This Sunday, March 17, is St. Patrick’s Day and the day calls for celebrations and wearing green, whether you are of Irish descent or not.

Enjoying corned beef and cabbage or a pasty is pretty typical, but how about preparing something different this year? Some of the foods associated with the traditions of Ireland include the humble potato (prepared in many ways), cabbage, root vegetables, pork (such as sausages and bacon), soda bread, seafood (in the coastal areas particularly), apple cake, Irish stew and bread pudding.

How about expanding your food choices this year and trying another one of their many selections?

Split pea and ham soup

If you were visiting a pub in Ireland, you may find split pea soup on the menu. This nutritious soup is inexpensive to make and features traditional vegetables of carrots, onions and celery. I put all the ingredients together in the slow cooker, so you can make it and forget it for the day. If you have some ham left over in the fridge, you can use it in place of the ham hock.

Serves: 6


1 pound package split peas

1 large meaty ham hock

1 large carrot, diced

1 large onion, chopped

3 ribs celery, diced

1 large potato, diced

4 cups chicken broth

4 cups water

½ teaspoon dried thyme

½ teaspoon dried marjoram

½ teaspoon dried rosemary

1 bay leaf

Salt and pepper


Check over split peas to remove any stones; rinse split peas under cold running water. Combine all ingredients except salt and pepper in slow cooker. Cover and cook on low for 8-10 hours. Remove ham hock and bay leaf. Cool ham hock slightly and remove meat from bone. Shred meat into bite-size pieces and return to slow cooker. Season soup to taste with salt and pepper.

Hearty Irish soda bread

Irish soda bread is one of the traditional staples to enjoy on St. Patrick’s Day. This hearty version is made with whole wheat flour and includes seeds as well. Baking it in a cast iron skillet makes a crusty bottom and it also forms a crusty top. It is extra tasty served warm topped with butter or jam alongside a hearty bowl of soup or corned beef.


Oil for pan

3 cups whole wheat flour

1 cup all-purpose flour

¼ cup wheat germ

2 tablespoons sugar

2 teaspoons baking soda

2 teaspoons kosher salt

4 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces

¼ cup plus 1 tablespoon sunflower seeds

2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons flaxseeds

2¼ cups buttermilk plus more for brushing

1 tablespoon old-fashioned oats


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Heat oven to 400 degrees. Lightly oil 8-inch cast iron skillet. In a large bowl whisk together flours, wheat germ, sugar, baking soda and salt. Using fingertips, rub butter into flour mixture until small pebbles form. Stir in ¼ cup sunflower seeds and 2 tablespoons flaxseeds. Create well in center of mixture and add buttermilk, mixing with wooden spoon in one direction, gradually incorporating flour mixture to combine and make slightly sticky dough. Using slightly wet hands, form dough into ball and transfer into prepared skillet. Brush loaf with buttermilk and top with oats and remaining tablespoon sunflower seeds and 2 teaspoons flax seeds. Using large serrated knife, cut large cross, about 1-inch deep, into top of loaf (wiping blade between cuts). Bake until golden brown and internal temperature registers 195 degrees to 200 degrees, 45-55 minutes. If loaf is browned before temperature is reached, reduce oven temp to 375 degrees and continue baking until done. Remove loaf from skillet and let cool on wire rack. Source: Good Housekeeping Magazine, March 2019.

Fish cakes

Homemade fish cakes are a popular offering in seaside pubs of Ireland, and their flavor is in a completely different league than the flavor of the frozen fish cakes you may be used to eating. You can vary the type of fish according to what you have available — a mixture of fresh and smoked fish provides a sophisticated touch.

Servings: 4


1 pound starchy potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks

1 pound mixed fish fillets, such as cod and salmon

2 tablespoons chopped fresh tarragon

Grated rind of 1 lemon

2 tablespoons heavy cream

1 tablespoon all-purpose flour

1 egg, beaten

2 cups fresh bread crumbs

4 tablespoons oil, for frying

Salt and pepper

Arugula and lemon wedges, to serve


Cook the potatoes in a large pan of boiling water for 15-20 minutes. Drain well and mash with a potato masher until smooth. Place the fish in a skillet and just cover with water. Place over medium heat and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat, cover, and simmer gently for 5 minutes, until cooked. Remove from the heat and place the drained fish on a plate. When cool enough to handle, flake the fish into large chunks, ensuring there are no bones. Mix the potatoes with the fish, tarragon, lemon rind and cream. Season with salt and pepper and shape into 4 large patties or 8 smaller ones. Dust the patties with flour and dip them into the beaten egg; coat thoroughly in the bread crumbs. Place on a baking sheet and chill in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes. Heat the oil in a skillet and fry the patties over medium heat for 5 minutes on each side, turning them carefully using a palette knife or spatula. Serve with arugula and lemon wedges for squeezing over the patties. Source: “Irish Pub Cooking,” LOVE FOOD of Parragon Books Ltd.

Bernie Mason writes the Local Flavor column for Lee Montana Newspapers. She was a Yellowstone County extension agent for 24 years. Mason grew up in Sidney in a family of German and Danish ancestry.