I recently received an email from an American journalist from Kansas City who was writing a piece for the House & Home section of her local paper. The piece was about entertaining for St Patrick’s Day, and she wanted to know what would be all the rage here in Ireland for our national festivities. You know, what do we always cook up to impress our mates here on Paddy’s Day, what avant-garde table settings are we all about today, the parlour games we love to play – that kind of thing.
Much head-scratching later, and resisting the urge to spit out the ugly truth – that for most of us, treating your friends to dinner on Paddy’s Day involves splashing out on King’s Pub Crisps and Bacon Fries during your round at the bar – I engaged in a spot of culinary cultural exchange.
I extolled the virtues of cooking with seaweed, which is enjoying a recent renaissance thanks to innovative companies such as Quality Sea Veg and with no small encouragement from the brilliant recent cookbook from Sligo-based Dr Prannie Rhatigan, Irish Seaweed Kitchen. I recapped on our recent love affair with cheap cuts of meat such as pork belly, head and toes, and recommended An Irish Butcher Shop from Pat Whelan as a route to discovering more of these. And I warned that bling is out and hairshirts are in – but that Lidl do a fine line in frozen lobster which could just about justify a retro fling of Dublin Lawyer Lobster.
I celebrated the timeless style of a well-made Irish coffee, and even shared a couple of tips on their construction (more anon). I tipped her off that microbreweries are finally muscling in on the lucrative beer market, and that hostelries such as the wonderful Mulligans L Grocers in Stoneybatter are helping to herald the new dawn of craft beer. And I recommended she have a peek at the menu of Dublin’s The Winding Stair, who are on a mission to embrace a much-denigrated Irish peasant food culture with dishes such as corned beef with crispy cabbage, horseradish mash and mustard sauce, or Sally Barnes’ smoked haddock poached in milk with onions and white cheddar mash, and who go to unusual efforts to source almost 95% of their produce from the island of Ireland.
Anyway, all this talk got me thinking aloud in the pub (a dangerous pastime we Irish are particularly prone to) and the result is that myself and a friend have decided to throw ourselves a Paddy’s Day Dinner Party, and to focus it on some of the great ingredients this country has to be proud of.
Tune in for future postings in the lead up to and recovery from said extravaganza.
Until then, a favour: If any of you have a favourite Irish recipe, or one which gives an interesting twist on a traditional Irish ingredient, you might like to leave a little comment with a lead I could follow. Go raibh míle maith agaibh…
…agus go n-éirí an bothar libh. (And if that particular road does always end up leading you to the pub remember, there’s a lot to said for King’s Pub Crisps.)