Thursday, August 7, 2008

Around the World - Ireland

First, I am sooooo sorry that I have been so late in posting this one. Life has been one thing on top of another the last couple of weeks, but I buckled down and said "Darn it, I am making this meal come hot weather or windstorm!" (we live in a desert...) On a side note, I have switched the tour day to Thursday due to scheduling issues.

And so I present to you - Ireland.

Ireland. The land of shamrocks, the "wearing 'o' the green, leprechans, and of course... potatoes, Guinness beer, and whisky! It was actually a little difficult finding dessert recipes that didn't have whisky (which we don't drink) or coffee (which we also don't drink). But I perservered and succeeded!

A little food background.

Ireland is an island, of course, so fishing plays an important part of their lives. Herring is eaten often, and they are justly proud of their trout and salmon, both fresh and smoked. Irish beef is exceptional, and young, Irish lamb is also of excellent quality. Locally cured hams and bacon are something to talk about as well. Rashers of bacon, these are very lean. In fact, some varieties are so lean that you have to add oil to the pan when you cook them! ( I miss England.... *sniff*)

Potatoes are everywhere, even in cakes!

Our menu this week was very simple and hearty: Irish Stew, Irish Soda Bread, and Chocolate Potato Cake.

Irish Soda Bread

This recipe was a tad dense for my taste. I used Hodgeson's Mill Whole Wheat Graham Flour, which is a lot coarser than normal whole wheat flour. I would use regular wheat flour for this one.

3 cups wheat flour
1 cup white flour
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp soft brown sugar
2 cups buttermilk or milk soured with lemon juice

Sift the white flour and baking soda together. Add the wheat flour, salt, and brown sugar and mix well. Make a well in the center and add about 2/3 of the buttermilk. Quickly and gently mix the flour in with the milk, use your hands rather than a wooden spoon. (This part was a lot of fun and hilariously messy!) If too dry, add some more of the milk. Shouldn't be too firm, keep it a little sticky. Kneading is not necessary, just dust your hands with enough flour so you can shape it without it sticking to your fingers.

Shape into a round loaf and place on a baking tray. Cut two deep slashes across the top, either side by side like a loaf of french bread, or criss cross. Bake at 450 for 10 minutes, then reduce to 400 and bake another 15. Take out, turn over and tap the bottom. If it sounds hollow, it is done. If it doesn't, pop it back in for another 5 - 10 minutes. (Mine was denser than it was supposed to be and took another 15, not 10.) Cut into wedges and serve warm.

With the flour I used, it was really dense and somewhat crumbly. We slathered one side of the wedges with butter and dipped into the sauce from the stew. It tasted really good, the broth with the wheat, moistened the bread up so we didn't choke on the crumbs, and it was quite filling too!

Irish Stew

This is made with lamb. That's what makes it Irish! Unfortunately, lamb is also quite expensive. So while I was waffling back and forth between making the huge splurge in the interest of authenticity, or avoiding getting yelled at for blowing our grocery budget, I was chatting with a friend. "I have a leg of lamb roast in my freezer!" Cried my non-chef friend. She had bought it to cook for a special occasion some time, planning to call me for cooking instructions, and hadn't used it yet. So, we agreed that I would use the lamb in the stew, and they would come help us eat the meal. Works for me!

2 1/2 - 3 pounds boneless lamb, cut into 2 inch chunks
1 cup flour
salt and pepper
1/3 cup oil
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 pound carrots cut in thick slices or rough chunks
1-2 pounds new potatoes cut into quarters
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tbsp dried parsley
beef bullion cubes

Season the flour with salt and pepper. I used about 2 tsp salt, and 1 tsp pepper. Dredge the meat in the flour, cook in batches in the hot oil, browning both sides. When each batch is done, remove and set aside in a bowl, or plate. Add about 1/4 cup water and scrape up the brown bits. Throw in the onions and garlic. Sautee until the liquid is almost evaporated and onions start to become tender. Put the meat back in, add the potatoes and carrots.

Add water to cover. I used about 3 cups. For each cup, add one beef bullion cube to the stew. Bring to boil, cover and reduce heat. Let simmer on medium low, stirring occasionally, for about 1 1/2 hours or until meat is tender and veggies are cooked through.

Mark was very against doing lamb. We ate it in England and he thought it greasy and strong tasting. But my friend had bought Australian lamb, which turned out to be much more mild than the British stuff. (I liked it in Enland and liked this one too.) Not greasy at all, tasted like half English lamb and half beef. Mark said it wasn't bad, and admitted that he actually liked it! He agreed to eat lamb at a future date if I so desire to cook it again.

And my friend's daughter, who is an extrememly picky eater, wolfed this down! Score!

Chocolate Potato Cake

The recipes that didn't call for coffee or whisky or beer (Guinness cake, anyone?) called for potatoes. Then I thought, potato rolls are pretty good, why not in cake too? So here goes.

1 1/2 cup self-raising flour
1/2 tsp salt
2 oz dark chocolate (like semi-sweet)
1 stick butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup mashed potato
2 eggs, beaten
4 tbsp milk

For the mashed potato I just threw some water and potato flakes in the microwave and cooked on high for a minute or two. No salt, or butter, just water and potato flakes.

Preheat oven to 375. Grease and flour an 8 inch cake pan. Sift flour and salt into a mixing bowl. Melt chocolate in a bowl placed over a saucepan of hot water (or nuke in the microwave on low for a couple minutes...) In a bowl, cream together butter and sugar until fluffy, beat in chocolate and mashed potato. Gradually beat in eggs, and milk. Add the flour mixture and mix well.

Pour into cake pan and bake for 25-30 minutes or until top is firm but springy to the touch. Remove from oven and after a few minutes, turn out on a cooking rack.

4 oz dark chocolate
1/2 cup heavy cream (Must be heavy, not light. You are subbing for double cream, not available here.)
somewhere around 2 cups powdered sugar.

Melt the chocolate. Add heavy cream. The recipe said 2 oz of powdered sugar. Converting from the metric system... I am sorry, but I don't keep a handy scale in the kitchen to weigh ingredients. I was able to figure out the amounts for all the other ingredients listed above, but this would have been about 1/3 cup sugar. That didn't seem like enough. So I added some more, and whipped it up. Not enough. Added more and whipped it in. I think I ended up using about 2 cups in the end to get the consistency I wanted.

Frost cake after it is completely cooled.

My friend oohed and aahed over this frosting. She said it reminded her of truffle filling, like those Lindt chocolates. Texture-wise. There is no butter, so it isn't as rich tasting. And the cake was moist and light at the same time.

Oh. So. Yummy.

I think there is about 1/4 of the cake left. Got milk?

2 Tasty Tidbits:

Stephanie said...

Ooh, that all looks so yummy! Especially the cake - I've found that using vegetables in cake (carrots, zucchini, green tomatoes, etc.) really makes it moister and very delicious. Now I want to try potato cake.

Lisa Conmara said...

Wow! I have to say that was very interesting! Your soda bread looks great, sorry that it was dense - it shouldn't be, its a scone texture normally. The stew looks grand, good for you - and I've never in my life heard of putting potato in a cake!! We make potato farls, which are called potato cakes but they are savoury, like a fish cake sans fish! I really must try this recipe, as it is the most unusual thing I've ever seen!