I always think about how unique it is that our little nation has a day that is so widely celebrated across the world. For me, living in the US for the past few years, there is always a sense of pride when it comes to St Patrick's Day. I always joke it's the one day a year I'm guaranteed work here and I've been lucky enough to get wheeled out annually to cook traditional fare for enthusiastic TV presenters, dressed in green, extolling the virtues of "Patty's Day".
Once I've politely corrected the "Patty" faux pas, it is an honour to showcase traditional recipes and speak about how exciting Irish food has become in recent years, with artisanal ingredients and one of the world's most exciting restaurant scenes. It's a message that I think most Irish people now wear with pride.
While there's no sign of me losing my accent just yet, with two little fellas born in California to a Swedish mother, it's important that I make them aware of their roots, and Paddy's Day is the perfect time to ensure the traditions start early and start strong. In anticipation of the big day, we've been practising making soda bread, as it's probably one of the easiest recipes to make with kids.
If, like me, you're planning a feast this St Patrick's Day, I have some recipes to help you bring a little bit of Ireland to the dinner table. Boxty for brekkie is a must: served with bacon and eggs, it's just the sort of rib-sticking stuff you need for a chilly day standing outside at a parade. For dinner, a totally indulgent slow-braised beef short rib dish that is meltingly tender and served with an Irish cheese polenta. And to cap it all off, mini chocolate lava cakes made all the more rich with Irish stout and served with a boozy whiskey cream. Happy cooking agus beannachtaí na Féile Pádraig oraibh!
Cook time 2 hours
Beef short ribs are a real treat to cook with. Braised slowly in a bath of stout, stock and toffee-like treacle, with time and steamy windows, they turn fork-tender and irresistible. Polenta might not be your bag, but I urge you to give this a go and track down some good Irish cheese to fold through it.
For the braised short ribs:
4 large short ribs
1-2 tbsp rapeseed oil
2 onions, thinly sliced
4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
2 sprigs thyme
3 tbsp plain flour
2 tbsp treacle
1 litre good-quality beef stock
2 bay leaves
For the cheesy polenta:
250ml chicken stock
2 sprigs thyme, leaves removed
250g fine polenta
75g Cáis na Tíre cheese, finely grated
Small handful parsley, finely chopped
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1. Heat a large heavy-based casserole pan. Season the beef and brown the ribs in batches (6-8 minutes). Transfer to a plate.
2. Add the onion, garlic and thyme. Sauté for 3-4 minutes until softened a little. Add the flour and stir to cook for another minute. Add in the stout and simmer for 5-6 minutes until reduced by half, scraping the bottom of the casserole with a wooden spoon to remove any brown bits. Return the beef to the pan with the treacle, stock and bay leaves. Cook for 1.5-2 hours until the meat is tender and almost falling off the bone. Discard the thyme and bay leaves.
3. When the short ribs have almost cooked, prepare the polenta. Add the milk, stock and thyme to a medium saucepan. Add the polenta slowly while stirring through to prevent clumping. Reduce the heat slightly and cook for 10-15 minutes until the polenta has absorbed all the liquid. Stir through the butter and two-thirds of the cheese.
4. Serve the polenta in bowls. Top with short ribs, spoon over the sauce and sprinkle with the remaining cheese and parsley.
Cook time 30 mins
The traditional recipe varies from region to region but almost all use grated raw potato. This is the version my family makes and they're great with a full Irish breakfast.
For the boxty:
250g mashed potato
250g peeled, grated, raw Rooster potatoes
250g plain flour
1 tsp baking soda
6 spring onions, finely sliced (optional)
100g Irish Cheddar cheese, grated (optional)
Sea salt and ground black pepper
Butter, to fry
1. To make the boxty, put the mashed potato, raw grated potato, flour, baking soda and spring onions in a large mixing bowl, and mix until evenly combined. Add the milk, little by little, until you have a wet, dropping consistency. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
2. Heat a non-stick frying pan over a medium-high heat with a little butter. When the butter begins to foam, spoon heaped tablespoon measurements of the mixture into the frying pan and fry for 3-4 minutes on each side until golden brown. Once you turn them, add a little grated cheese and allow to melt for an extra- indulgent pancake.
3. Remove from the pan and place on a plate lined with kitchen paper. Repeat with the remaining mixture. Keep warm in a low oven. Serve with bacon and eggs.
Cook time 10 mins
Chocolate fondant might scare off many cooks but, done right, they're a showstopper. With a little practice, these little cakes are in fact easy - the secret is all in the cook time. They can be made in advance and refrigerated until you're good to go.
For the lava cakes:
50g cocoa powder
75ml Irish stout
125g caster sugar
1 large free-range egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
125g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
For the whiskey cream:
1 vanilla pod, seeds removed
1 tbsp whiskey
2 tbsp icing sugar
50g roasted hazelnuts, chopped
1. Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F/Gas Mark 6 and grease 6 dariole moulds well with butter, arranging them on a baking sheet.
2. Melt the butter in a saucepan, then whisk in the cocoa powder and stout. Remove from the heat and set aside.
3. Whisk the sugar and egg together along with the vanilla extract until light and fluffy. Gently fold through the flour and baking powder. Divide between the prepared moulds and pop into the oven for 5 minutes until they have set and there is still a very gentle wobble in the centre.
4. Remove from the oven and allow to sit for a minute before gently running the knife around the edge of the mould. Carefully turn out onto a serving plate.
5. To make the whiskey cream, whisk the cream with the vanilla bean seeds until soft peaks form. Mix together the whiskey with the icing sugar in a small bowl until the sugar is dissolved, then gently fold this through the cream.
6. Serve the lava cakes topped with the whiskey cream, hazelnuts and a sprinkle of sea salt.
It's a good sign when a restaurant does one dish so well, they don't feel the need to put anything else on their menu. That's the case at Zhengyalov Hatz in Glendale, the epicentre of Armenian food in LA. They serve delicious giant oval flatbreads, a specialty from the Republic of Artsakh, filled with 15 herbs and greens. Enjoyed with a cool glass of dill and cucumber yoghurt drink, it's a light and authentic bite.
I'm Donal Skehan and I'm a phone addict. My 'third hand' is iPhone-shaped, so a technology blackout was just what the doctor ordered. We recently bundled the kids into the car for four days in the desert and it was the best thing we've done in ages. Quality family bonding time, bedtime stories by a campfire, overall better sleep... and no anxious scrolling. It was bliss!
The Pastry School
If you're an avid Instagram food fan, you'll likely have come across Julie Jones's divine account showcasing her intricate tarts and pies. In her latest cookbook, she shares recipes for the pretty pistachio tart with rhubarb tiles that adorns the cover, a frangipane tart with delicate curls of persimmon, and lots more sweet treats. A book for weekend baking aficionados who are out to impress.