I'm not Irish but St. Patrick's Day gave me an excuse to make a favorite stew recipe and my first loaf of Irish soda bread. The stew recipe is from Tyler Florence and can be found here. It's a fantastic recipe. I've thrown away all my other beef stew recipes because I've finally got the best one.
The Irish soda bread recipe can be found in any Betty Crocker cookbook in the "Quick Breads" section. You can also read it online here. Since I'd never made it before I wasn't sure what to expect. And this was the first time I've ever kneaded a quick bread! The texture reminded me of heavy biscuit dough and it smelled like pancake batter. The taste was mildly sweet and the raisins added a nice flavor. It wasn't a dry bread, but it was very dense. Here's how it looked when it came out of the oven.
I learned that the cross on the top is not a religious symbol but simply an escape vent for the carbon dioxide that is formed from the baking soda. Without it, the bread would take on an unappetizing exploded look by the end of baking.