Spinach Pie

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It was the photo that caught my attention on the Epicurious website. I was searching for something, and this distracted me. Spinach pie. A simple, beautiful Irish recipe.

Savory tarts, pies, and quiches are some of my favorite things to serve for lunch, especially for company. They’re not much work, as long as a pie crust doesn’t worry you. Plus, they look so much more special than, say, a casserole.

On this blog there’s a leek and cilantro pesto tart, a recipe by Eugenia Bone, which is more quiche-like, marbled with a cilantro pesto.

I also have a tomato tart on the blog, a recipe by Guliano Bugliali. It’s like a cross between a quiche and a rich tomato soup.

There are just so many ways to create something savory in a crust.

Then I read the recipe through, and there’s no crust in this recipe! So there are no excuses not to make this!

Here is the recipe from Epicurious.com:

Spinach Pie
from Irish Country Cooking

1 lb. 4 ounces spinach, washed
1 onion, chopped
2 eggs, beaten
10 ounces cottage cheese
10 ounces Parmesan, freshly grated
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Steam the spinach, drain well, and roughly chop it once it cools down.

In a large bowl, mix the cooked spinach with the onion, beaten eggs, and both types of cheese. Beat well and season with pepper and nutmeg.

Transfer the mixture to one large pie dish, (9″) or individual dishes if using. Bake in preheated oven for 25-30 minutes.

And that’s it!

I served the pie with a simple salted tomato salad, so as to let the pie filling shine.

If I had been thinking, I might have puréed the spinach mixture so that it was more green than mottled with the cottage cheese.

Or, maybe checked with Conor Bofin, from the blog, “One Man’s Meat,” to see if Irish cottage cheese is more like a farmers cheese or even ricotta cheese.

Nonetheless, the taste was lovely.

And I copied the purple flower idea since my borage flowers were blooming!

Reprinted with permission from Irish Country Cooking: More than 100 Recipes for Today’s Table by The Irish Countrywomen’s Association. © 2012 Irish Countrywomen’s Trust. This Sterling Epicure Edition published in 2014.

Bread and Butter Pudding

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When we were in Ireland last May, specifically in Dingle on the west coast, we were fortunate to stay at a lovely bed and breakfast right on the water called the Castlewood House.
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The multi-award winning B & B is run by Brian Heaton and Helen Woods Heaton, who opened Castlewood House in 2005. Helen runs the front of the house, and Brian, among his other duties, cooks breakfast at Castlewood. And, an outstanding job he does.

In all of my visits to the UK, I’ve somehow missed the experience of bread and butter pudding, which is typically served as a dessert. If you are not aware, all desserts in the UK are called puddings. Don’t ask me why…

But anyway, at this B & B, there it was, amongst many other elaborate breakfast offerings every morning. I could smell the wafting cinnamon smell all the way up to our room in the wee hours.

I was a bit hesitant to try it at first, being that I didn’t need a sugar buzz so early in the day. But fortunately, I did. And I fell in love with it. Helen told me that the recipe for this bread and butter pudding, as well as some others, are posted on their website here.

This is a recipe I can definitely see making during the winter months, because it is sweet and hearty, but I just couldn’t wait. And as it turns out, it would be good any time of the year, especially for a brunch.

So here it is for you. It’s Brian’s recipe!

I adapted the recipe just slightly, but you can get the original one by using the link.

Bread and Butter Pudding

12 slices sandwich bread, crusts removed, I used potato bread
About 1 stick, 4 ounces soft unsalted butter
6 ounces golden raisins
Nutmeg, about 1 teaspoon
4 Large Eggs
1/2 cup white sugar
1 Teaspoon vanilla extract
12 ounces heavy cream
12 ounces evaporated milk
Ground cinnamon

Have an 8″ square baking dish handy.

Generously butter four slices of bread and place them butter-side down inside the baking dish.
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Sprinkle with some nutmeg and add half of the raisins.
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Arrange another layer of buttered bread, buttered side down and sprinkle on the remaining raisins and more nutmeg.
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Cover with the remaining bread buttered side down.
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In a separate bowl whisk the eggs then add the sugar and whisk until smooth. Add the vanilla, cream and evaporated milk, and whisk until fully incorporated. Carefully pour the mixture over the bread and leave to stand for one hour or ideally overnight.
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Right before baking, sprinkle the top of the bread and butter pudding with nutmeg and cinnamon. (Brian’s recipe doesn’t use cinnamon, but I would have sworn that I smelled cinnamon every morning!)
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Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Cover the dish with aluminum foil and place the dish in a larger pan. Fill the larger pan with hot water until the water reaches halfway up the baking dish.

Bake in the middle of the oven for one hour, removing the aluminum foil 10 minutes from the end ensuring the top gets crisp and golden. This photo shows what the pudding looks like after the foil is removed.
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This is the photo of the pudding after the final 10 minutes in the oven. It’s a little more golden brown and puffy.
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I served the bread pudding with crème fraiche. Sweetened whipped cream would also be delicious. I also tried it with some fresh blueberries.
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It was definitely good with the blueberries, but it is absolutely perfect without as well. See what you think!
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I hope if you ever go to Dingle, Ireland, in County Kerry, that you stop by and at least say hi to Brian and Helen, if you don’t have the time to spend a few days. They are kind and generous people who are proud of their B & B as well as their corner of Ireland. Fortunately, Helen was also the one who guided us to have dinner at the Global Village in Dingle, which turned out to be such a wonderful experience. They can be tour guides for you, as well.

Boxty

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Of all things, my first boxty was not eaten in Ireland. It was, in fact, enjoyed in an Irish pub in, of all places, Tulsa, Oklahoma. It’s called Kilkenny’s, and it’s been an established and popular Irish pub since 2002.

I really enjoyed the boxty, which I’d never heard of before. I only ordered it because I wanted something traditionally Irish since I was in an Irish pub. And of course it was good – it was a giant potato-based crepe filled with creamy goodness. I can’t really remember all of the details now, but because of that experience, I was determined to have one in Ireland… which I did just a few weeks ago.

We had lunch in Dublin at Gallagher’s Boxty House one Sunday. We went there knowing that it was a touristy sort of place, but I had to have my boxty. Gallagher’s Boxty House is an unassuming little joint of a restaurant in the Temple Bar area of Dublin.

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It actually seemed like only locals were eating lunch there – especially families with children. The young man who waited on us was 17, and the son of the restaurant’s owner. It was nice finding out it’s a family business.

But touristy or not, we all have a fabulous lunch. I chose the seafood boxty and it was delicious.

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That day in Dublin was Latvia Day, as we surmised after passing loads of people dressed up in their traditional Latvian garb. (Of course, we had to ask what the hoopla was all about…)

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Aren’t these women beautiful?!!!

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I only mention Latvia day because the presence of the singing and dancing Latvians added to the frivolity of walking around Dublin on a beautiful Sunday when everyone seemed to be outside enjoying themselves. And the parade that ensued went right by the Boxty house while we were enjoying our lunch!
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Okay, little things like that get me excited. But back to the boxty.

After returning from Ireland last week, I wanted to make boxty. I own a book on Irish cooking*, and it revealed that the boxty originated in the north of Ireland, actually. The word boxty came about from the fact that people cut holes in boxes in order to grate the potatoes to make this dish! I now appreciate my metal grater even more than ever.

There are also, not surprisingly, a few different versions of boxty. One is exactly like what I had in Tulsa and in Dublin – an oversized pancake with filling. Another version is a pancake on a smaller scale served simply with butter.

The third version, which I didn’t make today, is from a thicker pancake batter – essentially a dough. Round shapes are cut out of it much like our biscuits, and baked. I think I actually saw these on breakfast menus in Ireland, because they were described as hash brown potato cakes. I’m sure they were delightful but unfortunately I never had one.

Here’s my version of the giant boxty pancake with a creamed ham and cheese filling, and boxty pancakes with butter.

Boxty with Creamy Ham and Cheese Filling

4 medium baking potatoes, peeled
1 1/2 cups flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
2 cups milk, I used whole
Butter

Chop up two of the peeled potatoes and boil them until done. If you’re not sure, stick a fork in the pieces to see if they are tender. When they are cooked, drain the potatoes; set aside.
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Grate the remaining two potatoes and place them on paper towels for a few minutes to drain.

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Then place the grated potatoes in a medium bowl. Add the flour and baking powder. Mash the two cooked potatoes and add to the grated potatoes in the bowl.
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Give everything a stir, then slowly stir in the milk. The batter should have some consistency, yet be somewhat thin as well.
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Heat a large skillet over medium high heat. Use a generous amount of butter for each pancake. When the skillet is hot, almost completely fill the bottom of the skillet with the batter. Don’t make it too thick, but also fill in any thin spots or holes. Turn down the heat to medium, and cover the skillet with a lid.

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After a few minutes, turn the heat down to low to finish cooking the pancake. I discovered that it was nearly impossible to flip over these “pancakes,” so I just let them cook on the bottom side slowly.

After a few more minutes, slide the pancake onto a large plate, turn up the heat again, and make a second pancake. When the second one is done, slide it onto a separate plate.

Complete as many pancakes as you wish, then proceed with the filling:

Filling

1 recipe for white sauce
About 2 cups of chopped ham
6 ounces Monterey jack cheese

Make a white sauce according to the directions using butter, flour, and milk or cream, whichever you prefer.

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Stir in the ham and the cheese. I also sprinkled in some white pepper, but that is certainly optional.

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Add a generous amount of the filling to each boxty, and fold the other side over. Repeat with the remaining boxties that you made. The filing will generously fill four boxties, approximately 8″ in diameter.

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Serve immediately, or reheat later right before serving.

Boxty Pancakes

Make the same batter for the boxty using the grated and mashed potatoes, the flour, baking powder, and milk.

Add a generous amount of butter before adding the batter to the hot skillet. Make these the size as breakfast pancakes, turning down the heat to cook them through and prevent burning. It should take about 3 minutes on the first side, then flip them over and cook for about another minute.

To serve, add a tab of butter to the hot pancakes. These can be served as a side dish, or eaten as is. Personally I would have to have them with a side salad, or a few wedges of tomatoes.

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verdict: I think this boxty batter recipe pretty well tastes like my Dublin boxty. You could also substitute a crepe, but the potatoes really add something to the “pancakes.” And they’re not much work at all. The smaller boxty pancakes were good, but I prefer my own version of potato pancakes, that have less flour in them, and have much more texture. But both versions of boxty were fun to try!

* It’s called The Scottish-Irish Pub and Hearth Cookbook, by Kay Shaw Nelson.