top of page

St. Pats from St. Pats: An Irish menu (and recipes) for Saint Patrick's Day

In my house — conveniently stuck on a street named for the Irish saint on the emerald isle of Vancouver Island — we dig into a St. Pat's Day Feast!



Back in the day, the idea of "Irish cuisine" seemed like an oxymoron — simple peasant food that was hearty and nourishing but reliant on basic ingredients like cabbage and potatoes rather than premium products.

Fast forward to today, and Irish chefs are still focused on honest, rustic fare, but taking their local ingredients to new heights. It's been 40 years since celebrity chef Darina Allen opened the famed Ballymaloe Cookery School on an organic farm in County Cork and championed the Irish Slow Food Movement, and since then, Irish restaurants (think Galway's Aniar or Dublin's Glover's Alley, Liath and Bastible) are stacking up the Michelin stars .


The roots of Irish cuisine are humble — the potato famine of the 1840s nearly wiped out the population because, at the time, they were totally dependent on that single crop as a food source.

But that potato famine scattered the Irish around the world — many landing on the east coast of Canada — and they brought along their simple country cooking.

That is likely where the tradition of Irish Stew or Corned Beef and Cabbage, salted beef with cabbage, carrots, turnips and other winter vegetables, boiled up together in a communal dish (called Jigg's Dinner in Newfoundland or New England boiled dinner along the Eastern Seaboard), has its roots.

Irish stew, with carrtos and potatoes, is classic pub fare, served with a dark ale.

Like hearty Irish stew or bread pudding, it's simple food, borne of necessity, and based on the ingredients at hand, in places like the Maritimes, where root vegetables and salted/preserved foods were a way of life.

Corned or salted beef was often packed along for long sea voyages, which is likely why it stayed popular in seafaring communities along the east coast. Sort of like salt cod and hard tack bread, it was something that kept well, so was used to provision ships that crossed the Atlantic or headed to the Caribbean for sugar and rum.

Which is why you see all of these things pop up in the food traditions places along this trade route, from Halifax and St. John's to Jamaica.

And if it's not rum in the glass, it's beer, especially an dark, malty Irish beer like the famed Guinness stout (which now also comes in a very passable zero alcohol version).


A dark malty stout is the Irish beer of choice.


Here are some of my fave recipes, inspired by the Emerald Isle, and most published in my book, The Guy Can’t Cook, the popular sequel to The Girl Can't Cook.

Designed for all of those times you need to cook – whether to sustain yourself every day (Sustenance), throw a party (Decadence) or mark any occasion, from birthdays to bar mitzvahs and holidays like this one (Observance), this 400+ recipe collection is for aspiring and experienced cooks of all kinds, with recipes for every occasion.

The recipes — well-tested and workable — help everyone shine in the kitchen, even those guys (or girls) who don’t think they can't cook but would love to try.



Here’s an elegant version of Irish Stew, swapping out the lamb stew meat with tender shanks.

Start with a classic Irish tiple like Guinness and some meaty lamb shanks and all you need is a few hours of hands-free braising time to create a serious spring feast. Make the potato/cabbage mash (colcannon - recipe follows) to soak up all of the princely sauce.

No lamb shanks? Feel free to substitute lamb shoulder (chops or stew meat) in this rich, meaty braise.


4 lb (2 kg) lamb shanks

6 cloves garlic, thinly sliced, divided

2 Tbsp (30 mL) olive oil

2 large carrots, chopped

2 stalks celery, chopped

2 large onions, halved and

cut into half-moon slivers

1½ cups (375 mL) dark beer

1 cup (250 mL) tomato purée (use canned,

crushed tomatoes or purée canned tomatoes

in a blender)

1½ cups (375 mL) beef stock or water

¼ cup (60 mL) packed brown sugar

4 sprigs fresh thyme, or 1 tsp/5 mL dried

½ tsp (2 mL) coarsely ground black pepper

¼ tsp (1 mL) salt


Preheat oven to 275°F (140°C).

Trim the visible fat from the lamb. Cut slits in the lamb shanks and insert half the sliced garlic into the meat. Heat the olive oil in a Dutch oven or large heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat and brown the shanks on all sides. Remove the lamb from the pot and set aside.

Pour off any excess fat and add the chopped carrots, celery, onion, and remaining garlic to the pot. Cook until the vegetables begin to brown. Stir in the beer, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Add the tomato purée, stock, brown sugar, and thyme. Season with salt and pepper.

Return the shanks to the pot and bring to a boil.

Cover the pot and transfer to the oven. Braise the lamb shanks for 3 to 4 hours. Check occasionally, adding more beer or water, if necessary, to keep them submerged in the braising liquid. Remove the lid during the last 30 minutes to thicken the pan juices. When the lamb is tender and falling off the bone, it’s done.

Using a slotted spoon, transfer some of the vegetables to a deep platter or shallow casserole dish. Place the shanks on top, cover loosely with foil and keep warm in a low oven.

Pour the braising liquid into a glass measuring cup and let the mixture settle for 5 minutes. Skim off the visible fat and return the liquid to the pan. Use a hand blender to purée any of the remaining vegetables into the gravy and season to taste with salt and pepper. Drizzle the meat and vegetables with the gravy and serve with colcannon or mashed potatoes on the side. Serves 4-6.



Cabbage and potatoes — like peas and carrots — are perfect partners. This is a classic peasant dish from the Celts — a mash of potatoes, onions, parsnips, and cabbage truly exceeds the sum of its parts. With the addition of a little butter and cream, it’s a winter feast on its own, or perfect as a side dish with these tender braised lamb shanks.


6 medium potatoes, peeled and quartered

1 large onion, finely chopped

1 cup (250 mL) peeled and chopped parsnips,

(about 2)

3 cups (750 mL) finely shredded or chopped

green cabbage (about ½ _of a small cabbage)

2 cups (500 mL) water

1 tsp (5 mL) salt

freshly ground black pepper

2 Tbsp (30 mL) butter

¼ _cup (60 mL) whipping cream


In a large, heavy saucepan, layer the vegetables—half of the potatoes, onions, parsnips, and cabbage—then repeat. Add the salt to the water, and pour it overtop.

Cover the pan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to low, and simmer, covered, for 1 hour.

Drain and use a potato masher to mash everything



This isn’t strictly an Irish recipe, but hails from Newfoundland, where the culture is steeped in the traditions of early Irish immigrants. Jigg’s Dinner is a one-pot creation, featuring salted or corned beef, with the winter root vegetables we can still readily find in the middle of March. I created this speedy version of the traditional Jigg’s Dinner for the pressure cooker but you can cook it conventionally on top of the stove – simmer the meat, covered, until tender (about 2-3 hours) then add the vegetables and finish as described.


4-pound salted (corned) beef brisket or salt beef short ribs

8-10 cups water

1 pound potatoes, peeled and cubed

2 large carrots, peeled and chopped

1 small rutabaga, peeled and cubed

1 medium onion, sliced

1 small green cabbage, uncored, in wedges

1 parsnip, peeled and sliced

1 cup yellow split peas, soaked overnight (for pease pudding, optional)


Soak the salt beef in a large pot filled with cold water overnight in the refrigerator. Drain.

Place the soaked beef into the pressure cooker and add enough cold water to cover by about an inch. Lock the lid in place and bring the cooker up to high pressure over high heat, then reduce the heat to medium low, just to maintain even pressure, and cook for 45 minutes.

Remove from heat. Allow the pressure to reduce naturally. Remove the lid, and lift the meat from the broth. Place on a platter, cover loosely with foil and place in a warm oven.

(Alternately, simmer the meat in water, covered, for 2-3 hours)

Add the potatoes, carrots and rutabaga to the pot. Lock the lid in place and bring up to pressure. Cook for 5 minutes, then release pressure quickly, remove lid and add the onion, cabbage and parsnip. Lock the lid in place, return cooker to full pressure and cook 5 minutes. Release pressure.

Slice the beef and using a slotted spoon, lift the vegetables from the broth, arranging around the meat on the platter. Spoon some of the broth over top and serve. Serves 6.


NOTE: For Pease Pudding, put 1 cup of yellow split peas in a cloth bag, tie it shut (leaving room for the peas to expand) and simmer in the pot with the beef.


This layered pie of crisp potatoes, bacon, and bright green Savoy cabbage

is the perfect dish for a St. Patrick’s Day brunch.

I think of my old friend John Fricker when I make this hearty side dish. Born on St. Paddy’s Day, he’s the kind of guy who knows how to enjoy a dram.

Chef Brian Plunkett, a former member of Canada’s gold medal-winning culinary team and owner of Market Seafood in Calgary, devised this dish, based on his Irish heritage, and I published it in my award-winning book about regional prairie cuisine, High Plains: The Joy of Alberta Cuisine.

4–6 leaves Savoy cabbage

8 strips of smoky bacon, chopped

1 tablespoon (15 mL) butter

6 medium potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced

1 teaspoon (5 mL) fresh thyme leaves, or 1/2 teaspoon (2 mL)

dried thyme

salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 cups (500 mL) old Cheddar cheese, shredded

Cook sliced cabbage in boiling, salted water for 2 minutes to blanch,

then drain under cold running water to refresh and cool. Let cabbage

stand in colander to drain for at least 5 minutes. Squeeze out

excess moisture before slicing finely.

Chop bacon and sauté in butter until it starts to brown. Remove

bacon from fat with a slotted spoon and reserve fat.

Rinse sliced potatoes and pat dry, then toss in a bowl with 3–4 tablespoons

(45–60 mL) of reserved bacon fat, thyme, salt, and pepper.

Brush a nonstick pie plate or springform pan with reserved bacon

fat and arrange a layer of sliced potatoes in pan. Top with some of

the cheese, then a layer of cabbage and bacon, and another sprinkling

of cheese. Continue layering in this fashion, ending with a layer

of potatoes and cheese. It’s important that each layer have some

cheese to hold pie together.

Press layers down firmly and bake pie in a preheated 375°F (190°C) oven

for 1 hour, until brown and crispy. Cut into wedges to serve. Serves 8.



In Ireland, their Irish whiskey (spelled with an “e”) is triple distilled for a very smooth finish. Great to drink or tip into the creamy sauce for this classic bread pudding, perfect to finish a March meal.


6 cups (1.5 L) day-old white bread cubes

(challah or egg bread makes a richer pudding

but French or Italian bread works well, too)

1 cup (250 mL) raisins

½ cup (125 mL) rye or Scotch whisky

2 cups (500 mL) whole milk

1 cup (250 mL) whipping cream

4 eggs, lightly beaten

½ cup (125 mL) packed brown sugar

½ cup (125 mL) melted unsalted butter

2 tsp (10 mL) pure vanilla extract

½ tsp (2 mL) salt


Caramel Whisky Sauce

one 14-oz (398-mL) can sweetened

condensed milk

½ cup (125 mL) whipping cream

¼ cup (60 mL) rye or scotch whisky

Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C).

Cut the bread into 6-inch (2-cm) cubes and place in a large bowl.

Combine the raisins and whisky in a bowl and microwave for 1 minute. Set aside to cool and macerate for 30 minutes.

In another bowl, use a whisk to combine the milk, cream, egg, sugar, butter, vanilla, and salt. Pour over the bread and stir to combine. Let the mixture rest for 10 minutes, so that the bread soaks up the custard, then stir in the raisins and whisky.

Pour into a buttered, 10-cup (2.5-L) baking dish. Cover and chill overnight, or bake immediately. Bake the pudding at 350°F (180°C) for 1 hour or until puffed and golden.

While the pudding is baking, make the sauce. In a small saucepan, boil the sweetened condensed milk with the cream over medium heat until it turns a nice caramel color. This will take about 15 minutes. Stir the mixture frequently to make sure it doesn’t burn on the bottom. Remove from the heat and slowly stir in the whisky. Keep warm until ready to use.

Cool the pudding slightly before cutting into squares. You can also chill the pudding, cut into squares and reheat in the microwave before serving. Serve the pudding warm, drizzled with whisky sauce. Serves 8 to 10.



Just a little tot to sip alongside pudding or to add to your coffee. Sláinte!


1 cup (250 mL) Irish whiskey (or substitute rye or Scotch whisky)

one 14-oz (398 mL) can sweetened condensed milk

3 Tbsp (45 mL) chocolate syrup

¼ cup (60 mL) espresso (or instant espresso, dissolved in hot water)

3 large, very fresh eggs


In a blender, combine all of the ingredients and blend until smooth. Pour into clean bottles and refrigerate. This will keep for up to one month in the refrigerator. Shake well before serving. Makes 3 ½ cups (875 mL).


bottom of page