A few years ago, before I got ready to write my St. Patrick’s Day column, I decided to write to a well-know chef in Ireland to see if anything had changed about the food for this very traditional Irish holiday, or if the cooks there had taken liberties with traditional dishes like some of our chefs here. But no, I am happy to say. So, following is the article, with the answer to my letter. This is one of the best Corned Beef and Cabbage recipes that I’ve eaten in my life. Enjoy.
March already! Still just enough chill in the air to enjoy the good old comfort food that St. Patrick’s Day brings us each year. I’ve got a classic recipe to make your St. Patrick’s Day the best so far. You’ll not only be celebrating the day, but the ease of making these great food classics.
Like most countries, Ireland has become a diverse society. As we know in this country, along with diversity comes change. And, I wanted to see what changes had been made in the more traditional Irish food for St. Patrick’s Day. So, I decided to write to Rory O’Connell, Executive Chef of Ballymaloe House in Cork. Chef O’Connell’s response is as follows:
"There is not a "typical" St. Patrick’s Day menu as such, so we tend to serve some of our traditional Irish dishes. The usual dishes that come to mind are Irish Stew, Corned Beef, Carrageen Moss Pudding, Champ, Bacon, and Cabbage, Apple Tart or Cake. We tend to put a great deal of emphasis on the source and quality of ingredients for all our dishes, naming the growers and producers to emphasize the freshness and locality of the produce. My sister’s book, The Traditional Food of Ireland by Darina Allen is the masterpiece for this sort of food. I hope this is of some help."
I decided to try Rory’s sister’s Irish recipe for Corned Beef & Cabbage, and I have to admit that it is the best I’ve had in my lifetime. It was also the easiest recipe for Corned Beef & Cabbage that I’ve ever used. Everyone who ate it raved over how good it was. There was not a bite left. It’s no surprise since Rory’s sister is Darina Allen, famous for her cooking school at Ballymaloe!
Irish Corned Beef & Cabbage
1 (4-pound) corned beef, silverside (if you can find it)*
3 large carrots cut into large chunks
6-8 small onions, roughly chopped
1 teaspoon dry English mustard (Coleman’s)
Large sprig of fresh thyme and parsley stalks tied together
1 large Savoy cabbage if available, otherwise a green cabbage (use two small cabbages if you like)
Salt and pepper to taste
Put corned beef into a large Dutch oven with the carrots, onions, mustard and herbs. Add enough cold water to cover the meat. Bring to a boil and simmer covered for 1 hour. Discard outer leaves of the cabbage. Cut the cabbage in quarters and add to the pot. Cook for another 1-1/2 hours or until the meat and vegetables are tender. If you are tempted to cut the cooking time, please don’t. You will need it to make the corned beef tender. Serve the corned beef sliced and surrounded by the vegetables. Serve with champ and Irish soda bread, and English mustard.
*If you buy a corned beef with a packet of mustard seeds and spices in it, throw it away. Don’t use it in the water. It will change the flavor.
A simple Irish soda bread accompanies this hearty dish very well.
3 pounds boiling potatoes, peeled and cut into 2-inch pieces
3/4 cup half and half
8 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 2/3 cups minced fresh chives or finely sliced green onions including the stems
Salt and pepper to taste
Cook the potatoes in salted boiling water 12-15 minutes or until tender. Drain and mash. Place in a large heated bowl and keep warm. Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan over low heat, combine the half and half and 6 tablespoons butter. Heat until the butter is melted. Add the chives or green onions and simmer for about 4 minutes or until soft. Add the milk and butter mixture to the potatoes gradually and mix well, making sure that the potato mixture stays firm and does not have too much liquid from the half and half. Add salt and pepper to taste. Make a well in the center of the champ and place the extra butter in the well to melt. Serves 6.
NOTE: The texture of the potato depends on the kind of potato so if you need more milk, just heat and add, if you need less milk just don’t add the entire amount.
While out this season planting bulbs such as tulips, daffodils and other spring-bloomers, put some aside and pot up a container or two. Gardeners who regularly pot up amaryllis or paperwhites for the holidays often don’t think to grow spring bulbs in pots that will bloom outdoors long after the indoor flowers are just a memory. It’s as quick and easy as potting up annuals.
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