We celebrated St. Patrick’s Day this weekend with our inn guests, even though the official day to commemorate St. Patrick is March 17th. A dinner & dance is a great way to bring warmth into a chilly Saturday in March.
I prepared a lovely dinner complete with corned beef that simmered throughout the day with onions & pickling spices. It was a great day to be in the warm kitchen cooking, as it drizzled outside making a mess of melted snow & mud.
My menu for this meal has not changed in years. I always prepare a big pot of colcannon, which is a luscious mixture of onions & cabbage cooked in milk & butter, then added to a pot of mashed potatoes seasoned with salt & freshly ground pepper. My dear father would have called this Irish soul food.
My vegetable accompaniment is a winter mix of parsnips, organic carrots & turnips which I steam & then cloaked in a buttery mixture of ground cloves, maple syrup & Irish butter (if you can get your hands on any.) I like to imagine those Irish cows grazing on that lush green grass. Like the French butters, they have a higher butterfat content and add a richness & creaminess to anything you slather it on.
I always prepare a few loaves of Irish bread to go with the meal, however, when I went to get my ingredients out to bake, I had no baking powder. I was now unable to use my tried & true Irish bread recipe of my mom’s. What to do? Since I had seen many a recipe for Irish soda bread, I decided to try one from an Irish pub cookbook. It was great! I made a few additions of my own like caraway seeds & currants I had plumped in a bit of Irish whiskey. I had no complaints from guests who seemed to clean their plates & go for a second round to the sideboard, where the buffet was presented.
I tried a new dessert this year, a chocolate cake made with cooked sweet potatoes & Guinness stout. I plated it up with a dollop of whipped cream & a few berries for garnish. Our guests left the table almost numb, and to even think about some Irish revelry over in club Sugar shack seemed hard, but they did make their way over to dance a bit, yes they did!
Chocolate Guinness Sweet Potato Cake
3/4 cup butter, softened
1 cup white sugar
1 1/2 cups cooked sweet potato puree(2 large potatoes)
1 1/2 cup white flour
1 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp. baking powder & soda
pinch of salt
1 cup Guinness
1.)In a mixing bowl, cream butter & sugar. Add eggs & sweet potato puree & mix until well combined.
2.)In a separate bowl, mix together flour, cocoa, baking powder, soda & salt. Then add to wet ingredients until partially mixed.
3.)Add Guinness & beat until you have a thick smooth batter.
4.)Spoon batter into a well greased tube/bundt pan.
5.)Bake in a preheated oven 350 for 45 minutes.
Let the pan sit for 15 minutes, then turn it over onto a cake platter. Once totally cooled, dust with confectioners sugar & serve with whipped cream.
Irish Soda Bread
Soda bread has long been a staple in Ireland. It is a bread made without yeast, because baking soda mixed with buttermilk is used as a leavening agent. A cross is cut into the top of the bread to help it rise and according to Irish folklore, to either ward off evil or let the fairies out.
Makes 1 loaf serving 10
3 1/2 cup white flour, plus extra for dusting
1 Tsp. salt
1 Tsp. baking soda
1 Tsp. caraway seeds
1/3 cup currants, plumped in 2 Tbs. Irish Whiskey
1 ¾ cup buttermilk
1.)Preheat oven to 425. Oil a baking sheet.
2.)Sift flour, salt & soda into mixing bowl. Make a well in the middle. Pour buttermilk in & mix just until it comes together. Dough should be soft but not too wet.
3.)Turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and knead it lightly. Shape into an 8 inch circle. Place on prepared baking sheet & cut a cross into top with a sharp knife.
4.)Bake in oven for 25 ~ 30 minutes until golden brown and sounds hollow when tapped.
This bread is delicious served the following morning toasted with butter & jam