The third Saturday of each month finds Kevin and I either at our house or our friend, Carol's house. We take turns hosting each other for dinner. Carol suggested the standing dinner date with the idea that we'd add other local yokels here and there. We haven't done that yet, but it's a great idea. This past Saturday, St. Patrick's Day, was our turn to host. Last month, Carol cooked a delicious corned beef dinner in anticipation of the green day.
We continued the Irish theme: salmon, peas, carrots, potatoes (I like my plural potatoes with an 'e', TYVM), soda bread, seed cake and (as a backup dessert bc I'd never made seed cake before) a strawberry Boston cream pie (a cake, really).
I've had this cookbook for ages, The Art of Irish Cooking, by Monica Sheridan. That's where all the recipes came from, except the salmon recipe, which was Kevin working his usual magic. First, I tried a lamb stew recipe, but it was just a bit too realistic. The bones stayed on the meat chunks and you ended up needing a knife, fork and spoon to eat the thing. Also, it was kinda bland.
Now, for those of you mocking the title of the book, here's a quote about the book:
Apart from its practical value, The Art of Irish Cooking will come as a shock to any benighted folk who may still think of Ireland as a primitive country where the people subsist mainly on potatoes, porridge, and buttermilk. The many Americans who come to visit us each year are, of course, familiar with the real Ireland: a modern democracy with a fast-growing economy, the world's highest calorie-intake, and a vigorous, healthy population.
One of my favorite Irish cookbooks is by Monica Sheridan, the Julia Child of Irish Television, called "The Art of Irish Cooking" published in 1965. It has been long out-of-print but if you get a chance to grab a copy, do so. She talks about traditional cooking without any of the "spicing up" that we see in modern interpretations of Irish baking although she does experiment a bit with recipes.
Now, I believe the first excerpt is referring to a 1996 version; the original is almost as old as myself; that's the copy I have. Perhaps the 1996 version was substantially revised; that would certainly account for the supposed shock value mentioned in the first blurb. I certainly hope the newer version was a little more explicit with the instructions. The seed cake recipe says, 'Bake at 3750 for 1 hour. Reduce the heat toward the end of the baking time.' Reduce the heat to what? And when? That's kinda typical of recipes throughout the book. A tad frustrating.
The salmon recipes in the book were a little dull, so I
aksed asked Kevin to just work his piscine mojo. He's much better with fish than I am. He's more particular about how long it cooks, how to cook it, etc. etc. We usually have salmon fillets; here we had steaks. They were delicious! Fillets seem so wimpy in comparison. I miss salmon steaks!
The original carrot and pea recipes used very little and no water, respectively. I tried them out at dinner during the week. The original carrots turned out badly, so I nixed that recipe. The peas turned out fine, but I decided to nix it anyway. So, in the end, I ended up boiling the carrots, the peas and the potatoes. Can cooking get more Irish than that? Surely not. You see the resultant meal in the picture.
Previous pictures have featured Kevin's maternal grandmother's Bavarian china. This time, we used a set of dishes my mother gave us. They're from Avon. Yes, the Avon of Avon Lady fame. Back in the day, my mother was a big Avon person. Not so much makeup bc she didn't wear much, although, when I was very young I remember her buying lipstick. The samples were these tiny, tiny lipsticks which were so much fun to play with! Then she moved on to buying just stuff. If you're not familiar with Avon's non-makeup stuff, they sell lots of different stuff, some of it designed to be collected. That's how these dishes were. They're dark red glass and called the 'Cape Cod' collection. Holy moley, there's even a book about it. I think they're supposed to evoke the colors and styles of Olde Newe Englande. Anyway, my mother bought every piece she could. She pretty much covered everything. Everything. Between the two dish sets, we have a closet stuffed to bursting with china. We don't have china hutches (cut us some slack, we've only been married 13 years and lived in this house for about 11 years), so it's all stuffed into a dining room closet. Eventually, I'd like to redo the dining room, including getting rid of that closet and either buying or having built in china hutches. I do like built in stuff.
And finally, we see Carol enjoying her Irish meal (edited: photo deleted). I took pictures of Kevin, but the fire in the fireplace was behind him and that blurred the picture, making it look like the overkill soft focus they always use on Barbara Walters.
Now, I'd like to get back to that first excerpt about the cookbook and its implied disparagement of traditional Irish foods. Firstly, there is no food greater than which can be consumed than the potato. I've waxed lovingly about the potato here before, although I can't seem to find it. Secondly, is there anything better for breakfast than a bowl of porridge? Yes: two bowls of porridge. And so on.
I would like to try the seed cake again. I've looked at online recipes and they use something called 'caster sugar', which sounds like it's finer than regular sugar, but not so fine as confectioner's sugar. Hmmm. I admit that one of the reasons I chose the seed cake is bc Miss Marple proclaimed her love of a good seed cake in the BBC version of Agatha Christie's At Bertram's Hotel. In the book, it was actually Lady Selina who declared, 'Seed cake? I haven't eaten seed cake in years. Is it real seed cake?' But in the BBC movie, it was Joan Hickson as Miss Marple (important note: the 'Miss Marple' link shows the actor currently playing her; although she's truer to character and much, much better overall than Margaret Rutherford, Geraldine McEwan is not as good as Hickson, IMHO) who said the line and eventually decided to have some seed cake. And that convinced me to find out about this seed cake. Imagine my surprise when it was in the Irish cookbook. I'm not sure what seed cake is supposed to taste like, never having had it. My version was okay, but it could have been better. It was a little browner at the edges than I'd like, but had to wait until the middle was done. Perhaps I should have reduced the heat earlier. No doubt I'll try it again. It seems like quite the thing to have with a nice cuppa.