St Patrick's Day - why not try your 'luck' at something new?
It's St Patricks Day tomorrow, and although it was regularly celebrated on my calendar via a trip to an Irish pub way back in my 20's, it's more often than not that this day flies past with out my recognition - maybe I'm getting old! Having said that, any excuse to cook something with a theme is always fun but as it's going to be way too hot this weekend for a lengthy Guinness Pie cooking moment (that sort of YUMMY stuff will hit as the weather drops), instead I'll take my inspiration from the colour green, an Irish bread tradition and it's just not St Pat's day without an Irish joke to two...
Question... How can you tell if an Irishman is having a good time?
Answer... He's Dublin over with laughter!
Ok maybe not off to such a good start with that joke, but stay with me, things will improve I promise!
Green in the kitchen can mean a number of things. Crispy and crunchy salad leaves and vegetables, freshly picked aromatic herbs, or sometimes even the carton of cream which has been lost at the back of the fridge since Christmas. Oops!
Lucky for us I found some cheap asparagus at my green grocer today and I've teamed that with a bit of spicy, nutty crunch and a beautifully crispy fried egg which I grabbed fresh from my sisters 'girl's' this morning. As a little side note, I couldn't believe it when I cracked my egg into the pan for this dish, it was double yolker - wow haven't had one of those for ages and even more so right when I am writing my St Patrick's Day post! The Luck of the Irish was on my side, but not for too long as I popped one of the yolks when trying to place it onto the dish - oh well, maybe next time!
Just to give us an extra bit of St Patrick's Day Irish'ness, we are going to dip into our creamy egg yolks with a freshly made Irish Soda Bread which is filled with beautiful caraway seeds bringing a lovely liquorice note to the bread. The asparagus, egg and caraway bread combo is 'sure to be surlely' a perfect match indeed!
Charred Asparagus with crispy fried egg and toasted spicy nut crumb
Ingredients 3 tsp olive oil
1/2 - 1 long red chilli, finely chopped (depending on your taste)
50g leg ham, finely chopped
30g walnuts, roughly chopped
1 slice day old sourdough or ciabatta bread , roughly chopped
2 bunches asparagus, washed and woody ends trimmed
parsley for garnish
Heat 1 tsp of oil in a fry pan over medium heat, add chilli, ham and walnuts and stir until ham is crispy and walnuts are golden. Remove from pan and set aside.
Return pan to stove and add 1 tsp of oil and bread and toss over medium heat until golden. Remove and add to ham mixture. Set aside.
Heat grill plate over high heat. Toss asparagus in remaining oil and cook turning until slightly charred.
While asparagus is cooking, return the pan used for the bread, back to the heat, add a dash of olive oil and once hot, fry your eggs until cooked leaving your yolk runny. (I like to leave the yolk runny so it runs all through the spicy crumb and asparagus - but if it's not your thing, cook it however you like!). Serves 2
For the spicy crumb, you can choose any nut that you may have available like almond, pistachio or hazelnut and also adding some beautiful pepitas or sunflower seeds would be nice too. Also using bacon or pancetta instead of ham, would be great.
If you have a nice sunny day, why not head outdoors and cook this dish on your bbq?
Paddy and Mick are walking down the road and Paddy's got a bag of doughnuts in his hand. Paddy says to Mick, "If you can guess how many doughnuts are in my bag, you can have them both"
Irish Soda Bread
This is a very dense bread, almost like a damper or a giant scone, so a little goes a long way. See below for some other tips on making this great a simple St Patrick's day treat.
500g (4 cups) plain flour, plus extra for dusting
2 tsp caster sugar
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 tbsp caraway seeds
80g butter, chilled and cut into small 1cm cubes
1 egg, at room temperature, lightly beaten
440ml (1 3/4 cups) buttermilk, at room temperature
Preheat your oven to 220'C deg.
Using the large bowl from your electric mixer, combine flour, sugar, salt, baking soda and caraway seeds and stir to combine. Add butter and rub into the flour using your finger tips until flour resembles breadcrumbs.
Make a wall in the centre and add your egg and buttermilk and using your dough hook attachment, mix until your dough just comes together. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and gently bring it into a ball shape. Try not to over work it but if it's too sticky and you need more flour, add a little more at this stage so it comes together into a ball.
Place dough into a cast iron baking dish (I used a 20cm diameter) and using a sharp knife, cut a cross into the top of the dough. Bake for approx. 35-40mins or until your bread sounds hollow when you tap it on the top. Carefully remove from oven and let it stand in the dish for 10 mins before removing to cool on a wire rack.
Serve it warm alongside your asparagus and egg dish. Makes one loaf.
See below for some other serving ideas.
‘What’s wrong with Murphy?’ asked Father Green.
‘I don’t know, Father. Yesterday he swallowed a spoon and he hasn’t stirred since,’ said Mrs Murphy.
Make sure your ingredients are at room temperature before adding them, this way the ingredients will be more evenly distributed throughout the dough and will rise more evenly.
Flour can be tricky when our kitchen temperatures vary so much. If you are finding your dough is quite sticky, add a little more flour. On the flip side if it seems too dry (sometimes our eggs are different sizes so it can certainly make a difference as well), wet your hands under cold water, shake them off and then gently knead your dough briefly again to bring the outside together.
Use a sharp pairing knife to cut your cross into the top. You can go reasonably deep (1-2cm) as you might see in my image as the end result still looks great!
Make sure you cook your bread until it has a hollow sound when you tap the top of the loaf. If you feel like your loaf is getting too dark on top, use some foil to make a tent and loosely place on top.
If you don't have an electric mixer (or a gym membership!), you can easily make this using your hands as there really isn't much kneading to do and you get a little workout while you are at it - woo!
I have used a small cast iron baking dish as it's the traditional way to make this bread, but if you dont have one you can use a standard baking tray or dish. You may need a slightly longer cooking time, but just remember to tap it on the top and listen for the hollow sound once it's cooked and you should be on a winner.
For a yummy sweet alternative, double the sugar and add a hand full of sultanas (remove the caraway seeds if you like) to your bread before adding the wet ingredients and once it's out of the oven, lather it with butter and your favourite jam. If you think it tastes like a giant scone (as I do), maybe a big dollop of cream will go well with that jam!
I don't mind this bread the next day and I don't mind it cold as well, especially if adding the jam above! So if you have leftovers, save them for tomorrow or slice the rest of the loaf and keep the slices wrapped in cling wrap in the freezer for a rainy day.
Just when you thought the jokes were over. I saved my favourite for last...
Question... When is an Irish Potato not an Irish Potato?
Answer... When its a French fry!
LOVE YOUR FOOD MOMENTS... ENYOY!