Monday 17 March 2014

St Patrick's Day dinner: cupcakes, spinach dip, soda bread and lots of green!

St Patrick's Day might not have been celebrated in our workplaces and schools but at home we ate green and wore green and listened to Irish music.  Yesterday I made spinach dip, cupcakes and collaborated with Sylvia on a shamrock banner.  I was pleased to be organised today and to use up leftover buttercream frosting.  Mostly I just loved celebrating green!

I should make a disclaimer here.  I was so excited about all the green possibilities that Sylvia started calling it green day.  So I did talk to her about St Patrick and disabuse her of the notion that St Patrick might be Jesus' dad.  (Well she knows he has two dads.  One is god but she forgot Joseph's name!)  We also talked about Ireland.  This is her heritage, after all.

Sylvia and I made a banner as a St Patrick's Day craft project.  We were inspired by Lil Luna.  It was made of old magazine pages, green cardboard (cut into heart shapes that then formed the shamrocks) and wool.

I have seen the wonderful Billy Bragg singing Handy Man Blues on the telly tonight.  Sadly there is no handy man in our house so I did a dodgy effort of stringing up the banner across the loungeroom.  E has to duck every time he passes.  (It isn't enough to make a handy man out of him but he can sing me Irish folk songs!)

I had leftover buttercream frosting from Sylvia's birthday cake.  It was a happy moment when I realised I had green icing in the fridge and St Patrick's Day almost upon us.  Then it was only a matter of finding a chocolate cupcake recipe to display the icing.  

I found a recipe in a favourite cupcake cookbook (Cupcakes Galore).  It was for brownie cupcakes.  I made quite a few changes, including leaving out walnuts so Sylvia could take one to school for lunch.  (I meant to add white choc chips instead but forgot.)  They were rich and dense but a bit dry without icing.  The original recipe called for a ganache.  But I had icng to be used.

Best of all was that I actually did some swirly green icing to make me feel proud.  I haven't had much success with this sort of icing in the past.  The silicone piping bag with nozzles to fit is one of the best solutions I have found for my piping incompetence.

I came across the idea for putting gold coins in the frosting when googling St Patrick's Day cupcakes.  I understand it is connected with the myths of leprechauns storing gold coins in a pot at the end of the rainbow.  It seems a bit far from St Patrick.  However Sylvia had the coins and it seemed like a fun idea.  Sylvia loved it!

I made a loaf of seeded soda bread tonight.  I found it in Betty magazine.  I think it was aimed at people who don't cook much.  It is that easy.  Soda bread seemed a nice Irish touch for our St Patrick's Day menu.  This one was soft, bready, crusty and so yummy.

I made changes because I didn't have all the 400ml yoghurt required.  Yoghurt or soured milk or buttermilk would all work here.  I liked the options to use any seeds.  The nigella seeds I added gave a slightly spicy flavour but subtle enough to fly under Sylvia's sensitive kiddie radar.  I also added a couple of good pinches of salt.

Lastly I reheated the spinach dip I made last night.  It is the sort of recipe I often see.  It was vibrantly green.  Perfect for St Patrick's Day.  I was quite pleased to use up some soaked beans, some greens, and some home made vegan cheese (which I will write about eventually).  It wasn't as creamy and heavy as I fear some of these dips are.  It did taste a little grassy.  I am not sure I would recommend it to convert spinach haters!  It was rather healthy though.  And green!

I am not used to warm dips.  This one only went in the oven for 15 minutes.  I thought it might change the texture and taste slightly.  Make it meld more.  It merely seemed to heat it through.  So I just reheated it tonight.  It does taste better heated.  At least with minimal heating, it keeps its green colour.

It was fun to celebrate St Patrick's Day with a special dinner.  I made a platter of the spinach dip with broccoli, edamame, green capsicum, cheese and rice crackers.  We tore apart the bread with our hands.  (Sylvia had vegemite on hers in a distinctively un-Irish fashion.)  Sylvia loved having a meal that she could serve herself.  We all loved the cupcakes.  Then E finished off the evening with a rendition of 'Molly Malone'.

I have also posted more ideas for St Patrick's Day green food.  If you want some Irish music and lovely Dublin images, you should check out the video clips of Falling Slowly by Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová.

I am sending the spinach dip to Ricki Heller for Wellness Weekends. I am sending the cupcakes to Kat for Treat Petite (cohosted by Cakeyboi).  This month's theme is Ireland.

Previously on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
One year ago: Potato, cabbage and facon soup for St Patrick's Day
Two years ago: NCR Chang's crispy salad with green burgers
Three years ago: WHB St Pat's Day Cabbage and Quicklinks
Four years ago: Paddy’s day cabbage and smoked tofu
Five years ago: Broccoli Burgers are Winners
Six years ago: St Patrick, Soup and a Shamrock

Seeded Soda Bread 
Adapted from Betty magazine, Winter 2013

300g wholemeal flour
200g white flour
2 tbsp seeds (I used sunflower, poppy, sesame and nigella)
2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
generous pinch (or two) or salt
1 cup yoghurt*
150ml milk*
1 tsp apple cider vinegar*

Preheat oven to 180 C or 350 F and dust a baking tray with flour.  Mix dry ingredients.  Pour in wet ingredients.  Mix in bowl and tip out onto floured surface.  Knead briefly until the dough is smooth.  Flatten slightly and place on floured tray.  Cut a deep cross with a sharp knife.  Bake for 45 minutes or until the crust is deep brown and sounds hollow when tapped.  Cool on wire tray.  Cover with tea towel while cooling to soften crust.

*NOTE:  The recipe called for 400ml of yoghurt.  I used 250ml yoghurt and then soured 150ml milk with the apple cider vinegar.  You could use 400ml of yoghurt or sour cream or buttermilk or soy milk soured with apple cider vinegar.  Or just use any combination of these depending what you have on hand - as I did.

Vegan Spinach Dip
Adapted from Healthy. Happy. Life
Makes about 3 cups

1/2 cup raw cashews
225g baby spinach
1 large leaf silverbeet or chard (approx 1/2 cup), stalk removed
1/4 cup parsley
1 large clove of garlic, chopped
2 tbsp nutritional yeast flakes
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp white miso
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 1/2 cups cooked white beans (or 1 x 400g tin)
1/2 cup vegan cheese (optional)

Preheat oven to 180 C. Soak cashews for about 20 minutes in salted hot water while you prepare other ingredients. Drain when ready to use.

Blend everything in processor except beans and cheese. You may need to scrape down a few times until blended. Blend in beans and then stir in cheese. Spoon into a small baking dish and bake 15 minutes to warm through. Serve warm with bread or crackers.

Chocolate brownie cupcakes
Adapted from Cupcakes Galore
Makes 12 cupcakes

180g chocolate
80g butter
120g brown sugar
2 eggs
150g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
100g walnuts or choc chips (optional)
buttercream frosting or ganache

Preheat oven to 180 C and put cupcake papers in a 12 whole cupcake or muffin tin.

Melt butter, chocolate and sugar.  Stir in eggs one at a time to make it glossy and thick. Stir in flour, baking powder and salt until combined.  Gently mix in walnuts or choc chips if desired.

Spoon mixture into cupcakes papers only about 2/3 full or less (I think mine was less).  Bake for 20 to 25 minutes until a skewer inserted comes out cleanly.  Cool on a wire rack and ice with buttercream frosting or ganache.
On the Stereo:
The Swell Season (self titled)


  1. Lorraine Not Quite Nigella18 March 2014 at 03:19

    Happy St Patricks Day! And yes it's so fitting for you to go all out for green given your blog name and theme! :)

    1. Thanks Lorraine - yes the green food fits right in

  2. Happy St. Patrick's Day, Johanna! I really enjoyed your festivities! I'm green with admiration, lol...

    I'm cooking a corned beef "as we speak" and just took a soda bread out of the oven. Marion wouldn't have it any other way, lol...

    Thanks for sharing, Johanna...

    1. Thanks Louise - glad to hear you had a good Irish meal on the day - would love a taste of your soda bread

  3. Green is good! It looks like a super fun day in your household. I ended up feeling too lazy to decorate :P

    1. Thanks Veganopoulous - it was fun to celebrate - I sort of saw it as more craft than decoration because the rest of the house wasn't terrible St Pats (unless you count our green walls and benchtop and all my green kitchenware)

  4. Your celebrations sound like so much fun! I love the vibrant green in the cupcake icing too - very appropriate for the day :)

    1. Thanks Kari - yes we had fun and it was nice that it was a special dinner that sylvia could join in with us.

  5. What a fab St Pats Day spread! I didn't get time to do anything.

    1. Thanks Cakelaw - I understand - so many reasons to celebrate you can't do them all

  6. I like that Sylvia calls it green day! There sould be a blue day, too!

    1. Thanks Mihi - Sylvia keeps asking when we will have pink day :-)

  7. I'm definitely up for celebrating green also! All of this looks so delicious!

    1. Thanks Joanne - I am always up for a bit of green in my life :-)

  8. Yay, green is my favourite! Happy green day! I love the gold coin cupcakes, they're gorgeous!

    1. Thanks Caeli - the gold coins were just another way of slipping in a bit more chocolate without bringing brown into the photo :-) And they were in the house anyway thanks to Sylvia's party going

  9. What a lovely food day! Those cupcakes look especially fab and I adore soda bread. Such an easy thing to whip up and great with everything.
    I didn't realize you had Irish blood? I guess as I think E is from Scotland (?) I looked over that fact.
    I don't really acknowledge St Patrick's day. I think I'd feel like I was betraying England seeing as I don't even celebrate St George's!

    1. Thanks Emma - soda bread is such a great quick bread. Both E and I have Irish ancestors - I have quite a lot of connections to Ireland with ancestors, my sister living there and my school being run by an Irish Catholic order of nuns. St George's day doesn't seem to get a big rap but England seems a very complicated country when it comes to nationalism.

  10. Good on you for getting into the spirit of the day. I love your green cupcakes and you decorated them so well. And your green dinner looks very lovely and what a great dip - lots of flavour and goodness there! xx

    1. Thanks Charlie - I love St Pat's Day - any excuse for more green in my life :-)

  11. I love soda bread - it's my fallback bread because it doesn't really need much effort and minimal ingredients (the recipe I use is just flour, baking soda, salt, lemon juice and soy milk or something) but it's still heavenly fresh out of the oven. Your soda bread looks so light and delicious. The vegan spinach dip look darn tasty too - I'm with you on the not normally having warm dips, but I'd love to give the spinach one a go.


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