In his set of handmade books, "Traditional Irish Cooking," Malachi McCormick, an Irishman, includes in his text St. Gertrude's prayer for cooks:

"Lord, I desire that, at all times, those who profit by my labor may be not only refreshed in body, but may be also drawn to your love and strengthened in every good."In Ireland, St. Patrick's Day is celebrated as a holy day.

In the United States, St. Patrick's Day brings out the Irish in us all. For those who want to commemorate it by adding an Irish dish to their menus, we provide the following choices.

Irish Soda Bread

4 cups sifted flour

1/4 cup sugar

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

2 tablespoons caraway seeds

1/4 cup butter or margarine

2 cups currants or raisins

1 1/3 cups buttermilk

1 egg

1 tablespoon sugar

1 tablespoon water

Into large bowl, sift together flour, sugar, salt, baking powder and baking soda. Stir in caraway seeds. With pastry blender, cut in butter until coarse crumbs form. Stir in currants.

In small bowl, mix buttermilk and egg until well blended. Add buttermilk mixture to currant mixture; stir just until moistened.

Turn out dough onto lightly floured surface and knead 12 times. Shape into ball and place in greased 2-quart casserole. With sharp knife, cut a 4-inch cross, 1/2-inch deep, in top of loaf.

Bake in a 375-degree oven 55 minutes, or until bread is golden brown and toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

Remove from casserole; place on rack. In small bowl, mix together 1 tablespoon sugar and water; immediately brush over hot loaf. Cool completely. Makes 1 loaf.

Irish Champ

2 pounds boiled potatoes, pared, quartered

1 bunch green onions (4 to 6 green onions)

1/2 cup milk

1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter or margarine

1 1/2 tablespoons horseradish

1/8 teaspoon pepper

Butter or margarine

Cook potatoes in boiling, salted water until tender. Drain. Trim off 1/2 the greens from the onions and discard. Chop remaining onions and greens very finely. Combine milk, butter and onions and simmer 5 minutes. Add milk-onion mixture, horseradish and pepper to potatoes and mash. If necessary, add more milk to reach desired consistency. Serve immediately with a lump of butter in the center of each serving. Makes 6 to 8 servings.

(From "The Irish Center Cookbook," Pittsburgh, Pa.)

Irish Stew

3 to 3 1/2 pounds lamb shoulder

3 to 3 1/2 pounds lamb shoulder

1 pound neck of lamb

2 quarts water

1 medium onion stuck with 2 cloves

1 large bay leaf

2 large garlic cloves

2 to 3 teaspoons salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

1/2 teaspoon thyme

Parsley sprigs

3 thinly sliced medium onions

3 leeks, split in half and cut in small dice

Additional bay leaf

1/2 teaspoon additional thyme

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

4 medium potatoes, finely diced

2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley

Have the butcher bone the shoulder and give you the bones. Put the bones and neck in a deep saucepan with 2 quarts water. Bring to a boil and boil 5 to 6 minutes, skimming off scum from the surface. Add the onion stuck with cloves, and the bay leaf, garlic, salt, pepper, thyme and parsley. Bring to a boil again, reduce the heat to simmer, and simmer 2 1/2 hours to a strong broth. Strain, and put in refrigerator overnight. Next day, skim off the fat.

Remove all fat from the lamb shoulder and cut the meat into pieces 1 inch wide and 2 inches long. Put the meat in a heavy pan with the sliced onions, leeks, additional bay leaf and thyme, nutmeg and enough lamb broth to come 1 inch above the meat.

Bring to a boil, skim off scum, reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 1 hour, then test meat for tenderness. If it still seems a bit tough, give it another 15 minutes, then add the diced potatoes. Cook 30 minutes, until the stew is slightly thickened by the potatoes, then taste for seasoning. You will probably find it needs salt, a few grinds of pepper, and a touch of nutmeg. Let this cook a little to blend with the stew, then add the chopped parsley and cook just 1 minute more.

Colcannon

1 small cabbage, steamed and chopped fine

2 cups hot seasoned mashed potatoes

2 tablespoons bacon drippings, butter or margarine

1/4 teaspoon salt

Pinch white pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Mix cabbage with remaining ingredients, spoon into a well-buttered 1 1/2-quart casserole and roughen surface with a fork. Bake, uncovered, for 35 to 45 minutes until lightly browned. Makes 4 servings.

Brotchan Foltchep

1 1/2 pounds leeks

1 pint chicken stock

1 pint milk

2 ounces butter

1 cup oatmeal, about

Cream, optional

Parsley

Wash the leeks well. Cut into 1-inch pieces, using all the leek, except the roots. Boil the stock and milk together. Add the butter and allow to melt. Add the oatmeal. Stir well. Boil, simmer for 15 to 20 minutes. Add leeks, season if desired. Boil and simmer again for 15 to 20 minutes.

Serve into bowls. Add cream, 1 tablespoon to each bowl, if desired. Garnish with some chopped parsley.

(From "Irish Traditional Soups," by Malachi McCormick.)