AN IRISH FEAST

AN IRISH FEAST

Sat, 03/01/2008 - 17:26

A guide to planning the ultimate St Patrick's Day

Eunice Power
Eunice Power

“St Patrick's day is a time for family, friends and, of course, the best of Irish food and drink,” smiles Ireland's down-to-earth celebrity chef, Eunice Power. “And who could resist perfectly cooked ham with Colcannon mash and parsley sauce after a long day spent taking in the annual parade?” Sounds tempting? Read on for the ultimate in Irish comfort food recipes for Paddy's Day!

Eunice Power is a farmer's wife and the proprietor of Powersfield Guest House in Dungarvan in southeast Ireland. Yet she is no country bumpkin, but rather a chef with cosmopolitan credentials. Trained in her native Ireland, Eunice developed her talents in Switzerland and Britain before returning to Dublin, where in the mid-1990s she ran one of the city's leading restaurants. One food critic has described her culinary style as “not conservative country house cooking, this is geewhizz food from a cook with real verve”.

Eunice is a true believer in the notion of “slow food” – without the silly title – yet she recognises the pressures of modern life.

“While it is nice to spend lots of time preparing complicated dishes, time is a luxury for many busy people,” she says. And she should know. The mother of three young sons, 38-year-old Eunice also finds time to run a cookery school and manage a company that organises some of Ireland's most prestigious balls, banquets and weddings. As if that weren't enough, she is also in the midst of developing her own vegetable and fruit gardens over the coming months. Her desire is to create a menu by looking out of the window, in keeping with her belief that we truly should eat according to the season.

“There is no reason why you cannot provide delicious meals, simply cooked and made using local produce.”

Eunice and her husband Edmund moved into Powersfield House on Christmas Eve 2000, when she turned her hand to creating a unique and restful guest house offering the best in food, comfort and relaxation that you could hope to get anywhere in the world. The house has been decorated in keeping with her eclectic nature: although contemporary, a distinctly Georgian feel prevails throughout the home, where carefully selected antique furniture and tapestries keep company with bold modern paintings.

How does Eunice celebrate the national holiday? “St Patrick's Day is a busy day in our house as the children are always heavily involved in the local parade. Lunch is generally a quick affair of homemade bread and soup. After the celebrations, we tuck into a traditional dinner of ham and Colcannon mash. Later on friends and neighbours call by to wish us a happy St Patrick's Day. It's always great fun and there is generally a steady demand for a glass of Irish whiskey and one of my special Irish coffee meringues.

”So, even if the only bit of Irish in you is that Jameson's you drank last night, follow Eunice's advice and whip up some traditional holiday favourites: “All of these recipes remind me of St Patrick's Day, family, friends and good times. Try them this March 17th and I bet your family will love them as much as mine does!”

CHEDDAR AND BACON LOAF
Makes a 450 g loaf

4 rashers streaky bacon
275 g plain flour
1 level tbsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
50 g mature Cheddar (or any hard cheese), cut into one cm cubes
1 large egg
225 ml milk
2-3 tbsp chopped fresh parsley

Pre-heat the oven to 200°C (fan 180°C)[ital]

1. Grease the base and sides of a 450 g loaf tin and line the base with baking paper.
2. Cut the bacon into strips and dry-fry in a pan until crisp. Then allow to cool.
3. Meanwhile, sieve the flour, baking powder and salt together into a bowl. Add the cheese, bacon, egg, milk and parsley. Stir well with a wooden spoon until it has a soft dropping consistency - add more milk if needed.
4. Spread in the tin and bake for 25 minutes, until risen, golden brown and just firm to the touch.

This is best eaten within 24 hours. Serve warm or cold, with butter if you dare!


GUINESS AND MUSHROOM SOUP
Serves 4-6

2 tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
2 tbsp tomato purée
50 g pearl barley (optional)
220 g small mushrooms cut into chunks
275 ml Guinness
850 ml vegetable stock

1. Heat the oil and cook the onion over a moderate heat until beginning to brown.
2. Reduce the heat, add the garlic and cook gently for two minutes. Stir in the tomato purée and pearl barley, then the mushrooms.
3. Increase the heat and cook for five minutes. Stir in the Guinness and stock, cover, bring to the boil and simmer gently for 30-40 minutes.
4. Taste for seasoning and serve.


HAM WITH COLCANNON MASH AND PARSLEY SAUCE
1.8-2.2 kg ham
1 tbsp mustard
1 tbsp brown sugar

1. Cover the ham in cold water and bring slowly to the boil. If it is very salty there will be a white froth on top of the water. If so, discard this water and start again. Cover and continue to simmer allowing 45 minutes per kg.
2. When cooked remove from the water. Allow to cool slightly.
3. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 250°C. Take the rind off the ham and cut a diamond pattern into the fat. Spread mustard over it and sprinkle with brown sugar.
4. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes until the top is caramelised.


COLKANNON MASH

1 kg potatoes
1 cabbage
330 ml milk
75 g butter
salt and pepper

1. Peel potatoes and steam for 40 minutes until cooked.
2. Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil. Wash and very finely shred the cabbage. Add to the boiling water. Simmer for two minutes and drain immediately.
3. Bring the milk to the boil in a large saucepan and add the butter. Add the potatoes, and mash to achieve a fluffy purée. Season to taste and then mix in the cabbage.


PARSLEY SAUCE

25 g flour
25 g butter
570 ml milk
3 tbsp finely chopped parsley

1. Melt the butter, add the flour, combine and cook for two minutes on a low heat stirring continuously.
2. Slowly add the milk and continue to cook for five minutes.
3. Add finely chopped parsley.


IRISH COFFEE MERINGUE
Serves 6

7 egg whites
pinch of salt
400 g caster sugar
2 level tbsp instant coffee dissolved in a tablespoon of water
100 g chopped walnuts

For the Irish Whiskey Coffee Cream

500 ml cream
3 tbsp Irish whiskey
3 level tbsp instant coffee
3 level tbsp icing sugar

To decorate
75 g dark chocolate
50 g butter

Heat the oven to 150°C. Line three baking trays with silicon paper. Draw a 19 cm diameter circle on each piece of silicon paper and set aside. Make a stiff meringue with the egg whites, salt and sugar.

Fold in the dissolved coffee and walnuts. Divide the mixture into four, spreading one quarter of the mixture on each circle. Pipe 12 small meringues with the remaining quarter. Bake immediately for 50 minutes. Transfer the meringues, still on the baking trays, to a wire rack and allow to cool completely.

Whip the cream until it holds its shape. Dissolve the coffee and icing sugar in the whiskey and fold into the cream. Melt the chocolate with the butter and set aside. To assemble, spread the cream evenly over one meringue circle, layer the second meringue on top, again spread with cream and finally the third meringue spread with the remaining cream. Pile the little piped meringues on top and drizzle with chocolate. If you wish you can decorate with some sprigs of mint or flowers.

For further information on Powersfield House or Eunice Power, visit www.powersfield.com

Issue 18

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