I am not Irish. Not even a little bit. During my childhood for reasons unbeknownst to me, my mom (God bless her) used to sing us some traditional Irish songs around St. Patrick's day. I have no idea where amongst her Italian/German heritage she would have learned them, but that doesn't matter right now. Anyway, until I married my wife, that was my only exposure to Irish culture. Mrs. Hackknife is part Irish on her mom's side and her family maintains a strong connection back to the Motherland, so I have learned out of necessity to cook a corned beef as part of our St. Pat's festivities (although my mother-in-law shared with me just today that HER mother never even cooked corned beef, so I'm starting to get this bamboozled feeling over here). It's a crock-pot recipe, which makes it extremely simple and pretty much idiot-proof: Corned Beef Recipe.
A few months ago, I became the proud owner of a secondhand Irish cookbook entitled "Ireland - Grand Places, Glorious Food" that mostly contained old-school, French-inspired dishes such as Sauteed Lamb Kidneys with Bacon and Mange-Trout (read: too complex for me to attempt at this point in my foodie education). One of them, however, is for a simple soda bread (Granny O'Sullivan's Brown Bread) that is actually amazingly easy and not particularly bad:
1 1/2 cups coarse brown (I use whole wheat) flour
1/2 cup white (I use bread) flour
2 heaping tablespoons oatmeal
2 heaping tablespoons bran flakes (or raisin bran if you want raisins in it)
2 tablespoons butter, softened
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1 heaping teaspoon baking soda
1 pint buttermilk
Preheat oven to 400F. Mix all dry ingredients together and blend in butter (I use a pastry cutter for this). Make a hollow in the center and pour in buttermilk. Mix until dough is fairly moist. Pour into a greased/floured round baking pan and bake for 45 minutes.
I tried this when I first got the book and rolled it out again to go with our corned beef. For dessert, I found a tasty-looking recipe for a Murphy's and Bailey's no-bake cheesecake that I couldn't resist trying. As this was my first-ever cheesecake, I ran into a few problems. First, I couldn't find Murphy's at my local grocery and didn't have time to run around town looking for it, so I had to settle on Guinness Extra Stout. Second, the crust part of the recipe calls for using a 9" round springform pan (I don't know what this is and certainly don't have one in the Hackknife Commissary), so I wimped out and bought a pre-made Keebler crust. Last but not least, I was unable to successfully produce a thick syrup for the mixture as specified in the recipe by cooking the beer with brown sugar in a saucepan. No matter how long I cooked it, my "syrup" basically ended up being runny beer mixed with sugar. After an hour and 15 minutes (the recipe estimated 20 minutes), I had to give up and assemble the thing since it needed 4 hours in the fridge to set before serving. Surprisingly, the end result wasn't completely inedible, although it could have used a chaser to help get it down the throat (VERY potent). Unlike most cheesecakes, which are fluffy, this one was more custard-y. It did actually get better upon aging in the fridge for a few days. Here's the recipe if you're willing to attempt it: Cheesecake Recipe.
Erin Go Brah! Please take care driving home from your seder (whoops, wrong holiday)....