everyone is Irish on March 17.
(McCoy can be contacted at email@example.com.)