He was born around 385AD in either Wales or Scotland (it’s debatable). Kidnapped by raiders he was taken to Ireland but escaped. He later returned to introduce Christianity. Ireland’s patron saint is commemorated in grand style on St. Patrick’s Day — March 17 — the day when all things Irish are enjoyed the world over. And you don’t have to be Irish to enjoy the pleasures of the Emerald Isle wherever you are — you can go on a leprechaun hunt, quaff a Guinness or two or jig the night away.
Or, better still, enjoy some tempting Irish cuisine such as a unique slow-cooked stew or a beef and Guinness pie or a special crème brûlèe. Potatoes are a must on any St. Patrick’s Day menu as traditionally it is the day the Irish plant their ‘murphies’.
A couple of St. Patrick’s Day titbits to savour:
•The New York St. Patrick’s Day parade attracts 250,000 marchers, two million spectators and lasts six hours. The world’s shortest parade is held in an Irish village. It covers 92 meters between the village’s two pubs.
• St. Patrick was never canonized by a pope, making his saintly status somewhat questionable. However, that’s no excuse for not celebrating on his day of days.
SLOW-COOKER IRISH STEW
Bacon and kale have been added for flavour and colour.
3 rashers middle bacon, chopped
2 large onions, thickly sliced
850g stewing lamb, cut into 3cm cubes
4 each: medium potatoes, carrots, cut into 3cm pieces
1 large leek, washed, trimmed and cut into 3cm lengths
1 small bunch thyme
3 bay leaves
water to cover
1 cup thinly shredded kale
Pan-fry the bacon in a non-stick frying pan until well coloured. Add the onions and cook on low heat until softened and lightly coloured. Place in the slow cooker.
Add the lamb, potatoes, carrots, leek and herbs. Add enough water to just cover the ingredients. Cover and cook on low for 6-7 hours. Add the kale during the last 30 minutes. Serve in bowls. Serves 6.
IRISH SODA BREAD
I’ve included some dried fruits for added interest.
100g rolled oats
200g high-grade flour
25g butter, grated
75g caster sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons mixed spice
50g each: sultanas, raisins, candied mixed peel
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
2 teaspoons brown sugar
Preheat the oven to 200°C. Line a baking tray with baking paper.
Place the rolled oats and the flour in a large bowl. Mix the butter in with a knife. Stir in the caster sugar, salt, baking soda, mixed spice and dried fruits.
Pour in the buttermilk, quickly stirring with a knife. Tip onto a floured benchtop and gently form the dough into a round. Place on the baking tray. Sieve the brown sugar over the top. With a floured knife cut a cross in the top of the loaf.
Bake for 35-40 minutes, until crusty on the outside and a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean. Serve thickly sliced and buttered — either warm or cold.
GUINNESS MEAT PIE
The filling can be prepared a day or so ahead.
1kg stewing steak
2 tablespoons flour
salt and pepper to taste
2-3 tablespoons canola oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
3 tablespoons each: water, tomato paste
1 cup each: beef stock, Guinness
1 tablespoon each: Worcestershire sauce, chopped mixed herbs
Pastry: 400g rolled savoury short or flaky pastry
1 small egg, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons milk
Cut the steak into 2.5cm cubes. Toss in the flour seasoned with salt and pepper. Sauté the beef in batches in the oil in a large frying pan, until browned. Set the beef aside.
Add the onion, garlic and water to the pan. Stir well until simmering. Cook until the onion is soft. Add the tomato paste, stock, Guinness, Worcestershire and herbs. Return the beef to the pan. Cover and cook for 1 1/2 hours. Cool.
Preheat the oven to 225°C.
Place the beef mixture into 6 ramekins. Cut 6 circles of pastry about 5cm wider than the ramekin tops. Brush the pastry rims with the combined egg and milk. Place firmly over the ramekins, egg-side down. Brush the tops with more egg wash. Make a small slit in the centre of each pie.
Bake for about 20 minutes, until golden and hot. Serves 6.