St Pat’s Day feast

It was a grand weekend at the Blue Mountains Music Festival, as ever. Jeff Lang playing Blues on the lapsteel, The Good Lovelies’ wholehearted three part harmonies, sublime classical guitar from the Grigoryan brothers and the delicious klezmer riot of the Woo Hoo Revue, and Belle Jar for that matter. What is it about klezmer music that makes me so hungry?

The Celts were well represented too, and my particular favourite was Eleanor McEvoy, who effortlessly shifted from blues to ballads to chanson, oui vraiment. She belted out a spirited version of Edith Piaf’s Milord and the crowd went fauve.

When you think about it, the Irish and the French have something going on. Anglo-French rivalry meant that France was a haven for your well-to-do Irish dissident and/or writer. Samuel Beckett wrote Waiting for Godot in French, and James Joyce finished and published Ulysses in Paris. I could get into some kind of riff about the Gaelic and the Gallic, but I’m peckish. I’m just flagging this because these thoughts have determined today’s St Patrick’s Day menu.

Part one, Irish Soda bread.


Years ago I first tasted this from Bowen Island Bakery at Drummoyne and I was swiftly smitten. Today, I baked my own for the first time. In fact it’s the first time I’ve made bread of any sort. I used the River Cottage recipe for this. Hugh Fearnley-Wearnley may not be Irish, but he’s a man who knows his way around a lightly dusted baking tray. It came out just as he promised. A thick crunchy crust and a heavy scone-like crumb, best served with nothing but proper salted butter and a cup of tea. I am wishing our Irish friend Helen was about, so she could try it and tell us how marvellously authentic it is. If it is.

We have eaten way too much soda bread now, and it’s time to go a bit French. Part two is dinner. Our local pork sausages on a bed of puy lentils cooked in cider. Eleanor McEvoy is on the stereo and I’d better get on with it. Sláinte.

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