Twists on Classic Irish Meals

St. Patrick's Day brings forth an insurmountable catalog of celebratory recipes, encompassing everything from frothy green cocktails to lime colored cookies and cake. But it often seems the Classic Irish Meals are the ones to hold up from year...

St. Patrick's Day brings forth an insurmountable catalog of celebratory recipes, encompassing everything from frothy green cocktails to lime colored cookies and cake. But it often seems the Classic Irish Meals are the ones to hold up from year to year. Perhaps it is because, due to their simplistic nature, they transcend celebration and become staples to the dinner table long after St. Patrick's Day has passed. Whatever the reason, Classic Irish Meals are a testament to the art of minimalist gastronomy. Proving one doesn't need obscure ingredients with arcane origins to prepare a fulfilling dish.

Nevertheless, it can be easy to burn out on old favorites. And while traditional Irish recipes provide a good basis for meals, it doesn't hurt to get a little experimental from time to time.

So here a few variations that can be made to old school Irish dishes that won't compromise the integrity of the original.

Irish Soda Bread
Irish Soda Bread

For Soda Bread:

  • You can brighten up the flavor of this otherwise dense bread with the addition of lemon juice. Better yet, add a little bit of sugar (to taste) in addition to the lemon juice for a sweet and sour twist.
  • Add dried fruit. Whether it be raisins, prunes, dried cherries, or cranberries. This creates a new dimension in the bread's texture and can sweeten it without the addition of sugar.
  • Sprinkle in your favorite spices. Cinnamon works well alone or paired with nutmeg, cloves, and/or ginger.
  • Sweeten your bread with honey, molasses, or agave nectar. While you don't want to add too much, a few tablespoons should suffice.

Experiment with Cut Up Dried Fruits
Experiment with Cut Up Dried Fruits

For Shepherd's Pie:

  • Try substituting the meat for legumes, such as lentils or pinto beans.
  • Use gravy in place of broth on top of the vegetables. Cream of mushroom soup is great as well. Either one will transform this dish into an exquisitely rich meal.
  • Top your Shepherd's Pie with cheese. Almost any will work, though cheddar and Parmesan are both popular choices.

Cooked Lentils
Cooked Lentils are a great replacement for meat in Shepherd's pie

For Colcannon:

  • Stir in shredded cheese. Especially those with a lower fat content, such as mozzarella or Parmesan, which will help hold the original concoction together
  • Add sour cream for a bit of tang. It is best to add this to the potatoes during or right after they are mashed, before adding the cooked cabbage.

Colcannon with Cheese
Add some shredded cheese to your Colcannon!

Tired of always making the same Irish dishes? Try out some of the tips mentioned here and be surprised! Who knows what you have in your cupboard that you could add to these dishes?

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