St. Patrick’s day has always been a special day to me. Coming from bog-Irish stock on both sides, as I do, it was always celebrated in some way or other in our family when I was growing up. We were (and still are) very proud of our Irish heritage and it was a very distinct part of our cultural fabric. I lived with my grandmother in those far-off days of my youth and my mother was the youngest of her seven children, so it was a busy household with aunts, uncles and cousins often popping in and out. Family get-togethers were regular and raucous, generally involving the singing of Irish songs at some stage and, when held at my uncle Peter’s house, with the flag of Eire flying splendidly from the clothes line.
My grandmother was an old-fashioned woman and, in those pre-en suite days, a green chamber-pot was kept under her bed “for emergencies”. On St. Pat’s day my mother would retrieve it, scrub it out with disinfectant and stand it boldly on a pedestal by the door on our front verandah – much to my absolute and prudish teenaged horror. A special glass was always raised on the day, too, but our cultural heritage was reflected on a more daily basis in the food we ate. Talented and skillful Irish chefs and cooks like Darina Allen, Rachel Allen and Richard Corrigan have done much to promote the riches of Irish cuisine in more recent times, but my memories of family meals like tripe in a parsley sauce and dishes of grey Irish stew were not the kind of food memories I wanted my own children to grow up with.
In an effort to maintain a link with our traditional culture we gave our children quite Irish names (without all the tricky spelling, although we did consider it). Like myself, my sister and my mother, our daughters were encouraged to take Irish dancing lessons and like all of the afore-mentioned, they didn’t really take to it. A few years ago we took the children to Ireland and spent three weeks there with them, pointing out the bullet holes in the post office in Dublin’s O’Connell Street, visiting Kilmainham Gaol and eating lots of lovely potatoes. And every St. Patrick’s day when they were smaller I would mark the occasion with green food dye in the milk for their morning cereal and make some soda bread or potato pancakes for dinner.
Of course they are well past the stage where they find green food amusing now and the older two are often not up for breakfast, nor around at dinner time. This year on St. Patrick’s day I found myself with a lovely bunch of fresh green herbs, compliments of my produce box from Jupiter Creek Farm, which needed using up. Thinking back to our times in Ireland and a stunning meal of wild-caught salmon that we once had there I decided that a simple green herb pancake with smoked salmon was the perfect way to celebrate the day. I made mine in my Thermomix, but the same quantities and a similar method using a regular food processor will result in just as pleasing results.
Recipe: Green Herb Pancakes with smoked Salmon & Horseradish Cream
- 1/3 cup chopped fresh herbs (I used parsley, rocket and basil)
- 2 cups self raising flour
- 1 1/2 – 2 cups buttermilk (more if you prefer thinner pancakes)
- 2 eggs
- 1 tsp sea salt
- Butter for frying
- 200 gms smoked salmon
- 250 mls sour cream
- 2 tsp horseradish
- Place herbs in Thermomix, chop 5 seconds on speed 7.
- Add flour, milk, eggs and salt. Whizz 10 seconds on speed 6.
- Heat small amount of butter in frypan until foaming, pour in batter in desired amounts depending on what size pancakes you like.
- Cook until bubbles form on the top surface, then carefully flip.
- Repeat with batches until batter all cooked, keeping cooked pancakes warm in oven.
- When ready to serve, arrange smoked salmon on top of pancakes.
- Mix horseradish with sour cream and spoon over salmon.