My Favorite Irish Things

I'm green with envy for anyone who is celebrating St. Patrick's Day in Ireland this year.  What a beautiful place!   While my son is busy searching for leprechauns and giving me a few minutes of peace, I thought I would take this time today to talk about some of my favorite Irish things.

Old Ground Hotel

In October 1998, my college friend, Stacy and I, traveled with the UNC Alumni Association to County Clare, Ireland for a week.   Our base was the charming town of Ennis.  Our home away from home was the Old Ground Hotel, a former manor home now clad with ivy and filled with lots of Old World charm. The hotel is conveniently located in the center of town, and is a property that I definitely would stay in again.  It's about 20 minutes away from Shannon, and 40 minutes away from the Cliffs of Moher, and its breathtaking beauty.  While staying there, I actually crashed a wedding cocktail hour.   Well, not really, but I did linger for awhile with a drink in hand. The town cathedral is across from the hotel, and the sharply dressed guests all came back to the hotel for the reception and pre-dinner cocktail hour.  I, of course, was not married at the time, and just couldn't get enough of weddings.  I still remember seeing the beautiful bride on this October day.  She wore a fashionable maroon velvet cloak over her gown.  It was stunning!  I think my friend Stacy finally had to pull me away.    I guess the two of us were hopeless romantics.   We both bought Waterford champagne flutes to commemorate love and happiness while on that trip.  The flutes were packed away, and not used for many years later. 

The flutes now sit in my cabinet.   They may even be a little dusty, but are still special.

This handmade Irish creamer sits in my kitchen window.  I bought it from an artist in Bunratty Village.  I love the details of the shamrocks, and I feel as if it feels my home with warmth and luck.

While in Bunratty, I ate at the Original Durty Nelly's Pub which was established in 1620.  One of the things that I remember most about my trip to Ireland is the excellent soups that I had on this trip.  I tried carrot soup for the first time, and had some delicious potato soup during my week in the country.

Ireland's delicious soups were on my mind this year for St. Patrick's Day.   I decided to venture out and try to make some homemade Irish Potato Soup.   I adore potato soup, but usually eat in my local Irish pubs and not at home.  While my five-year old entertained himself with my camera, I enjoyed a glass of red wine in my Waterford balloon wine glass and went through  ALL my cookbooks looking for the best and EASIEST recipe.

Photo by my son

Photo Credit: Ralph Anderson
I had to move my potato soup recipe search to the internet due to the lack of potato soup recipes in my many cookbooks.  Honestly, I don't know how we did anything before the internet!  I found an easy recipe originally published by Southern Living in 1999.  I went through the recipe reviews and changed the recipe based on what cooks suggested.  It was a hit in my house! The potato peeling, onion and leek chopping paid off. (Well, confession, I bought my groceries at Trader Joes this week, and they did not have fresh leeks so I had to use frozen already chopped.  It worked for me.)

Irish Potato Soup

1/2 cup unsalted butter. ( Don't know why, but thought I would put more calories in the soup so I added an extra tablespoon of butter).
1/2 onion, chopped
3 leeks, sliced ( I used frozen from Trader Joes, and I didn't know the amount that three leeks would produce so I used almost two cups of frozen.  I may have used too much, but we liked the soup.)
5 large baking potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch thick slices. (I think my potatos were on the smaller side so if you have smaller baking potatoes, I would recommend adding one or two more potatoes.  The original recipe called for only three).
3 (14 1/2 ounces) cans chicken broth (I used Trader Joes, organic)
1 teaspoon of kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper

Toppings: shredded cheddar, crumbled cooked bacon (I used no nitrates added turkey bacon), chopped fresh chives.

Melt butter in a large saucepan over low heat; stir in onion and leek.  Cover and cook 20 minutes.  Stir in potatoes; cover and cook 15 minutes.  Stir in broth, salt, and pepper; bring to a boil.  Reduce heat, and simmer 30 minutes or until potatoes are  tender.  Remove from heat, and cool slightly.

The original recipe says to put the soup in batches in the blender.  Instead, I took a mixer and pureed the soup in the pot.  My suggestion is to really  let the soup cool though.  I got a little splatter from a very hot potato! Reheat the soup over medium heat until heated.  Serve with desired toppings.

*Budget Note:  The soup cost less than $10 to make, and that includes all the toppings.  You will have enough for several meals.

I hope to go back to Ireland one day.  This photo taken on the trip is a favorite of mine.  I would have loved to have brought the sign home with me.

Apparently, I need it because I have some little leprechauns in the house.

Have a great St. Patrick's Day!

Until next time, I'll be chasing my leprechauns around, and enjoying some Irish Potato Soup!

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