It turns out about 54 percent of Americans will celebrate St. Patrick’s Day this year according to a 2022 survey, which got me thinking—why? Most of us aren’t even Irish. It isn’t a national holiday here, unlike in Ireland where it really means something because Saint Patrick symbolizes the arrival of Christianity. But it’s kind of a fun day to be green and all that, and celebrate with Irish food. They even have St. Patrick’s Day parades in Japan, because they know how to copy and make things distinctly Japanese over there, ha-ha!
I baked a hidden surprise Shamrock Pound Cake that I never knew I could pull off. This thing was like a magician’s trick, where once you know how it’s done, you realize how easy it is to create the illusion. It’s an old trick for bakers, but it wasn’t for me. So if it isn’t for you either, here it is in pictures.
Make some shamrock cake cutouts. I used ordinary pound cake mix, dropped food dye into the batter and baked it in a loaf pan. Get a clover shaped cookie cutter. Slice the pound cake into even slices the same thickness of your cookie cutter. Then press out your shamrock cake cutouts and set aside.
Now here’s the tricky part. You need to stand up the cake cutouts in another loaf pan like soldiers as best as you can. Layering the bottom of the pan with batter gives you a base that will help keep the shamrocks standing, as well as suspending it off the bottom.
Cover it all up with the rest of the batter until the shamrocks are completely hidden. Then bake the cake as per normal like the cake mix instructions say. When it’s done, glaze over it with lemon glaze (you can see the cookie cutter I used).
Let it cool completely before you attempt to cut it. The trick is to cut the slices along the same widths of each of the shamrock cutouts that you’ve baked into the cake. If you did a good job of standing them up tightly together before covering with the batter, the result should be pretty convincing. If you thought the inside cake would overbake or something, don’t worry—it doesn’t. Pretty cool, huh?
Everybody makes corned beef and cabbage for St. Patrick’s Day. I’m not a great fan, so we made Shepherd’s Pie instead, which I liked a lot better; mainly because I love ground beef. So apparently this Irish classic would normally use ground lamb, but since I’m not a big fan of lamb either—well, you get the picture. Lots of recipes for this simple dish online, but it’s basically exactly like you see here. Mashed potatos and a filling made of ground beef, peas and carrots that was sautéed with beef broth, ketchup and Worcestershire sauce.
I mean, it’s pretty basic—the only thing is that it does require some steps. You have to mash the potatoes, which you can do ahead of time before you make the meat filling. And like any casserole dish you have to bake it.
I guess technically if you use beef instead of lamb, this dish would be called a cottage pie by the British or the Irish, where it originated. I don’t think we Americans are that fussy about the name. It’s interesting to note that the name Shepherd’s Pie came from the minced lamb because a shepherd looks after sheep. And the mashed potato topping was meant to represent the sheep’s fleece. Makes good enough sense to me!
So what do you do with the leftover mashed potatoes that wouldn’t fit in the Shepherd’s Pie? You make Irish potato pancakes of course, which is what the Irish do so they don’t waste food. Also known as Boxty, this classic dish is a cross between hash browns and a pancake. It contains flour and grated raw potatoes, so combined with the mashed potatoes, Boxty has a uniquely smooth texture when pan fried—yet you can taste the grated bits of potato like hash browns.
Ireland and potatoes go hand in hand as everyone knows, and a lot had to do with potatoes being the food for the country’s poor back then. Potatoes can grow anywhere so it was the ideal staple food. You can find authentic Irish potato pancakes all over the republic today, including at restaurants that specialize in it and packaged for sale in supermarkets.
We had ours for an Irish style breakfast. Traditionally, we could have had some pork blood sausage too, but we didn’t have any. If you want to see that, check out Zojirushi’s Irish Breakfast here.
How are you going to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day?
Products used in this post: Micom Toaster Oven ET-ZLC30, Gourmet Sizzler® Electric Griddle EA-DCC10
Please note that these recipes were not tested by Zojirushi America.
All images by Bert Tanimoto ©2023