St. Patty’s Day

March 17, 2016

I grew up with a mother who was seriously proud to be Italian. Seriously proud. She loved the cliché that there were two types of people in the world: Italians and people who wished they were Italian.

But on one day each year, she celebrated my Irish father. St. Patrick’s Day was his day (even though she sent us kids to school with “Kiss Me, I’m Italian” buttons on our coats). We listened to Irish crooners sing “Danny Boy” until we cried. My dad told the story of St Patrick driving the snakes from Ireland with typical Irish flair. It was quite the thing.

The best part of the day was the food. My mother could cook. Her take on the classic boiled dinner was nothing like what you might imagine-boring, bland and well…boiled. Her St. Patrick’s Day feasts were legendary in our family, with both sides of the family (Irish and Italian) sighing with contentment while they ate.

To this day, I wear my Claddagh ring proudly proclaiming my love for my Sicilian husband! I love to honor my Irish heritage on this day of the year by preparing a feast for friends and family celebrating the beauty of the Irish culture. Of course, I skip the corned beef and cabbage, but I whip up a soda bread to serve with my version of Beef and Guinness Stew creating our own traditions for this great day. I hope you enjoy these recipes as much as we do!


Vegan Irish Soda Bread

This is the easiest bread you will ever make. With a history steeped in peasant cooking, Irish soda bread comes to us from a time when “bread soda” meant that even people without ovens could make their own bread as the soda would help it to rise. Made from whole grain flour, buttermilk, bread (baking) soda and salt, it was cooked on the stove top in a “bastible” a large, covered cast iron pot. It has become more refined now and we bake them in ovens, adding other ingredients to…as my Irish grandfather would say…“Fancy it up.”

Makes 1 loaf, about 10 servings

1½ cups unsweetened oat milk (you can use almond or soy if you can’t find oat)
2 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 cups sprouted whole wheat flour or whole wheat pastry flour
2 cups whole wheat flour
½ cup coconut sugar
3 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon sea salt
4 tablespoons vegan butter substitute
1 cup organic raisins, golden raisins (you may also use currants)

Preheat oven to 350°. Line a baking sheet with parchment and lightly oil the parchment.

Make your “buttermilk.” In a small bowl, whisk soy milk and lemon juice. Set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together flours, coconut sugar, soda and salt until well combined. Using a pastry blender or a fork, cut vegan butter into dry mixture, continuing until it looks like peas are mixed through the flour.

Create a well in the center of the flour mixture and pour in milk mixture. Mix in raisins and mix with a spoon until the dough comes together. It will be sticky.

Gently turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead just until the dough comes together, no more than 9-10 turns of the dough. If you overwork it, you’ll end up with tough doughy bread! Transfer to the prepared baking sheet and shape into a round loaf about 1-2 inches in height.

Using a sharp knife, cut an “X” into the top (about ½-inch deep) so the loaf opens as it bakes. Bake on the middle rack until the bread has risen slightly and browned, about 40-45 minutes. You will know it’s done when it feels hollow when you tap it.

Cook’s Tip: Some people also add caraway seeds to their loaves but we never did in our house.


“Beef” and Guinness Stew

This Irish tradition is warming and hearty. My version is just as delicious but without any of the, well…beef. But, oh…the Guinness!

Makes about 6 servings

1 pound seitan, cut into thin strips
2 tablespoons organic soy sauce
2 tablespoons avocado oil
1 tablespoons vegan Worcester sauce
3 tablespoons vegan butter substitute
1 yellow onion, diced
3-4 stalks celery, diced
2 medium carrots, diced
2 cups diced green cabbage
6-8 fingerling potatoes, cut into 1 inch pieces
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 (12-ounce) bottle Guinness Stout
1 cup vegetable broth or water
2 tablespoons arrowroot powder
1 tablespoon coarsely chopped fresh thyme
Sea salt
2-3 leaves fresh kale, finely shredded

Place oil and soy sauce in a soup pot and sauté seitan over medium heat until lightly browned. Stir in Worcester sauce and cook, stirring until coated. Remove from pot and set aside.

In the same pot, place onions, celery, carrots, cabbage, potatoes and garlic along with the butter substitute and sauté for 3-5 minutes, until onions are translucent. Reduce heat and slowly add Guinness and broth, stirring to combine. Add arrowroot, thyme and sea salt to taste. Stir for 1 minute.

Stir in cooked seitan and allow stew to simmer, uncovered or loosely covered until Guinness reduces and stew thickens, about 40-50 minutes. Season a bit more if needed and serve garnished with shredded kale.

Cook’s Tip: You can replace the seitan with tempeh if you are looking to create a gluten-free version of this dish. You may also eliminate the broth and cook the stew in all Guinness but you will need 2 bottles.