A St. Patrick’s Day menu – snake free!

Although I like to watch Survivor on TV, I could never participate in the game. There are many reasons, not the least of which is that there are always snakes slithering or swimming about in whatever location the show is filmed.

I’m not a fan of snakes. I figure the game of Survivor could probably use Ireland’s patron saint, St. Patrick. He is said to have rid Ireland of snakes and is commemorated annually on March 17, the date of his death in 460 A. D.

How he actually performed this feat is the stuff of legends. A popular explanation is that one day St. Patrick created a nice cozy box and invited the chief snake to climb in. The snake took a look at the box and deemed it too small. A heated discussion ensued. To prove he was right, the snake crawled into the box. Quick-thinking St. Paddy slammed the lid shut and threw the box into the sea!

To this day, Ireland is said to be snake-free (lucky Irish!), and some insist that the rough waters of the Irish Sea are caused by the boisterous attempts of the snake still trying to free himself from the box.

On March 17, whether you wish to celebrate a snake-free Ireland or the pleasure of swilling green beer, take the opportunity to indulge in some hearty Irish cuisine. Vegetables such as potatoes, onions, leeks, carrots and rutabagas figure prominently in Irish cooking, as do lamb stews, and braised meat and corned beef dishes. Accompany the main dish with potato bread or soda, and finish the meal with a sweet custard or apple cake, and an Irish coffee.

Irish Stew
(Makes 8 servings)

If lamb shanks are not available, thick shoulder chops can be substituted.

8 lamb shanks
Salt and pepper
1/2 cup (125 mL) all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons (30 mL) olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon each (5 mL) dried thyme and rosemary (or 1 tablespoon/15 mL) chopped fresh
2 bottles (341 mL each) stout-based beer
3 cups (750 mL) beef stock or broth
1/4 cup (60 mL) butter
3 tablespoons (45 mL) packed brown sugar
3 onions, cut in wedges
3 carrots, cut in 1-inch (2.5 cm) pieces
3 parsnips, peeled and cut in 1-inch (2.5 cm) pieces
Half a rutabaga, peeled and cut in 1-inch (2.5 cm) chunks
1/4 cup (60 mL) chopped fresh parsley

Sprinkle shanks lightly with salt and pepper; coat all over with flour. In large ovenproof casserole or Dutch oven, heat half the oil over medium-high heat. In batches, brown shanks all over, adding more oil as needed and removing browned shanks to plate.

Stir in any remaining flour, garlic, thyme and rosemary; cook over medium heat for 1 minute, stirring. Remove pan from heat and gradually stir in beer; return to heat and bring to boil, stirring and scraping up any brown bits from bottom of pan. Cover and boil, stirring often, until syrup (about 5 minutes). Stir in 2 cups (500 mL) stock. Return shanks and any juices to pan. Bring to boil, then cover tightly. Place in a preheated 350°F (180°C) oven, stirring occasionally, until lamb is very tender (about 2-1/2 hours).

About 1-1/2 hours before lamb is cooked, prepare vegetables. In a deep oven-proof skillet, melt butter and sugar over medium heat; stir in onions, carrots, parsnips and rutabaga until well coated. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Add remaining stock and bring to boil. Place in the oven, uncovered, and cook until vegetables are tender, but not mushy (about 1 hour and 15 minutes); stir occasionally during cooking.

Stir vegetables into cooked shanks. Sprinkle with parsley and serve.

Tip: Cooked lamb and vegetables can be made ahead and reheated. Cook as directed above. Combine lamb and vegetables, then cool, cover and refrigerate for up to 2 days. When ready to serve, remove any fat from top. Reheat slowly on the stovetop, stirring often or cover and place in a preheated 350°F (180°C) oven until bubbly, about 30 minutes.

Recipe Source: Foodland Ontario

(Makes about 6 cups/1.5 L)

This hearty vegetable dish goes well with corned beef.

2-1/2 lb (1.1 kg ) potatoes (about 5 medium), peeled and diced
2 medium parsnips, peeled and cut up
2 medium onions, chopped
2 cups (500 mL) lightly packed shredded cabbage
1/4 cup (60 mL) margarine or butter
1 teaspoon (5 mL) salt
1/4 teaspoon (1 mL) pepper

In large saucepan of boiling water, cook potatoes, parsnips, onions and cabbage until vegetables are tender. Drain and mash. Add margarine, salt and pepper. Mash until margarine is melted.

Recipe Source: The Potato Book by Jean Pare, Company’s Coming Publishing, 2000

Potato Bread
(Makes 8 servings)

2 cups (500 mL) warm mashed cooked potatoes (about 3 potatoes)
1/4 cup (60 mL) butter, melted
3/4 teaspoon (4 mL) salt, preferably Kosher or sea
1 cup (250 mL) all-purpose flour (approximately)

Place potatoes in a large bowl and mix in melted butter and salt; mix in just enough flour to make pliable dough; lightly knead in remaining flour. (The less flour you use, the lighter the bread.)

Divide dough into 4 portions. Turn out onto lightly floured surface and roll into four 1/2-inch (1 cm) thick circles. Cut each into 4 triangles. Bake on hot lightly greased skillet until lightly browned on both sides, about 5 minutes, turning once.

Recipe Source: Foodland Ontario

Curragh Custard
(Makes 6 servings)

8 egg yolks
3 tablespoons (45 mL) sugar
1/2 cup (125 mL) sweet sherry or Marsala

Place egg yolks in the top of a double boiler. Add sugar. Whisk until mixture is light lemon-colored and well blended. Add sherry and whisk again until blended.

Cook egg yolk mixture over boiling water until it begins to thicken, whisking constantly. Do not allow to boil; remove from heat if mixture starts to bubble. Let cool, then cover and refrigerate.

Serve chilled in sherbet or parfait glasses.

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