Everybody’s Irish on St Patrick’s Day, including me.
And while I lay claim to mostly an Italian heritage, I am 1/4 Irish on my mother’s side. My grandmother’s name was Annie Gildea — faith and begorrah — and isn’t that an Irish moniker. The Gildea name (pronounced Gilday) means “son of the servant of God” and I have to admit, I kind of like the sound of that.
Interestingly, John Lennon had Gildeas in his family tree. Born in Omagh, Tyrone, Ireland in 1849 to Charles Gildea, Eliza Jane Gildea married William Henry Stanley in 1868 and was Lennon’s great-grandmother. Although I have never been able to connect the dots, I’ve convinced myself our Gildea branch has roots in the Lennon tree. Or maybe not, but a girl can dream, can’t she?
My maternal great-grandmother was a Maher, like the television personality Bill Maher. Again, I have not been able to definitively identify Bill as a family member, but it’s not for lack of trying. And while Bill Maher has never invited me to a family dinner, I have to point out that his nose exactly resembles my great-grandmother’s nose. Coincidence? I think not, Mr Maher.
According to legend, the Mahers — or O Meaghers — are direct descendants of the King of Munster, a fact that has not been lost on my granddaughter Paige. We are not quite sure who the King of Munster was, where he lived or what exactly made him king, but Paige has kindly asked us all to call her “Princess of Munster.”
St Patrick lived 1,500 years ago and made his mark on Ireland when he explained the Christian holy trinity with a three-leaf clover. Since then, the anniversary of his death has become a celebration of Irish heritage. And although most advertisers push the luck-of-the-Irish four-leaf clover on us for this holiday, it is the three-leaf clover that truly represents our beloved St Patrick.
I celebrate St Paddy’s Day, not just because I’m Irish, but because I really and truly love a good party. And who doesn’t love a girl who loves a good party? Take note, cousins Julian and Sean Lennon, as well as dear cousin Bill Maher — I’m an absolute blast at family reunions!
corned beef & cabbage
The Irish will tell you this isn’t a traditional dish. More than likely, it became popular with 19th-century immigrants who found plenty of beef in North America. In this recipe, corned beef is simmered for several hours with a medley of vegetables. Because their flavour is cooked out during the long simmer, the vegetables are eventually discarded. The actual vegetables brought to table are simmered in a separate pot for a much shorter period of time. When purchasing corned beef, choose the flat cut over the point cut for best flavour. Use the seasoning packet if desired.
1 corned beef brisket, about 4 pounds, with seasoning packet
1 carrot, peeled and chopped
1 onion, peeled and chopped
3 cloves garlic, peeled
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp dried parsley
1 bay leaf
5 black peppercorns
Seasoning packet (optional)
1 small head cabbage, quartered
7 red potatoes, scrubbed
3 carrots, peeled and chopped
Salt to taste
Butter, for garnish
1/4 cup prepared horseradish
1 cup sour cream
In a large Dutch oven, place brisket, carrot, onion, garlic, thyme, parsley, bay leaf, peppercorns and corned beef seasoning packet. Cover with water. Bring to a boil, cover and simmer on low 3 hours or until tender. Remove corned beef from pot and let stand 15 minutes. Discard vegetables and water.
Meanwhile, in a smaller pot, cover cabbage, potatoes and carrots with water. Bring to a boil, add salt; cover and simmer about 30 minute or until tender. Drain, dot with butter and serve with corned beef.
Make Horsey Sauce: In small bowl, mix horseradish and sour cream. Serve with corned beef and vegetables.
Match: Serve with a crisp white such as Riesling or Irish Stout.
Not an Irish import at all, but an invention of San Francisco’s Buena Vista Café on Fisherman’s Wharf. Worthy of a visit to San Francisco, just to taste the real deal.
1 1/2 oz Irish whiskey
6 oz strong black coffee
1 tsp sugar or 1 sugar cube
Sweetened whipped cream
In an Irish glass coffee mug, mix whiskey, coffee and sugar cube. Top with whipped cream.
I enjoyed Irish Stew at the home of my friend Aideen O’Brien who moved to Toronto from Ireland many years ago. This recipe is about as real as it gets. When adding flour to thicken the stew, be sure to whisk it into the water until it’s completely smooth. Lumpy gravy is a result of a lumpy flour-water mixture. Keep it smooth.
1/3 cup plus 1 tbsp all-purpose flour, divided
2 lb lamb stew meat, cut into 1-inch cubes
3 tbsp canola oil, divided
2 medium onions, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
4 cups beef broth
4 large red potatoes, peeled and cubed
4 medium carrots, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 cup frozen peas
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
Place 1/3 cup flour in a large plastic bag. Add lamb, a few pieces at a time; shake to coat.
In a Dutch oven, brown lamb in batches in 2 tbsp oil. Remove and set aside. In the same pan, sauté onions in remaining oil until tender. Add garlic; cook 1 minute longer.
Add broth, stirring to loosen browned bits from pan. Return lamb to the pan. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 1 hour or until meat is tender.
Add potatoes and carrots; cover and cook for about 45 minutes or until veggies are tender. Stir in peas, Worcestershire sauce, thyme, salt and pepper.
Cook 10 minutes longer or until peas are cooked through. Combine remaining flour with water until smooth; stir into stew. Bring to a boil and cook until bubbly.
Match: A Sauvignon Blanc is a nice accompaniment.