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The Irish Boutique is an Irish import store that has been located in the Chicago land area for over 40 years.  The shop stocks a variety of products ranging from Irish jewelry, crystal, china, food, sweaters, caps, t-shirts and a wide variety of Irish gifts. 

Cooking Blog

Visit our blog to read about Michelle Barry's adventures in cooking and eating Irish cuisine and to learn about new products and upcoming events. 


Cheater Chicken Tikka Masala

john barry

Once upon a time in Ireland, white Irish Protestants were virtually the only minority segment of the the overwhelmingly white Irish Catholic population.  Now Ireland has the youngest population in the EU and its monocultural, monotheistic nature has given way to a newfound multicultural Ireland complete with religious and ethnic diversity including Polish, English, Lithuanian, Latvian, Nigerian, Romanian, Indian, Philippine, German, American, Chinese, Slovakian, French, Brazilian, Hungarian, Italian, Pakistani, Spanish, Czech, and South African communities.  This diversity of citizenry, naturally, has brought with it the food of all of all of these far flung nations. These days you can walk the streets of Dublin and see not only rows of pubs but also Chinese, Indian, Italian and other ethnic restaurants.  

In the 1980’s and 1990’s many Indians immigrated to Ireland to work as doctors and nurses to replace Irish medical professionals who emigrated elsewhere. As the Irish economy boomed during the Celtic Tiger era, more and more Indians immigrated to Ireland to work in all kinds of jobs. Now, the South Asian population is thought to make up 1 to 3 percent of the total population of Ireland. Interestingly, the establishment of Indian restaurants in Ireland pre-dates the most significant waves of Indian immigration to the country by over half a century.  

The first Indian restaurant in Ireland opened in 1908.  The venture, pre-dating London’s first Indian restaurant by three years, only lasted a year. It wasn’t until the 1950’s when more Indian restaurants began to spring up in England that another Indian restaurant opened in Ireland, the Golden Orient, which opened in 1956. In 1966 the Golden Orient was followed by the Taj Mahal, which remained open until the mid-1990’s. At first, these restaurants primarily served Indian students studying at Trinity and their adventurous Irish companions. By the late 1980’s the Indian population in Ireland was larger and more Irish people were familiar with Indian food. The restaurant was even mentioned in Larry Gogan’s “Just a minute” quiz on RTE Radio 2.  When asked “Where’s the Taj Mahal?” a contestant responded, “opposite the Dental Hospital”.

 Credit – Dublin City Photographic Collection

 Credit – Dublin City Photographic Collection

The origins of chicken tikka masala are uncertain. Did it come from India? Glasgow? England? Wherever it came from, there’s no question that it is an incredibly popular dish in England, Scotland and Ireland.  And it’s delicious.  It’s even delicious when you make a cheater version like this one.

The chicken in chicken tikka masala is really supposed to be marinated in a combination of lemon juice, spices, garlic, ginger and yogurt, then grilled or roasted before being married with a spiced, tomato-based cream sauce. I didn’t have it in me to marinate and grill the chicken or even stick around while the sauce cooked so I did this in my slow cooker while we took the kids to Chinatown.  It worked out just fine and was full of flavor.

The best part was not having to come up with a dinner plan on Monday night after work.

Cheater Chicken Tikka Masala

5 pounds bone-in chicken pieces, skin removed

2 tablespoons ground cumin

2 tablespoons paprika

1 tablespoon ground coriander seed

1 teaspoon ground turmeric

1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

6 cloves garlic, minced

2 tablespoons fresh ginger, grated

Kosher salt

2 tablespoons butter or ghee

1 large onion, thinly sliced

1 (28-ounce) can whole peeled tomatoes, roughly mashed

1/2 cup roughly chopped cilantro leaves and tender stems

1/2 cup heavy cream

Lemon to serve

Season chicken on both sides with salt.

Brown chicken pieces on all sides in slow cooker insert or in a saute pan on the stove over medium-high heat, about 6 minutes per side. Once chicken is brown on both sides, remove and set on a platter.

Add butter or ghee then onion, garlic, ginger and a little salt to cooker insert or saute pan and saute for about 10 minutes until brown and charred in spots.

Add spices and cook for 30 seconds more.

Add tomatoes, half of the cilantro and bring to a simmer scraping up any brown bits on the bottom of the pan. I do all of these steps in my slow cooker but if you are doing it in a pan, now is the time to transfer the contents of the pan to your slow cooker.

Add chicken pieces with their juices to the slow cooker.

Cook on low for 4-5 hours until the chicken is tender and comes off the bone easily.

Open lid and remove chicken pieces.

Add cream and taste and season sauce.

Puree the sauce with an immersion blender or in a blender (be careful!).

Taste and season again.

Pull chicken meat from the bones and add them back into the sauce, discarding the bones.

Garnish with the remaining fresh cilantro and a squeeze of lemon and serve.  Or, allow to come to room temperature before storing in the refrigerator for a quick weeknight dinner.





Real Irish Soda Bread

john barry

I just wish you could smell this! 

I just wish you could smell this! 

I recently came across this re-creation of a 19th century recipe for Irish Soda Bread on my favorite food website and of course I had to try it. As a brown bread lover, I usually use coarse whole wheat flour for this type of bread but curiosity, combined with not having any around compelled me to try it with all-purpose. The result was fantastic. The crust was nice and crisp, not what you would suspect from a quick bread. Like brown bread, this was substantial, the kind of bread you could eat with a soup or stew and call a meal. Yes, the crust loses its crunch after being stored for a day or so, but a toaster solves that problem. I ate a few slices of this bread fresh out of the oven slathered with butter and sprinkled with sea salt.  For the next day or two, I ate it toasted for breakfast.

As you can tell from the recipe this bread is the definition of quick. My oven barely had time to preheat before I had my shaped loaf all set up in my dutch oven and ready to go. And isn’t it pretty?  I still love my soda bread brown but I can tell I will be making this again.

What I loved even more than the recipe was all of the banter in the numerous comments to the accompanying article entitled “Irish Soda Bread, as it was Meant to Be” regarding the authenticity of using white flour for this type of bread instead of the coarse whole wheat flour which would produce what we call "brown bread". While there seemed to be little controversy over the fact that most soda bread in Ireland doesn’t contain sugar or dried fruit, the use of all-purpose flour in this recipe seemed to create quite a stir. The issue of whether or not white flour was more popular than whole wheat in the mid-1800’s and to whom it was available is discussed at length in the comments.  A few of the folks commenting seem to have significant knowledge on the topic of Irish food history.  If you are a food and history nerd like me, you might enjoy it.

Aside from eating soda bread, we were celebrating our Irish heritage last weekend at the Irish American Heritage Center's summer festival in Mayfair.  We decked the kids out in their Irish soccer uniforms (courtesy of our cousins) and enjoyed some food, music and Irish dancing. Isla was particularly captivated by the Irish dancers. Who knows? We may have a budding Irish dancer in that one.  If you have never been to the Irish American Heritage Center, you really should check it out.  They have a pub that is open most nights, a gift shop, event spaces, performances, a library, Irish dance classes and more. I highly recommend a visit.  

Watching an Irish dance performance. 

Watching an Irish dance performance. 

Pork in Ireland and Jerk Pork Chops

john barry

Is it just me or was it a little weird having the 4th of July land on a Tuesday this year? Because I didn’t have Monday off, it wasn’t a long weekend and the 4th itself was both a Holiday and a school/work night. I think the combination of these factors threw me off a bit, not that I’m complaining.  It’s always nice to have a day off.  Especially a beautiful summer day. We took the kids to a parade and then our plan was to go out to lunch but since everything was closed we just came home and fired up the grill.  I had a pork chop marinating that I needed to cook anyway.

We put our patio umbrella over the kiddie pool so we ate lunch in the shade of the garage. Happy to report that Emmett eschewed his ham sandwich for the jerk pork. Fly the W! Home Cooking 1: Toddler Diet 0.  

We put our patio umbrella over the kiddie pool so we ate lunch in the shade of the garage. Happy to report that Emmett eschewed his ham sandwich for the jerk pork. Fly the W! Home Cooking 1: Toddler Diet 0.  

While millions, probably over a billion people in the world do not eat pork for religious and other reasons, our family eats a lot of it.  We eat pork for the same reasons a lot of Americans eat it: because it’s relatively inexpensive, widely available and a good source of lean protein - plus, it’s delicious. Of course, we also eat more Irish bacon, sausages, and black and white pudding than the average American household does, for obvious reasons.  

Pork has been part of the Irish diet for thousands of years.  Researchers have discovered evidence of wild boar consumption dating as early as 9000 BP, and excavations at Newgrange in County Meath show that pigs and cattle were the primary sources of animal food as far back at 4000 BP. In the 19th century, Ireland was a major importer of pork to other countries. During this time period, Ireland embraced advancements in processing and breeding.  Pig farming developed alongside dairy farming and butter production, also mainstays of the Irish diet and agricultural industry, as by-products of dairy farming, such as whey and buttermilk, could be used to feed pigs.

Today, the pork industry is the third most significant source of Gross Agricultural Output or GAO in Ireland, after dairy and cattle production. And, as you might guess, in terms of consumption in Ireland, pork still tops the list followed by poultry, beef and lamb, respectively.  I recently learned that the Food Safety Authority of Ireland recommends that pork be cooked to a minimum temperature of 75C or 167F.  This is fine for sausages but for pork chops? NO WAY!  Not unless you want tough, chewy meat that is completely lacking in juices. Fortunately, in 2011, the USDA revised its recommended cooking temperature downwards from 160F to 145F after research finding that, in terms of food safety, 145F is equivalent to 160F.  So, if you care about this sort of thing, I think you can feel fine about 145F.  Personally, intrepid pork-eater than I am, I take mine off the grill when it hits about 135F.

Here’s a pork chop recipe that Paul has requested be placed in heavy dinner-rotation.  The kids love it too.

Jerk Pork Chops

For the Marinade:

  • 2-4 thick cut pork chops, I like to use bone-in
  • 3 tbs jerk spice mix*
  • 3 tbs soy sauce
  • 1 tbs fish sauce
  • cup mirin** (or water) 
  • 1-2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • ¼ cup dark or light brown sugar

*I get mine from the Spice House, or sometimes I use a paste that a friend brings me from Jamaica.

**Japanese sweet rice wine.  I use this because I always  have it but water would work just fine.

  1. Place all ingredients in a zip top bag and shake the bag or knead it with your hands until all ingredients are evenly distributed.
  2. Place pork chops in the bag and make sure each one is coated on all sides.
  3. Place in the refrigerator to marinate for 6-24 hours.  

For the glaze:

  • 1 tbs jerk spice mix
  • ¼ cup mirin or water
  • 2 tbs soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 3 tbs brown sugar
  • 2 tbs honey
  • 1 tbs lime juice

Place all ingredients in a small saucepan and simmer until sauce is reduced and thick enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon.  It will thicken further as it cools. Allow to cool to room temperature and refrigerate until you are ready to cook the pork.

To Cook:

Heat your grill.  If using charcoal, push charcoal to one side, so that one side is cool and one side is hot. If using gas, light only the burners on one side.  On my gas grill I light the left two burners and leave the right one unlit.

  1. Place your marinated pork chops on the cool side of the grill.
  2. Cook for about 7 minutes and then flip the chops, leaving them on the cool side.  
  3. Cook for about 7 minutes more or until the internal temperature hits about 110F.
  4. Move chops to the hot side of the grill.  
  5. Cook for a couple of minutes, then brush with glaze.  
  6. Flip chops and cook for another 2-4 minutes, brushing with more glaze.
  7. Remove once the chops reach your desired internal temperature.
  8. Allow chops to rest for 5-10 minutes.
  9. Serve with remaining glaze and lime wedges. 

We usually end up eating this with rice and whatever vegetables we have around but it would be great with grilled plantains; rice and beans; jicama, avocado and orange salad with cilantro-garlic dressing; and grilled pineapple over vanilla ice cream for dessert.

Remind me to do that. Summer dinner party!