Happy St. Patrick’s Day everyone! While I know this recipe won’t be coming to you in time to celebrate the holiday, I hope you enjoy some of your own favorite foods and then make this Shamrock Bread for the after-party table. Not only is it soft and bursting with sweet, tender onions and cabbage–it’s bright green and looks like a clover! I mean, what else could you want in a March bake? It’s the perfect side dish to a hearty dinner, especially for those of you who want to adhere to the cabbage tradition but don’t care for a mouthful of cabbage on its own.
Saint Patrick’s Day has always been celebrated among my family. Having proud Irish grandparents, I was the kid at school who was enthusiastically decked out in green on the 17th because I enjoyed it (and because I knew if I wasn’t, my grandpa would somehow sense it from miles away and never let me hear the end of it!). For some, this holiday is one that’s easily overlooked, a day that only brings unwanted wardrobe limitations and obnoxious parties. Since I was young, though, I’ve looked forward to celebrating St. Patty’s Day for weeks before it comes. I can’t lie: pride in my family’s heritage was far from the reason for my childhood anticipation. It was mostly fueled by something that you wouldn’t expect from the baker of all things vegan: corned beef.
Every March for the holiday, my grandma cooked our family corned beef, potatoes, cabbage, and Irish soda bread. While it took me a few years of maturing to appreciate the cabbage and bread, I’ve had a love of corned beef from the beginning. While it’s actually an arguably Irish meal, it to me was the epitome of St. Patrick’s Day, and the flavor was unlike anything else I ever ate. So, the joke that my grandma would buy one corned beef for me and one for the rest of the family to split developed, and the tradition of enjoying the meat every spring was kept strong.
My first March in Pittsburgh came with the sad realization that there’d be no walking through my grandma’s kitchen to the smell of dinner that’d been simmering for hours, and my initial reaction was to wallow in the loss of one of my favorite celebrations. It wasn’t until my mom brought it up that I realized, believe it or not, Pittsburgh sold corned beef and I had a pot and water; essentially nothing was stopping me from enjoying my beloved meal aside from my own laziness.
But it felt so wrong for a St. Patrick’s Day dinner to come from the hands of anyone but my grandma–I questioned whether it would even taste good if it wasn’t infused with her special care and served on her dining room table with the lacy tablecloth and the hum of golf on the t.v. from the living room and the spring sun shining through her kitchen window by the hummingbird feeder and a tray loaded with finger food that we’d munch on as she wandered around the kitchen with a towel on her shoulder. I began to feel as though having no festive meal at all was better than having my apartment-prepared solo style corned beef.
And that’s where I was wrong. I realized–after allowing my craving to win over my sentimental groaning–that my mentality is what crushes memories from taking hold and actually becoming traditions. Sure my simple table-for-one style St. Patrick’s Day seemed rather pathetic in the moment, but who’s to say it won’t one day become an annual joy to my future family? If young adults like me don’t allow themselves to be the humble placeholders, they risk the chance of their beloved experiences dying with their initial participation in them. I want to challenge myself to hold tight to the things that sometimes feel lost with time and distance, to accept that just because traditions must adapt doesn’t mean they must be abandoned. I want to keep firm in my goal for starting this blog. I want to always remember that 600 miles from Charleston to Pittsburgh may seem like a long way, but it’s got nothing on a love of family, traditions, and corned beef.
Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them fade from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them.
- 3 cups diced cabbage
- 1 1/2 cups diced sweet onion (about 1 medium onion)
- 1 cup diced mushrooms
- 3 medium cloves garlic
- 1 TBSP olive oil
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 tsp ground mustard
- 3/4 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp pepper
- 1/4 tsp allspice
- 1/4 tsp onion powder
- 1/4 tsp tarragon
- 1/2 cup spinach (packed into cup)
- 3/4 cup almond milk
- 1 packet active dry yeast (2 1/4 tsp)
- 1/4 cup melted vegan butter (earth balance is great)
- about 2 1/2 cups of flour (slightly more/less if needed)
- remaining spices from filling
- In a small bowl/cup, mix together all dry spices except bay leaves. Set aside.
- Place oil and garlic in skillet and turn to medium heat. When the oil is hot, add onions, cabbage, and bay leaves.
- Stir in 2 tsp of the spice blend, and save the rest.
- Reduce heat slightly to medium-low, and allow everything to cook until cabbage is tender and onions are translucent, about 30 minutes. Lower heat if vegetables begin to brown.
- After 30 minutes, add the mushrooms and cover. Cook covered for 10 minutes.
- Remove the lid and let cook for a final 5 minutes. Turn off heat and allow to cool.
- Blend spinach and milk in food processor or blender. Place in a microwave-safe cup and heat until lukewarm.
- Pour into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with bread hook.
- Stir yeast into heated milk and allow to sit for about 5 minutes.
- Mix remaining spice blend into melted butter, and then stir the butter into the mixer bowl with the yeast and milk.
- Begin mixing the flour in by hand until the mixture is getting thick. Mix with the bread hook on low speed to incorporate the remaining flour.
- When the dough comes together, increase the mixer speed to medium and mix until the dough is very smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes. If it continues to stick to the bottom of the bowl, add slightly more flour.
- Grease bowl, cover with saran wrap or a damp towel, and let rise in a warm place for an hour or until doubled in size.
- Preheat your oven to 400°F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
- On a greased surface, separate the dough into four equal sections. Divide each of the quarters into 3 pieces.
- Work with 3 pieces at a time. Roll each into a circle of the same size, (I did about 6 inches across).
- Divide filling into 8 parts.
- Spread one eighth of filling onto the first circle of dough. Place another circle on top, stretching it to fit the shape of the bottom circle and pressing the edges together. Spread another eighth of the filling on top, and top with the third dough circle. Make sure the edges are pinched closed. Move the whole stack onto the prepared baking sheet.
- Make two cuts into the circle to form the stem (see the images above). Cut the remaining circle into 6 sections, keeping the cuts short enough so that they don’t reach the center.
- Take two sections at a time and twist them towards each other to form each leaf of the clover. Pinch the centers of the sections together tightly. Much of the filling will be exposed.
- Repeat with the remaining dough and filling to make three more shamrocks.
- Bake in the preheated oven for 12-14 minutes, or until bottoms begin to brown slightly. Enjoy immediately, or let cool completely and store in the fridge for a couple days; reheat in microwave when ready to eat.