Last Friday, downtown Helena’s First Friday for March, we hosted a fabulous evening of 18th century Irish music, Irish food (and some non-Irish green food) local micro-brewery beer and great art. I think it was our best First Friday yet. The acoustics in the gallery are just right for music — and Queen City Consort sounded perfect, playing in the center of the gallery. Although we didn’t set out to make this a “concert,” the music was so lovely that people just wanted to hang out and stay longer than usual. So we brought some chairs up from the basement and had quite a crowd.
Thank you to Suzy Holt, Lee Harrison, Vic Reiman and Nan Parrett for playing two sets of Turlough O’Carolan’s compositions. Cello and three recorders. A cozy, welcome atmosphere and appreciative listeners made for a delightful evening.
I promised some of our gallery visitors I would publish my recipes for the Irish Soda Bread and the green dip I made. So here they are:
IRISH SODA BREAD
I used my favorite recipe for this bread — Peggy’s Authentic Irish Soda Bread, from Food 52. I used half as much sugar, even though it doesn’t call for much. Also added both golden and dark raisins, and just a wee bit more flour because it seemed too wet to pat into a “ball” the way the recipe says to. It turned out perfectly. I like serving soda bread with fresh cold butter and homemade strawberry jam or marmalade. Mmmm. Make sure all your ingredients are cold! The main thing to remember about soda bread is not to overmix or overbake it, or you will end up with a tough crumbly dry bread. Bleh. One recipe makes one very large loaf in a non-stick cake pan buttered and floured, then lined on the bottom with parchment.
Super yummy the next day sliced and toasted, then spread with butter and jam.
I wanted to make a green dip for kettle chips or french bread, and I’ve been craving the Egyptian bissara from a local restaurant, Mediterranean Grill. I winged it from my memory of the MG’s bissara. I also forgot it was supposed to have fava beans. When I got to the point of needing something for creaminess (since I was going for non-dairy vegan dip) I used sesame tahini. Worked out deliciously. I actually like it better! Here’s the recipe from my imagination:
1 large bunch fresh cilantro with stems cut off all at once
1 large bunch fresh Italian parsley, stems removed
1 hank of fresh mint leaves (about 1 cup)**
Fresh lemon juice
Dried tart red cherries, soaked in hot water til plump
2 cloves fresh garlic, pressed
Balsamic vinegar (good quality)
a sprinkle of powdered cumin
1 tsp sugar, or more to taste
I don’t give exact amounts because I don’t cook that way. Sorry. Here’s what I did. I used our food processor to finely chop the greens, then added olive oil, lemon juice, sesame tahini, salt, pepper, garlic and balsamic vinegar until the consistency was dippish. You could make it a little thicker if you are using it as a spread on pita bread. I processed that until it was the way I wanted it. Then I added a little sugar just to cut the tartness. Taste. Add the plumped up cherries and process a little until they’re incorporated (I like having bits of cherries showing.)
**Add more or less mint depending on if you like that Egyptian flavor. It’s awesome! Very refreshing.
Sorry no pics. Everything was chomped so fast I didn’t have a chance to take photos.
I did take a handful of pics during the first part of the evening. At times the gallery was alot more crowded but by then I had put down the camera and was trying to keep the food plates full and just enjoying the music without a lens in front of my face.