According to my family tree, I am a hundred percent Serbian. I am lenient and allow for a trace of Turkish, Hungarian and Austrian genetic input. But as hard as I search, I cannot find an atom of Irish anywhere in my bloodline. But we are approaching St. Patrick’s Day and the only way for me to celebrate in style is to devote this post to my Irish-by-proxy experiences.
My first ex-husband was partly Irish, which showed in his ruddy cheeks, his jovial behaviour and his deeply ingrained love of adult malted beverages. Through his Irish genes he passed all those traits to our only child, my beloved Nina, who plans on taking a trip to the Emerald Isle one day soon to connect with her long-lost relatives (and I don’t doubt for a second that she’ll find several, even though the White family sailed to the New World on the Mayflower).
My cousin Vladimir is definitely not Irish, having been sired and raised by two full-blooded bona fide Serbs. But he can definitely fool anyone into believing that he is a genuine Celt, with his fiery red hair, fair skin covered with freckles, and a talent for breaking into the real Irish brogue at the spur of the moment.
I truly enjoy Irish music, especially the broody, morose tunes, Danny Boy included. It seems that Nina followed after my taste when she danced her version of Irish jig in front of a boy she fancied in first grade. And it does not surprise me that she had a long-lived love affair with Riverdance, which we finally saw together a couple of years ago.
One of my best friends was a no-nonsense New Yorker, Debi, who went to an all-catholic high school in Ireland and was expelled, after a series of small, but disturbing events when she instigated rebellious behaviour and clandestine actions. I spent many days at her house, thoroughly enjoying the stories about her adventurous life in Ireland and Manhattan, and hugging her daughters when mine was far away in Seerbia with her grandparents. Oh, and she colored my hair blond once, just to jolt me out of my boring daily routine.
I devoured Trinity by Leon Uris, eager to understand the years of conflicts, bombs, threats, and unstability. I saw many movies on the subject, and the ones made in Ireland reminded me of our own, Balkan movies, with their overwhelming sense of gray, drab, rainy and grimy, intended to paint the picture not only of the life in Ireland, but of the sadness and despair its people carry with them every day.
And even though I have never been to Ireland, I love Irish food, the hearty, comforting stews, succulent lamb, warm and satisfying potato dishes, and sturdy breads. My girls await with anticipation the celebratory American-Irish meal of corn beef, potatoes, cabbage, and soda bread some time this week and our foggy mornings keep me motivated and eager to tackle the humble feast.
My Irish flag tart probably has as little to do with Ireland as I do, but it is festive, fresh, simple, and rewarding, pairing tart mandarin oranges and fragrant baby kiwi with rich vanilla-scented custard and sweet, ripe bananas. It is a small indulgence, an easy surrender to the world of desserts, a pretty and uncomplicated few forkfuls, just enough to satiate the desire for sweets.
I wish all my Irish and Irish-wannabe friends Happy St. Patrick’s Day – you have definitely colored my life with so many unusual and bright hues that it can never be drab and boring.
This tart was made possible by generous contribution from Melissa’s Produce, the biggest distributor of fresh fruits, vegetables and food products in the U.S. Mandarins and baby kiwi* were delightful to play with and I truly appreciate this gift of food!
* Baby kiwis are grape-sized, smooth-skinned version of regular kiwis, best eaten fresh as a snack, in salads, in fruit salads or on top of a fruit tart.
IRISH FLAG FRUIT TART
Shortbread Pie Crust:
- 8 Tbsp (1 stick) butter at room temperature
- 1/3 cup granulated sugar
- 1 egg yolk
- 1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
- 3 egg yolks
- ¼ cup granulated sugar
- 1 ¼ milk
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 2 Tbsp all-purpose flour
- 2 Tbsp cornstarch
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 1 ½ tsp cornstarch
- 1/3 cup water
- ½ cup orange juice
- 1 Tbsp lemon juice
- 1 banana, sliced,
- 1 package (6 oz) baby kiwis, sliced
- 1 mandarin orange, segmented
Using a hand-held mixer blend butter and sugar together into a paste. Add the egg yolk and mix to combine. Slowly add the flour and knead lightly until the dough comes together. Wrap in plastic wrap and put into the refrigerator for 1 hour.
Preheat the oven to 425F.
Using a rolling pin, flatten the dough into a circle slightly bigger than the pie pan, and using the rolling pin, transfer the dough into the pan. Pat the bottom and sides to adhere to the pan and cut off the excess dough. Spear the bottom with the fork a few times, cover with aluminum foil, fill with pie weights (or dried beans) and bake for 10 minutes. Remove the pie weights and foil and bake for another 5 minutes, until it starts turning golden brown.
Using a hand-held mixer, mix the egg yolks and sugar together until combined. Sift the flour and cornstarch together and stir into the egg mixture to form a paste.
Heat the milk on medium temperature until it starts to bubble up around the edges. Remove from the heat and slowly add into eggs and sugar, vigorously stirring to prevent curdling of the eggs. Return to medium heat and cook until boiling, whisking constantly. Once it boils, whisk for another 30-60 seconds to thicken and remove from heat. Immediately stir in the vanilla extract. Cover with plastic wrap to prevent the crust from forming and keep refrigerated until use.
Combine all the ingredients in a small stainless steel pot and heat on medium temperature to thicken slightly.
Pour the cooled pastry cream over the crust and place the fruit decoratively on top. Pour the glaze over the fruit and keep in the fridge until ready to eat.
More recipes using baby kiwis:
Minted Tomato, Pepper, Feta Salad with Baby Kiwi from Shockingly Delicious
Honey-Glazed Baby Kiwi Mascarpone Cheesecake from Cooking on the Weekends
Kiwi and Peach Puree from Weelicious