Traditional Irish Fare

If your idea of Irish cuisine is boiled cabbages and potatoes, cookbook author Darina Allen wants to change that.

She is considered one of the best cooks in Ireland and her latest cookbook, "Irish Traditional Cooking," features more than 300 recipes.

Full Coverage: St. Patrick's Day

And for St. Patrick's Day, she demonstrates on The Early Show why there is nothing like Champ with Onions and Gaelic Coffee to celebrate this day.

Champ is a simple peasant dish made of boiled potatoes that has stood the test of time. It is actually now served at fancy restaurants in London.

Some of her recipes:

Trish Archer's Gaelic Coffee

Serves 1

1 measure of Irish whiskey
2 teaspoons soft brown sugar
Strong black coffee
Softly whipped cream

Warm a medium sized wine glass with hot water. Pour out the water and put the sugar and whiskey into the glass. Add the coffee and stir well. Pour the softly whipped cream out of a pitcher over the back of a spoon on to the top of the coffee. The cream should float on top of the coffee so don't attempt to stir. The hot whiskey-flavored coffee is drunk through the cold cream, one of the very best Irish traditions!

Champ

Serves 4

6 to 8 unpeeled baking potatoes, e.g. Russet or Yukon Gold
1 bunch scallions (use the bulb and the green stem)
1 1/2 cups milk
4 to 8 tablespoons butter
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Scrub the potatoes and boil them in their jackets. Finely chop the scallions. Cover the scallions with cold milk and bring slowly to a boil. Simmer for about 3 to 4 minutes; then turn off the heat and leave to infuse. Peel and mash the freshly boiled potatoes and, while hot, mix with the boiling milk and scallions. Beat in some of the butter. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground pepper. Serve in one large or four individual bowls with a knob of butter melting in the center.

Champ may be put aside and reheated later in a moderate oven at 350 degrees F. Cover with foil while it reheats so that it doesn't get a skin.

Champ & Crispy Onions

Serves 4 to 6

Champ (see above recipe)
Fat drippings or butter
2 or 3 large onions cut into 1/4-inch wide rings

Melt the drippings or butter in a frying pan and cook the onions until nicely browned. Put a good helping of champ on each plate, put some onions around the edge. Make a well in the center and put in a lump of butter. Dip a forkful of champ and onions into the butter, and enjoy.
The following excerpt is reprinted, with permission, from "Irish Traditional Cooking," by Darina Allen, Kyle Books

White Soda Bread
Makes 1 large loaf

4 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 to 1 3/4 cups buttermilk

First preheat your oven to 450 degrees F.

Sieve the dry ingredients. Make a well in the center. Our most of the milk in at once. Using one hand, stir in a full circle to mix in the flour from the sides of the bowl, adding more buttermilk if necessary. The dough should be softish, not too wet and sticky. When it all comes together, turn it out on to a floured board and knead lightly for a second, just enough to tidy it up. Pat the dough into a rough about 2 inches deep and cut a cross on it to let the fairies out! Let the cuts go over the sides of the bread to make sure of this. Bake in a preheated oven for 15 minutes, and then turn down the oven to 400 degrees F for a further 20 to 30 minutes or until cooked. If in doubt, tap the bread bottom. It should sound hollow.

Cool on a wire rack or on the windowsill in the time-honored way.

Fresh crusty bread makes my mouth water, but some people prefer a soft crust. Years ago a clean flour bag would have been wrapped around the hot bread to soften the crust. A tea towel will produce the same result.

Potato & Bacon Cakes
Serves 4

4 slices bacon, chopped
1lb. mashed potatoes
2 tablespoons plain white flour
Salt and pepper
Butter or fat drippings for frying

Fry the bacon without any additional fat until crisp. Remove and drain on paper towels. Stir the bacon into the mashed potatoes with the flour, salt and pepper. Form the mixture into four cakes. Heat the butter or drippings in a frying pan, add the cakes and fry for about 5 minutes on each side until golden and crisp.

Old-Fashioned Salad
With Shanagarry Cream Dressing

Serves 4

2 free-range eggs
1 Boston Lettuce
watercress sprigs
4 tiny scallions
2 to 4 tomatoes, quartered
16 slices of cucmber
4 slices of home-pickled beets (see below)
4 sliced radishes
chopped parsley

Shanagarry Dressing
2 eggs, free-range if possible
1 tablespoon dark soft brown sugar
pinch of salt
1 level teaspoon dry mustard
1 tablespoon brown malt vinegar
1/4 to 1/2 cup cream

Hard-boil the eggs for the salad and the dressing. Bring a small pot of water to a boil, gently slide in the eggs and boil for 10 minutes (12 if they are very fresh). Strain off the hot water and cover with cold water. Peel when cold.

Wash and dry the lettuce, scallions and watercress.

Next make the dressing. Cut two eggs in half and sieve the yolks into a bowl. Add the sugar, a pinch of salt and the mustard. Blend in the vinegar and cream. Chop the egg whites and add some to the sauce. Keep the rest to scatter over the salad. Over the dressing until needed.

To assemble the salads, first arrange a few lettuce leaves on each of the four plates. Scatter of dew tomato quarter and two hard-boiled egg quarters, a few slices of cucumber and a radish on each plate, and (preferable just before serving) add a slice of beet to each. Garnish with scallions and watercress. Scatter the remaining egg white (from the dressing) and some chopped parsley over the salad.

Put a tiny bowl of cream dressing the center of each plate and serve immediately, while the salad is crisp and before the beet starts to run. Alternatively, serve the dressing from one large bowl.

Pickled Beets
For 1 pound cooked beets:
1 1/4 cups sugar
2 1/2 cups water
1 1/4 cups white wine vinegar

Dissolve the sugar in water, bringing it to a boil. Simmer for 3 to 4 minutes. Add the vinegar, pour over the peeled sliced beet and leave to cool.

Irish Apple Cake
Serves 6

2 cups flour
1/3 teaspoon baking powder
8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter
2/3 cup superfine granulated sugar
1 egg, free-range if possible, beaten
1/2 to 2/3 cup milk, approximately
1 to 2 cooking apples
2 or 3 cloves
Beaten egg to glaze

Sieve the flour and baking powder into a bowl. Rub in the butter with your fingertips until it resembles the texture of breadcrumbs. Add ½ cup sugar, then make a well in the center and mix together with the beaten egg and enough milk to form a soft dough. Divide in two. Put one half onto a greased ovenproof plate (9 inches in diameter) and pat it out to cover. Peel, core and chop up the apples. Place them on the dough with the cloves, if used, and add the remaining sugar, depending on the sweetness of the apples. Roll out the remaining pastry and fit it on top. (This is easier said than done as this 'pastry' is very soft like scone dough. You may need to do a bit of patchwork if it breaks.) Press the sides together and cut a slit through the top crust. Brush with beaten egg wash and bake in a moderate oven at 350ºF for about 40 minutes, or until cooked through and nicely browned. Dredge with superfine sugar and serve warm with dark brown sugar and softly whipped cream.
  • Tatiana Morales

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