MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:
If you were planning to celebrate this St. Patrick's Day with a glass of green beer and a plate of corned beef and cabbage, well, you go right ahead. But, these days, Irish cuisine has a lot more to offer, as we're going to hear now from our next guest, award-winning Irish chef and food writer Darina Allen. She's been called the Julia Child of Ireland. She's co-founder of the Ballymaloe Cookery School in County Cork. She's the author of many, many cookbooks, and she has a new one just out. It's called "Simply Delicious: The Classic Collection." And Darina Allen is with us now. Welcome. Thank you so much for talking with us.
DARINA ALLEN: Thank you for having me on. Thank you very much, indeed.
MARTIN: Well, I'm guessing that a lot of places will have corned beef and cabbage on the menu. But, really, is that even really a thing?
ALLEN: Well, funly (ph), it'll be on the menu much more over here in the U.S. than it will be in Ireland. I mean, it's wonderful, corned beef and cabbage. It's so good, and we make it from scratch at the cooking school. But, basically, lots of people don't eat corned beef and cabbage from one end of the year to the other in Ireland. But I think it's sort of got a nostalgic thing. It's like an immigrant's memory, food memories so to speak.
MARTIN: Oh, well, that's a nice way to think of it. So you've chosen something with cabbage as a starter for our Irish meal - spring cabbage soup. How is it made?
ALLEN: A lot of our soups - and we're kind of famous for our soups in Ballymaloe - are made on, you could say, a formula. Say, take one cup of chopped onions, one cup of chopped potatoes, three cups of any vegetable of your choice - in this case, it's cabbage - and then five cups of stock and then a nice bit of seasoning. And you just put the onions and the potatoes together first. Then, while that's happening, just add a little good Irish butter and - until they're soft but not colored.
In the meantime, bring the stock to the boil, and then add that into the potato-and-onion base. Bring it to the boil, and cook them until the potatoes and onions are just cooked. And then, add in the chopped cabbage. Boil it for just two or three minutes on this - just tender but still green. And then, whiz up the whole lot, and maybe add a little cream and, of course, season it up.
MARTIN: One of the things that I'm hearing you say is, like, don't boil everything to death, you know? (Laughter).
ALLEN: Oh, totally, don't.
MARTIN: Let it still live.
ALLEN: I did a lot of television in Ireland for many, many years. And I think the thing I'm most remembered for is showing the Irish how not to boil the hell out of cabbage.
ALLEN: But with that soup formula, you can use all sorts of vegetables. I mean, it could be radish tops. It could be just scallions. So it's a fantastic formula, and that's in the - of course, in "The Classic Collection."
MARTIN: And for the main, you're talking about dingle pie. What is that?
MARTIN: And where do we - where does it come from?
ALLEN: Oh, well, Dingle, as you may or may not know, is in County Kerry. And this is a pie that - we were given the recipe from an old lady a number of years ago who said that her mother, a lot of farmer's wives used to make this pie with lamb or with mutton and a little carrot and onion, all diced, and then with a mountain of thyme and salt and pepper. And then, they'd make a crust, actually, with the lamb fat and butter and water, a hot water crust pastry. But we actually changed it to - instead of using the lamb fat, which is a little heavy for people, nowadays. We use butter, and it's a fantastic pastry, that one.
MARTIN: And for dessert, my fave. I understand you're reccomending something that, to be candid, doesn't sound great that appetizing - but Irish moss pudding. Please tell me there's no moss in it.
ALLEN: Well, no, this is actually a seaweed.
MARTIN: Oh, OK.
ALLEN: And they're what we call carrageenan moss and what you call, I think, Irish moss. It's just a lovely little tiny seaweed. Carrageenan means little rock in Gaelic. And after the spring tides, when the tides go the furthest out, we harvest this little seaweed off the rocks around the coast. And they we bring it in and put it up on sort of spongy grass on the top of the cliffs and then leave it out. And it's washed by the rain and bleached by the sun for about 10 days, turning it every now and then. And it's basically - it's a natural gelatin.
But anyway, we make this lovely pudding where we steep it in whole milk and then cook it for about 20 minutes. Then it gets kind of gelatinous. We put that through a sieve. And then we enrich it with a lovely - one of our own lovely organic egg yolks. Add a little vanilla sugar, or you can flavor it with a sweet geranium leaf or whatever. And then enrich it with an egg yolk. And then whip up the egg, fold that in so it's lovely, light and fluffy.
MARTIN: Where are we going to get the moss here?
ALLEN: You can get it in any - in a lot of health food shops you can get it.
MARTIN: Is this one of those recovered foods that people used to eat back in the day and then they didn't want to eat it because it reminded them of bad times?
ALLEN: Well, indeed it would be for some people. It's still in the folk memory. It might even be remembered as a famine food. But yes, it is one of the recovered - but we've been eating it ever since I was a child. And it's much-loved, so much part of our traditional food culture in Ireland.
MARTIN: Well, you've turned me around on that, on the moss pudding. Well, Happy St. Pat's to you. That's Darina Allen. Her latest cookbook is "Simply Delicious: The Classic Collection," and she was kind enough to meet up with us at our NPR bureau in New York. Darina Allen, thank you so much.
ALLEN: Thank you.
MARTIN: You can find more detailed recipes for Darina Allen's St. Patrick's Day feast by going to our website, npr.org.
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