Counting Down, Pt. 2, Soon to be St. Patrick's Favorites

St. Patrick’s Day is right around the corner; and you know what that means! It’s time to pull out your most treasured Irish recipes to serve up on the big day or try one of these soon-to-be favorites from my new cookbook, Delicious Ireland. The book celebrates my forty years of travel to Ireland with a great mix of recipes I’ve gathered over the years. To order a signed copy, visit


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Serves 4 to 6

 Leek and potato soup, also known as brotchán foltchep (from the Irish words meaning “broth” and “leeks”), is one of Ireland’s most traditional soups. Once thickened with oatmeal, this “broth” is thickened with potatoes and, more recently, celeriac. The root of a celery plant, celeriac has an earthy taste with a slight hint of celery and a texture close to that of turnip or parsnip. The soup is delicious served with buttered slices of brown bread. 

2 tablespoons butter

1 medium onion, chopped

2 large leeks (white and light green parts only), sliced

1 small celeriac, peeled and chopped

6 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces

1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme

6 cups canned low-sodium chicken broth

1 1/4 cups half and half


White pepper  

2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Celery leaves or chopped fresh chives, for garnish

1. In large saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the onion, leeks, celeriac, and potatoes; stir to coat. Cook, stirring frequently, for 5 to 7 minutes, or until the vegetables are soft but not browned; stir in the thyme.

2. Add the broth; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low. Cook, covered, for about 30 minutes or until the vegetables are tender. 

3. Working in batches, transfer the mixture to a food processor or blender; purée until smooth (or purée in the pot with an immersion blender). Return the soup to simmer; stir in the half and half. Season with salt and pepper; stir in the parsley. Simmer until heated through.

4. To serve, ladle the soup into bowls; garnish with the celery leaves or chives. Serve with brown bread.


Serves 4

Cashel Blue, Ireland’s first farmhouse blue cheese, is recognized for its creamy texture, buttery color, and distinctive flavor. It’s imported to the U.S. by Kerrygold, making it widely available in cheese shops and supermarkets to use in a salad, tart, cheese board, or this tartine, a chic, open-faced sandwich. To complement one of Ireland’s best blue cheeses, use good sourdough bread, thyme-flavored figs, and the best prosciutto you can find. The trendy, French-inspired tartine is delicious served with a small salad tossed with Walnut Vinaigrette (recipe follows). For a vegetarian option, omit the prosciutto.

For the figs

4 fresh figs, quartered

1 tablespoon brown sugar

1 tablespoon fresh thyme

For the tartine

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Four 1/2-inch-thick slices sourdough bread

6 ounces Cashel Blue cheese

4 slices prosciutto, cut in half 

1 1/2 tablespoon honey

Thyme sprigs, for garnish

Watercress or arugula, for garnish

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a baking dish with parchment paper. Place the figs in the prepared pan; sprinkle with brown sugar and thyme. Roast for 10 to 12 minutes, or until lightly browned.

2. Heat a grill pan over medium-high heat. Brush both sides of the bread with the olive oil. Grill for about 2 minutes on each side until toasted. Remove to four serving plates. Roughly spread the Cashel Blue on one side of each toast.

3. To serve, arrange four fig quarters on top of the cheese; tuck in the slices of proscuitto. Drizzle with honey; garnish with thyme. Toss the watercress or arugula with the vinaigrette; serve alongside each tartine, if desired.


In a lidded jar, combine 1/2 cup walnut oil, 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar, 1 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard, salt, and pepper; shake to blend. Makes about 3/4 cup


Serves 4

Black and white puddings have been the mainstay of an Irish breakfast for generations, served alongside eggs, bacon (rashers), sausages (bangers), grilled tomatoes, and mushrooms. In the 1880s, Philip Harrington developed his pudding recipe at his butcher shop in Clonakilty, County Cork, and he passed it on to the Twomey family when they took over the shop. It remains a highly coveted secret recipe! Today there are several black pudding brands in Ireland, and the spicy blood and oatmeal sausage is served in dishes well beyond the morning fry-up, including crostini with apples, black pudding and potato croquette, and this earthy salad with bacon and warm wild mushrooms. In the U.S. you can order black pudding from Tommy Moloney’s, a producer of premium Irish meat products ( Toss with Wholegrain Mustard Vinaigrette (recipe follows).

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

4 slices Irish bacon

12 slices black pudding

4 tablespoons butter

1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives

1 tablespoon minced shallot

8 ounces mixed wild mushrooms  

1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice


Ground black pepper 

Mixed greens (1 to 1 1/2 cups per person)

1. In a large skillet over medium heat, heat the olive oil. Fry the bacon for 3 to 5 minutes on each side until browned. Roughly chop. Fry the black pudding for 3 to 5 minutes until cooked through. 

2. Wipe out the pan; return to medium heat. Melt the butter. Add the chives, shallot, and mushrooms; sauté for 3 to 4 minutes or until soft but not browned. Stir in the lemon juice, salt, and pepper.

3. To serve, divide the mixed greens among four salad plates; toss with bacon and 2 to 3 tablespoons of the vinaigrette (cover and refrigerate remaining vinaigrette for another salad). Place three slices of pudding on each salad; spoon the warm mushrooms and juices on top. 


 In a lidded jar, combine 1 tablespoon wholegrain mustard, 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard, 1 teaspoon honey, 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar or white balsamic vinegar, 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper; shake to blend. Refrigerate until serving time. Makes about 1 cup

 Margaret Johnson’s “Recipes” page also includes “Ireland Hopping: Adventures in Food, Drink, and Travel.” For further details on her work, or to order a signed copy of any of her cookbooks, visit