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For St. Patrick's Day: Irish Leek Soup with a secret ingredient

WHO: Brandon McGuire, 24, a regional director for Scripture Union, which promotes ministering to children and Bible study; and his father, Mike McGuire, 54, a school librarian, both of Madeira Beach.

WHAT: Irish Leek Soup

ABOUT THE RECIPE: The McGuires say they can trace their heritage to Northern Ireland, where their ancestors ruled the land as chieftains. When they came to America in the 19th century, they brought with them a traditional recipe for Irish leek soup. Today, the recipe is an edible link to the days when their forefathers lived in Enniskillen Castle.

"The oatmeal adds a texture and taste that Americans are not used to eating in a soup," Mike McGuire said. "That makes this meal very unique. Everyone should try this soup one time."

Mike said the soup became sort of the "pot of gourmet gold" among dollar-store shamrocks and Walmart green hats at annual St. Patrick's Day family gatherings.

Even when it's not St. Patrick's Day, Brandon says his dad will sometimes get "pumped up" and make the soup. When that happens, he gathers the whole family to taste it. "My dad is awesome and a complete character," Brandon said, explaining that in his younger years, his dad did standup in L.A. at the Improv and Comedy Store. Now a school librarian, Mike uses his passion for research to explore his Irish past. They've not been to Ireland, but Brandon says he'd like to plan a trip — maybe his parents' upcoming 30th anniversary.

For now, the soup is a delicious way to remember their roots.

TIPS: "Don't be afraid to have fun and experiment," Mike said. "Don't worry that it won't turn out right. The recipe is simple, and whether you like it or not, it is what it is: authentic."

FAVORITE THING TO COOK WITH: For Brandon, cooking is a way of tapping into a different culture. That's why he thinks it's important to have good music in the background while cooking.

"If you're cooking something Irish, you need to have at least a hammer and dulcimer in the background, if not a full-out Irish band," he said.

Emily Young, Times correspondent

If you have a recipe that you would like featured, or would like to nominate other home cooks and their dishes, email jkeeler@tampabay.com with a name and daytime phone number. Include SIGNATURE DISH in the subject line. Or mail to Taste, Tampa Bay Times, P.O. Box 1121, St. Petersburg, FL 33731.

>>Easy

Irish Leek Soup

5 to 6 large leeks

5 cups milk

¼ ounce butter

cup Irish (steel-cut) oatmeal

Salt and pepper to taste

¼ cup fresh parsley, chopped, for garnish

Wash leeks to remove dirt and trim the tough green ends. Cut into thumb-sized chunks, using both green and white parts. Place milk and butter in a large saucepan and bring to a boil. Add oatmeal and stir well. Bring to a boil again after adding oatmeal, then lower the heat and simmer about 20 minutes. Add leeks, salt and pepper to taste and bring to a boil once more. Lower heat and simmer until oatmeal is cooked, about 15 minutes. Serve hot, garnished with chopped parsley.

Serves 6.

Source: Brandon and Mike McGuire

For St. Patrick's Day: Irish Leek Soup with a secret ingredient 03/10/14 [Last modified: Monday, March 10, 2014 5:14pm]

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