Feature Writer Susan Roe – St. Patrick’s Day

Hands on Living

Celebrating Saint Patrick’s Day

Cead Mile Filte–Gaelic for one hundred thousand welcomes!  Here at Dogwood Farm, March not only signals the coming of Spring, but the long awaited Saint Patrick’s Day.  Both my husband and I have mixed Irish backgrounds, not to mention his only niece, Jordan, was born on this wonderful March day as well.  Two great reasons to enjoy an Irish meal among family.  Even though Jordan lives in California and we live here in Virginia, we always send her our best wishes with a bit of the Irish luck at the end of the day.

I told Matt to flip through our extremely large cookbook collection and find a new Irish recipe or two for us to fix on Saint Patrick’s Day.  Believe it or not, he found two rather quickly, one from the Internet, Beef in Guinness and a dessert from one of our Irish cookbooks, Spiced Apple Upside-Down Cake with Whiskey Caramel Sauce. Along with that I would serve a traditional Irish dish called Colcannon, the quick version, creamy, buttery potatoes with chopped spinach.  Last but not least, there would be Guinness, a wonderful Irish beer and cold hard cider, both of which would also be used in the beef recipe.

But first things first, a check of the pantry and refrigerator, the ingredients double checked and then it was off to the grocery store we went.  Always double-check your list of ingredients before shopping so you won’t be disappointed to realize you have forgotten something very important.  Trust me, sighted husbands and sisters can quickly lose their happy cooking attitudes if they have to go back to the store for that one little missing ingredient.  Been there, done that, isn’t pretty.

Spice Apple Upside-Down Cake with Whiskey Sauce

My sister, Pattie, and I started the day off with fixing the cake because it would have to completely cool before the whiskey caramel sauce could be drizzled along the edges and across the apples on top.  The most important cooking tools for this recipe are a rubber spatula, a Pyrex 16-ounce measuring cup for melting butter and a spring form cake pan.  The rubber spatula makes it easier to evenly spread the melted butter and the dark brown sugar on the bottom of the cake pan.  Then you take the Granny smith apple slices and cover the cake pan bottom in a circular pattern.  Set the cake pan aside and mix the spice cake batter according to the package directions and pour the batter over the apples in the cake pan.  Use your rubber spatula to easily scrape the bowl of remaining batter. After wrapping foil snuggly around the bottom and sides of the spring form cake pan, I always find it easier to place the cake pan in the center of an aluminum baking sheet to make it easier to slide in a hot oven.  One hour later, it was out of the oven and in ten more minutes, inverted on my crystal cake plate, cake pan carefully removed, and my husband had to be warned to keep his hands in his pockets and don’t touch the cake!

Beef in Guinness

I decided the best way to keep Matt out of trouble would be to keep him busy in the kitchen while the cake was cooling on the dining room table.  Matt wanted to fix the Beef in Guinness, so while he prepared the meat, my sister and I chopped the carrots and onions for him.  I like to use a rocker blade for chopping vegetables.  This is a rather large knife with a wide flat blade that narrows down to a normal knife point, and also has a rounded shaped blade edge which allows the knife to rock forwards and back while you chop your vegetables.  We used a beef rump roast and Matt trimmed the fat before cutting the roast in nice bite-sized pieces.

Before the meat could be browned, Matt fried up a strip of peppercorn bacon to add seasoning while browning the beef.  The beef was then rolled in flour and seasoned with Thyme and fresh rosemary from our herb garden.  Once the meat was browned, it was removed from the pot and the onions were sautéed until translucent or wilted.  Matt was then able to add the beef back to the pot with the few remaining ingredients. Best of all, 1 cup of Guinness beer and ¼ cup of Hard cider, were the last ingredients before bringing the pot to a boil and then down to a simmer to gently bubble the beef and vegetables into a tender and delicious Irish stew.

Colcannon with Spinach

Colcannon is another traditional Irish dish that we fix quite frequently on the farm.  The potato dish is usually fixed with creamy potatoes and cabbage or kale, and we lean more towards the kale.  Unfortunately, kale wasn’t on the menu since I had some chopped spinach in the freezer just waiting to make its way onto the table, so that was the winner for the Colcannon.  I made the quick version in the microwave instead of the longer oven method that is best suited when cooking with cabbage.  Look for the containers of pre-made mashed potatoes, not instant, and either fresh or frozen greens, everything else should already be in your refrigerator.

I emptied the potatoes into a microwave safe bowl and then put the frozen spinach in a smaller bowl with a bit of water and butter.  A few minutes in the microwave and the spinach was ready to be drained and mixed with the potatoes.  For a bit of matching flavor from the stew, I crumbled the one slice of bacon in the potatoes as well. Five minutes in the microwave and the Colcannon was ready to join the Beef and Guinness on the table.

Finishing Touches

Before the table was set, it was time to make the whiskey caramel sauce for the cake.  Pattie cut a stick of butter into pieces along with a ½ cup of dark brown sugar into the Pyrex measuring cup so the sauce could be microwaved slowly into a pourable rich consistency.  Then, saints preserve us, came the ¼ cup of Bush mills Irish Whiskey, stirring constantly to blend the flavors together.  Once the sauce was poured over the apple upside-down spice cake, we were more than ready to start celebrating Saint Patrick’s Day.

After our bellies were full of beef and potatoes, we couldn’t help but laugh at Matt eyeing the apple spice upside-down cake with the whiskey caramel sauce pooling along the edge of the cake plate.  We cleared the supper dishes and smaller plates were passed out, waiting for Matt to slice the closing dish of the meal.  My fork couldn’t wait to dig into all that yummy goodness.  We were not disappointed, it was wonderful and before Matt was done with his second piece or three, a third of the cake was gone.

Looking back over the day when all was quiet once again at the table, I was glad to have had the time to spend with my family doing what we so love to do, cooking, laughing, eating, and most of all, counting our blessings at the end of the day.  So I’ll close this writing with a verse from one of my favorite Irish songs sung by Robin Rich, “The Parting Glass”.

So fill to me a parting glass, good night and joy to all of you.

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