No, really, I am. Papa’s grandpap was Irish, so I don’t know what that makes me. (I’m just a baby—I can’t do that kind of math.) So Mama decided to treat us to some Irish fare for dinner. She had all the burners going, plus the oven, so there was a lot to take in.
First, she put a hunk of corned beef in a pot of water and set that to simmer with assorted spices. She would later add chopped cabbage and carrots.
Meanwhile, she started on the shepherd’s pie. First, she sautéed carrots, onion, and celery with salt, pepper, and Worcestershire sauce until the veggies began to soften. Then she added her faux meat, which just needed to be heated through. Sometimes Mama makes a beef shepherd’s pie for Papa, or she does it half-and-half, but since he had the corned beef tonight, she went for a full veggie pie. When the meat and veggies were all combined and hot, she spread them in the bottom of a pie plate. She poured some frozen corn on top of that. She didn’t have any peas—even though we planted some today!—otherwise, she would have added those, too. Meanwhile, she peeled and chopped a couple russet potatoes and boiled them in salted water until they softened. She told me that potatoes can be boiled with or without their skins, but chopping them definitely makes them cook faster. On the back burner, she heated a small saucepan of butter and buttermilk, which she happened to have because she was making soda bread. After the potatoes were cooked, she drained them, returned them to the pot, and mashed them with the hot milk and butter, which she told me keeps the potatoes from being lumpy. She spread the potatoes over the corn and popped the pie into the oven.
But not before she made Irish soda bread. She wanted a quick recipe, and boy did she find it. I’ve made bread with Mama before, and this recipe seemed more like scones to me. That’s how easy it was. We mixed a few ingredients, shaped it into a loaf, and into the oven it went. We couldn’t find dried currants, though, so we used raisins. I love raisins. Then Mama made honey butter to go with it. Then we just had to wait for it all to cook. (I helped Papa take down the storm windows. He let me use a screwdriver!)
Sometimes I have a funny reaction to potatoes, and sometimes to corn, and sometimes even to carrots. Not funny-ha-ha, but rather funny-I-don’t-like-it. Not tonight, though. I thought the shepherd’s pie was really tasty. I even tried to feed myself with my own fork, but I became impatient with that. I didn’t have the corned beef, but Mama says I can have that for lunch tomorrow, even though she knows I don’t do leftovers. Papa declared it “delicious.” And the soda bread was soft on the inside and crunchy on the outside; it was yummy with the honey butter.
I got down from my high chair, danced a jig to Flogging Molly, and went to bed with a full belly. Happy St. Patrick’s Day!
Canola oil (or other, favorite cooking oil)
2 carrots, peeled and diced small
2 stalks organic celery, diced small
½ onion, diced small
1–2 dashes Worcestershire sauce
Salt and pepper
1 package soy crumbles or other meat replacement (or 1 pound grass-fed ground beef)
½ package (8–12 oz.) frozen corn
½ package (8–12 oz.) frozen peas
2–3 large organic russet potatoes (or 4–6 red bliss potatoes), chopped large
4 Tbsp butter, melted (optional)
1/3–1/2 cup buttermilk, milk, or cream, heated (optional)
Preheat oven to 350°F (375° is okay, if you’re doing the soda bread at the same time).
Coat the bottom of a skillet with oil, then sauté the veggies until they begin to soften and caramelize. Season with W. sauce and s&p. Add the soy crumbles and heat through. (If using ground beef, sauté this first, breaking it up into small bits, until cooked through. Remove from the pan with a slotted spoon and cook the veggies in the remaining fat. Then combine it all before proceeding.) Place in a pie plate.
Top with corn and peas. (If omitting either corn or peas, use the full package of the other.)
Meanwhile, boil the potatoes in salted water until soft. Drain, return to the pot, then add melted butter and hot milk, if using. Season with s&p, if necessary, then spread over the corn & peas.
Bake, uncovered, for 40–60 minutes, until the potatoes start to brown. (You may dot the top with butter before baking, if desired.)
Note: Mama said if you really don’t want to cook the carrots, onion, and celery, you can add a packet of onion soup mix to the soy crumbles or ground beef and omit the W. sauce and s&p. Regarding organic produce, Mama tells me something called the Environmental Working Group publishes an annual list on the worst pesticide offenders. Celery is #2, and potatoes are #9. Onions, sweet corn, and peas are #s 1, 2, and 6, respectively, on the list of foods that are okay to buy nonorganic (if you really wanted to).
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
1–2 Tbsp honey (to taste)
Sprinkle of cinnamon
Mash all the ingredients together in a bowl. Serve with warm bread.