Saturday, March 17, 2012

Feasts and Festivals: St. Patrick's Day

Corned Beef and Cabbage, Champ and Soda Bread (and scotch and soda*)

Unlike other Feasts and Festivals, where I usually prepare everything up to a week in advance so I can blog about it (sorry for spoiling the magic), Paul and I had friends over today to share in our St. Patrick's Day celebration, so we actually had our feast on the correct day. Doesn't happen often! We had such a great time--I'm looking forward to next year.

I did as much as I possibly could in advance, since there are always things that come up at the last minute. The potatoes (five pounds!) for Champ were boiled and mashed yesterday afternoon so that was finished along with the Gingerbread Bundt Cake I made Thursday. I used semisweet instead of dark chocolate (because that's what I had) and I used sifted sprouted whole-wheat flour, raw sugar and pasture butter because why not try to get some nutrition into a cake, right? You wouldn't know it to taste it, though.

Tea and cake

I "corned" the beef myself, but I couldn't find any saltpetre, so it's not really corned at all. I just spread a brisket with an obscene amount of salt and then topped that with brown sugar and left it in the fridge for several days. Boiling the beef and cabbage had to be left until this morning (although it's very little work) and I still had to make Soda Bread and finish up the Champ, but all-in-all, it was low stress.

However, I did have a disaster with the cake and part of it stuck to the damned Bundt tin. The tin was non-stick plus I buttered it and floured it. I guess it was just meant to be. The cake still tastes good, though. I'll definitely bake it again--in a different pan.

"Corned" Beef and Cabbage

5 lb brisket
brown sugar

4 carrots, peeled
2 onions, peeled
1 teaspoon English mustard powder
a couple sprigs thyme
a couple sprigs parsley
1/2 dozen cloves and handful of peppercorns
2 cabbages, outer leaves removed, quartered

Several days in advance, coat the brisket with 1/4" of salt then top that with a layer of brown sugar. Leave in a covered container in the refrigerator.

Three hours before cooking, soak the brisket in a pot of cold water. This is so you'll be able to use the beef cooking liquid for soups.

Take the brisket out of the soaking water (discard the water) and place in a large dutch oven or stock pot with the remaining ingredients except for the cabbage. Cover with cold water and bring to a boil, skimming off any scum. Turn down heat and simmer gently, covered, for 30 minutes per pound (2 1/2 hours in this case), adding the quartered cabbages for the last hour.

Place the beef and cabbage on a serving platter. Strain the cooking liquid into containers and refrigerate (or freeze) for later use.

serves 10

Adapted from "Corned Beef and Cabbage" in Theodora FitzGibbon, A Taste of Ireland (New York: Barnes and Noble Books, 1996), 101 and "Corned Beef and Cabbage" in Darina Allen, The Festive Food of Ireland (Schull: Roberts Rinehart, 1992), 13.


*I know, I know--totally not Irish. I admit it. However, Paul and I had to drive over to Ace Hardware (time to replace our air filters) and the bar across the street had a bagpiper. He was playing "Scotland the Brave." Totally Irish, right? Then, he followed it up with the Star Wars theme, so I guess it wasn't supposed to be an Irish music performance after all...


  1. Happy St. Pat's, Lauren!

    For me, Corned Beef and Cabbage is great comfort food. I've always wondered how beef is 'corned,' didn't realize until your post that it can be done with a salt-and-sugar curing.

    1. Evidently saltpetre can be purchased online, but I didn't have enough time. I still got good flavor out of the salt and sugar, though. Seemed to work just fine!

  2. I can eat corned beef & cabbage any time, but for St. Patrick's day, it is special.

  3. I've been singing "Corned Beef and Cabbage" to the tune of "Boiled Beef and Cabbage" all week! This post makes me really, really want to have some. I sort of forgot that it was St Patrick's Day yesterday, although I did see a lot of drunk people on the tube on the Friday, I think they had decided to start celebrating early...

    I share your pain regarding the Bundt pan - that ALWAYS happens to me. I've more or less given up with mine...

    1. I've pretty much given up on any pan that can't be lined with parchment paper!

  4. Mmmm....looks delicious! Andy and I went to a local favorite restaurant last night and ordered their Irish specials-corned beef and cabbage and fish & chips. Both were really good. I love corned beef, especially the leftovers in hash!

    He also made us the bacon and leek pasta from your St. David's Day post on Friday--*so* good! Thanks for sharing the recipe.

    1. I'm so glad you liked the pasta! I love it when something quick and easy is tasty, too. Of course, it's pretty hard to go wrong with bacon.

  5. I will have to try your corned beef recipe. I've corned my beef before, but it took about a week to do so.

    ♥ laura
    the blog of worldly delights

  6. The gingerbread bundy cake looks delicious! xx

  7. Mmmm, this sounds yummy and oh so Irish! Even when cakes get their looks ruined, they still taste just as good!

  8. Lauren, this all sounds delicious and so Irish! I actually got inspired and made a Chocolate Guinesss Cake from Nigella Lawson. It was really good.
    I "tagged" you on my recent blog post. I was "tagged" and you can see my answers on my current blogpost. I actually had a lot of fun answering the questions. Have a great week!
    xx Sunday

  9. Mmm, I love every bite of this post, Lauren! Sounds like a lovely St Patrick's Day! I'm going to try your salt and sugar brine the next time I make brisket. Sorry to hear about your Bundt pan experience - I've had a lot of those. Seems like it's 50/50 no matter how well you butter the pan.

  10. Your meal looks yummy! Don't know what it is about cake sticking to pans, but maybe it's hereditary and not the pan (I seem to have that trouble, too)!


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