Irish Shepherd’s Pie

It’s March.

In my world, that means that all of the stores near me are selling St. Patty’s day goodies, from food to home decor to holiday outfits.  Everything is shamrocks and leprechauns and ‘kiss me, i’m irish’.  

For someone like me, who is part Irish, I like to use this time of the year to focus my attention on my Irish heritage.  This goes for not only food, but celebrating different Irish traditions as well.  At some point in the year, my claddaugh ring comes off and I only remember to put it back on in March.  I decorate my house with lots of green pillows, shamrock crafts and Gaelic quote boards on the wall.  Almost everything I bake is infused with green food coloring. 

If you couldn’t tell, I take things way too far, way too often.

I love celebrating even the smallest things, so Saint Patrick’s Day for me is an all-month event.  So, it would make sense that I spend all month sharing my favorite Irish recipes. Some of these recipes are pretty authentic while some are more inspired by flavors I associate with St. Patrick’s Day.

So, in honor of this wonderful, bright green holiday, I’m devoting this whole month to giving you some Irish-influenced recipes that will get you in the Erin Go Bragh spirit!

This recipe, in particular, is a favorite of mine because it uses up all those goodies for leftovers. Since I love a good shepherd’s pie, I love turning my corned beef dinner into a tiered masterpiece of flavor. And, since most of the food is already cooked, it’s super easy too!

Irish Shepherd’s Pie

2 tbsp butter

1/2 medium white onion, finely diced

1 lb. ground beef

1 lb. of Apricot Glazed Corned Beef, diced

1 cup Slow Cooker Cabbage

3 cups Champ potatoes

1/2 stick butter

In a large skillet, melt butter.

Add onions and cook until soft, about 5-6 minutes. Add the ground beef and cook thoroughly. Remove from heat and drain the liquid from the beef. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Preheat oven 350F.

Add the corned beef to the ground beef and stir.

Grease an 8″x 8″ pan. Spoon the beef mixture into the bottom of the pan. Spread the cabbage over the top of the beef. Top the cabbage with Champ potatoes.

Cut the butter into 6-8 pats and place on top of the potatoes.

Bake for 20-30 minutes or until the top of the potato layer begins to lightly brown.

Serve hot.

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Irish Soda Bread

The holiday season has officially ended for me.

My favorite REAL holiday, that is. 

Anyone who knows me knows that the Super Bowl is a holiday to me, and constitutes as my favorite holiday of all time.  But, St. Patrick’s Day, being a faithful Irish girl, is a close second.

There are a few recipes I’ve been wanting to get to that make me think of Irish food, and this is one of them.

I’ve wanted to try Irish Soda bread for a while now.  I love making quick breads because I’m a huge carb-fiend who can’t wait for yeast breads to rise and rise, and then rise some more.

Now, at the risk of sounding completely ridiculous, I have to admit that I didn’t know what exactly the ‘soda’ meant in Irish Soda bread.  To be honest, I thought Ireland had completely different ideas about what soda was, and I fretted over the idea of trying to find Irish Soda.  I know, I’m kind of an airhead sometimes.  Imagine my relief when I found out I had all the ingredients I would need right in my pantry!

This bread is dense and moist and slightly sweet.  For my first foray into Irish Soda bread making, I would say I was very successful!

Irish Soda Bread

4 cups flour

1/4 cup sugar

1 tbsp. baking powder

1 tbsp. baking soda

1 cup milk

1/2 cup melted butter

1 egg

Preheat oven 350F.

Mix all of the ingredients together, starting with the dry and ending with wet ingredients, in a bowl until a dough forms.  You may need a little extra flour to keep the dough from sticking to your hands. 

Form a round with the dough and place on a greased cookie sheet.  Use a knife to score an ‘X’ in the top of the dough.

Bake for 1 hour.

Cut into slices and serve hot.

Champ Potatoes

A couple years ago, I was in a restaurant and I ordered a steak with mashed potatoes. When my order came out, I took a bite of my potatoes and decided that this particular restaurant cooked the best mashed potatoes I had ever eaten.

The problem is, I couldn’t place what it was about the potatoes that I loved so much. They were perfectly seasoned. They were slightly lumpy, which might turn some people off, but I happen to love the texture. I tried to discretely dissect the potatoes, looking for some hint of onion or garlic that was providing the extra flavor, even though it didn’t necessarily have an onion or garlic taste.

I was stumped.

Cut to a few days later and I used my handy internet-sleuthing skills to find a copycat recipe of the mashed potatoes from this very restaurant. Turns out the words I was looking for was: beef stock.

How I failed to discern this on my own, I’ll never know. But, as soon as I read it, I knew that was the secret ingredient that was right on the tip of my tongue, no pun intended.

So, for my Irish dinner, I made champ as my starch. If you’re not familiar, champ is basically mashed potatoes with green onions sprinkled throughout. Since I was serving this with corned beef, I decided to take it up a notch with a little beef flavor.

I’ve seen two ways to do this and I’m not sure which is best. One is to boil the potatoes in beef stock. This seems logical, but maybe hard to control. Is the beef stock too strong? Does it require dilution? Will it provide enough flavor? Will it be too weak?

Someday, I’d be willing to try this, but for now, I went with the alternative method, which is using beef base to flavor the milk used in the recipe. I felt this gave me a little more control in that I could pour a little in at a time to see how it tasted.

And before you remind me that you can get this same beef flavor using gravy on the side, let me just say: I don’t like gravy. I’m sure gravy would be great with this. In fact, I know it would because I made gravy with this and other people really liked it. I like my potatoes “undressed” and this flavor really goes a long way for me.

Keep watching for more Irish recipes coming your way soon!

Champ Potatoes

10 Russet potatoes, peeled and diced

1 bundle of green onion, sliced into 1/8″ pieces

1 cup milk

3 tbsp beef base, cut into pats

1 stick of butter

Salt and pepper to taste

Place potatoes in a large pot of water and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook until the potatoes are fork-tender. Drain.

In a separate small pot, pour milk and add the beef base and green onions. Bring milk to a simmer and allow the beef base to fully mix into the milk. Cook for 5-7 minutes. Remove from heat and add the butter. Stir to melt completely.

Pour the milk mixture into the potatoes and mash until smooth. Season to taste.

Serve hot.

Slow Cooker Cabbage

I’m going to let you in on a little secret. I’m really not a big fan of cabbage.

I like a little coleslaw now and then. But, for the most part, it’s not one of my favorite vegetables.

By far.

That being said, cabbage tends to be one of the mainstays of a good, traditional Irish dinner. That means that if I want to serve my family an Irish dinner, I have to come up with a way to make cabbage more palatable.

Again, I scoured the internet for different recipes that I could use to make this side. Most of the recipes I found just kind of let the cabbage do its own thing with minimal seasoning or addition of flavor. There were some recipes that incorporated onions and carrots to help boost the cabbage and I definitely felt like that was a good idea.

Since we were having so many people over for our Irish dinner, I knew that I needed to make a very large side of cabbage and I also knew that since we were making everything from scratch, I didn’t want to have to spend a lot of time watching the cabbage. That’s where the slow cooker comes in.

I decided to go with a sweet and tangy flavor to go with my sweet and tangy glaze for the corn beef. To do this, I decided to add a little bit of the apricot marmalade for sweetness and some apple cider vinegar for a little acidity. Turns out, when you make cabbage like this, I actually really like it!

When you compare it to all the other food on the plate of a good Irish dinner, it’s hard to make cabbage your favorite. But, I definitely feel like this version is a great side vegetable with a ton of a good flavor as opposed to a bland pile of cooked cabbage!

Slow Cooker Cabbage

1/2 head of green cabbage, sliced into 1/2″ strips

1 1lb. bag of baby carrots

1 medium white onion, diced

1 cup water

1/2 cup apple cider vinegar

1/4 cup apricot marmalade

Salt and pepper to taste

Combine everything in a slow cooker.

Cook on high for 6 hours, stirring occasionally.

Serve hot.

Apricot-Glazed Corned Beef

When my husband and I decided to get married, we had a lot of long talks about how we wanted our life together to go. One of the things that was very important to us was starting traditions to keep our families close to us. Usually, this revolves around good food.

For St. Patrick’s Day, we have tried to start a tradition of inviting our families over for a traditional Irish dinner of corned beef and cabbage with potatoes. This has been a recipe I’ve used for the last couple years we’ve done this, and I always get rave reviews from family members about the corn beef and its glaze.

I’ve seen similar recipes for the glaze used with other proteins but I’ve only ever used this apricot glaze with the corned beef. I really like the sweet, tangy vibe I get with it and I think it complements the beef well. Plus, I think cooking the corned beef in the oven and using a glaze helps preserve so much more flavor than the traditional boiled method.

Keep watching as I’ll be bringing out more of my favorite Irish/St. Patrick’s Day recipes!

Apricot-Glazed Corned Beef

1 package of corned beef

1/3 cup apricot marmalade

1 tbsp spicy mustard

1/2 yellow mustard

Preheat oven 350F.

Place corned beef in a baking dish with the fatty side facing upward. Sprinkle the seasoning packet over the corned beef (this is typically included in the package).

Cover with foil and cook according to package instructions. Most packages suggest 50 minutes per pound of beef.

Combine the apricot marmalade and mustards in a bowl.

With 20 minutes left in the cooking time, remove foil to uncover the corned beef. Pour the glaze over the center of the beef. Cook the additional 20 minutes.

Let beef rest for 20-30 minutes before cutting up to serve.