bread

Guinness Mussels with Irish Soda Bread

My anticipation for Spring is at it's highest now that daylight savings has arrived. I'm so looking forward to longer days, warmer weather and the fresh flavors the season has to bring. It's all worth celebrating and St Patick's Day couldn't come at a better time. I, myself, am not Irish, but I've married into an Irish family. Now, as a Turner, I think its important to learn a few things about it. Food is one of the best ways to immerse yourself into a culture and what better time to explore Irish cuisine than the week of St Patrick's Day!

So what exactly is Irish cuisine? Even when you look at the menus of "authentic" Irish pubs around Boston, I see "quesadillas" and "chicken Parmesan" as often as Shepard's Pie. It's certainly not "Irish" just because it has Guinness or whiskey (although a the Chocolate Guinness cupcakes I made last year were some of the best I've made). And  surely, there is more to Irish food than Corned Beef and Cabbage and Bangers and Mash (which I love).

mindfulglutton-3369.jpg

The Irish have never really been known for their food, not at least the way the French, Italian, German, Spanish etc are. The notion really surprises me because the wealth of ingredients available is incredible. Here is what I've learned so far:

  •  it isn't all about the potato ( it only arrived in the late 16th century)
  • the immaculate green pastoral lands make for great grazing grounds for cattle, sheep and other livestock
  • great grass fed cattle make for some of the worlds best butter, cheeses and milk
  • it's an island (duh) so don't forget about seafood
  • Irish cooking is simple and from the heart. Use what you have (think fresh and local)

This first recipe I'm sharing is all about simple, fresh, and "local" ingredients. The whole meal came together in about a half an hour (fresh baked bread included!)So let's get to it. Irish Soda Bread is a considered a classic. If you are planning on making any Irish meals this week, I beg you to try your hand at making your own bread instead of buying a pre-made loaf (or even worse, a "mix").

Irish Soda bread requires 4 ingredients and chances are you have 3 of them in your pantry already. All you need to buy at the grocery store is buttermilk.

I would have love to get some fresh buttermilk from the local farmer's market, but I didn't see any so I opted for some organic milk at the grocery store. The only thing adding flavor to this bread is the buttermilk, so it was important to me to get some higher quality milk (hormone/antibiotic free).

Preheat the oven to 400 and get ready to get your hands dirty. You will be glad you didn't dig out your mixer (one less thing to clean).

Get your biggest bowl and fill it with the flour, salt and baking powder. Mix to combine. Then make a well in the middle of the flour to pour the buttermilk into. Then, as seen, slowly pour in the buttermilk into the well.

mindfulglutton-3399.jpg

Then, using one (clean) hand, slowly start mixing the flour into the buttermilk. The dough will come together very quickly. It will feel sticky, but shouldn't feel wet. Once mixed, knead a few times. The dough should feel pillow-y.

In this shot, I was testing out a stone ground flour. I've made this recipe before with traditional all purpose flour, and I could tell be the texture the mix just wasn't right. The flour is much more course and I have a feeling the stone ground flour was much heavier, per cup, than the ap flour.

mindfulglutton-3401.jpg

 No worries, even with a little blunder, it took 5 minutes to start from scratch and get it right. For the heck of it I decided to bake both. The stone ground came out way too dry. I learned the hard way your can't replace alternative flours cup for cup.

Before popping in the oven, use a sharp knife to cut an "X" on the top and brush with a bit of olive oil or buttermilk for color. Bake for 25-30 minutes.

mindfulglutton-3404.jpg

At this point you are 30 minutes away from a delicious Irish meal! Crack a beer and kill some time (the mussels only will take 10 minutes).

Seafood goes far beyond Fish & Chips - you have Dublin prawn, salmon, cod, mussels and more! The market had some great looking Maine mussels harvested the day before so I knew I wanted to put together a dish around them. I had seen a Guinness inspired dish online I wanted to try to recreate.

The first thing you must do when you get home is to place the mussels in a large bowl of cold water. Add in a few tablespoons of cornmeal. This will help clean the mussels. Essentially, as they eat the corn meal, they get rid of the sand and other stuff that already was in their stomach (yuk, I know). Set them in the fridge (in water) until ready to cook.

A great mussel dish needs a great broth, and a great broth needs great flavors. This one starts off with a classic mirepoix of carrots, onions and celery (ironically in the colors of the Irish flag).

Get a deep dished sauté pan set over medium heat. Add a tablespoon of butter (I used Kerrygold). Add the finely diced veggies and begin to sauté for 3-4 minutes. You don't want to burn/caramelize them, just slowly sweat them.

mindfulglutton-3409.jpg

Get ready for the good stuff. Pour in a bottle of Guinness along with a 1/2 cup of chicken or fish stock to deglaze the pan. Add a bay leaf and turn up the heat to bring to a simmer and let reduce by half. Turn down the heat a little and add the half cup of cream. You want to let that simmer and reduce by half again, but need to watch closely that you don't scald the milk. Be sure not to have the heat up too high.

mindfulglutton-3425.jpg

Now you can add your cleaned, rinsed mussels to the pot. Cover and let steam for 3-4 minutes. The mussels are ready when they open. If they are a few that didn't open, remove and discard. Those were dead before you cooked them so do not try to eat them!

mindfulglutton-3423.jpg

I love serving this family style and let everyone serve themselves. By now, the Irish Soda bread would have plenty of time to cool. Cut several slices and serve with softened Kerrygold butter. The bread is perfect for sopping up all that delicious creamy Guinness broth.

mindfulglutton-3428.jpg

As you would pair a nice red wine with a Cog-Au-Vin, it would only seem right to enjoy a pint of cold Guinness along side the Guinness Mussels. That is just how my husband and I had this dinner. I have to admit, there is something really special and romantic about a meal like this. It really amazes me how a few simple, good quality ingredients can come together to make something so delicious.

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Latte Bread

Before reading any further, please note there is nothing healthy about this recipe. If there is any time to indulge, its certainly on a holiday, so I baked Pumpkin Spice Latte Chocolate Chip Bread and Muffins.  The original recipe was for bread, but is also the perfect batter for muffins. Pumpkin puree was a great addition to the Pumpkin Pie Smoothie for its nutritional value, but here, pumpkin puree serves as an ingredient that will make the bread (or muffins) incredibly moist.

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Latte Muffins and Bread from Mindful Glutton
Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Latte Muffins and Bread from Mindful Glutton

The first time I made the recipe was in preparation of our annual camping trip to Lake Winnepesauke. My husband, along with the other couple we go with are a little picky so I wasn't sure how they'd like "pumpkin" bread. I warmed a few of the muffins up by the camp fire so when you broke them apart the chocolate chips were gooey again. They were a huge hit. Unfortunately we had an accident with the loaf of bread, and it got soaked with water in the cooler and we had to throw it away.

I've been baking a lot less this year. Its one of the ways I've been watching what I eat. So when I do bake, I invest in the best quality ingredients. The last time I made this recipe we were still getting fresh local organic eggs from our farm share. The taste and quality rival what you can find in a grocery store. With that, I've decided to stick with organic eggs.

I'm also using organic flour, sugar and pumpkin puree. I read and hear a lot of dialog about the pros/cons (or more so contesting of the cons) of organic. Those against organic usually say its too expensive and that any "risks" of non-organic are minimal or over exaggerated. I don't exclusively buy organic, but when I'm presented both options, I usually go towards organic. I'd like to address the argument that organic "is too expensive", it isn't necessarily. I find Trader Joe's has a lot of great organic products at reasonable prices. I also buy little, if any,8 packaged or junk food. If you want to save money at the grocery store, shop the perimeter (fruits, veggies, dairy) - its also healthier. I'm glad to sacrifice the 10 for $10 dollar special on Cheeze-Its for a bag of organic flour. Secondly, even if the pesticides and chemicals in non-organic are so trace to present a threat, why would I want to eat just a little of it? All I know, is that between having a better diet, which consists of more organic food, and working out, my body feels great.

This recipe has been slightly adapted from one I saw on a blog called Two Peas In a Pod. I've tweaked the recipe ever so slightly. I substituted some of the white sugar for brown sugar (just a half of a cup), and I've also substitute water for coffee to get that "latte" flavor.

The original also calls for a cup of canola oil. Canola oil is extremely processed and goes rancid really easy and can act as a carcinogen. I'm still learning ways to substitute out icky products like these with other ingredients so I wasn't able to get rid of it completely. However I found a way to use Greek yogurt to replace some of it. You can use the following method in any of your baking. First, cut the amount of oil in half. Then replace each cup of oil you remove with 3/4 cup greek yogurt. There is only a cup of oil in this recipe, so if I cut that in half, I'd add 1/4 cup plus 2 tbs of the yogurt.

 The recipe itself comes together very quickly. Mix the dry ingredients together in one bowl and the wet ingredients plus sugar in another. Combine, and stir in the chocolate chips. The original recipe says the batter is enough for 3 loafs of bread, but I believe it would most likely make 2. Today I used the batter to make a dozen muffins plus one good size loaf of bread. I can't decide which one I like better. Fresh out of the oven the muffins develop a beautiful caramelized crust (thanks to the brown sugar) and are perfect with a cup of coffee. But the loaf of bread seems to retain its moistness a bit longer than the muffins and can be enjoyed throughout the week (if it lasts that long). I like baking this, having a slice or two, and leaving it at work or with friends so I'm not tempted to eat the entire loaf. Its truly a favorite of mine.

Ingredients

  • 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon ground nutmeg
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 2.5 cups granulated sugar
  • .5 cups dark brown sugar
  • 1 (15 ounce) can 100% pure pumpkin
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 1/4 cup + 2 tbs non fat greek yogurt (if you dont have greek yogurt, just use a full cup of canola oil)
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1/3 cup brewed coffee, cooled
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1.5 11oz bags of milk or semisweet chocolate chips

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 350°. Spray the inside of your bread pan with cooking spray and sprinkle some flour on the inside. Shake to distribute the flour (so it sticks to the bottom and sides) and shake out the excess. If you are making muffins you can do the same thing with your muffin tin or line with paper cups.
  • In a bowl, mix together the flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking soda, and salt.
  • In a large bowl, combine sugar, pumpkin puree, canola oil, water, coffee, vanilla, and eggs. Mix until smooth.
  • Add the dry ingredients to the wet, being careful not to over mix. Fold in the entire bag of chocolate chips :)
  • For a loaf of bread, bake 55-60 mins, or until its browned and a toothpick comes out clean. For muffins, bake time is 30-35 mins.
  • Let rest for at least 15 mins before removing from the bread pan.

Nutritional Information

One serving (either one muffin or about a 1-inch slice of the bread): Calories: 301, Carbs: 50, Fat: 11g, Proteins 5g, Sugars: 35g

*Calculated with MyFitnessPal - I weighed a single muffin and slice and determined between the muffins and bread loaf I had 22 servings and divided total calories by that.