15 March 2012

St. Patrick’s Table: Tips for a Greener Holiday Feast

St. Patrick’s Day could be greener than ever this year. Eco-sensitivity is more than just hot air, and a lot less work than playing the bagpipes! Consider these tips for a more sustainable celebration, and your “taste of the Irish” could be as green as the beer in the pubs.
There are the obvious elements, such as using re-usable or biodegradable tableware and napkins. We can take it a step further, and bring a re-usable mug or thermos to the coffee shop (or pub) on our way to the parade. After all, there’s no reason a hot toddy can’t be eco-conscious while helping you weather stiff March winds!

Here in Quebec and other northern climes, That might seem like the limit for conscientious creativity. Happily, we need not limit our efforts to cloth napkins - there are several options when enjoying the flavors of Irish heritage. While March may seem like a tough time of year to eat locally, keep in mind that Guinness’s home town of Dublin is higher in latitude than many Canadian cities.

There is a reason why Irish food boasts lots of hearty dishes full of root vegetables. Potatoes, onions, rutabagas, parsnips, carrots and garlic store well throughout the winter, and all are likely available from your local producers year-round. Another veggie commonly associated with Irish heritage dishes, cabbage, also stores well, and might still be available. Our local source ran out of cabbage in February. Furthermore, as with the Emerald Isle, we are lucky to have access to lots of fresh seafood here in Quebec City. If you live in a coastal area, or know a local fisherman, you can enjoy the bounty of rivers and sea as well. 

If you head to a pub or restaurant, check the menu for local options, or ask your server about them. To take full control, serve some of the following dishes for friends and family this Saturday. You won’t have to worry about left-overs, and the main dish is easily converted for vegetarians. Feature local microbrews, cider and wines, and you’ll be able to toast to a truly green St. Patrick’s Day.

Consider the following menu:
  • Traditional Guinness Shepherd’s Pie - Be sure to look for local meat, or leave it out for a vegetarian-friendly version. 
Photo credit: Ann Erskine-Nowak
  • Root vegetable coleslaw made from shredded carrots, rutabagas and parsnips, dressed with a blend of curry powder, plain yogurt, a pinch of sugar, and Dijon mustard. Mix and match ratios to suit your tastes. 

  • Irish soda bread is easy to make, quick rising, and does not require specific expertise. Use locally grown grains, and use whole wheat flour for a more hearty version.
  • Bread pudding featuring locally baked bread, or a dessert from locally grown apples. There are several varieties that overwinter well in northern latitudes. 
  • If you do live near the sea, the following appetizer rounds out the menu. 

Beer-steamed Quebec Mussels

This twist on a local favorite simply replaces a local microbrew for the more habitual wine. Use a bottle of your favorite beer, or even a local cider if you prefer. You can dress the dish up with butter, onion and garlic. Sprinkle thinly sliced cabbage on top of the mussels when you cook them, for an extra holiday touch. Steam over medium heat until the shells open.

NOTE: Only cook mussels that are tightly closed. If they are not tightly closed, tap the shell - if they close they are still alive and fine to use but if they do not close, discard them. Also discard any mussels with cracked shells.

SUGGESTION: Online sources such as the BBC and Irish Central offer additional ideas for a mouth-watering St. Patrick’s Day. 


Qing said...

I love the idea of using beer to steam mussels. will try it next time :)

Gene said...

Good work, Bethann! 

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