Far and away the most popular posting on this blog is Auntie Dot’s Wheaten Bread Recipe, leading the Crone to presume that either her Aunt has a fanbase of millions, or that there is an unassuaged world appetite for Irish cuisine. Both seem a little unlikely but, as St Patrick’s Day approaches, the Crone feels it incumbent on her to make sure that all her readers are equipped to celebrate appropriately. Readers wishing for an authentically Irish experience should avoid the following…
Corned Beef and Cabbage
Any inclination to use “Top o’ the morning to you” in greeting.
…and instead concentrate on creating or ordering the dishes below.
You could do worse than serve a plate of oysters with lemon, tabasco and the aforementioned Auntie Dot’s Wheaten Bread. The Crone first tasted oysters in Belfast’s famous Crown Bar and recently enjoyed excellent platefuls at Poste and Acadiana in Washington DC.
If you prefer your seafood cooked, opt for a prawn open sandwich, as served by the Primrose Bar in Ballynahinch, Co. Down in the late 1970s, back when the Crone was a girl. (The Bar has since changed hands, and seems no longer to have the sandwich on its lunch menu–like everywhere else, it has succumbed to the horrors of the Caesar Salad and lost its unique Northern Irish charm) Luckily, the sandwich is easy to recreate:
Make some of Auntie Dot’s Wheaten Bread
Slather with Butter
Take some cooked, peeled prawns (yes, the same as shrimp) and mix them up with well-seasoned Marie Rose sauce (Hellman’s mayonnaise, ketchup, tabasco and lemon juice)
Put the prawns on the bread. Add lemon, lettuce and tomato to the plate (remembering that, in Ireland, salad is only ever a garnish) and serve.
The prawns in Marie Rose sauce are also a great filling for a baked potato ( hot oven, big spud(pricked several times with a fork) kosher salt in the bottom of the baking tray and cook for about an hour till the outside is crispy and the inside is soft)–another very good dish for St Patrick’s Day.
The Crone, scarred by her school years, is not a great fan of Irish Stew, but, if you must go down this route, stick to Nigella’s recipe from How to Eat. The Crone doesn’t have the book to hand, and the recipe doesn’t seem to be available online, but this is worth getting hold of.
Other excellent, and easy options, are sausages with champ (mashed potatoes with scallions), or sausages with colcannon (mashed potatos with kale and, if you like, little bits of ham or bacon). Whatever way you serve your potatoes, don’t stint on the butter.
If you’ve done the whole potato thing right, you probably don’t have much room for dessert, so the Crone would suggest just some stewed rhubarb, perhaps with a piece of shortbread, tea loaf or boiled cake, perhaps even some Barmbrack and some cream. The Crone isn’t much of a baker, but she is proud to reproduce the recipes of a second Aunt, her Auntie B what brung her up. Her dear Aunt B says this shortbread recipe is very similar to Delia Smith’s but if you want a genuine Irish recipe, then stick with the one suggested here.
3oz (75g) fine semolina (or polenta)
6oz (175g) butter at room temperature
3oz (75g) caster sugar
6oz (175g) plain flour, sifted
8 inch loose based flan tin
Oven temp. gas mark 2 (300F or 150C)
Beat together by hand or in a mixer the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Fold in the flour and semolina and press lightly into tin. Prick all over with a fork and bake for approx. 55 minutes until light brown and firm in the centre.
Remove from the oven and cut into 12 wedges while still warm. Leave to cool before removing from tin.
If preferred the mixture may be rolled out to a thickness of half an inch (10mm) and cut out into biscuits using a 2 inch (5cm) cutter. Bake at the same temp. for 15-20 minutes.
4oz (100-125g) butter
2oz (50g) margarine
1 cup caster sugar
1 cup water
12oz (325-350g) mixed dried fruit
Add above ingredients in a saucepan and bring to the boil, then add one teaspoonful of mixed spice and one teaspoonful of baking soda. Leave to cool and add 2 cups of self raising flour with half teaspoonful of baking powder and two eggs. Place mixture in a 1 lb or 2 ½ lb lined baking tins. Bake for 1 ½ hours at 350F or 180C.
6oz soft brown sugar
12 tablespoonfuls strong tea (liquid !)
1lb mixed dried fruit (raisins, sultanas, cherries)
1oz melted margarine or butter
9oz plain flour
½ level teaspoonful baking soda
Place tea, sugar and fruit in a bowl and leave to soak overnight. Stir in the lightly beaten egg and melted margarine. Fold in the sieved flour and baking soda. Place mixture in greased and lined small loaf tin and bake in moderate oven (350F) for 1 ½ – 2 hours. Serve spread with butter.
1 cup cold tea
1 cup brown sugar
1lb seedless raisins (or any dried fruit)
1 teaspoonful baking soda.
Mix all above and set aside overnight. Add one beaten egg, 3 cups self raising flour and spice to taste.
Bake in moderate oven (350F) for 1 ½ hours.
If you really must have something sweeter, rhubarb crumble with vanilla icecream is also good.
And of course, treat yourself to a glass of Black Bush whiskey all the way from Bushmills, Co. Antrim and toast St Patrick, the party saint.