Kiss me: I'm Irish.
You see this slogan on a lot of T-shirts lately, and especially today, of course. In my case, it happens to be true. I am Irish, though I likely won't don a T-shirt that announces it. Pale skin and freckles are enough of an announcement, I think.
There is an inherent wisdom to the timing of St. Patrick's Day that has nothing to do with St. Patrick himself or even with the intent of the holiday. Celebrated in this country since the 1700s as a way for Irish immigrants to pay tribute to their heritage, St. Patrick's Day officially commemorates the day of the saint's death, March 17, 1461. He is credited with bringing Christianity to Ireland and the only snakes he drove out of the country were symbolic ones, those that stood for the paganism that thrived prior to his successful efforts.
What is reflected in the holiday is the season: Green decorations mirror spring's green hills and pastures; flavors of the season, especially chives, leeks and lamb are echoed in many of the holiday's traditional dishes.
And as far as kisses go, isn't that what spring fever is all about?
This soup, similar to Scotch Broth, is a perfect spring tonic. I like to serve it in small cups as an appetizer before Irish stew, corned beef and cabbage or other traditional St. Patrick's Day fare.
Irish Lamb Broth with Farro
Makes 8 to 10 servings
2? pounds meaty lamb necks
— Kosher salt
6 tablespoons semipearled farro, soaked in water overnight and drained
2 leeks, white part only, cleaned and minced
1 green garlic, cleaned and minced
2 carrots, peeled and minced
1 small parsnip, peeled and minced
6 cups thinly shredded cabbage
— Black pepper in a mill
3 tablespoons very fresh mint leaves, cut into thin slivers
Put the lamb into a soup pot, season with salt and add 12 cups water. Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce the heat to low and simmer gently, partially covered, for 2 hours. Skim the surface of the simmering water to remove foam and other impurities.
After the soup has been simmering for 90 minutes, add the barley and continue to cook 30 minutes longer; stir in the leeks, garlic, carrot, parsnip and cabbage and season again with salt. Cook for 45 minutes; remove from the heat and cool slightly.
Use tongs to remove the lamb from the liquid, being sure to remove any bones that have fully separated from the meat. Remove all the meat from the bones, discard the bones, chop the meat and stir it into the soup. Reheat, season with several turns of black pepper, taste and correct the seasoning.
Ladle into soup cups, top each portion with a bit of shredded mint and serve.
If you are serving a big group on St. Patrick's Day, you might offer two main courses, corned beef and cabbage, naturally, and lamb stew. This version is very easy to prepare and is both rich and delicately evocative of early spring. You'll want to serve some sort of potato dish alongside, anything from simple boiled new potatoes to the colcannon that follows this recipe.