Yay, its March! That has to mean that spring temperatures can’t be too far away and St. Patrick’s Day will be happening soon. St. Patrick’s Day has always been a fun time for me because we get to celebrate all things Irish…well…I guess we get to wear green from head to toe, drink green beer and eat corned beef and cabbage-all things that my friends in Ireland do not actually do on the day. But hey, who am I to argue with the American adaptation. It’s all fun! And I usually get to eat plenty of fantastic Irish food that I love for the month. I’m sure there are a few raised eyebrows when I mention ‘fantastic” and “Irish food” so close together. Irish food has gotten a bit of a bad rap in the past for being somewhat boiled and tasteless. However, that is simply not the case. I’m really not so much of a fan of the ole corned beef and cabbage, but love the really thick french fries, or chips, soda bread, brown bread, Shepherd’s Pie, Beef and Guinness pie, I could go on and on. So, for the month of March I plan to blog about the great food I enjoyed when I was living in Cork. Perhaps I can give you some menu ideas for a fabulous St. Patrick’s Day dinner party. Check back often this month.
I will be starting it all off with the Cheese & Onion Pie. I LOVE Cheese & Onion pies. I hadn’t had one in I can’t tell you how long. I have never found any establishment here in the US serving these scrumptious items. I didn’t really find them offered in many places in Ireland either I must say. However, there is an awesome chipper in Cork that is still serving these to this day-Lennox’s-located on the Bandon Road, very close to University College Cork. Back in the day, my friends and I would often stop by there on the way home from the pub for a late night snack. I would always get the Cheese & Onion pie which they served up with plenty of chips and healthy lashings of salt and malt vinegar. YUM! This pie was not like a traditional meat pie in that it was not in a pie crust. Rather Lennox’s offering was more like a deep-fried ball of cheese and onion mashed potatoes, crunchy on the outside and warm and gooey on the inside. And all of that for a measly 60 pence (which was about $1.10 at the time). What an incredible bargain! There couldn’t have been anything more perfect at the time. Cheap, which was great since I was a starving student, as well as hot, salty, crunchy, carby and available at oh…say 11:30 pm when I was full of pints and headed home from the pub.What a Godsend. I looked around online for the recipe, but sadly could not find anything similar to Lennox’s version. I did find lots of recipe requests from other American’s who had gone to college in Cork and were jonesing for Cheese & Onion pies. Unfortunately these requests were often answered with recipes for cheese & onion baked within a pie crust. Not the same! So I set out to recreate the Lennox’s version. I broke out my deep fryer. Took some leftover mashed potatoes, mixed in some flour to give it some body, some wonderful Irish cheddar cheese and fried onions and garlic.
I rolled this mixture into balls which were about 2 inches in diameter. This was about the size of Lennox’s pies. My husband said he thought they would be better smaller, perhaps the size of golf balls, so I did a few that size as well.
I was not sure what the pre-frying step should be. I didn’t think that Lennox’s coated theirs in any type of batter before it hit the deep-fryer, but I wasn’t quite sure. So I made some without any batter, and some coated in a deep-frying batter. I was curious whether a Panko coating might also be tasty. It was certainly not what I found at Lennox’s, but I thought I might be able to make some small improvements to the dish.
I fried all three versions up and then the fun “tasting” part of this experiment began!
The results? The “naked” version was what I remember as being closer to the Lennox’s experience, you got a definite crunch when you bit down, with warm gooey, cheesy goodness inside.
The Panko version was very good as well, somewhat lighter and still quite crispy. The battered version was still tasty, super crunchy on the outside, though the batter made it a bit heavy and I don’t think worth the extra trouble. They were all good. I believe my husband is on to something concerning the size as well. The mini pies, though not true to the Lennox’s experience were better! I don’t believe Lennox’s has anything to worry about though, they still reign supreme. However, if you find that you are not in Cork and are really dying for a Cheese & Onion pie, try this recipe.
Cheese & Onion Pie
For the pies:
1 Cup left over mashed potatoes
1/2 Cup all-purpose flour
1/2 Cup grated cheddar cheese
1/2 Cup onions-diced
1-2 cloves garlic-diced fine
salt and pepper to taste
1 Tbs. butter
For Panko Breading (should you wish to try this version)
1/2 Cup flour
2 eggs-lightly whisked
1/2 Cup Panko flakes
Deep-fry Batter-(in case you want to try this one!)
1 cup buttermilk
1 tablespoon oil
1 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
Saute the onions and garlic in butter until softened. Let cool.
Mix the mashed potatoes, flour, cheddar cheese, salt and pepper and onion garlic mixture together until a dough forms.
Shape dough into pies of your desired size. This recipe makes 4 Cheese & Onion Pies of 2 ” diameter.
If you are not going to try the Panko version, you are now ready to deep-fry. If you wish to try the Panko version, gently roll the pies in flour until coated. Then dip in egg wash and roll in Panko until thoroughly coated. If you are trying the battered version, try to make sure the pie is completely coated and gently lower it directly into the oil. If you place it in the deep-fryer basket, it will stick to it!
Deep fry at 375° F for 10 minutes or until golden brown. If you are making mini pies it will only take 5-6 minutes.