Recipes with Julie Van Rosendaal: Irish cuisine

Every March, St. Patrick’s Day prompts a surge of interest in Irish cuisine — meat pies, fish and chips, potato dishes and soda bread.

St. Patrick's Day recipes, without the green food colouring

Serve this Irish soda bread warm, in wedges, with butter. (Supplied by Julie Van Rosendaal)

Every March, St. Patrick's Day prompts a surge of interest in Irish cuisine — meat pies, fish and chips, potato dishes and soda bread.

We talked about it on the Calgary Eyeopener this week, and David and Angela had soda bread, fish pie and chocolate stout cake (with stout frosting) for breakfast. 

 LISTEN | Thursday is St. Patrick's Day, here's how Julie van Rosendaal is celebrating

Mrs. Clark's Irish Soda Bread

Irish soda bread is a quick bread that's similar to a large biscuit — baking soda is the leavening agent, reacting with the buttermilk in the dough. It's also a great way to use yogurt or sour cream that's nearing it's best before date — just thin it with some milk or water. This is a slightly adapted recipe (I found I needed to increase the quantity of buttermilk) courtesy of Laureen Regan at the Honorary Consul of Ireland here in Calgary, who inherited it from her aunt's mother, Mrs. Clark.

Irish soda bread is a quick bread that’s similar to a large biscuit. (Supplied by Julie Van Rosendaal)


  • 4 cups wheat flour (I used half all-purpose, half whole wheat)
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • A handful of raisins, currants or grated cheese (optional)
  • 1 1/2 cups buttermilk

Preheat the oven to 400˚F.

In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking soda and salt. Add the butter and blend with a fork, pastry blender or your fingers until you have a coarse meal. Add the raisins (or grated cheese) and toss to combine, then add the buttermilk and stir until the dough comes together.

Gather the dough into a ball and if you like, roll in some quick or old-fashioned oats to partially coat. Place on a parchment-lined sheet and flatten the ball slightly. If you haven't rolled it in the oats, brush with a little more buttermilk. Cut a deep X in the top (a small serrated knife works well) and bake for 45 minutes, or until deep golden and hollow-sounding. (If your loaf is browning too quickly, cover loosely with foil and/or turn the oven temperature down to about 350˚F, and cook a little longer.)

Serve warm, in wedges, with butter. Makes one loaf, serves about eight.

This fish pie is topped with tater tots. (Supplied by Julie Van Rosendaal)

Fish Pie with Tater Tot Topping

Potatoes make a wonderful savoury pie topping — feel free to swap mashed potatoes for the bagged tater tots here. Other recipes have the tots baked on top of the filling, which takes awhile, (the tots also tend to absorb much of the filling), but if you get them started separately they'll get crispier, and you can finish the dish quickly by placing them on top. 


  • 1/2 bag frozen tater tots 
  • canola or other vegetable oil, for cooking
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1 celery stalk, finely chopped
  • 1 carrot, finely chopped
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2-3 cups chicken or vegetable stock, milk, cream or a combination
  • 1/2-3/4 lb haddock, sole or other whitefish filets, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • a big pinch of dry thyme or a sprig of fresh

Preheat oven to 400˚F. Put the tater tots on a baking sheet and bake for about 20 minutes, while you make the filling. 

Set an ovenproof skillet (about 10 inches) or other pan over medium-high heat. Heat a drizzle of oil and the butter and sauté the onion, celery and carrot for a few minutes, seasoning with salt, until soft. Sprinkle with flour and stir to coat. Stir in 2 cups stock, milk, or a combination of stock and cream and bring to a boil, stirring until thickened. Add the fish and thyme and cook for 3-4 minutes, until the fish is cooked. Add a bit more stock or cream (or even water) if needed, if the sauce is too thick.

Top with the tater tots and place the pan in the oven for another 10 minutes or so, until the fulling is bubbly and the tater tots are golden. Serves about 4.

Stout, stout and more stout for this chocolate cake. (Supplied by Julie Van Rosendaal)

Chocolate Stout Cake with Stout Frosting

Dark stout makes a surprisingly fantastic frosting — it doesn't taste at all like beer, but has a rich caramel flavour. Non-alcoholic stout works perfectly here — they make a version at Village Brewery. 

  • 1 cup stout (alcoholic or non-alcoholic)
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 4 oz unsweetened or semi-sweet dark chocolate, chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1/3 cup cocoa
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp fine salt


  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 2 1/2-3 cups icing sugar
  • 1/4 cup stout

Preheat the oven to 350˚F and line two 8x4-inch loaf pans with parchment, or rub them with soft butter or shortening. 

In a medium-large saucepan, heat the stout with the butter (cut it into pieces to speed things up) and chocolate, whisking until melted. Remove from the heat and stir in the sugar and cocoa. Let cool for about ten minutes, then whisk in the sour cream, eggs and vanilla. Add the flour, baking soda and salt and whisk just until combined. Divide between the two pans and bake for 45 minutes, until domed and cracked on top, and springy to the touch.

To make the frosting, beat the butter with about half the icing sugar until smooth and creamy – you want to get rid of any lumps of butter. Beat in the rest of the icing sugar (aim for 2 1/2 cups) and the stout and beat until smooth and light. Add more icing sugar if you need it to achieve a fluffy, spreadable frosting.

Spread the frosting over the cakes once they are completely cooled. Garnish with sprinkles or chocolate or other edible decorations, if you desire. 

Makes two cakes, serves about 16.