The Irish love their cooking and baking and they’re finally getting their due for the level of taste and sophistication contained in their efforts. This Saint Patrick’s Day why not follow these classic Irish recipes for a genuine taste (and aroma) of home?
Irish Brown Bread
If you want to transform your tiny New York kitchen overlooking the neighbors washing into a Donegal farmhouse overlooking the Atlantic, baking Irish Brown Bread is the best way to do it. Just the aroma of it baking in the oven will gladden even the most cheerless Irish hearts.
I can’t stress enough what a favor you’ll be doing your loved ones by baking this bread too, because as well as tasting amazing it’s highly nutritious. You can do this. It’s easy. Here’s a trick to get you started.
Look for a five by eight inch loaf tin. Go to your local Williams Sonoma and buy the loaf tin with the most substantial bottom that you can find (the lighter the metal the harder the crust will be, so spend a few extra dollars for one a denser one that doesn’t heat through too quickly).
3-½ cups strong stone-ground extra course whole meal flour (Odlums stone ground preferably)
1 teaspoon black treacle or dark molasses
3 1/2 teaspoon dry yeast
Scant 2 cups lukewarm water
Grease a 9-inch loaf pan with a teaspoon of butter. (It’s best to keep it near to, but not on the oven). Then sprinkle the dry yeast and 2/3 cup of the lukewarm water into a bowl, stirring to dissolve. Add the teaspoonful of molasses. Leave for 10 minutes, until frothy. Add the remaining water and stir.
Mix the flour and salt in a large bowl. Make a well in the center and pour in the dissolved yeast and water. Stir in the flour to form a thick batter. Use your hands to mix the batter gently in the bowl for one minute, until it begins to leave the sides of the bowl clean and forms a soft, sticky dough.
Place the dough in the prepared loaf pan and cover with a dishtowel. Let it rise for about 25-30 minutes. Sprinkle with sesame seeds, if desired. Bake in the preheated oven at 425 for 30 minutes, and then lower the oven to 400 and bake for 25 minutes.
Turn the loaf out onto a baking sheet. Return the bread, bottom side up, to the oven. Let cool on a wire rack.
Fadge (Irish Potato Cakes)
Potatoes are magic, and Irish people know more ways to cook and enjoy them than almost anyone. Fadge (potato cakes) is an Ulster dish that deserves to be world famous. It’s simple to make and it’s beyond delicious. Here’s what you’ll need.
1 pound of floury potatoes (like russets or baking potatoes)
1 cup of milk
2 large tablespoons of all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon of salt and a sprinkling of pepper
2 tablespoons of bacon fat or olive oil (bacon fat is traditional)
2 bunches of spring onions
Boil and drain the potatoes and mash them with a generous knob of butter and a cup of milk. Allow to cool (ideally store them overnight in the fridge).
Place two large spoonfuls of flour on a plate, season with salt and pepper. Roll out mash potato on a cutting board and form them into patties about two and a half inches across and one inch deep. Dip them into the seasoned flour and then place them in a heated non-stick skillet (use the bacon fat or olive oil).
Fry for three to four minutes under a medium heat on both sides, until golden. Meanwhile chop and fry the spring onions in four tablespoons of olive oil in a separate skillet. Serve the onions and oil over the potato cakes. This dish compliments Irish sausages served with fresh boiled peas.
Years ago this cake was saved for special occasions because it used sugar and eggs (which at various times were in short supply in the last century). Now it’s just a particularly tasty Irish soda bread that has a wonderfully cake like texture that goes well with butter and fine raspberry jam. You will need the following items.
4 cups of all-purpose flour (sifted)
1-2 tablespoons of sugar
1 level teaspoon of salt
1 teaspoon of baking soda (sifted)
3/4 cup of raisins, currants, or golden raisins
1 1/4 cup of buttermilk (use more if the dough is too dry)
Preheat your oven to 450. Measure the flour and sift into a large bowl. Add salt, baking soda, sugar and one whole egg. Work the flour with one hand until it begins to separate from the bowl. Then add the buttermilk and raisins and continue to mix. The trick with all soda breads is never to over mix it, so a light hand here will be rewarded.
Place the dough onto a floured baking dish and shape into a tidy ball about 1 and ½ inch high. Then use a chef’s knife to cut it deeply in the center, creating four equal sized triangles. Gently prick each of these rounds to create a small steam hole.