Maybe there's something in the Irish air that promotes hearty appetites early in the day, but breakfast in Eire is a significant meal.
"We were the first to do brunch, really,'' said Ken Wade, Irish chef and owner of Paddy Mac's in Palm Beach Gardens. "The Irish are famous for being late risers. So really, it's brunch at 10:30 or 11 o'clock when we eat. That eliminates the need for lunch. We eat dinner - we call it teatime - around 6 o'clock. So breakfast is usually more substantial to hold us over.''
Roly's brown Irish soda bread Makes 1 loaf 3/4 cup all-purpose flour 1/4 cup whole wheat flour 1/8 cup bran, crushed into flour (or bran flour, if available) 1/8 cup rye flour 1/8 cup oats (steel cut) 1 tablespoon baking soda 1/2 tablespoon sugar 2 cups buttermilk Mix all dry ingredients together in medium bowl. Slow mix in buttermilk, blending well. The mixture will be similar in consistency to oatmeal. If the mixture appears too dry, add more buttermilk as needed. Pour batter into greased loaf pan; bake at 375 degrees for 40 to 50 minutes. From Chef Paul Hughes, Roly's, Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. Gaelic (Irish) coffee Makes 1 cup 1 measure of Irish whiskey Strong black coffee Crystallized brown sugar to taste Lightly whipped heavy whipping cream Measure the whiskey into a stemmed glass, or one with a handle. Place a metal spoon in the glass so the hot coffee won't break the glass. Pour in enough freshly made strong black coffee to come to about 1/2 inch from the top. Sweeten to taste and stir vigorously to dissolve the sugar and create a miniature whirlpool in the glass. Top up with cream, poured down the back of a teaspoon. It will settle to make a distinct layer in creamy contrast to the dark coffee underneath. It is important that the coffee should be very hot to contrast with the cold cream. From "Classic Irish Recipes'' by Georgina Campbell, Sterling Publishing, 1992.
A typical morning meal: A bracing bowl of steaming oatmeal, with bacon (called rashers in Ireland) and eggs, toast made from sturdy soda bread, or brown bread, and an Irish favorite, black pudding.
Black (and white) puddings are a sausage created from leftovers after the butchering of a pig. Pork is an integral part of the Irish diet, and no part of the pig goes to waste.
For the puddings, the pork meat and pig blood are combined with oatmeal and spices to create a mixture that's stuffed into sausage casings. The amount of oatmeal and variety of flavors create a light (white) or dark (black) sausage.
Today's chefs, according to cookbook author Margaret M. Johnson (''The Irish Heritage Cookbook,'' 1999, Chronicle Books), are lifting black puddings from a lowly breakfast meal to use in lunch and appetizer dishes, creating salads, cooking them with cheese and potatoes or in casseroles with a sauce.
The humble soda bread keeps to its roots, however. No breakfast plate is complete without a thick slice of soda or brown bread. It's been a hearth-baked favorite for centuries, cooked over a peat fire in a sturdy pan. Modern ovens substitute for the hearth, but the methods and ingredients haven't changed. Modern chefs realize that some traditions are too good to tinker with.
Soda breads are the simplest of bread forms: flour, baking soda, buttermilk and usually raisins and milk. It's mixed into a dough, shaped into a loaf and put in the oven all within the time it takes to proof a yeast. No fussing about and likely no measuring.