Since my first column in August, I have felt a need to test this idea, knowing it was not part of the Irish heritage language. I consulted with a dear, Irish chef friend of mine. I looked at him straight in the eyes and said, “cooking Irish.” A pause, then a smile and finally a wide toothy grin, “I am a French chef,” he said, “who happens to be Irish American.” There you go! Well, we certainly have much to do to make cooking Irish an integral part of our lives. So let’s get started; let’s go way back, a little history will put us on the Irish path.
Historically, since the Bronze and Iron ages, 2000 BC to 500 BC, Ireland has always been an apple and root vegetable country. According to research and archaeological findings, there is evidence apple tree cultivation existed in its most rudimentary form. To this day, Bramley apples are cultivated, specifically in County Armagh, in Northern Ireland. These apples have a tarter taste than their English cousins, and over 40,000 tons are produced annually. Prior to the 8th century, any degree of cultivation of vegetables did not exist; however, archaeological evidence does indicate the vegetables such as carrots, parsnips, garlic, onions, leeks, watercress, sorrel and turnips appear to have been gathered in the wild along with wild fruit such as wild cherry, raspberry, blackberry and crabapple.
We also have proof that curds were a favorite food of the Irish, made from skimmed milk and not unlike our modern cream cheese. These curds were made into various cheeses and have been found by archeologist in the peat bogs throughout the western counties of Ireland. Interesting isn’t it? And it’s just a start! With that, let us honor our ancestors by making a wonderful apple, parsnip, Irish cheddar soup.
Apple, Parsnip, Irish Cheddar Soup
Recipe: Serves 8 Taitneamh a bhaint as! Enjoy!
1 cup medium diced onion
2 Granny Smith apples peeled and thinly sliced
2 cups thinly sliced or finely diced peeled and cored parsnips
1/3 cup (6 tablespoons) Kerrygold butter
½ cup Odlums Irish Cream flour or all purpose flour
½ cup Irish whiskey
3 cups chicken stock (home made preferable)
2 cups apple cider (hard cider works well)
2 1/2 cups half & half
2 cups finely grated Kerrygold Dublin Irish cheddar cheese. Your favorite cheddar will also work
Salt and pepper to taste
Pinch of nutmeg
A few finely diced chives
Melt 6 tablespoons Kerrygold butter in a 3 to 4 quart pot. Sweat (sauté) the parsnips in the butter for 3 to 4 minutes until very soft. The key word here is soft. Add the onions and apples. Cook until all ingredients are soft and lightly caramelized for pureeing. Add the flour to the mixture and stir until well blended. Do not allow the flour to brown. Add the chicken stock, apple cider, Irish whiskey. Bring the liquid to a very soft boil and simmer for 15 minutes. Puree the soup using a food processor or puree the soup in the pot using an immersion blender. Heat the half & half to about 80 to 90 degrees and gently add to the soup while stirring. Just before serving, stir in the grated cheddar cheese, add a pinch of nutmeg and finely diced chives.
Enjoy the soup with family and friends; we need to keep talking about Cooking Irish. I look forward to chatting and passing it on to you in December. HQ