We're all Irish this week, no matter where our families come from. We don our green, quaff Irish beer, feast on corned beef and cabbage and party like it's fifth-century Ireland, when, legend has it, St. Patrick first landed on the Emerald Isle.

St. Patrick's Day is such a carefree holiday to embrace. You don't have to worry about gifts or overcooking a turkey. Just add an O and an apostrophe to the front of your last name, right?

I am a bit of a failed Irishman, I confess. Even though a good smattering of my ancestors came from Ireland, I didn't grow up with any St. Pat's traditions. I don't drink beer, and corned beef and cabbage is not a favorite dish.

From left, oatmeal-rye soda bread with herbs and walnuts, Irish soda bread, and double chocolate cherry soda bread.
From left, oatmeal-rye soda bread with herbs and walnuts, Irish soda bread, and double chocolate cherry soda bread. (AP Photo/Matthew Mead, file)

Thank goodness a reader, Rosemary, asked for an Irish soda bread recipe -- and so many of you responded quickly enough that we can all enjoy a loaf or two for St. Patrick's Day. Are these recipes all authentically Irish? Probably not, according to the Society for the Preservation of Irish Soda Bread (www.sodabread.info). But they work for us, and I never met a loaf of crusty, rustic bread that I didn't like.

For the most part, you like your soda bread with currants or raisins and sometimes caraway seeds. You make your bread with buttermilk. Donna Prime likes a recipe that includes a teaspoon of honey. She adds raisins and caraway seeds because they "evoke for me the flavor of the soda bread made by the Irish nuns at my Torrance Catholic elementary school."


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We even heard from a nun, who shared her favorite soda bread recipe. Sister Miriam Daniel Fahey, of Los Gatos, melts a tablespoon of butter in a cast-iron frying pan, then bakes her bread in the pan. "It's wonderful warm, with butter and honey, or toasted the next day," she says.

I've included three Irish soda bread recipes with this week's column. Gerry Thompson's recipe represents what most of us think of as traditional Irish soda bread -- even if it doesn't meet the purists' interpretation. It reminds Thompson of the bread "I used to get in New York at Cushman's Bakery."

Plates regular Susan Tajii shared what she calls a "super healthy interpretation of the classic Irish bread." This Cooking Light bread uses whole-wheat flour, steel-cut oats, flaxseed and wheat germ. "I slice this bread and toast it, spreading on homemade apricot jam," she says.

Finally, if you really want a quick and easy way to show your Irish side, try Jill Schlageter's three-ingredient Irish soda bread. And yes, baking soda is not one of the three ingredients. Schlageter simply combines self-rising flour, sugar and beer. You can add raisins, currants or grated Swiss cheese.

"It is delicious," she says. "My grown kids have requested it for over 25 years. We have it with our St. Patrick's Day dinner."

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  • When a reader named Rosemary -- a different Rosemary -- grew up in Redwood City in the 1960s, her family often ate at Stickney's Hickory House. "Their desserts were spectacular," she says. "However, we all loved their barbecue sauce and would often order it to go. It was light in color compared to other barbecue sauces." If you have the Stickney's sauce recipe or one that will help Rosemary forget Stickney's version, please share.

    P.S. The March 21 food section will be a special one devoted to the vineyards, winemakers and wine bars of the Livermore Valley AVA, so I'll be taking the week off. Look for my next column March 28.

    Send recipes and requests to HomePlates@bayareanewsgroup.com.