The BLOG: Lifestyle

Round out your St. Patrick’s Day meal with this Irish staple

Sure now, it’s a fine sign of Spring as we turn the calendar to see we’re just days away from the evergreen celebrations of St. Patrick’s Day!

While many of us are only honorary Leprechauns, observing a traditional Irish meal can be quite a treat this time of year. As corned beef bubbles and cabbage wilts, it takes little more than an hour to round out this square meal with a loaf of homemade Irish soda bread.

Nana Nellie (Courtesy of Mark McMahon)

Nana Nellie (Courtesy of Mark McMahon)

Lore of the fabled bread varies, but love of its earthy, tangy flavor spans the globe. Irish soda bread is simple to make, quick to bake and a comfort food no matter your age or lineage.

This recipe is one in a collection of gems Ellen “Nellie” Connors of Mitchelstown, Ireland left home with as she immigrated to the United States in 1925. At 18 she began the two-week journey, traveling alone, in steerage bound for Boston. Along her life’s course she married, had a daughter and then four beloved grandchildren.

As the luck of the Irish would have it, one of those grandchildren married an aficionado of cuisine. Having been trained at the world’s premier culinary college, The Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York, Mark McMahon recognized Nana Nellie’s recipes as ones to treasure.

Mr. McMahon has a knack for knowing what people like to eat. Over his expansive career, his skills have been sought in a variety of settings, including the Andover Country Club. He’s served local luminaries such as Julia Child, Tom and Jean Yawkey, and Bobby Orr as well as many other athletes, business and political figures of note.

With his encyclopedic knowledge of the world’s greatest recipes at his fingertips, he declares with smiling Irish eyes Nana Nellie’s soda bread to be one of the best. Although Nellie passed away in March of 1996, her legend remains sweet in more than lore, her memory lives though emerald recipes that made the voyage 91 years ago from County Cork to Boston.


Mix in a large bowl:

3 cups all purpose flour

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup sugar

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 1/4 cups whole or buttermilk

2 eggs

3 tablespoons baking powder

1 cup golden raisins

— knead well with hands until a ball of dough forms

— place the ball into a lightly buttered 9″ glass pie plate or skillet

— dust the top of the ball with sugar then score with a knife making a cross or farl

— bake at 375 degrees for 45 minutes

— the bread should be dry inside, and make hollow thud sounds when tapped

— let cool 30 minutes

— serve in thick slices slathered with sweet Irish butter and a fine cup of tea.