Ireland is a fabulous place to visit from Spring right through early Fall. The place has plenty of top-notch scenery, challenging golf courses, stud farms, and castles galore. And, it has all that really great food. Sheila and I had loads of fun going from tea room to pub to restaurant, sampling traditional Irish dishes.
The one constant at lunch wherever we went was the dense brown bread. It varied slightly in taste with different bakers, but it was usually served with soup or at afternoon tea, with jam, butter or honey.
Of course, when we came back to the States, Sheila and I created our own version of the bread so that we could serve it on St. Patrick’s Day. Yes, it is on the table with the soda bread, giving our guests a chance to try both. To be clear, Sheila does the baking and I do the tasting and cleanup. We make a great team in the kitchen. 🙂
Ireland is a land with great small pubs tucked into the corners of the countryside, both a traveler’s relief and a tourist destination. Enter at lunchtime and prepare to enjoy one of the several rustic dishes that Ireland is famous for – lamb stew, colcannon, peasant soup, brown bread, bangers and mash, fresh fish, or Shepherd’s Pie. During one of our trips, Sheila and I realized that there are as many versions of Shepherd’s Pie as there are cooks in the kitchen. We had always thought that perhaps, except for spices, the ingredients would be the same everywhere. Nope. I think the only common factors we found were the peas and carrots in every bowl (or plate) served. Even the toppings varied from pub to pub – we had both pie crust and mashed potatoes covering the tasty meat and veggie dish. Some had ground lamb for the meat, instead of the beef that we use in this recipe.
Shepherd’s Pie, in whatever form, is a fairly simple dish to create. After tinkering a bit, this is what Sheila created. And, of course, taste tested by me.
During our last trip to Ireland, Sheila and I had lunch in many different restaurants, in both big cities and small villages throughout the country. We were surprised to see that there were two comfort foods common to every mid-day menu: Brown Bread and Irish Peasant Soup. While I’m traveling, if I find something I like to eat, I tend to stick with it, just to be on the safe side. Sheila says I should be more adventurous, but IMO, odd sauces can cover up a LOT of mystery meat.
Having said that, we discovered that each of the places had different recipes for the soup. Sheila came up with this combination of vegetables after striking up a friendship with a chatty cook who revealed that the soups are basically created using whatever is fresh from the garden that week.