“May you always walk in sunshine.
May you never want for more.
May Irish angels rest their wings right beside your door”
I’ve done a lot of talking about my Southern heritage, and a lot of cooking to show it off. But long before my people were living in the southern United States, their people were living in Ireland, Scotland, England, and Germany…Once they finally hopped on boats to come to the states, they married other Irishman, Englishman, and some Native Americans. What eventually trickled down to become the greater part of my heritage was Irish, Native American, and German. I know. I’m a regular World Atlas of genetic material. The upside is that I get to celebrate A LOT. Just about any week of the year, one or more of the groups in my gene pool is celebrating something.
When I am in the kitchen, the influence that comes out most often is the Native American, as it was also the most influential to the Latin American and Southwestern cultures from which Texas grew. My cooking style, which I call Texas Fusion, seeks to incorporate those flavors into dishes from other cultures and regions.
But the part of my heritage that was the most evident in my family life and my formative years was the Irish part. Since we celebrate Saint Patrick’s Day this week, it’s a perfect time to honor that heritage. My people came from Ireland, from the area around County Limerick, and County Cork. Our family name, and my maiden name, is Gough, a variation from the much earlier McKeough. It rhymes with cough.
One of the traits that has come to typify, if not stereotype the Irish people is their love of drink, song, and some very colorful language. Have I mentioned how a good thick Irish brogue (accent) makes me go weak in the knees?
If you are watching a movie set in Ireland, there will almost inevitably be a scene set in a bar filled with rosy-cheeked locals drinking pints of Guinness and singing Irish folk songs. A more cheerful and gregarious bunch of Catholics there never was. And nobody can turn a phrase better than an Irishman.
My Papa was no exception. Since I was a little girl, I remember him always, always singing–except when he was humming– “GalwayBay”, and “Danny Boy”. And since he was also a proper Catholic—like any good Irishman should be—he also sung “The Lord’s Prayer”, and “Ave Maria”. He had the voice of an angel, and I can still hear him singing like it was yesterday.
Singing in an Irish Pub would not be complete without liberal application of alcohol, and Ireland is famous for producing its share. Guinness Stout, and Irish Whiskey, most notably.
Guinness is the famously dark ale that has been produced in Dublin since 1759, and is the most popular drink in Ireland.
Irish Whiskey is a hard liquor made of one or more types of grains—barley being most common. It is almost always distilled three times and aged for at least three years, although frequently much longer. Only products distilled in Ireland can legally be called Irish Whiskey, in much the same way that only sparkling wines bottled in France can legitimately be called Champagne. Also, the whiskey produced in most other countries—the United States being an exception—are spelled whisky. Scotch Whisky and Canadian Whisky, for example.
Given their proclivity for drinking and cheerful song, no culture has produced better toasts or folk expressions than the Irish:
“Bricks and mortar make a house but the laughter of children makes a home”
“Many a time a man’s mouth broke his nose”
“May the roof above us never fall in, and us friends beneath it never fall out”
And due to the large incidence of Catholicism in Ireland, plenty of lovely blessings too…….
“May the road rise to meet you,
May the wind be always at your back,
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
The rains fall soft upon your fields,
And until we meet again,
May God hold you
In the palm of his hand.”
“May you have:
A world of wishes at your command.
God and his angels close to hand.
Friends and family their love impart,
and Irish blessings in your heart!”
“Laughter is brightest where food is best”
It is in the spirit of the last one that I present you with an Irish meal to warm your belly and your heart. For an authentic experience, you must share this meal with people you love….Liberal use of spirits, toasting, and song will complete your meal.
Corned Beef and Guinness Stew are two of the most common Irish dishes you will see this time of year, so I want to offer an alternative choice. Like anywhere else, food culture in Ireland grew from what was available, and in coastal areas, that means seafood. Still have to serve it with Colcannon, as that is my very favorite Irish dish.
Seared Cod With Colcannon, Stout Reduction, and Cress Puree
For the Cress Puree:
1 cup watercress leaves
1 tablespoon lemon juice
¼ cup high quality olive oil
Whiz until smooth in a blender or food processor. Set aside.
For the Stout Reduction:
12 oz stout beer
1 T tomato paste
2 T cider vinegar
½ t salt
Whisk ingredients in a medium-sized skillet set over medium heat. Bring to a simmer, and allow to cook down until thick, and reduced to about ½ cup. Whisk occasionally while you prepare the rest of the dish. Reduce to very low to keep warm if you need time to finish.
2 pounds potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 large leek, white and light green part only, cleaned and thinly sliced
2 cups (tightly packed) kale leaves, thinly sliced
2 teaspoons salt
¼ cup butter
½ cup cream (I use fat-free half and half)
Boil potatoes in enough water to cover, until tender. Drain and put into a large bowl.
Place butter, kale and leeks into a large skillet, and sprinkle with salt. Cook for a few minutes until tender, but while still bright green. Pour over potatoes in bowl, along with
Cream. Mash roughly, and stir all together. Add additional salt if desired. Set aside to cool slightly while you sear the fish.
1 pound thick cut cod fillets
1 t coarse salt
2 t fresh ground pepper (use a pepper blend— such as white, black, green, and pink)
2 T butter
1 T olive oil
Season both sides of fish with salt and pepper blend. Melt butter with olive oil in non-stick skillet over medium high heat. Add fish to skillet, and sear until golden on both sides.
Place 1 cup of colcannon on plate, pressing into a cake if you wish. I use deep plastic cookie or biscuit cutters to form them into nice tight shapes. Otherwise, if you aren’t trying to get fancy, you can serve it just as you would mashed potatoes.
Place one piece of fish on top. Drizzle small amounts of each sauce onto the dish. Serve right away.
Plated the “un-fancy” way…Tastes just as good!
Summer pudding is NOT pudding in the American sense of the word. It is most kin to a berry shortcake in the states. It couldn’t be any simpler to make, and makes excellent use of fresh berries when they are plentiful.
6 cups assorted fresh berries (strawberries, blackberries, raspberries, blueberries)
1 cup sugar
¼ water or fruit juice
1 loaf (about 20 slices) of white sandwich bread, crusts removed
whipped cream, for topping, if desired
Hull and cut in half any strawberries you are using. Place all berries, sugar and liquid in a large skillet, and bring to boil over medium heat. Boil just until sugar is dissolved.
Line a 2 or 3 quart soufflé dish or bowl with plastic wrap. Line with bread slices, cutting to fit if necessary.
Allow pieces to overlap, rather than leaving gaps. Pour fruit and juices from pan over bread. Top with remaining bread, filling all gaps. Top with plastic wrap. Place a plate that is mall enough to fit into the bowl (such as a dessert plate) onto the top, and place a 2 pound vegetable can, or a few bricks onto the plate. Place in refrigerator for 8 hours or overnight. Remove weight, and plate. Peel back plastic wrap from top. Place serving plate over bowl, and quickly flip over. Lift bowl off of serving plate, and peel plastic wrap away. Cut into slices and serve with fresh sweetened whipped cream.
(to your health)