Cliff Spicer/CP PHOTO
With St. Patrick’s Day falling on a Saturday, pubs and restaurants across the country are probably thanking their three-leaf clovers since this means they can expect full crowds late in the morning, rather than late in the afternoon.
Food-wise, of course, the best way to celebrate St. Patrick’s might be with a pint of Guinness; the Irish have never been particularly reknowned for culinary genius.
“St. Patrick was an old bugger,” says Niels Kjeldsen, executive chef for Fionn MacCool’s. “He died in 461 AD. Back then, food service wasn’t what it is today. Irish food is fairly basic, and I don’t mean to be nasty or anything ... it’s good country cooking, that sort of evolved over the years to become something a little bit more sophisticated.”
Back then, Kjeldsen says, everything was well done and cooked to death. Today, he says, “tastes and flavours keep evolving and changing as people get, I’m not gonna say smarter, but used to different things.”
For those with more discerning palates, Kjeldsen has a couple of suggestions. One is Guinness steak and mushroom boxty, which consists of beef braised slowly in beer, and half-wrapped with an Irish potato pancake. Another is the Galway Bay seafood medley. “Galway, being on the west coast of Ireland ... there’s an awful lot of seafood there,” says Kjeldsen. “So they obviously cook a lot of it.”
Another popular item, believe it or not, is what Kjeldsen and the other chefs call Finnegan’s Fibre, basically fish and chips, “a very popular item for St. Patrick’s Day.
“Of course the corned beef and the cabbage and all that, yes it is Irish, but I would say the fish and chips would be the more appropriate thing,” says Kjeldsen. If anything, he says, it’s the easiest to cook at home.
As for his connection to Ireland, Kjeldsen insists he’s the original Irishman. “I’m a Viking by nature, by birth, you’d call it, and you may or may not know, but the Irish, pardon me, the Vikings, settled in Dublin around 800 AD, and everyone’s a descendent of those terrible Norsemen over there.
“I’m Irish today, let’s put it that way.”
Guinness Steak & Mushroom Boxty
Time 65 min (approx.) • Serves 4