Friday, March 15, 2013

My Irish Roots . . .

Growing up Catholic, a big deal was always made on your birthday, but you always had an extra special day . . . your Feast Day.  For me, my feast day is St. Patrick's Day.  Not only was that a special day for me, it was a special day for my entire family. 

My Grandfather, Owen Patrick Kelly of County Armagh, was the leader of the American Irish Fife and Drum Band in Rockaway, New York.  Every other year he took his band to Ireland to perform at different venues around the country.  The trip was capped off by the band marching in the annual St. Patrick's Day Parade in Dublin.  I was so honoroed and proud to accompany Pop and Nanny to Ireland in 1976 along with my cousins, MaryAnne and Jane Marie.  It was such an amazing trip.  It was this year that my Grandfather was awarded as the Grand Marshall of the parade.  So that was how my grandparents spent their St. Patrick's Day . . . marching alongside their band.  To this day I'm overwhelmed by some of the stories and the complete respect these kids (now adults) have for my grandparents.  Makes me so proud.

My Grandmother's family hails from County Clare. If you've ever been to Ireland, Clare is on the West Side of the Country. Her family is from the Bunratty area, yes of Bunratty Castle fame. My Nanny's ancestors lived in the Castle and surrounding Estate homes back in the 1600-1700's.  

She was the sweetest Nanny ever.  I spent the Summer with my grandparents when I was 15.  She wasn't a fancy cook, but I just remember the amazing things she did make.  Rice Pudding with Sealtest Vanilla Bean Ice Cream, Ham and potatoes, and of course Irish Soda Bread.  I helped her make it a few times; she got me hooked on afternoon tea with a huge dollop of heavy whipping cream floating on top, and a huge piece of Irish Soda Bread.  Such fond memories . . . I inherited her love of roses, the beach, and Belleek Irish china. 

So I'm going to share with you my version of Nanny's Irish Soda Bread.  It's best served warm with some good Irish Butter (Kerrygold), a little jam, and a steaming cup of hot tea with a dollop of whipping cream.

Nanny's Irish Soda Bread

4 c. all purpose flour
4 T. sugar
1 t. baking soda
1 1/2 t. kosher salt
4 T. cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2" dice
1 3/4 c. cold buttermilk, shaken
1 extra large egg, lightly beaten
1/2 c. dried currants
1/2 c. golden raisins

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Line a sheet pan with parchment paper

Combine the flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.  Add the butter and mix on low speed until the butter is mixed into the flour.

With a fork, lightly beat the buttermilk and egg in a measuring cup.  With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the buttermilk mixture to the flour mixture.  Combine the currants and raisins with 1 T. flour and mix into the dough.  It will be very wet.

Dump the dough onto a well-floured board and knead it a few times into a round loaf.  Place the loaf on the prepared sheet pan and lightly cut an x into the top of the bread with a serrated knife.  Bake for 45 to 55 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean.  When you tap the loaf, it will have a hollow sound.

Cool on a baking rack.  Serve warm or at room temperature. 

Enjoy . . . 

So, I hope that your St. Patty's Day is marked with a toast to all those who have gone before you (it's tradition to put a half pint of beer near a loved ones photo), and a cheer for luck throughout the year.  Sla'inte . . .  


  1. I love reading about your are so lucky you got to spend time with your grandparents. I have memories of my Italian grandparents and their cooking and spending time with them in the summer.

  2. Such lovely memories! Your Nanny's soda bread sounds like a treat.

  3. This is a wonderful tribute. And, love the recipe. Thank you!