Sunday, March 17, 2013

st. paddy's day

Behind the bar at The Brazen Head pub, blurriness courtesy of bad lighting, not Guinness
Just over a year ago, I went to Ireland on a whim. A friend of mine was studying at Trinity and there was a very reasonably priced direct flight, so off I went. I didn't know very much about Dublin before my trip, and ended up really enjoying the lively city and the warmth of the people. I liked how walkable the city was. I liked how the pubs were friendly and casual and weren't all about partying and nightlife. I liked all the traces of Dublin's literary tradition popping up–in statues of writers and old libraries and houses marked with plaques highlighting their famous former wordsmithing inhabitants. I liked how Irish kids put on a pot of tea when company comes over.

These may be overly romantic surface observations about a city and its people, but they nonetheless compose a specific sense of place and memories gleaned from an outsider passing through. When I hear people reminisce about visiting my own hometown, I hear them talk about the beauty of the mountains and ocean and forests. Those elements are integral to the identity of the Pacific Northwest, but there are many more facets to the the region, and this applies to anywhere in the world. That doesn't disqualify visitors' impressions and interpretations of their experience, which are uniquely theirs.

It's funny how even short trips can be deeply memorable, and provoke an affinity and connection with a place. I suppose that there's a line between appreciating a culture and being a poser, but it's interesting to consider how the different places we visit leave their mark. As I sit here writing this in a green Aran cabled cardigan, I'm thinking about how regional traditions become diffused as people become enthralled with cities and states and countries outside of their own familiar environment, bringing elements of those cultures back home into their own lives.

On that note, since it was St. Patrick's Day today and I'll never pass up on the opportunity to engage in culinary festivities, I cooked up some colcannon (above) and made a Guinness cake (below).

I have only baked this cake once before, but it is one of my favourite recipes. The outside has a nice thin, crunchy crust, and the inside is tender, moist and velvety. I'm usually more of a pie person (yes indeed, I celebrated March 14th, but unfortunately the chocolate pie I made was a bit of a bust), but this cake is some good stuff. Is it really Irish? I want to discuss the matter of authenticity in cooking in another post, but let's just say it's what happens when a Chinese-Canadian messes with a recipe from a Massachusetts restaurant involving an Irish beer.

Guinness Cake (adapted from Barrington Brewery's chocolate stout cake)
1 cup Guinness
1 cup butter
3/4 cup cocoa powder
1/3 cup honey
2 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 cup raw cane sugar (more for sprinkling on top)
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
2/3 sour cream

Melt butter in saucepan on stove with Guinness. Simmer and stir until combined, then turn off heat. Mix in cocoa powder and honey and leave to cool slightly.

Combine flour, baking soda, sugar, and salt in a bowl. In another bowl, beat eggs with sour cream until smooth. Combine egg-cream mixture with butter-beer-cocoa, and stir until combined.

Fold wet and dry ingredients together until combined, then pour into a greased baking dish. Sprinkle the top of the cake with more sugar to create a sparkly crust. Bake at 350ºF for around 40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.


Post a Comment