Catholic Recipe: Corned Beef and Cabbage
St. Patrick is the patron saint of Ireland, responsible, we are told, for converting the pagan Irish to Christianity. He used the shamrock to illustrate how three separate leaves united by one stem resembled the Trinity. To this day the shamrock, the emblem of Ireland, is proudly worn on March 17.
Patrick's Day, Ireland's principal feast day, came as a welcome break during Lent in the days of austere fasting. As children we were all expected to 'give up' something for Lent. Our beloved sweets and sticky toffee bars were the most obvious if reluctant choice and any that came our way were carefully hoarded so we could have a mighty feast on St. Patrick's Day.
Children still wear little green badges and the girls sport green ribbons in their hair. In many parts of the country people go to a ceili of traditional Irish dancing in the evening. Men who 'take the pledge' and forswear alcohol for Lent (still a surprisingly common occurence) often celebrate on the feast day by drinking the Pota Padraig. St. Patrick's Day is celebrated by Irish people both at home and abroad. In farflung corners of the world the Irish come together on this day to tuck in corned beef and cabbage or boiled bacon and cabbage, the traditional emigrants' meal.
Although this dish is rarely eaten nowadays in Ireland, for Irish-Americans it conjures up powerful nostalgic images of a rural Irish past. Originally it was a traditional Easter Sunday dinner. The beef killed before the winter would have been salted and could now be eaten after the long Lenten fast with fresh green cabbage and floury potatoes. -Darina Allen
1. Put the corned beef or boiled bacon into a saucepan with the carrots, onions, mustard powder and the herb bunch.
2. Add enough cold water to immerse the meat, bring to the boil and simmer, covered, for 1 hour.
3. Discard the outer leaves of the cabbage, cut in quarters and add to the pot. Cook for a further 1-2 hours or until the meat and vegetables are tender.
4. Serve the corned beef or boiled bacon cut into slices surrounded by the vegetables, with lots of floury potatoes and mustard as an accompaniment.Recipe Source: Festive Food of Ireland, The by Darina Allen, Kyle Cathie Limited, 1992