Monday, March 21, 2011

"The Ballymaloe Cookbook" & "Baking with the St. Paul Bread Club" - Potato and Fresh Herb Soup and Irish Soda Bread

Date I made these recipes: March 20, 2011

The Ballymaloe Cookbook
by Myrtle Allen
Published by: Gill and Macmillan
ISBN: 0-7171-1339-6; © 1977, 1984, 1987
Recipe: Potato and Fresh Herb Soup – p. 17

Baking with the St. Paul Bread Club by Kim Ode
Published by: Minnesota Historical Society Press
ISBN: 10: 0-87351-567-6
Recipe: Irish Soda Bread – p. 85 (recipe submitted by Karen Vogel, a bread club member)

You can thank chef (and Food Network star) Bobby Flay for the fact that I cooked a belated ode to St. Patrick’s Day.

As per usual, I was up late at night, minding my own beeswax and Bobby came on with a show titled “Bobby’s Ireland.” Well that’s succinct!

One of the places Bobby visited was Ballymaloe which I gathered was a cooking school. But that name sounded familiar to me for reasons other than the cooking school so I went to my cookbook shelves to investigate. And sure and begorrah, people, I had a Ballymaloe cookbook just waiting for me! It’s like the heavens opened up and St. Patrick just pointed to the damned thing. Thanks, Paddy!

My version is by Myrtle Allen who may or may not be related to Darina Allen who currently runs the cooking school. Google and Wikipedia are usually so good about telling me these things but not this time around.

Anyway…nothing really hit me in this cookbook (certainly not lamb, a meat I loathe) until I went back to the beginning and found the soup recipe. Since potatoes are to Ireland what pasta is to Italians, I thought that would be a fine dish for a blustery day. The only issue I have with the recipe is that I could not find a definition for “creamy milk” (What the hell, Google?!) so I used whole milk. And all was well with the world.

And that completes the main course portion of our program.

As to bread, I am not a bread person but my dad and my brother and my husband (and really, most men I know) are. And since my dad just passed away, I reviewed the bread book several times over to see about making something that dad would have liked and I found some…but they all contained yeast. I don’t do yeast. The times I used yeast, my bread became a doorstop it was that hard.

But for all you yeast-phobic cooks out there, I am happy to report that Irish Soda Bread does NOT feature yeast and therefore passes my culinary test and what the heck—it’s even Irish. What better accompaniment could there be to (Irish) potato soup than Irish Soda Bread? The gods had spoken! (That being said, one of these days I’m going to put on my big girl undies and just make the Bittersweet Chocolate – Ginger Bread (with yeast) already! Page 138 if you are interested)

In the interest of fair disclosure, I should tell you that while I have had the pleasure to meet and greet many a cookbook author in my day, I also know personally Kim Ode, author of Baking with the St. Paul Bread Company. In fact, it’s kind of hard to miss knowing Kim seeing how she plays trombone in my community band (Calhoun-Isles Community Band – and could, if she wanted to, smack me upside the head with her trombone slide as she sits right behind me. I am pleased to announce that she has not yet done so, tempting as it may be for her.

Besides being an accomplished musician and our band’s librarian (Marian), Kim writes for the local newspaper, (Minneapolis) StarTribune. When I first started reading her byline, she had a column about odds and bits (for 10) of Minnesota life but then she switched to writing for the Taste section. And somewhere along the line she started breaking bread. I am in awe.

So when Kim’s book came out and I told her about my yeast-phobia, she threw her arm around me and said “Let me tell you about yeast.” She even told me I could call her with questions. Believe me, I thought about that but who wants to get a call from me on a Sunday afternoon saying “Help me! Help me! There’s yeast in my kitchen and I don’t know what to do?!”

And this is why I chickened out and made non-yeast bread. So sue me. But dang it all, it was pretty good. And it was huge. So huge that I cut the bread into four large chunks to ensure that the middle was cooked – that kind of huge. (Added bonus: Irish Soda Bread toast!!) My husband is in hog heaven and I’m pretty chuffed that I managed to bake a bread (yeast or no yeast) that I don’t have to use on a door and that was (magically) delicious!

And there you have it—St. Patrick’s Day (with a few extra days thrown in for luck) 2011! We now return to our March (Madness) programming, already in progress…..

Potato and Fresh Herb Soup – serves approximately 7 (not unless you are feeding leprechauns!)

4 tablespoons butter (55g/2 oz)
1 cup peeled diced onions (110g/4 oz)
1 cup peeled diced scallions (110g/4 oz)
3 cups peeled diced potatoes (425g/15 oz)
1 teaspoon salt
Freshly-ground pepper
Sprig of any 3 of the following: parsley, thyme, rosemary, lovage (1/2 leaf), bay-leaf (1/2 leaf) (This time Google pulled through: lovage is a leafy plant that, from what I gather, does not grow here in North America.)
5 cups stock (1.2 liters/2 pt)
1 cup creamy milk (see my note above: I used whole milk) (250 ml/8 fl oz)

Toss the potatoes and onions in hot butter and then sweat them on a gentle heat for 10 minutes, as in the Basic Soup recipe. (Not reprinted here). Add stock and herbs and cook until soft. Remove tough herb stalks. Puree the soup, taste and adjust seasoning. Thin with creamy milk. (Ann’s Note: this last direction was a puzzler. The soup wasn’t that thick to begin with and “creamy milk” suggests it is to be used as a thickening agent, not a thinking agent. But what do I know?!)

Irish Soda Bread – makes one large loaf. (The author points out that this bread is not the sweeter and softer version many of you are used to. I thought it was great)

3 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
½ cup old-fashioned oatmeal
¼ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 large eggs
2 cups buttermilk
Extra butter to grease your hands so the dough won’t stick (this not in the original instructions!)

Preheat oven to 375. In a medium bowl mix whole wheat and all-purpose flour, oatmeal, salt and soda. In a small bowl mix together eggs and buttermilk. Add to flour mixture, and mix well. This dough will be very heavy (and sticky). Turn out onto a lightly floured surface, and knead just to make sure that all flour is moistened. Shape into a round, and place on a greased baking sheet. Press additional oatmeal into top. With a sharp knife slash an X across loaf. Bake for 40 to 50 minutes.

Ann’s Note: I baked it for 45 minutes, then took a small piece out of the top and found it to be too moist. I put it back in for another 10 minutes then cut the bread into chunks and then put it back into the oven for about another 10 minutes. Perfect! But let me just say that prior to this, I was once again thinking that I was not meant to be a bread baker. I can only imagine what would have happened had I tried to make yeast bread!!

1 comment:

Kim Ode said...

Ann - by testing and cutting and returning the bread to the oven, you proved yourself a superb baker. We'll get some yeast under those fingernails, yet.