Recipes from the Heart: St. Patrick's Day

got to thinking about St. Patrick’s Day when I turned to March on my calendar. I was thumbing through my collection of little Irish cookbooks and it occurred to me that there were so many recipes for potato dishes, or for using potatoes in conjunction with vegetables, lamb, beef, or poultry, as a secondary addition.

When potatoes were introduced to Ireland around 1590, the farmers soon discovered that the plant thrived in the cool moist soil of their land. As a result, an acre of potatoes could produce up to 12 tons of the hearty vegetable which could feed a family of six for a year, with leftovers to feed their farm animals.

Dishes like Irish Stew, Potato Apple Dumplings, Colcannon, Boxty Bread, and Potato Cakes, are only a few using potatoes. Even desserts often call for potatoes, as you will see in the Irish Chocolate Cake recipe.

Irish Stew


2 ½ pounds lamb (middle neck or shoulder cut)

2 large onions, peeled and thinly sliced

8 ounces carrots, peeled and sliced

1 ½ pounds potatoes, peeled and sliced

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 tablespoon freshly chopped parsley

1 ½ teaspoons freshly chopped thyme or mint

2 cups lamb, beef or vegetable stock

Fresh herbs or mint to garnish when served


Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Cut lamb into manageable pieces, discarding any chips of bone and excess fat. In a large ovenproof dish, arrange alternate layers of meat, onion, carrots and potato. Sprinkle with seasonings and herbs as you layer. Finish with a layer of potato arranged in overlapping slices. Bring stock to boil and add enough to the ovenproof dish to come about halfway up the layers. Cover tightly and cook in oven for 2 ½ hours or until the meat is almost tender. Remove cover and increase oven temperature to moderately hot (375 degrees). Cook a further 30 minutes or until potato has browned on top and the meat and vegetables are very tender. Garnish each portion with fresh herbs and serve.

Yields 4 servings.

Note: You can sprinkle 1 ounce pearl barley over the first layer of meat to thicken the juices a little. Prep time will be about 15 minutes. Cooking time about 3 hours. 

Traditional Irish Soda Bread


4 cups all-purpose flour

½ teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 cup buttermilk

Note: Some recipes add a little sugar (1/2-1 teaspoon) with the dry ingredients. A small amount of butter (up to 2 tablespoons) rubbed into the dry ingredients or melted and added with the buttermilk enriches the bread and helps it to keep better.


Preheat a very hot oven (425 degrees). Mix flour, salt and soda together in a bowl and stir in buttermilk. Mix to a soft dough. Turn onto floured work surface and knead quickly and lightly. Form dough into a flat, round cake, about 2 inches high and cut a deep cross in it to ensure it cooks evenly. Put on floured baking sheet and bake in hot oven for 30-40 minutes or until well risen and lightly browned. Cool on a wire rack. Slice and serve with butter.

Irish Chocolate Cake

Cake Ingredients:

6 ounces self-rising flour

½ teaspoon salt

2 ounces dark chocolate

4 ounces butter

6 ounces superfine sugar

3 ounces cooked mashed potato

2 eggs, beaten

4 tablespoons milk 

Filling Ingredients:

4 ounces dark chocolate

4 ounces heavy cream

2 ounces confectioners’ sugar

3 tablespoons Irish cream liqueur


Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease and line two 8-inch cake pans or spray with cooking spray. Sift flour and salt into a mixing bowl. Melt chocolate in a bowl placed over a saucepan of hot water. In a separate bowl. Cream butter and sugar together until fluffy, then beat in the chocolate and mashed potato. Gradually beat in the eggs, adding a little flour with each addition. Fold in the rest of the flour and stir in the milk. Divide mixture between cake pans and bake for 25-30 minutes or until top is firm but springy to the touch.

Remove from oven and after a few minutes, turn out on to a cooling rack. While the cake is cooling make the filling by melting the chocolate as before, stir in the other ingredients and mix well. Use the filling to sandwich the cake layers together and coat the top and sides of the cake.

Have a Happy St. Patrick’s Day!


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