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A day to celebrate all things Irish

I visited Northern Ireland when I was 14 years old with my great-aunt and her Irish husband. His family lived in the area of Bangor, Northern Ireland. People have told me now, that it was the height of 'The Troubles'. I didn't fully understand that at the time.

The Wiki explanation for The Troubles, is that the conflict was over the constitutional status of Northern Ireland and the relationship between the mainly Protestant unionist and mainly Catholic nationalist communities there. The Troubles had both political and military (or paramilitary) dimensions. Its participants included Republican and Loyalist paramilitaries, the security forces of the United Kingdom and of the Republic of Ireland, and politicians and political activists on both sides. The Troubles are generally accepted to have ended in 1998, but there are still sporadic outbreaks of violence.

On that trip, which was in the late 1980s, I saw armoured trucks on the road, and a festival we were going to was cancelled because of a bomb scare. We experienced endless purse and car searches. It got so I opened my little denim purse automatically to anyone standing around in uniform. In Belfast, buildings were topped with barbed wire, and political graffiti was sprayed on buildings. I think your car had to be checked twice for bombs on the way into the city. I don't remember it as a pretty or friendly place at all. Other parts of Northern Ireland were beautiful, such as the Giants Causeway and the Mounts of Mourne.

I don't remember eating Irish stew at all. Most nights we went down to the local fish and chips shop and bought something there. At 14, I wasn't very adventurous in the eating department and I wasn't too keen on battered fish. So on the first night I was given an Irish pastie to eat, and that is pretty much what I ate for the rest of the trip. Before you look at the ingredient list, I just want to say that they were delicious, and nothing like a Cornish pasty. There was no pastry crust. Later, it was a bit of a shock for me to learn that the main ingredients were chopped up leftover french fries and sausage, battered. Over the years, I have tried to discuss Irish pasties with other people and inevitably they assume I mean Cornish pasties. I came to doubt that I'd really had Irish pasties at all. Perhaps my leg was being pulled joking around was a national pasttime in Ireland.

For this article I looked around the internet and discovered that Irish pasties are pretty much particular to Northern Ireland. I found one recipe that included nutmeg and allspice and then a whole bunch of other websites where people complained about the recipe with the allspice and complained that they couldn't find a proper recipe anywhere. I Facebooked a friend I'd made on the Irish trip. She knew what I meant right away. She said her husband loved Irish pasties from the fish and chip shop and she'd look for the recipe.

Later she came back as downcast as one can be on Facebook, and said apparently the recipe was a closely guarded secret and she couldn't find it. More of my uncle's relatives were frantically paged and called and finally I had the recipe. The kind lady who sent this recipe recommends you call them St Paddies Pasties.

St Paddy's–Pasties RecipeMince cooked pork sausage meat and cooked mash potato. The ratio is anything goes 50/50 or more of one or the other. It depends on individual taste. If more meat is preferred, you still need to add mashed potato as this helps the mixture to bind together to form pasties. Combine these with finely chopped onion. Add salt and pepper to taste. Mix together in a bowl until it binds together. Form mixture into rounds approximately three to four inches in diameter and ¾ inches thick. Dust with flour. Freeze or chill to low temperature so that they won't break apart while handling.

To make the batter use ¾ cup self-rising flour, salt and pepper to taste. Add a splash of brown vinegar and a little water or soda water to mix to a thick batter. Beat together to form a soft batter. Dip frozen or partially frozen pasties in batter. Deep fat fry in hot fat until golden brown.

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Published March 11, 2011 at 1:00 am (Updated March 11, 2011 at 8:55 am)

A day to celebrate all things Irish

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