Plan your St. Patrick’s Day Feast with Irish Chef Rachel Allen!
Today we’re featuring three authentic recipes for your St. Patrick’s Day meal from renowned Irish Chef Rachel Allen. Rachel is the author of RACHEL’S IRISH FAMILY FOOD: 120 Classic Recipes from My Home to Yours, offering the best in both traditional and modern Irish cooking. Recipes range from new twists on old classics, to tried and tested recipes which have delighted many generations in Ireland, and are sure to become firm family favorites here in America.
This is a rich white soda bread with dried fruit added to make it “spotted.” A real family favorite of ours, it’s divine served straight from the oven, cut into slices, and smothered in butter and jam, or toasted and topped with cheese.
Makes 1 loaf
Preparation time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 45 minutes
- 3 2/3 cups (450g) all-purpose (plain) flour, plus extra for dusting
- 1 teaspoon baking soda (bicarbonate of soda)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon superfine (caster) or granulated sugar
- 2/3 cup (110g) golden raisins (sultanas), raisins, or dried currants (or a mixture)
- 1 egg
- 1 2/3 cups (400ml) buttermilk or soured milk
Preheat the oven to 425°F (220°C/Gas mark 7). Lightly dust a baking sheet with flour.
Sift the flour, baking soda, and salt into a large bowl. Stir in the sugar and dried fruit.
In a separate bowl, beat together the egg and buttermilk. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour most of the buttermilk mixture (leaving about ¼ cup/50ml in the bowl).
Using one hand with your fingers outstretched like a claw, bring the flour and liquid together moving your hand in circles around the bowl, adding a little more of the buttermilk mixture, if necessary. Don’t knead the mixture, or it will become too heavy. The dough should be soft, but not too wet and sticky.
Once it comes together, turn onto a floured work surface and bring together a little more. Pat the dough into a round, about 2½ inches (6cm) in height, and cut a deep cross in it, from one side of the loaf to the other. Transfer to the prepared baking sheet.
Bake for 10 minutes, then decrease the oven temperature to 400°F (200°C/Gas mark 6), and bake for another 30 to 35 minutes, until the bread is golden and sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom. I often turn the loaf upside down for the last 5 minutes of baking to help crisp the bottom. Allow to cool on a wire rack before cutting into thick slices to serve.
Variation: Spotted dog scones: Preheat the oven to 450°F (230°/Gas mark 8). Make the spotted dog dough as above but flatten into a round about 1 inch (3cm) in height. Cut into scones using a cookie cutter or knife and bake for 15 to 20 minutes.
Crumbed bacon chops with sweet whiskey sauce
This is a dish often made at Ballymaloe. I adore the crispy coating around the bacon chops and the way the sweetness of the sauce combines perfectly with the saltiness of the bacon. Serve with some vegetables and boiled new potatoes or Creamy Mashed Potatoes (page 166). If you’re feeding children, leave the whiskey out of the sauce because the alcohol does not burn off. Substitute orange or pineapple juice.
Serves 4 to 6
Cooking time: 1¼ hours
- 2-pound (900g) piece back bacon, unsmoked
- 1 cup (110g) all-purpose (plain) flour
- 1 egg
- 2½ cups (110g) fresh white bread crumbs
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons (25g) butter
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
for the whiskey sauce
- 1 cup (225g) sugar
- 6 tablespoons cold water
- ¼ cup (50ml) hot water
- 3 to 4 tablespoons Irish whiskey
Put the bacon in a large saucepan, cover with water, and bring slowly to a boil. Drain, refill the pan with fresh water, and repeat. This is to get rid of the salt (which appears as white froth on top of the water), so it may need to be done again, depending how salty the bacon is. Taste the water to check for saltiness and keep checking and boiling again in fresh water until you are happy with the flavor.
Cover with fresh hot water and bring to a boil for the final time. Decrease the heat, cover with a lid, and simmer for about 40 minutes (allowing 20 minutes per pound/450g), occasionally skimming any sediment that rises to the surface. Once the bacon is cooked (a skewer inserted in the middle should come out easily), lift out of the water, drain well, and allow to cool a little.
Meanwhile, prepare the sauce. Put the sugar in a saucepan with the cold water and bring slowly to a boil over low heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Boil without stirring for about 10 minutes, until it turns a chestnut-brown color, swirling the pan to caramelize evenly. Remove from the heat and immediately add the hot water. Stir to make a smooth sauce, then add the whiskey. Keep warm in the pan.
Sift the flour into a wide shallow bowl, beat the egg in a small bowl, put the bread crumbs in a third dish, and season all three with salt and pepper. Remove the bacon rind (if not already removed), and slice into chops ½ to ¾ inch (1—2cm) thick. Dip each chop first in the flour, then in the egg, and finally in the bread crumbs to coat.
Combine the butter and oil in a large frying pan over a medium heat. When the butter starts to froth, fry the chops for 3 to 4 minutes on each side, until crisp and golden. Serve the crumbed bacon chops with the sweet whiskey sauce drizzled over.
Roast garlic colcannon
Colcannon is a traditional Irish dish made from mashed potato and cabbage or kale. By roasting the garlic, its flesh is tempered and tamed to become sweet and mellow.
Serves 4 to 6
Preparation time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: 1¼ hours
- 1 large bulb garlic, left whole and unpeeled
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- Salt and ground black pepper
- 1 sprig of rosemary
- 2¼ pounds (1kg) baking or russet (floury) potatoes, scrubbed clean
- 1 pound (450g) Savoy cabbage or kale
- 1 cup (250ml) milk
- 4 tablespoons (50g) butter, plus extra to serve
Preheat the oven to 425°F (220°C/Gas mark 7).
Place the whole bulb of garlic in a small ovenproof dish, drizzle with the olive oil, season with salt and pepper, and add the sprig of rosemary. Cover with aluminum foil and roast for about 45 minutes, until the garlic has completely softened.
Put the potatoes in a large saucepan and cover with cold water. Add a good pinch of salt, cover with a lid, and bring to a boil. After 10 minutes, strain off two-thirds of the water, put the lid back on the pan, and cook over a gentle heat so that the potatoes steam for about 30 minutes, until they are tender.
Remove and discard the dark tough outer leaves from the cabbage (if using). Wash the rest and cut into quarters, removing the core. Cut the cabbage across the grain into slices about ¼ inch (5mm) thick. Place in another large saucepan, add the milk, and simmer for about 4 minutes or until tender. If you’re using kale, cut out the tough center rib of the leaves, then slice and cook in milk as for the cabbage.
When the potatoes are just cooked, peel them while still warm and immediately mash them with the butter and some salt and pepper. Use your fingers to squeeze out the roasted garlic pulp and beat into the potatoes with enough boiling milk from the cabbage to make a fluffy purée. Then drain the cooked cabbage or kale, stir into the mash, and taste for seasoning.
For perfection, serve immediately in a hot dish with a lump of butter melting on top.
Rachel is the author of four bestselling cookbooks, which include Rachel’s Favourite Food at Home and Rachel’s Food for Living. She hosts the Cooking Channel’s “Bake!”