Gather your green clothes, put on your dancing shoes and prepare yourself for some excellent “craic,” because March 17 marks the celebration of Ireland’s patron saint, St. Patrick.
While millions around the world will be celebrating the day with huge festivities and events, many here on island will also enjoy the celebrations in true Irish style.
History behind the celebration
St. Patrick’s Day, or the Feast of Saint Patrick (in Irish: Lá Fhéile Pádraig), is an annual cultural and religious celebration marking the day St. Patrick died. It was made an official Christian feast day in the early 17th century and is observed by many Christian denominations around the world. It originally commemorated the arrival of Christianity in Ireland, along with celebrating Irish heritage and culture. St. Patrick’s Day is a public holiday in the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland and is celebrated in the U.K., Canada, the U.S., Argentina, Australia and New Zealand.
Dublin the center for celebrations
In Ireland, the celebrations take on almost mythic proportions. From March 14 to 17, Dublin’s St. Patrick’s Day festival showcases the best in Irish arts, food and culture, and includes street theater, a parade, various musical treats, a treasure hunt, an Irish beer and whiskey festival and even a “greening” of the city.
Cayman marks the day in style
In the Cayman Islands, one of the key events to kick-start the St. Patrick’s Day celebrations is Irish Jog 5K.
This year, the 23rd annual St. Patrick’s Day 5K Irish Jog will take place at 5:30 p.m. on March 17 at Grand Cayman Beach Suites.
Irish Jog participants can be found socializing at the end of the run when the prize draw takes place.
Celebrating Ireland’s cuisine
Everyone looks forward to some traditional Irish food, traditionally humble yet hearty fare. The ubiquitous potato makes a popular appearance in many recipes, from the warming Dublin Coddle, an Irish sausage, bacon, onion and potato hotpot, to the simple Boxty, a delicious fried potato cake, and the traditional Irish Shepherd’s pie that is laden with golden mashed potatoes.
Colcannon is another traditional dish, with a scrumptious mix of potatoes, cabbage, onions and lashings of butter and salt and pepper. The word colcannon is from the Gaelic “calceannann” or “white-headed cabbage.” In years gone by, cooks would add special charms into the mix, which could predict the diner’s future. For example, a button (for a man) or a thimble (for a woman) meant they would remain single for the coming year, while a ring signaled the diner would get married, and a coin said they would become rich.
Local chef’s recipe
Along with offering live music and prizes all day on St. Patrick’s Day, Fidel Murphy’s Irish bar and restaurant will be cooking up some Irish dishes. Chef Elumalai Arumugam is a relative newcomer to the Irish cuisine, but he relishes the challenge of learning new concepts and cuisines. “I cook from the heart, with passion!” said the chef of more than 30 years.
Here he shares his recipe for Irish stew, a popular dish all year round.
A note about Guinness
You cannot talk about Irish cuisine without mentioning perhaps its most famous beverage: Guinness. An Irish dry stout originally created by Arthur Guinness at St. James’s Gate, Dublin, in the 18th century, Guinness is among the world’s best known beers. In fact, it’s now brewed in almost 60 countries and is available in more than 120. Its distinctive, almost burnt flavor, and thick, creamy head makes it a local favorite as well.
- 4 ounces vegetable oil
- 25 ounces tender beef cut into cubes (Chef Arumugam prefers the top round cut)
- 8 ounces carrots, cubed
- 8 ounces potatoes, cubed
- 8 ounces onions, cubed
- 5 ounces chopped garlic
- 2 sticks fresh thyme
- 2 bay leaves
- 6 cups brown stock (such as beef)
- 2 stock/bouillon cubes
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Chopped fresh parsley to garnish
- Toasted and buttered French stick to serve alongside
Take a large pot and heat the vegetable oil. Add the chopped garlic, thyme sticks and bay leaves. Then add onions and sauté well until onions are translucent. Add the beef and sauté well until meat is nice and browned on all sides.
Then season with a good pinch of salt and pepper, add the potatoes and carrots and add the brown stock and stock cubes and some water if necessary. Cook until the meat is very tender, about an hour. Check to ensure meat is tender, check the seasoning and serve in a bowl. Sprinkle with chopped parsley and serve with slices of warm buttered French bread. As a tip: Break up French bread into pieces and put them in the bowl to mop up all the brown gravy.