Thursday, April 15, 2010


Before rambling about Irish food and this dinner, I must confess that the Emerald Isle is a country that is near and dear to my heart. Both Amy and I have a fair amount of Irish blood running through our families. We were both raised to have great pride in our Irish heritage. During college I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to study abroad in Ireland for a term. And when it came time for me to write my senior thesis for a history degree; I chose to devote it to a study of the Irish Potato Famine of the 1840's. I have another confession to make as well. We did not randomly pull Ireland, but held the dinner in honor of a visit from my good friend Hudson, who also studied abroad with me in Ireland. I could go on for pages and pages about how much drunken hooliganery we had in Ireland and say all kinds of neat things about Irish history, but then we'd never get to the food.

Ireland is more famous for its booze and history than its food. But this is not to say that Irish food is dull. They offer quite a bit more than baked potatoes. Which is a good thing because Amy hates potatoes (don't worry we still made potatoes). Also much to Amy's benefit: the Irish have never been big on adding lots of spice to their food. English food appears spicy in comparison. Instead Irish food places an emphasis on hearty, rich, buttery food that remains strong in flavor despite the lack of spicing. Essentially, most of the food goes well with a dark stout and damp weather.

Colcannon: Mashed Potatoes With Braised Cabbage

Colcannon is a great combination of the two most famous standards: cabbage and potatoes. The only trick to it is making sure that the cabbage is well browned before mixing it with the potatoes. The final baking of the mixture is optional, but I find it best to have a crispy crust on top of it.

1 head green cabbage
3 lbs russet potatoes peeled and quartered
2 onions sliced thinly
Salt and pepper to taste
Grated white cheddar (optional)

1. Boil the potatoes in salted water for 15 minutes or until tender. Drain and mash the potatoes tossing in butter and salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.
2. In a large skillet melt 1/4 stick of butter over medium heat and add the sliced onion. Cook the onion stirring occasionally until the onion begins to brown.
3. Add the cabbage and sauté for another five minutes then add a cup of water and reduce the heat to low. Cover and continue cooking the cabbage for a further 20 minutes or until it is completely wilted and beginning to brown.
4. Combine the cabbage and onions with the mashed potato and place the mixture into a greased baking dish.
5. Preheat the oven to 450. Arrange grated cheese on top of the colcannon and bake until the cheese or the top of the potatoes are nicely browned. Serve at once or reheat later.

Soda Bread

Our friend Hudson made this bread while we were all at work. I've actually never made soda bread. Some year I'll get around to it, but I still haven't felt compelled. My mom makes large quantities of the stuff every year for St. Patrick's day and delivers loaves to all the friends and neighbors. For the past several years Hudson has performed this duty in my apartment when he's visited. Thanks, Hudson!

Six cups all purpose flour
1.5 tsp baking soda
3 teaspoons salt
2.5 cups buttermilk
1.5 cups golden raisins

1. Preheat the oven to 375 and using a mixer or a large bowl and your hands combine everything except the buttermilk.
2. Gradually pour in all of the buttermilk while stirring and a big doughy ball should form.
3. Knead the dough for about two minutes on a floured surface or in the mixer.
4 Divide the dough into two loaves and place them on a large baking sheet.
5. Cut a shallow cross onto the very top of each loaf but take care to not cut too deep or else your bread will look like ours did.
6. Bake for 45 minutes or until the outside is a golden brown. Be sure to check the temperature of your oven to ensure that you don't burn the raisins like we did.
7. Let cool several hours before serving and enjoy.

Mashed Carrot and Parsnip

We had a huge pile parsnips lying about and decided to whip these up to provide a bit more vegetable matter to the food. The roasting of the vegetables gives the dish a sweet and smoky finish.

1/2 pound carrots peeled and quartered
1.5 pounds parsnips peeled and quartered
Butter to taste
1 cup milk
Salt and pepper to taste
Parsley for garnish

1. Preheat the broiler and arrange the carrots and parsnips on the broiling tray. Pour a bit of melted butter over all the pieces before putting them onto the tray. And broil them for 15 minutes or until the vegetables are caramelized and tender.
2. Combine the vegetables with the milk and butter and grind them in a food processor into a thick mashed paste.
3. Garnish with parsley and serve.

Red Cabbage and Apples

Cabbage is too important in Irish food to only serve once during the meal. But to avoid too much repetition we used red cabbage. The sweetness of it goes great apples and butter.

1 small head of red cabbage cored and thinly sliced
1 medium onion thinly sliced
2 tbsp butter
2 yellow baking apples peeled and thinly sliced
1 tablespoon of currant jam (optional)
2 tbsp cider vinegar
1/4 tsp allspice
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Heat the butter in a large skillet set over medium heat and add the onions and cook until they begin to wilt.
2. Add everything else to the pan and raise to a simmer. Cover and cook over low heat for 45 minutes to 1 hour until the cabbage has cooked down and is very tender. Serve.

Beef and Guinness Stew

When I originally planned out what I would make for an Irish meal, I immediately decided I would serve corned beef and cabbage. A good Irish friend of mine, however, said that wouldn't do and demanded I make beef stew. I suppose corned beef and cabbage has always been more popular with the American Irish. Well she was right this stew filled out the meal perfectly.

4 lbs stew beef (we used chuck) cut into 1 inch cubes
1/2 cup flour
4 tbsp butter
1/2 lb carrots cut into circles
4 large onions roughly chopped
6 stalks celery roughly chopped
1 pint Guinness or other stout
1 pint beef stock
2 tbsp tomato paste
1 tbsp mustard
5 sprigs thyme
1/2 lb sliced mushrooms sautéed in butter.
1/2 lb shelled peas (frozen are fine)
Salt and Pepper to taste

1. Dredge the cubed beef in the flour and in a large heavy pot cook with the 4 tbsp butter until well browned on all sides. Cut the heat and remove the meat with a slotted spoon and set aside reserving the juices for the vegetables.
2. Add the onions, carrot, and celery to the pot and gently cook until they begin to wilt about ten minutes.
3. Deglaze the pot with a bit of the stock making sure to get up any burnt bits and add the beef, stout, stock, mustard, tomato paste, and thyme. Bring this mixture to a boil, cover, reduce heat, and simmer for 2-3 hours or until the beef is tender. Or if the oven is free braise the stew at 325 for the same amount of time and be sure to give it a stir every so often.
4. Add the peas and mushrooms to the beef and cook for a further 10 minutes. Salt and pepper to taste and serve garnished with fresh parsley.

Irish Cream

By the time we got around to making this I'm pretty sure we were a bit too far gone because neither of us managed to snag a picture of it. Just imagine a cool glass of Bailey's and you'll get the picture. Also once you make it, you'll wonder why you'd ever buy Bailey's. This took about 1 minute to make and tasted much better. I had no idea Irish Cream was just eggnog made with whiskey.

3 eggs
1 can condensed milk
1 cup whiskey
1 tbsp chocolate syrup
1 tbsp vanilla

Combine everything in a blender. Chill in the fridge and serve in small glasses. Enjoy.


This meal was a heavy pile of tasty food. Also it resulted in a huge mess because a lot of people came over; several of whom had also been to Ireland with Hudson and myself. It was a great time with lots of Irish music played and Guinness and whiskey consumed. This was tough on Amy because she had to work the next day. But I'm sure she feels it was all well worth it. We've been running a bit behind in our posting, but we're now nearly caught up! St. Lucia is next! Until then, Slainte!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010


If you didn't have to look at a map to find out where Comoros is located, give yourself a pat on the back. For those of you who would rather not look it up, the Comoros is situated just east of the mainland of Africa, but before Madagascar. It is an archipelago made up of four islands and since attaining independence from France in 1975, it has had more than 20 attempted coups.

Like many other tiny island nations, Comoros is a product of the nations that is was ruled by and those that it has traded with. Over the years, it has been ruled by native tribes originally from East Africa, spice trading Arab colonists, and of course the French. And just like all the other tiny islands with complicated histories that we have come across, the food is a fantastic and unique combination of all these past cultures.

Sweet Pea Soup

The combination of peas and ginger is something that can be found in Indian curries and Chinese stir fried dishes. Here, we put this pairing into a soup and added some coconut milk for a richer body. I thought there was too much ginger in it, but Tom happily ate up his portion. Feel free to put in what you think is a tolerable amount of ginger.

1 lb frozen peas (thawed)
4 cloves garlic smashed
1/2 tsp pepper
4 tbsp olive oil
1/2 pound tomatoes chopped
2 tbsp chopped ginger
1/2 tsp cayenne
1 can coconut milk
1.5 liters water
salt to taste

1. In a 4 quart saucepan heat the olive oil over medium and add the onion and garlic. Gently cook for 5 minutes stirring often.
2. Add the rest of the ingredients except the coconut milk and bring to a boil. Simmer for 25 minutes.
3. Add the coconut milk, raise to a simmer, cut the heat and serve.

Avocado and Smoked Fish Salad

This is our second showing of smoked herring in a salad (Norway). I am started to really be convinced that smoked fish in any salad is awesome. It is definitely an unsung ingredient that adds so much. The smokiness really comes through and compliments the avocado beautifully.

1/2 lb smoked herring meat chopped
3 avocados pitted and cut into thin slices
1/2 red onion finely chopped
1 bunch scallions chopped
2 red peppers chopped
4 hard boiled eggs cut into rings
Juice of 2 limes
1/2 cup olive oil
Salt to taste

45 minutes before serving prep all the ingredients and gently mix everything being careful not to smash the avocado. Taste for seasoning and serve.

Chicken in Coconut Milk

This is essentially a very simple chicken curry dish that can be thrown together from a few ingredients. This is the one dish from the Comoros that we could actually find a full recipe on, and it is listed by many to be the national dish. We served this chicken dish on a bed of rice with pineapple and okra.

1 chicken cut into serving pieces
1/2 stick butter
2 medium onions thinly sliced
4 cloves garlic minced
1.5 tbsp curry powder
1 can coconut milk
5 sprigs fresh thyme
1/2 tsp pepper
1 bunch parsley chopped

1. Brown the chicken in the butter on medium heat on all sides in a deep pot. This should take about ten minutes and you might have to do this in several batches depending on the size of the pot.
2. Add the onions, garlic, and curry powder to the browned chicken and cook for another five minutes spreading the spice evenly over everything in the pot.
3. Add the remaining ingredients, bring to a simmer, and cook covered for twenty minutes.
4. Turn the heat to high and reduce the sauce to a thick gravy. Salt to taste and serve with rice.

Fruit Salad

Of course, a Comorian dinner (or many an island meal) would not be complete without some fruit on the table. This dish is different from a standard fruit salad, because it has cardamom and vanilla. We thought we should present this dish as a dessert for our guests; giving them a refreshing end to their island eating experience.

3 bananas cut into 1 inch rounds
1 pineapple peeled, cored, and cut into bite sized pieces
1 apple peeled and cored cut into 1 inch segments
1 orange cut into segments
Juice of 1 lemon
1 tsp ground cardamom
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup sugar
Whipped Cream for garnish

Simply combine everything but the whipped cream in a bowl. Serve on individual plates topped with whipped cream. That's it.


This was the most obscure country we have picked so far. When we picked it, everyone in the room was struck with a perplexed "Where's that?" look upon their faces. We apologize to anyone in Comoros reading this now for not knowing where you were located initially. Once we pulled up a map and started cooking, Comoros set itself apart from the other island nations we have done. All of the different influences of lands far and near that have set foot here have left their culinary mark on this island's unique cuisine.

Up next is Ireland. Until then, shucram!