St. Patrick’s Day: Corned Beef and Irish Soda Bread

St. Patrick's Day Feast

This meal displayed both the strengths and the weaknesses of our family’s approach to food. It was successful in that we planned ahead and the results were tasty, healthy, and visually appealing. Unfortunately we all were depending on inexplicable telepathy to make the preparation details clear to my sister, who who was left to execute plans. And there was the fact that I bought enough of each ingredient to feed even our family 5 times over, so she had do divide it into 3 different soup pots.  And she had 2 hours to make it all happen…

My brother said we had enough to feed our family five times over or a 19th century Irish family once. Then my sister started singing this song, with the 2nd word of the chorus hummed out, hoping my mom wouldn’t recognize the tune or context. She didn’t. We had mint chocolate chip ice cream for dessert – it’s green, right? This may be a traditional St. Patrick’s Day meal at our house, but that doesn’t mean we’re striving for authentic Irish cuisine. 🙂

St. Patrick's Day Meal

There wasn’t really much of a recipe for the bulk of the meal – it’s a matter of peeling and chopping, then placing in the pot with the meat and water to cover. Start the meat according to the package directions, then begin adding vegetables with the hardest ones – potatoes and carrots – and work up to the ones that cook quickly, so then onions and cabbage and finally green beans and corn. Then you fish them all out of the stew and eat!

Where we ran into trouble was that the vegetables had been prepared ahead of time and my sister had been told there’d be much less work for her, but then they mysteriously disappeared due to an accident with a coat rack. Nevertheless, she managed to get almost all of it in the pot on time and still crank out a beautiful loaf of soda bread that we could eat hot and steaming with the rest of the meal:

Irish Soda Bread


1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup white flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
3 Tbsp. butter
2 beaten eggs
3/4 cup buttermilk or sour milk (mix 2 Tbsp. lemon juice with milk, measure to fill, let sit)
3 Tbsp. brown sugar
1/3 cup dried fruit – raisins, cherries, currants, etc.

  1. Grease a baking sheet or wide pan – set aside. Preheat oven to 375.
  2. Sift together dry ingredients (except sugar), then put in large bowl and cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.
  3. In a smaller mixing bowl, combine 1 egg and buttermilk with the sugar. Stir in the dried fruit and mix into dry ingredients using a fork to stir lightly until it all sticks together.
  4. Turn dough out on floured surface and fold and press together 10-12 times until it is nearly smooth. Shape into a 6″ round loaf and use a sharp knife to cut a cross in the top, about 1/2″ deep. It will spread open as it cooks, so don’t cut any deeper than that.
  5. Beat the other egg until smooth and use a pastry brush – or folded paper towel, if you don;t have a brush – to spread a small amount of egg onto the loaf just to cover the surface lightly. This will make the loaf crusty and shiny.
  6. Bake at 375 for 35 minutes or until golden. Serve warm.

I like this recipe because it uses a mixture of whole wheat and white flour, which gives it a nice hearty flavor without making it too heavy or dry. The addition of dried fruit – Chrissy used the dried cherries it suggested – also helps balance the dense loaf with a little sweetness. I’ve tried other recipes that came out as hard as a rock. This one has been dependably easy, though my sister did learn that brushing on the egg can get messy if not done carefully.

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