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A pot of gold from Irish pastures

Posted: March 16, 2011 1:55 a.m.
Updated: March 16, 2011 1:55 a.m.

Dubliner shepherd’s pie

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Yes, there’s a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. It’s found in each blade of grass growing in Ireland’s lush pastures. Small herds of cows graze freely, and the milk, rich in beta-carotene from the grass, produces butter and cheeses of an exceptionally golden hue.

Thousands of years before the Irish discovered potatoes, dairy cows, milk and butter were being woven into the fabric of Irish society, according to the Cork Butter Museum in Cork City, Ireland. The Cork Butter Exchange, a market created by the merchants of Cork City in 1769, was in its time, the largest butter market in the world, exporting as far away as Europe and America.

Today, dairy products continue to play an important role in Irish cooking. Coopera­tives of farmers, creameries and cheesemakers provide delicious Irish butter and cheeses throughout the U.S. under the Kerrygold label.

Here are some iconic recipes from some stars of Irish cooking, using Kerrygold cheeses and butter. To learn more about Kerrygold, and for where-to-buy information, visit www.kerrygold.com/usa.

Roasted root vegetable soup
Serves 4 to 6

“You can substitute pumpkin, turnip or celeriac for the swede (rutabaga), or just use a mixture. This is a very flexible recipe.”
— Neven Maguire, chef/owner of the renowned MacNean House and Restaurant in Blacklion, County Cavan, Ireland;
    1     small rutabaga cut
         into cubes
    2     carrots, cut into cubes
    1     parsnip, cut into
        cubes
    3     tablespoons olive oil
    4     tablespoons (1/4 cup)
        Kerrygold Irish
        Butter
    1     onion, finely chopped
    2     celery stalks, finely
        chopped
    1     garlic clove, crushed
    1     teaspoon chopped
        fresh thyme
    1     quart (4 cups)
        vegetable stock
    1/2     cup single cream (or
        substitute half
        and half)
        Salt and freshly ground pepper

Preheat oven to 400°F. Place swede, carrots and parsnip on baking sheet and drizzle with
2 table­spoons olive oil.
Season generously and roast for 25 to 30 minutes until golden brown and tender, shaking baking sheet occasionally to ensure even cooking.
Meanwhile, heat remaining tablespoon olive oil and butter in large heavy-based pot, and add onion, celery, garlic and thyme.
Cook for 4 to 5 minutes until softened but not browned, stirring occasionally.
Add roasted root vegetables to pan and then pour in stock. Bring gently to boil, then reduce heat, cover and simmer for 25 to 30 minutes until completely tender, stirring occasionally.
Purée with a hand blender until completely smooth.
To serve, stir cream into soup. Gently heat through and season to taste, then ladle into warmed bowls.
Note: You don’t have to add the cream if you’re watching the calories, but you might need a little extra stock to thin the soup.

Cheese toasties
Serves 4 to 6

    4     tablespoons (1/4 cup)
        Kerrygold Irish
        Butter
    8     slices firm, country-
        style white bread
    1     package (7 ounces)
        Kerrygold Dubliner
        Cheese, grated
    1     tablespoon snipped
        fresh chives
        Salt and freshly
        ground black
        pepper

Butter bread and arrange cheese over half
of the slices, buttered side down. Sprinkle with chives and cover with remaining slices, buttered side up.
Preheat a griddle or large non-stick frying pan and cook sand­wiches two at a time 2 minutes each side until golden brown and cheese has melted.
Keep hot. To serve, cut the cheese toasts into fingers.
Brown soda bread
Makes 2 loaves

“This is an all-purpose and relatively fool­proof recipe based on several I col­lected while researching ‘The Country Cooking of Ireland.’”
— author Colman Andrews, whose Irish cookbook won the 2010 James Beard Foundation award for Best Interna­tional Cookbook and Cookbook of the Year
    3 1/2     cups stone-ground
        whole wheat flour,
        preferably Irish or
        Irish-style
    1 1/2     cups unbleached
        white flour,
        preferably Irish,
        or pastry flour, plus
        more for dusting
    3/4     teaspoon baking soda
    1     teaspoon salt
    1    teaspoon softened
        Kerrygold Irish
        Butter, plus more for
        greasing
    1 3/4     to 2 cups room-                temperature
        buttermilk
Preheat oven to 375°F. Mix wheat flour, white flour, baking soda and salt together in a medium bowl.
Work butter into mixture with your fingers.

Form a well in the middle of flour mixture and pour buttermilk into the well.

Form your hand into a rigid claw and stir dough slowly but steadily in a spiral motion, starting in the middle and work­ing outwards.

Dough should be soft but not too wet or sticky.

(Start with 1 3/4 cups butter­milk, gradually adding, if necessary, to achieve the right consistency.)

Turn dough out onto a floured board.

Flour your hands lightly, then shape dough into a flat rectangle about two inches high. Cut dough in half length­wise with a wet knife, then gently push each half into a lightly greased glass or foil loaf pan.

Bake for 50 to 60 minutes, or until the tops of the loaves are nicely browned.
Serve this bread with plenty of Kerrygold Irish Butter.

Dubliner shepherd’s pie
Makes 4 to 6 servings
“Our family loves a hearty shepherd’s pie after a long day working on the farm. Because our cows produce milk to make Kerrygold Dubliner Cheese, we like to add some shredded Dubliner to the potato crust.”  — Donal Murphy, Kerrygold dairy farmer, Bandon, County Cork, Ireland

Potato Topping:
    1 1/4     pounds russet
        potatoes, peeled and
        cubed
    2     tablespoons
        Kerrygold Irish
        Butter
    1/3     cup milk
    1     cup shredded
        Kerrygold
        Dubliner Cheese
    1/2     teaspoon salt

Filling:
    1     pound lean ground
        beef
    2     tablespoons
        Kerrygold Irish
        Butter
    1     medium onion,
        chopped
    4     small carrots, peeled
        and sliced 1/4-inch
        thick
    2     tablespoons flour
    3/4     cup Guinness Stout
    3/4     cup beef stock
    1     teaspoon dried thyme
    1/2     teaspoon salt
    1/2     cup frozen peas,                 thawed

Preheat oven to 375°F and lightly butter an 11-inch-x-7-inch baking dish. Cook pota­toes in boiling water for 15 minutes or until very tender; drain well. Mash with butter and milk until smooth, then stir in cheese and salt and set aside.

Crumble beef into a medium skillet and cook until no longer pink; remove from skillet and set aside.

In same skillet, melt butter. Add onion and carrots; cook for 10 minutes over medium heat to soften, stirring occa­sionally. Stir in flour and cook for 1 minute more.

Add Guinness, stock, thyme and salt; cook and stir until mixture is slightly thickened then stir in peas and cooked beef. Spoon into prepared baking dish then spread potato mix­ture over the top.

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until top is lightly browned.

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