From the Cape Cod Times March 12, 2008 By ELSPETH PIERSON, CONTRIBUTING
Dublin-born David Dempsey is a strong believer in the power of a hearty
"The French live to eat, and the Irish eat to live," he explains in
tribute to his roots.
As the saying implies, the owner and chef of Yarmouth's Keltic Kitchen
came to the United States in the early 1980s to live, not to cook. But a
job washing dishes at Cape Cod Irish Village led to a position working
food prep and then to a promotion to fry cook. "That's how I learned to
cook," he says.
Today, he turns out hundreds of home-style breakfasts every morning.
The restaurateur's home country has had a profound influence on his
"When I grew up, people shopped every day at neighborhood stores - the
local butcher, vegetable stands. Bread was delivered fresh daily, and my
mother went to the fish market every Friday," he says.
Simple fare based on the Irish staples of meat, potatoes and vegetables
is a signature of the Keltic Kitchen menu. Features like the Irish
Farmhouse Breakfast - two eggs, Irish sausage, rashers (cured pork
loins, also called Irish bacon), black and white pudding (boiled rings
of sausage and barley), mushrooms, tomatoes and home fries - rely on
this traditional formula to feed even the heartiest of American
One of Dempsey's favorite recipes is his twist on the Irish tradition of
boxty cakes, or Irish potato griddle cakes.
"On Sundays in Irela
everyone sits down to rolls and mashed potatoes and roast potatoes and
vegetables," he says. "Come Monday or Tuesday, we take whatever is left
over, mash it, and fry it into cakes on the griddle."
The English, he says, call the cakes "bubble and squeak," after the
noises they make in the pan. While Dempsey doesn't use leftovers to
re-create the tradition, he does have a stack of boxty-style potato
pancakes on the menu.
Irish-American creations like corn beef hash also appear on the menu.
"That's not very traditional," says Dempsey. "It's more of an American
Another favorite is black-and-white pudding — the boiled and fried
sausage dish the restaurant serves as a side
"In Ireland, every butcher has his own recipe," Dempsey explains. "In
the countryside, people keep a couple of pigs and make it themselves at
home." Pork scraps saved from other cuts of the pig are mixed with
barley, packed into cases, and tied into rings. Black pudding is
darkened with the animal's blood. Once boiled, the rings are sliced and
fried into a sizzling, full-flavor side.
While Dempsey doesn't make his own, he does import his black and white
puddings from Ireland. The Keltic Kitchen rashers and Irish sausage are
also imported, along with tea and beans. Dempsey bakes brown bread every
morning in 12-loaf batches.
Although Dempsey likes to stick with tradition, he says that Irish food
is changing. As Ireland's economy has improved, its cuisine has grown
more gourmet and multinational.
not so much of a difference now between Irish and American food," he
notes. "It's become a multinational mini melting pot."
Times have changed in other ways since Dempsey left Ireland in the early
1980s to escape an unemployment rate of almost 22 percent.
"There was no future for young people in the country," he says. "I
thought I'd come to America to see what was going on."
Now, he says, opportunity in Ireland is much better, with fewer and
fewer Irish immigrating to the Cape each year.
Still, Irish accents are common among the wait staff, some of whom are
students on a visa and others who visited for a summer and decided to
stay. And despite falling immigration rates, there are plenty of
Irish-Americans living in the area.
With Saint Patrick's Day on the horizon, Dempsey is hard at work on a
new batch of Irish specials. He shares a few of his recipes here:
This soup gets its flavor from the meats, so choose high-grade or
imported Irish meats for best results.
4 large onions, roughly chopped
6 large potatoes, quartered
1 pound rashers
1 pound Irish sausage
1 quart chicken stock
4 tablespoons chopped parsley
In a large pot, combine all ingredients. Bring to a boil and let simmer
for about 2 hours. Continue simmering to thicken, if desired. If you
like, add ground black pepper to suit your taste. Serve with brown bread
or good crusty white bread.
Brown Soda Bread
3 cups white flour
1 cup wheat flour
1 level tablespoon of baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
Pinch of salt
1/2 cup oatmeal
1/2 to 1 cup buttermilk
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Sift all dry ingredients, except oatmeal, into a large mixing bowl:
Add 1/2 cup oatmeal for texture. Add 1/2 to 1 cup of buttermilk slowly
until you have a loose dough. Be careful not to overmix, as the gluten
in the flour will break down and result in a dense loaf.
Place dough in a greased bread tin or round skillet and sprinkle with
oatmeal. Score a cross in the dough and bake for about 1 hour; time will
differ depending on your oven. Stick a knife into the bread; if it comes
out clean it is done.
This dish is mostly made with leftovers from Saturday or Sunday dinner.
The English named it for the noise it makes when cooking.
Bubble And Squeak
Mix any left over veggies with mashed potatoes. Add salt and pepper, a
little flour, and 2 beaten eggs. Mix all the ingredients in a large
bowl. Make little cakes with the mix. To thicken, add more flour or
mashed potatoes. If the cakes are not sticking, add another egg to hold
together. Cook in a hot greased skillet until golden brown on each side.