Chef Heather Hunsaker,


With the fun parades, cute symbols, and tasty food; everyone loves to be Irish on St. Patrick’s Day! But the origin of this popular Irish holiday dates back one thousand years and is to honor the death of St. Patrick, Ireland’s patron saint. This religious holiday is celebrated on March 17 in Ireland and countries around the world; with traditional festivities including Irish mass and celebrations of Irish culture.

Since St. Patrick’s Day celebrations center around feasting, take time to explore some traditional Irish foods. Most of these foods are made with simple ingredients and are easy to cook.

· Corned Beef and Cabbage is a popular meal enjoyed by many. Cabbage has long been a staple in Irish diets but this dish was traditionally served with Irish bacon and not corned beef. It was not until the turn of the century, when Irish immigrants fled to America, that they learned to use corned beef as an inexpensive substitute.

· Shepherd’s Pie is a historical Irish casserole that is traditionally made of lamb meat or mutton and topped with mashed potatoes. Depending on the region, this dish is also known as Hunters Pie or Cottage Pie.

· Irish Soda Bread is simple table bread that came about in the 1800’s. It gave people the opportunity to make bread at home in a cast-iron pot cooked directly on coals. Soda bread uses baking soda to make the dough rise, instead of yeast; which was popular because it is inexpensive and nonperishable. Today many American versions contain raisins, nuts, and seeds; but traditional Irish versions are plain and simply adorned with a cross like shape. This shape is to help during the baking process as well as represent a religious cross in this predominately Catholic country.

· Irish Beer and St. Patrick’s Day go together like milk and cereal! The Irish are known for their rich, flavorful beers and brew three main types: lagers, ales, and stouts. Lagers are lighter and crisper; ales tend to be darker and slightly richer; and stouts are luscious, smoky, and malty in flavor.

To celebrate St. Patrick’s Day and honor Irish traditions, make this hearty, kid-friendly version of Shepherd’s Pie!

Sweet Potato and Turkey Shepherd’s Pie
Prep Time: 20 minutes Cook Time: 40 minutes Wait time: 5 minutes Serves: 6

2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
2 large baking potato, peeled and cubed
2 large carrots, peeled and diced
1 cup milk
1/3 cup sour cream
salt and black pepper, as needed, to taste
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 pound ground turkey
1/2 cup chopped onion
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon poultry seasoning
1/2 cup chicken stock
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 1/3 cup herb-seasoned stuffing mix
1 1/2 cup frozen mixed vegetables
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg or paprika, optional for topping

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Lightly grease a 2-quart, deep-dish casserole pan. Place the sweet potato, russet potato, and carrot in large pot. Add enough water to cover the vegetables. Placepot over medium heat and bring to a boil. Cook until tender enough to pierce with a fork, 8 to 10 minutes; drain.

Place the drained potato and carrot mixture in a large mixing bowl; mash lightly. Add the 1/2 cup milk and sour cream. Blend the potato mixture with an electric hand mixer set to medium until smooth and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside.

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Cook the turkey in the hot oil until browned, 4 to 5 minutes. Add the onion, celery, garlic, and poultry seasoning. Cook until the turkey is cooked through and no longer pink. Increase the heat to medium-high. Pour the chicken stock into the turkey mixture. Whisk together the remaining milk and flour until smooth. When the chicken stock begins to boil, add the flour mixture to the stock and stir until it thickens. Remove from heat and stir in Worcestershire sauce.

Pour the turkey mixture into the bottom of the prepared casserole dish. Sprinkle the stuffing mix over the turkey mixture. Arrange the mixed vegetables atop the stuffing mix. Season with salt and pepper. Spoon the potato mixture over the vegetables, spreading to cover all the way to the edges of the dish. Sprinkle with nutmeg or paprika to add color.

Bake in preheated oven until top is slightly browned, about 20-30 minutes. Allow to rest 5 minutes before serving.


Chef Heather Hunsaker attended and graduated from Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts, but has been developing family friendly meals since she was nine years old in her mother’s kitchen. She is an avid crockpotter and knows how to get food on the table in a pinch. She currently serves as a writer and recipe developer for meal planning site

This article appears in the March 2012 issue of Augusta Family Magazine.
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