The annual mortification of us Irish takes place on 17th March, St. Patrick’s Day. As a nation, the embarrassment is largely self-inflicted. A number of other nations humour us by shining a green light on their best known landmarks thus promoting both the quaint Irish and their own tourism economy at the same time.
But, let’s park all that. No, the mortification is related to the portrayal of the Irish as a nation of Guinness swilling drunkards. This may have been true in the past but we are a far more advanced than that nowadays. While some of us work to maintain the reputation of the loveable, porter soaked tosspot, others of us enjoy a glass of wine or even a whiskey or two without shouting at passing cars or doing less than appropriate things in doorways.
Our gastronomic endeavours also have moved on from boiling potatoes and eating raw onions. To prove it, I am going to show you Irish Seafood Chowder served with Wholemeal Brown Bread Scones. Seeing as it’s nearly St. Patrick’s Day, I might even relent from my puritanical stance and swill a bottle or two of stout. Sure, it’s St. Patrick’s Day!
Here’s the list for the chowder
- 1 kilo of salmon
- half a kilo of cod
- half a kilo of smoked haddock*
- 8 to 10 prawns
- 2 big onions
- 6 carrots
- 4 stalks of celery
- 2 bay leaves
- 4 or 5 large potatoes
- 1 litre (2 pints) of real vegetable stock
- 1 litre (2 pints) of prawn stock (I made it before and you can read it here.)
- Salt and pepper to flavour
- Creme fresh and a few sprigs of thyme for serving / decoration
*Don’t use fish that has been painted with ‘smoke flavour’. It is not the same as smoked fish. Trust me, I know.
Put the vegetable stock and prawn stock in a big pot. Chop the vegetables up nice and small. Add them to the pot holding back the onions, two carrots, one celery stalk and two potatoes. Heat it up and reduce it by about a third. This will intensify the flavours and cook the vegetables. Taste it and season as appropriate.
Next, sweat the onions. Resist the temptation to wear a green t-shirt with “Kiss me, I’m Oirish” on the front. Concentrate on the cooking. Plenty of time for frivolity later.
While the onions are sweating, skin the fish.
Chop the fish and celebrate with the first drink of day. Perhaps a nice can of Guinness to kick off St. Patrick’s Day? Sure one can can’t hurt, can it?
Add the onions to the other vegetables in the stock. Take the vegetables off the cooker and add them to your blender. In this case, they get put into the smoothie maker. It must be the drink getting to me!
O’Hara’s do a couple of different stouts. We might have the other one later. Now, where was I? Oh yes, the chowder. Blend it until smooth and put it back in the saucepan.
We might have a drink to celebrate that but we have the prawns to shell. We’ll have a quick can of Murphy’s Draught Stout, a sly one as they say. No need to say anything about it.
Let’s celebrate that we have shelled the prawns. lt’s St. Patrick’s week for goodness sake. Celebrate our heritage! Break out the Beamish, another fine Irish stout.
Back to the cooking. Add the uncooked vegetables into the saucepan and heat gently for about as long as it takes to have another couple of bottles of stout. Half an hour should do it. St. Patrick’s Day is great, don’t ya think?
While you are thinking about drinking the next couple of bottles, we may as well make the scones. (Love that expression, “Thinking about drinking”.)
Here’s the ingredient’s list
- 450 gms plain flour
- 450 gms wholemeal flour
- 100 gms wheat bran
- 50 gms butter
- 500 ml buttermilk
- A generous teaspoon of baking powder
- A tablespoon of honey
Sieve the flours and dry stuff into a big bowl.
The couple of scoops made me forget the salt. Don’t bother measuring it. About a small handful is a teaspoon I think.
Pour in the buttermilk. Add the honey and butter. Given that your are probably feeling a bit lugubrious from the stout, transfer it all to the food mixer and let that do the work.
That was a bottle of Dungarvan Black Rock stout in the background. A bit more mellow than the Guinness. If you don’t use the food mixer, you will need fortification before combining this lot. If you do, you will have time to sit on the kitchen floor and enjoy the Dungarvan’s dark mystery.
Get up and roll out the scone mixture and cut out the scone shapes like what I am doing in the next picture.
Scones ready to go in the oven. Time for a quick bottle of Knockmealdown porter.
Half an hour to 40 minutes in a 200º C oven. Time for a quick nap to steady the nerves.
At this stage of proceedings, one is probably feeling a little ‘tired and emotional’ as the excellent euphemism might have it. Time for some soakage (food). Toss the fish and prawns into the saucepan and heat through for about five minutes. Thankfully not long enough to consume too much more drink.
That’s about it. Only time to butter your scones, serve the soup and perhaps have a quick bottle of Guinness Export. Sure, you’d have to, what with St. Patrick’s Day and all….
Publisher’s note: The author fully intends spending St. Patrick’s Day quietly at home with his family. None of the implied excessive alcohol consumption is recommended as a sensible life choice for anybody over the age of 12. Enjoy St. Patrick’s Day responsibly. May you be half an hour in heaven before the devil knows you’re dead. Hopefully, that death will not be from drinking all these fine Irish stouts at one sitting.