SAINT PATRICK'S DAY is the day of celebration in the name of a Christian missionary, keeping up with family traditions of our own, and eating green food--if you're into that. Although many folks enjoy the brightly colored foods and drinks, the heart and soul of the holiday lies in the celebration of Saint Patrick's life.
Patrick of Ireland spent six years of his youth as a prisoner of Irish pirates. After managing to escape sometime in his early 20s, he returned to his family. He studied to become a bishop and devoted his life to serving God, as Patrick says it was God who saw him through the trying times of captivity. He traveled throughout Ireland building churches and converting fellow countrymen to Christianity. He used the now widely recognized shamrock to explain the Christian doctrine of the holy trinity, and it became Saint Patrick's symbol. Patrick is believed to have died on March 17, 461 A.D., and this day was thereafter observed as a day to celebrate the life of Saint Patrick.
Many folks celebrate Saint Patrick's feast day by gathering around the table to enjoy some delicious Irish cuisine while paying homage to the patron saint of Ireland. A person can't go wrong with the standard corned beef and cabbage, which is a breeze to make--a brined beef brisket, cabbage, carrots, potatoes and spices go into a stockpot or slow cooker, and a couple hours later, you have a meal fit for a king, or Saint Patrick himself.
If you're looking to try some deliciously different eats this March 17, here are several simple recipes that will do the feast day for Saint Patrick justice.
LAMB STEW For added flavor, substitute chicken, veal or beef stock for the water. Yields 6 servings. 1 lamb or beef shoulder (about 3 pounds) 4 cups boiling water 1 cup sliced onions 1 cup sliced turnips 1 cup sliced carrots 4 medium potatoes, quartered 1 teaspoon salt 1/4 teaspoon pepper 1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary, optional 3 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour 1/4 cup cold water Chopped fresh parsley, optional  Wipe lamb with clean, damp cloth. Cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces, and place in large stockpot. Add boiling water and onions. Cover and simmer for 1 hour.  Add turnips, carrots and potatoes. Season with salt and pepper, and add rosemary, if desired. Cover and continue simmering for another 40 minutes, or until meat and vegetables are tender.  Transfer meat and vegetables to serving platter, and keep warm.  To make gravy, combine flour and cold water in small bowl, and whisk until smooth. Stir into juices in stockpot, and cook for 3 to 5 minutes, or until gravy reaches desired consistency.  Ladle gravy over meat and vegetables before serving. Garnish with sprinkling of chopped fresh parsley, if desired. IRISH SODA BREAD Yields 2 loaves. 4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour 1/2 teaspoon salt 2 teaspoons caraway seeds 1 teaspoon baking soda 1/4 cup sugar 1/4 cup butter, cold 1 cup raisins 1 egg, beaten 1 3/4 cups buttermilk 2 tablespoons butter, melted  Preheat oven to 400 F. Lightly grease two 8-inch pie or cake pans; set aside.  In large mixing bowl, combine flour, salt, caraway seeds, baking soda and sugar. Using pastry blender, cut in cold butter. Stir in raisins.  Make well in center of dry ingredients. Add egg and buttermilk, and stir until dough forms.  Turn dough out onto lightly floured board, and knead for 3 to 5 minutes, or until smooth. Divide dough half, and pat each half into circle. Place dough in prepared pans. Using knife, cut crisscross in top of each loaf.  Bake for about 30 minutes, or until loaves sound hollow when tapped.  Remove from pans to cooling rack, and brush tops with melted butter. Cover with towel until cool. Cut in wedges, and serve with additional butter and jam. IRISH POTATO SALAD Yields 6 servings. 1 large onion, minced 2 1/2 to 3 pounds potatoes, boiled and sliced 1 teaspoon salt 1/8 teaspoon black pepper 1/4 pound bacon 1 tablespoon unbleached all-purpose flour 1/2 cup hot water 1/2 cup vinegar 1/4 cup sugar  In large mixing bowl, combine onion and potatoes; season with salt and pepper. Set aside.  Cut bacon into 1/4-inch pieces. Fry in skillet over medium heat until just crisp. Gently stir in potato mixture, and cook until potatoes are lightly browned. Remove skillet from heat, and set aside.  In small saucepan, bring flour, water, vinegar and sugar to simmer. Remove from heat, and immediately pour over potato mixture. Stir gently to combine. Serve warm. COLCANNON Yields 6 servings. 2 tablespoons butter 1 cup chopped, cooked cabbage or 2 cups coleslaw blend 1/2 cup chopped onion 1/2 cup shredded Cheddar cheese 2 cups cooked, cubed corned beef or ham 3 cups prepared mashed potatoes  In large skillet, melt butter over medium heat. Add cabbage and onion, and cook until onion is tender. Stir in cheese, corned beef and potatoes. Spread mixture evenly in skillet.  Cook over medium-low heat until golden brown on bottom. Sprinkle with additional cheese, if desired. POTATO CANDY Yields about 2 dozen. 1 small potato Dash of salt 1 pound confectioners' sugar, divided 1 jar (12 ounces) peanut butter 1 cup chopped pecans  In small stockpot, boil potato with skin on until fork-tender. Remove from pot, and let cool.  Peel and mash potato in medium mixing bowl. Stir in salt. Add confectioners' sugar, a little at a time, stirring after each addition, until dough forms.  Lightly dust work surface with a little sugar. Roll out dough like pie crust to Vi-inch thick.  Spread peanut butter evenly over dough, and sprinkle with pecans. Roll up dough, jellyroll style, and place on cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.  Chill in freezer for 15 minutes, or until firm.  Remove from freezer, and slice to serve. Store in airtight container in refrigerator.
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