Saint Patrick’s Day? Why do we celebrate? What is the significance? Why is everything green? These are all great questions.
Patrick was born in Britain to Welch parents who had been “Romanized” or accepted Christianity, in the 5th century. His Latin name was Patricius. When he was 16, Patrick was kidnapped and taken to Ireland as a slave. He managed to escape the shackles of slavery, and in so doing, became the voice of the oppressed Irish people. Patrick, or Padraig as he was known by the Irish, is known as the person who brought Christianity to the Irish, around 432 A.D. Before his death, he was responsible for the construction of many churches, monasteries and schools all throughout the land. Patrick was canonized as a Saint by the Catholic Church around the 17th century. The first recorded celebration of St. Patrick was held in 1631, when the Church established a Feast Day in his honor. This original celebration of the day is nothing at all like what it has become today.
St. Patrick’s Day, as we now know it, actually started in the United States, in areas that had large populations of Irish immigrants. The first “modern” St. Patrick’s Day celebration was held in Boston, MA in 1737, followed by New York’s celebration in 1762, and it grew from there. Originally, Ireland did not celebrate the day how it is celebrated now, however, they have adopted the American customs and traditions, and today celebrate as we do here, mainly for the tourists’ sake.
There are many legends associated with St. Patrick. Two of the more widely known legends are that he drove all the snakes out of Ireland by throwing them all into the sea, and that he used the shamrock as the symbol for the Holy Trinity, because of its three leaflets on a single stem. Today, there are still no snakes in Ireland other than those that have been imported over. Leprechauns and all their mischief, as well as the wearing of the green, are both also famously associated with this day of revelry. The leprechauns are fictional, magical creatures who are known for their mischievous ways. In today’s culture, you always see them dressed in green. Wearing green on St. Patrick’s Day is supposed to make you invisible to the leprechauns, which allows you to go about your business without being pinched by them. But green was not always the color worn to honor St. Patrick and St. Patrick’s day. Origianally, blue, and specifically a dark blue, was worn, to represent the blue skies of Ireland. The green was adopted later, after Patrick become canonized by the Church, because of the green shamrock and its reference to the Holy Trinity.
People with an Irtish heritage, even if only for a day, often celebrate the day with green beer and corned beef and cabbage. I don’t drink beer (now wine is a completely different story), so that one is out for me, and I am not a huge corned beef and cabbage fan either, so I often make something totally different. I do have a lot of Irish blood in me, and therefore I choose to make other traditional Irish dishes to celebrate and honor the day. This year, it was curried lamb over rice, with roasted vegetables, a roasted pepper and onion tart, cheese and onion soda bread A New Twist to the Tradition and I ended the meal with an apple custard pie.
Some of my Irish cookbooks that helped me plan my menu for the day.
I know, curried lamb is not something you would normally think of when thinking of traditional Irish food, however, it is. Lamb and mutton dishes are very popular all throughout the UK, Ireland, Wales, Australia and New Zealand (all at one time were Bristish or British colonies). In the days of the Raj, many Irish men, (as well as military men from these other countries) served in the British military in India, where they devloped a taste for the different curried dishes of India. When they returned back to the UK and its provinces, they brought back the spices of India to recreate their favorite curried at home.
I love curry, and often make my own curried blends.
2 oz almond meal (I used my almond meal from Living Tree Community Foods More Treats from Living Tree Community Foods)
1 1/4 cups heavy whipping cream
2 lbs lamb, cubed
2 TBSP ginger
salt to taste
1 onion, peeled and sliced in thin rings
2 tsp sugar
2 TBSP garlic
1-2 tsp black pepper
1 tsp each, cardamon, cloves, cumin, tumeric, curry, cayenne pepper – add more of each or any combination thereof if you like a stronger, more pronounced curry flavor
1 TBSP lemon juice
butter and olive oil for cooking
fried onions, optional for topping
tomatoes or tomato chutney, optional
Mix the almond meal and the heavy whipping cream together in a sauce pan. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer, and cook for 5 minutes. Turn off the heat and let rest for at least 15 minutes.
Cut the lamb into cubes, about 2 inches in size, and marinate with the ginger and the salt. Make sure everything is well incorporated together. Let marinate for at least 30 minutes before cooking.
Slice the onion into thin rings and cook in a hot skillet with a combination of both butter and olive oil and the sugar, for about 7 minutes, then add the spices, and continue to cook until the onions are completely cooked.
Once the onions are cooked, remove them from the pan and set aside. In the same pan, adding more oil/butter as needed, cook the meat until it is completely browned on all sides.
Once the meat is cooked, add the onions and the almond cream mixture and mix together well. Reduce the heat to a simmer, and continue to cook for about 1 hour, stirring occasionally.
After the curry is cooked, add the lemon juice and mix thoroughly before serving over rice.
I topped my lamb curry with fried onions and tomatoes. Because lamb is a red meat, and I had a heavier sauce, I chose to serve it with delicious, fruity red blend of malbec and mertlot to really enhance the dish and bring out all the flavors.