Celebrate St Patrick’s Day with a banquet befitting the Emerald Isle…
Believe it or not, we live in the UK (not Siberia, as recent weather would have us believe) and that means that this Sunday 17th of March, many of us will be celebrating St Patrick’s Day.
Regardless of whether or not you have any links with Ireland, it’s a great excuse to tuck into some wholesome winter warmers traditional to Ireland. After all, this special day did start out as a feast day to commemorate dear old Saint Pat.
Start off by whipping up a simple yet delicious potato soup – perhaps pair it with some hearty soda bread if you’re in the mood for baking. This recipe from James Martin is pretty straightforward, and homemade bread always makes a special dinner extra impressive.
170g self-raising wholemeal flour
170g plain flour
½ tsp salt
½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
Preheat the oven to 200°C. Mix the flours, salt and bicarbonate of soda together in a bowl. Make a well in the centre and pour in the buttermilk, mixing quickly with a large fork to form a soft dough (it should not be too wet or sticky). Turn onto a lightly floured surface and knead briefly. Form into a round and flatten the dough slightly before placing on a lightly floured baking sheet. Cut a cross on the top and bake for about 30 minutes or until the loaf sounds hollow when tapped. Cool on a wire rack.
For your main course, try corned beef hash or bacon with cabbage, which has long been a staple in Ireland and so is a great shout. Otherwise you could always do an Irish beef stew if you fancy the sound of that. Creamy colcannon mash, black pudding and simple buttered cabbage all make for superb side dishes, too.
Of course, the best beverage to go with all of this is Black Velvet – that curious combination of half Guinness, half Champagne – served in pretty little flutes. You could also whip up a quick Irish coffee – 85ml Irish whiskey, 2 tsp sugar, 340ml strong coffee and whipped cream. To finish your evening off, I heartily recommend Nigella’s Guinness cake – it is the most decadent delight. Most importantly, I managed to do it and I’m absolutely rubbish at baking!
For the cake
250g unsalted butter
75g cocoa powder
400g caster sugar
142ml sour cream
2 medium eggs
1 tbsp vanilla extract
275g plain flour
2 ½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
For the topping
300g cream cheese
150g icing sugar
125ml double cream (or whipping cream)
Preheat the oven to 180°C, and butter and line a 23cm springform tin. Pour the Guinness into a large wide saucepan, add the butter – in spoons or slices – and heat until the butter is melted, at which time you should whisk in the cocoa and sugar. Beat the sour cream with the eggs and vanilla and then pour into the brown, buttery, beery pan and finally whisk in the flour and bicarb.
Pour the cake batter into the greased and lined tin and bake for 45 minutes to an hour. Leave to cool completely in the tin on a cooling rack, as it is quite a damp cake. When the cake is cold, sit it on a flat platter or cake stand and get on with the icing. Lightly whip the cream cheese until smooth, sieve over the icing sugar and then beat them both together. Or do this in a processor, putting the unsieved icing sugar in first and blitzing to remove lumps before adding the cheese. Add the cream and beat again until it makes a spreadable consistency. Ice the top of the black cake so that it resembles the frothy top of the famous pint. Delish!
Alternatively, this recipe from marriedanirishfarmer.com looks oh-so dreamy (and pretty naughty).
I don’t know if you know this, but Guinness is actually a very versatile ingredient. It works in everything from cheesecake, brownies, tiramisu, milkshakes and ice cream, to gravy, dips, quiche, steak sauces, soups and cheesy, garlicky and herby breads! Try Guinness rarebit for a quick and irresistible snack, it’s really good.
So, why not deck the halls in green, hand out the Black Velvets and prepare yourself a fine Irish feast this Sunday 17th?