It’s no secret that our family is Irish. We are quite proud of it, and it seems that being Irish is a pretty cool thing to be (not to mention the passport!). Because we’re Irish we choose to ignore any negative characteristics of being Irish, but instead turn them into something positive. We’re not stubborn, we’re strong-willed. We don’t hold grudges, we have good memories, and we don’t drink too much, we just have good stamina. The Irish typically also enjoy cooking. They may not necessarily cook the most gourmet food, but boy do they cook. And any guest should be warned – do NOT eat before visiting an Irish relative. Telling them you’ve eaten or that you’re not hungry is simply not optional. This is from my own experience, as well as my mom’s experience when visiting Ireland for the first time in 1986. Irish moms are feeders.
Anyway, it was perfect that Ireland week fell over a weekend that I was scheduled to be at home. We decided to make the cooking a family affair, with all parties somehow involved. I mentioned in my previous blog that I had given up meat for lent. The conditions of this lent though were that I would be eating the Steak and Guiness pie that Tom was going to make (and boy am I glad I did – more about this later). I had initially decided to make a dessert, but was, to be completely honest, underwhelmed by the dessert choices. My dad had opted to make Boxty, something he last made when we were about 9. Tom and I both distinctly remember it not being at all tasty, which is probably why it was never made again. Kirst decided to make a soda bread. My mom and aunt were going to do a salad and/or Irish coffees.
In the end we had a soda bread, boxty (which I made with my dad in a sort of father-daughter bonding/teaching manner), Irish coffee, Steak and Guiness pie, and some Jameson on the rocks. Of course there was also Irish Pub music and even some Michael Flatley style Irish dancing.
The recipes for the soda bread and pie can be found here (soda bread) and here (pie). My dad’s boxty recipe seemed to be in his head. We started with 1kg potatoes, 1/3 of a cup of flour and 1/3 of a cup of milk. We ended up probably using 1 full cup of flour in the end because the mixture was a bit runny. I was somewhat frustrated with the lack of recipe (I’ve mentioned before that I follow them to the book), until my mom explained that boxty was a “feelings recipe” and that my dad’s mum never worked off a recipe, but she just knew how to make it. As a psychologist I can work with feelings, and I accepted after this. And the boxty was DELICIOUS! I don’t know if perhaps Tom and I weren’t in the right frame of mind the first time we ate it, but it is absolutely to die for. Full of calories and everything bad, but to die for! The Guiness pie was out of this world. We used puff pastry for the top, and you can see from the pictures that we made a little shamrock (ter be sure!). It really was so delicious. The soda bread was also amazing. I feel I may have encouraged Kirst to add too much flour initially but it tasted delicious – especially hot, with butter! I even added Bovril to mine (maybe not the done thing, but eh!)
Tom and I had a little glass of Jameson each. I’m not a whiskey fan, and actually he finished my glass for me, but it was nice to get into the spirit of it a little bit. Wawa also made an Irish coffee which I had a little taste of – also pretty good.
The cooking was such fun – I loved being together as a family. We sang and listened to Irish tunes, Tom danced (am still trying to find how to upload the video) and we just had such a special time. My mom recalled arriving in Ireland for the first time in the 80s and just crying. She said she felt like she was going home – even though she had never visited before. I didn’t feel the same way the first time I went, although I did love it. But my second visit in October 2015, where I spent 2 weeks, were 2 of the best weeks of my life to date. At the end of my travels I spent 2 nights in Belfast, and again I felt that feeling of coming home, and that absolute heart break at having to leave. While listening to some of the songs I had heard in the shops while I was visiting I was taken back to my amazing visit and the incredible time spent, and people I met. There’s something about Ireland – whether it’s related to my heritage or not, that goes beyond just the food and the music. There is a real soul in that place that anybody who has visited would struggle to deny!