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St. Patty’s green chases away winter blues

Get out the green! Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with all the edible green you can conjure and chase away the dreary blahs of March. Perhaps this menu will help you prepare an Irish feast to remember?

Irish Soda Bread

Baking soda rather than yeast is the rising agent in this easy “quickbread” that can be prepared in minutes. Serve straight from the oven with the leek and potato soup and you will be a star. Any left over is tasty the next day, toasted with butter and marmalade.

2 cups (500 mL) all-purpose flour
1 cup (250 mL) whole wheat or graham flour
1/4 cup (50 mL) fresh parsley, finely chopped
1 tbsp (15 mL) granulated sugar
1½ tsp (7 mL) dried leaf thyme
1 tsp (5 mL) each, baking soda and salt
1½ cups (375 mL) buttermilk or milk soured with 1 tbsp (15 mL) vinegar

Preheat oven to 375°F (190°C). Line baking sheet with parchment paper.

In mixing bowl, stir together flours, parsley, sugar, baking soda, thyme and salt. Stir in buttermilk, combing well; turn dough out onto counter and knead about 10 times or until smooth. Form into an eight inch (22 cm) circle, patting top with floured hands. With sharp knife cut a deep cross into bread. Bake bread about 45 to 50 minutes, or until cake tester in center comes out clean. Cool on rack about 10 minutes before slicing and serving warm with butter. Makes about 12 to 16 slices.

Leek and Potato Soup

This hearty soup is almost a meal in itself. Garnish soup with chopped chives or sautéed chopped leeks to keep the green theme.

2 tbsp (25 mL) butter
3 leeks, white part only, sliced and carefully rinsed
1 clove garlic, minced
4 medium potatoes, peeled and chopped
4 cups (1 L) salt-reduced chicken stock
1 bay leaf
1 cup (250 mL) evaporated 2 per cent milk
1/2 tsp (2 mL) salt
1/4 tsp (1 mL) fresh black pepper and nutmeg

Garnish: chopped fresh chives, or reserve some of the green part of the leek, chop finely and sauté lightly in butter

In a large saucepan or Dutch oven melt butter over medium high heat. Cook leeks covered until softened, about five minutes; stir in garlic, potatoes, chicken stock and bay leaf. Cook until vegetables are very soft, 20 to 25 minutes. Using blender, purée in batches until smooth. Add milk, salt, pepper and nutmeg. Blend until smooth and well mixed. Taste, adjust salt and pepper if necessary. If soup is too thick for your taste, stir in more milk (thickness will vary depending on the size and type of potato used.)

Spoon into heated soup bowls and garnish (see ingredients list). Makes four to six servings.

Potato Tea Biscuits

Ireland is known for everything potato; this version of tea biscuits with added mashed potato makes the biscuit moist and flaky. They make a welcome companion to the leek and potato soup.

2¼ cups (550 mL) all-purpose flour
1 tbsp (15 mL) granulated sugar
2 tsp (10 mL) baking powder
1 tsp (5 mL) baking soda
1/2 tsp (2 mL) salt
1/2 cup (125 mL) butter
1 cup (250 mL) buttermilk or 1 cup milk with 1 tbsp (15 mL) vinegar
1/2 cup (125 mL) mashed potato (one large potato, cooked and mashed)
Garnish: chopped chives or parsley

Preheat oven to 400°F (200°C). Line baking pan with parchment paper.

In mixing bowl, stir together flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Cut butter into flour, mix, using pastry blender, to a fine crumb consistency. Combine mashed potato and buttermilk together; pour over dry ingredients. Toss with a fork and knead three to five times, until dough clings together.

Pat dough into a rectangle about a half inch (1.2 cm) thick, and using a two-inch (5 cm) cookie cutter, cut into 12 biscuits. Brush with egg-wash – one egg beaten with one tbsp (15 mL) water – and sprinkle with chopped chives or parsley. Bake about 12 to 15 minutes or until golden brown. Serve hot. Makes 12 biscuits.

 

Jan Main is an author, cooking instructor and caterer  -  janmainskitchen@yahoo.ca

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