Beyond corned beef

IF ever you are in Ireland for St. Patrick's Day, chances are you won't be eating corned beef and cabbage. That's an American habit, born of a desire to celebrate with an Irish dish that is familiar and unthreatening. Corned beef is truly Irish, but you're more likely to have it for Sunday supper than a holiday meal. (What is corned beef, anyway? See "Key Ingredient")

Ireland has a rich culinary heritage, with much variety to draw upon. On this page we present a day's worth of Irish dishes to get you from breakfast through a late-night dessert on St. Patrick's Day, next Wednesday. Helping sort through the possibilities was Jo McGarry, host of KCCN's noontime radio show, "Table Talk," and a frequent visitor to her father's native Ireland.


1 - Breaking the fast

The traditional Irish breakfast -- also called a fry-up, breakfast fry, Irish fry (or grill) or Sunday-morning fry -- is an awe-inspiring thing. It calls for bacon, sausage, blood sausage, fried bread and tomato halves, topped with at least one egg. Everything's fried in bacon fat. To fancy it up, add fried mushrooms, calves' liver and/or lamb's kidneys. OK, so locally you probably can't get real Irish sausage, or blood sausage, for that matter, but bangers will do.

2 - A cuppa tea

"Irish food is hearty, stick-to-your-ribs cooking -- their tea is similar," says Byron Goo, owner of the Tea Chest. "Irish Tea is eye-popping strong, malty and dark to go with milk. Irish Breakfast Tea is traditionally more pungent than its civilized English Breakfast cousin."

For proper brewing, you need loose leaves (no tea bags), steeped up to five minutes in boiling water. Rinse the pot out first with boiling water. Add a scone and you're set for a mid-morning or afternoon tea break.

The Tea Chest offers an organic Irish Breakfast Blend (3 ounces for $8.50) that includes dried fruits and flower petals. Call 591-9400 or visit

3 - Fish cakes for lunch

Along with hearty stews and braised dishes, seafood is big in Ireland. Fruits of the rivers and seas -- lobsters, oysters, prawns, many types of fish -- all make their way into fried, poached and boiled dishes.

These fish cakes would be made with whiting, haddock or cod, but you could substitute any fresh white fish -- mahimahi or snapper, for example. Salmon is another Irish favorite. It would pump up the flavor of these fish cakes, or serve it simply poached for another traditional light Irish meal.

4 - Stewed in Guinness

Arthur Guinness began brewing Ireland's famous stout (called porter at the time) in Dublin in 1759, starting his business with a $150 inheritance from his godfather.

Guinness is frequently used in stews, helping to tenderize the meat while adding a distinctive malt flavor. You'll also find this hearty, bitter dark beer in recipes for soups, marinades, mustards, all kinds of meat dishes, even oyster stew, cakes and ice cream. The Guinness Web site,, suggests stout-infused barbecue sauce and a dip for St. Patrick's Day.

5 - Have your cake and drink it, too

Dark, fruity and boozy, an Irish whiskey cake sends you to bed warm and happy. Jameson Irish Whiskey is the additive of choice; for best effect, serve a shot on the side. Irish cookbooks include many recipes for cakes baked with whiskey or dark beer, often with dried fruit, nuts and lemon peel added so that the result is a sort of drunken fruitcake. This simple version is a bundt that will remind Americans of a chocolate rum cake.

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