Whatever your heritage, if you live in Newfoundland and Labrador, you must feel some connection with the Green, if only because there's no getting away from it this time of year.
If you celebrate around the family table - as opposed to the local pub - try one of these dishes as a nod to the place many of our ancestors left behind long ago.
Potato cheddar and broccoli soup
Soup built on spuds can taste bland; this version is anything but. Perhaps that makes it a little less than traditional, but we don't need to go back in time to honour the past. This big pot serves 8 or more.
2 tbsp. butter or margarine
1 tbsp. olive oil
3 or 4 large stalks celery, finely chopped
2 large onions, finely diced
6 medium red or yellow fleshed potatoes, washed, peeled (if you prefer) and diced
3 cloves garlic
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1/4 tsp. dry mustard
3 cups low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
1 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
2 sprigs fresh thyme
2 cups broccoli florets cut into small pieces
1 370ml can 2% evaporated milk
1 cup water
1-1/2 cups grated old cheddar or processed cheese
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
Melt butter in oil in a Dutch oven. Fry celery and onion until soft but not brown. Add potatoes, garlic, pepper and mustard and fry another minute, until fragrant. Add broth, Worcestershire and thyme and simmer, covered, 15 minutes, or until potatoes are tender. Remove thyme stalks, add broccoli, and cook together 5 minutes. Add milk and water and heat just to boiling. Add cheese off heat, stirring until melted. Real cheddar is not as smooth as processed brick cheese, but I think it tastes better. Stir in parsley and serve with buttered bread.
Guinness braised beef and dumplings
Guinness adds a deep, rich flavour but any tasty beer will work in this hearty stew. I grew up eating dumplings but I can't ever remember a cookbook on the counter to make them. I fear it's becoming a lost art, so I'm including instructions for perfect results. I have made one change that I'm not sure our ancestors would agree with, but it works for me - pastry flour makes them more tender. If you use all-purpose, reduce the amount by about 2 tbsp. This stew serves 8 or more.
2 lbs. stewing beef cut into 1-1/2-inch cubes
1/4 cup flour
1 tsp. each salt and pepper
1/4 cup vegetable oil, divided
4 cups fresh mushrooms, quartered
4 medium onions, coarsely chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
4 stalks fresh thyme
2 stalks fresh rosemary
1-1/2 cups low-sodium beef broth
1 bottle Guinness Stout
1 tbsp. each brown sugar and red wine vinegar
2 fresh or 4 dried bay leaves
4 medium carrots, quartered and cut into 1-inch pieces
1/4 cup dry sherry (optional but bumps up the flavour)
1-1/2 cups cake and pastry flour
1 tbsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
3 tbsp. each cool unsalted butter and shortening
1/4 cup milk (or maybe a little more)
Dredge beef in flour which has been seasoned with salt and pepper; shake off any excess but reserve the flour. Brown meat in small batches in about half the oil in a Dutch oven; set aside. Add remaining oil to pot and fry mushrooms until brown, they release their moisture, and it evaporates. Remove mushrooms and set aside. Cook onions until soft and starting to brown - add more oil if needed. Stir in garlic and any flour reserved from coating the beef and cook until fragrant and flour coats the vegetables. Add thyme, rosemary, broth, Guinness, sugar, vinegar and bay leaves and simmer until slightly thickened and smooth. Return beef to pot, cover and simmer 1-1/2 to 2 hours, until meat is tender. Add carrots, sherry and reserved mushrooms and simmer together 1/2 hour longer. If there isn't enough liquid to suit you, add more broth or water. If too thin, cover for the last 30 minutes. Discard herb stalks and add salt and pepper if needed.
For the dumplings, whisk together flour, baking powder and salt. Cut in butter and shortening to get a lumpy mixture. Add milk, stirring lightly just enough to combine. Mixture should be stiff but not dry - add another spoonful of milk if needed. Drop in about 12 spoonfuls into the stew and cover immediately. Don't lift the cover for 12 minutes. Serve at once.
Irish tea cake
This traditional sweet is equally delicious with afternoon tea or served as dessert after a big dinner. It doesn't need further adornment because the crumb is buttery and rich and the glaze tart and tasty.
3/4 cup soft unsalted butter (no other)
3 oz. softened cream cheese
1 cup sugar
1-3/4 cups cake and pastry flour
1-1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1 cup currants or chopped dates
2/3 cup buttermilk or soured milk
1 tbsp. vanilla
1 tbsp. butter, melted
3/4 cup icing sugar
2 tsp. lemon juice
1/2 tsp. vanilla
Cream butter, cream cheese and sugar until fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each. Whisk or sift together flour, baking powder and salt. Take 2 tbsp. of the flour mixture and toss with currants; set aside. Stir together buttermilk and vanilla. Add dry ingredients alternately with buttermilk mixture - three additions of dry and two of wet. Stir in floured currants. Pour into a well-greased and floured 9-inch loaf pan and bake at 325 F for 1 hour and 20 minutes or until a tester in the middle comes out clean. If your pan is dark, bake at 300 degrees.
Allow to cool in the pan 10 minutes; turn out on a rack. For the glaze, stir together all ingredients. If too stiff to pour, add a little more lemon juice but don't make it too runny. Spread on top of lukewarm cake.
Cynthia Stone is a writer, editor and teacher in St. John's. Questions may be sent to her c/o The Telegram, P.O. Box 86, St. John's, NL, A1E 4N1.