Having recently returned from a three-week holiday in Ireland, I find myself longing to recreate several dishes that I tasted there. To be honest, I went to Ireland with low cuisine expectations, anticipating a diet of uninspired meat and potatoes. Instead I was met with dishes and flavors that transformed my stereotyped notion of traditional Irish food. I ate smoked salmon that was unlike any I had ever had in the States. After three weeks of overdosing on omega-3s and tea, I return with not only a newfound respect (quite possibly enjoyment) of previously-disliked potatoes, but also several new culinary conquests:
#1: Brown Bread
Moist, dense, hearty, buttery, whole grain goodness, this traditional bread is a staple at Irish meals. I have never seen it in the States, which makes me want to start an import business so I can stock our grocery stores. I could not get enough while I was there -- it got to the point where I began to judge restaurants based on the quality of their brown bread (a wannabe brown bread connoisseur...) Unfortunately, the slices that I smuggled home started to get moldy (it has a very short shelf life since there are no preservatives) so now I am on a mission to secure a traditional recipe so I can make it myself. The ingredients are fairly simple (whole wheat flour, all-purpose flour, buttermilk, salt, baking soda, egg) and it is quick to make as it doesn't require a rising agent like yeast. So I just need to figure out which measurements work best. Let the testing begin...
#2: Pureed vegetable soups
Most Irish menus feature a Soup of the Day, which is quite often a vegetable soup (served with brown bread!) As opposed to the chunky variety that we often find in the States, most that I encountered abroad were pureed, which gave them a unique creamy consistency not often associated with vegetable soups. Memorable pairings that I tried include a celeriac, celery and tarragon soup, celeriac and thyme, and carrot and cumin. I recently made a leek and spinach pureed soup that was excellent and had a similar quality to those that I found across the Pond. I am most intrigued to try a celeriac version since I had never heard of the celery-like root before and am eager to see how it functions as the base of a soup.
Creations soon to be posted...
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