ArchiveApril 25, 2009

Grandmothers Day April 25th

Today we celebrate the first Slow Food Grandmothers Day. All over Ireland and many parts of the world grandmothers and indeed grandfathers will gather their grandchildren around to share their memories and experience and to pass on some of their valuable life skills, to have fun and show them how to bake a cake, catch a fish and sew a seed… Grandparents are the guardians of inherited wisdom – this is a perfect opportunity to pass these forgotten skills on to our grandchildren.

Now that I am a grandmother six times over, I’m even more aware of the special bond that can be nurtured between grandchildren and grandparents. So my friend Alice Waters, an iconic chef from Chez Pannisse in Berkley California and a wannabe grandmother and I who have the good fortune to already be a grandmother proposed this special day at the Slow Food Terra Madre in Turin last October. The idea was adopted and embraced by international president Carlo Petrini who said,

“Grandmothers’ Day, to be held on April 25, is a good starting point. We will continue to strike while the iron is hot, and will communicate widely the virtuous example being set by Ireland. Following their experience, we will see the best way to go ahead. I also discuss it’s importance in the new Manifesto on the Future of Knowledge Systems.”

It’s even more important than ever nowadays. Years ago at a time when many families lived in multi generational groups the skills were effortlessly passed from generation to generation this situation is more unusual nowadays. The myriad of pressures of modern living mean that both parents are working. The Irish Examiner enthusiastically supported the idea of a special Grandmother Recipe Competition. The competition for people to send in their favourite recipes generated a lot of excitement. Here are the winning recipes and excerpts from the letters that accompanied them. Last week at the Ballymaloe Cookery School grannies and grandchildren will cooked together and had fun with my grandchildren.

We hope Slow Food Grandmothers’ Day will encourage grandmothers to get together not only once a year but once a month with their grandchildren to have fun together in the kitchen.

Slow Food East Cork also organised an art competition with local schools. The children drew and painted pictures of cooking with granny. There was a huge response and you can imagine how lovely the entries that flowed in are. Each picture speaks volumes about a special relationship between Grand parents and Grand children.


Aoife O’Callaghan’s Granny’s Apple Tart


I think this is a great recipe because it is tasty with hot custard and we go to my Granny’s house to eat it with a cup of tea. It is the best apple tart ever and she a great cook. That is why I love her and this recipe!



175g (6oz) margarine

350g (12oz) flour

pinch of sugar

drop of water



6 cooking apples, chopped

4 cloves


Rub margarine, flour and sugar together in a bowl until they look like breadcrumbs. Gradually add drops of water mixing the ingredients together until you have combined everything into a dough. Flour your table, place half the dough on the table and roll over to a thin round flat pastry, the size of a dinner plate. Place the pastry on a dinner plate, place one layer of chopped cooking apples, some cloves and a spoon of sugar on top. Roll the second piece of dough and place on top of the apples. Pinch around the edges and prick the top with a fork. Place in a hot oven at 200°C/400°F/Gas Mark 6 for 20 minutes. Leave cool for 2 minutes then enjoy with hot custard or cream and dust with icing sugar. Mmmmm!


Billie Turnbull’s Granny’s Madeira Cake


I think this should be a winning recipe because I am a diabetic and my nana made this especially for me.


175g (6oz) butter or margarine

12 tablespoons Splenda or 175g (6oz) caster sugar

3 eggs

225g (8oz) self-raising flour

pinch of salt

a little milk if necessary

grated rind of 1 lemon

Cream the butter or margarine with the Splenda in a bowl until light and fluffy and pale in colour. Beat in the eggs. Sift the flour and fold into the mixture. Add the lemon rind with the flour. Add a little milk if it’s very stiff. Turn the mixture into a greased and lined (7 inch/18cm) tin. Bake in a fan oven at 145°C/275°F/Gas Mark 1 or in a conventional oven at 170°C/325°F/Gas Mark 3 for 1 – 1 1/4 hours.


Janet Payne’s Granny’s Oriental Sweet and Sour Pork


“For as long as I can remember Granny has been asked to make this recipe for parties to the delight of off those who taste it. I would love to see this recipe win the prize because even though she probably wouldn’t say so herself she really deserves it.”

350g (12oz) pork fillet

2 level dessertspoons of seasoned corn flour

1 clove of garlic

1 medium sweet green pepper

225g (8oz) tinned pineapple chunks

3 mushrooms, peeled and sliced

2 ripe tomatoes, quartered (optional)



1 chicken stock cube

300ml (10fl oz) water

2 tablespoons honey

1 dessertspoon soy sauce

Preparation time: 10-15 minutes

Cooking time: 20 minutes

Cut the pork into 1 inch (2.5cm) cubes and toss in the seasoned cornflour. Remove the stalk and seeds from the pepper and chop. Drain the pineapple cubes, reserving the juice. Heat the garlic in the oil. Fry the pork cubes briefly until brown on all sides. Lower the heat and add the chopped pepper and continue cooking over a gentle heat for 10 minutes. Add the pineapple chunks, mushrooms and tomatoes for the last 5 minutes.

Meanwhile make the sauce by dissolving the chicken stock cube in the boiling water. Mix with honey and soy sauce. Blend the leftover cornflour from the dish with a little of the pineapple juice and add to the mixture. Bring to the boil and cook for 3 minutes, stirring all the time. Add it to the pork and stir well.

This dish can be served on a bed of organic rice or with mashed potato.

Kellie Murphy’s Granny’s Bacon and Cabbage


“I like bacon and cabbage because it is really delicious and every time I go up to my Nan’s house she cooks it for me. I think it should be kept in our family because I love it so much and it is a traditional Irish meal.”

Loin of Bacon



Get a pot and put in the bacon, cover with cold water. Make sure it is covered with water at all times. Boil the bacon for an hour depending on the size. Chop up your cabbage then wash it. Put the cabbage in the pot with the bacon and leave for a further 30 minutes. Serve with potatoes.


Leah Flynn’s Granny’s Chocolate Biscuit Cake


“My Nannie’s chocolate biscuit cake is the best. It was her mammy’s recipe and now my mammy makes it too. I think it should be passed on because people will remember my nana, my mammy and me. When they make it they will have lots of fun cracking eggs, licking spoons, spreading chocolate and eating it up of course!”

2 x 300g (11oz) packets of rich tea biscuits

350g (12oz) butter

225g (8oz) caster sugar

4 dessertspoons cocoa powder

3 eggs

225g (8oz) milk chocolate

1 x 900g (2lb) loaf tin, lined with cling film

Break the biscuits into a bowl. In a saucepan, melt the butter and sugar together, stirring all the time. When melted, add the cocoa powder. Allow to cool slightly. Beat the eggs lightly and add to the butter, sugar and cocoa mixture. Add the broken biscuits and mix well. Fill into a lined loaf tin. Leave to set in the fridge. Turn out of the tin and cover in melted chocolate.


Lynda O’Gorman’s Granny’s Rissoles with Onion Mash

“My grandmother’s name is Mary Miller. She is eighty seven and I am the eldest of her eleven grandchildren. As a child in my grandmother’s house I was adored, spoiled rotten and more than anything else, fed. If you were to ask any of the family for granny’s favourite recipe it would definitely be her brown soda bread which is lighter and crumblier than any other I’ve ever tasted. I always loved the sound she made knocking the dough around the blue plastic basin and the sweet smell from the oven as it baked and then the expectant hovering over the tea-towel wrapped loaf as it cooled. Then the parcel would be unwrapped so that we could launch ourselves at it, buttered knives at the ready.

When conversation turns to favourite dinners, last meal or death row requests, mine is always the same: Granny’s Rissoles with onion mash and baked beans. This is a simple, inexpensive, ordinary dinner which always leaves me feeling, nourished, nurtured and loved. ”



450g (1lb) round steak, minced

a small handful of sage, chopped

1 egg

1 cup of breadcrumbs

1 small onion, finely chopped

Mix everything together until fully combined. With wet hands form the mixture into palm-sized burgers. Fry gently on a medium heat until cooked through. Serve with onion mash and Batchelor’s baked beans.

Onion Mash


6-8 medium potatoes (Kerr’s Pinks)


50g (2oz) butter

225ml (8fl oz) warm milk

1/2 onion, finely chopped

Peel the potatoes and cut into halves or quarters. Place in a saucepan of cold water with a large pinch of salt and bring to the boil. Turn down to a simmer until tender when pierced with a fork. Drain off all the water and allow to steam on the warm ring for a minute or two. Add a pinch of salt and mash. Then add the butter and warm milk and beat with a wooden spoon (the sound of this rigorous beating will act as a dinner gong and bring the starving hoards to the table!) Oh, and don’t forget the onion (I almost just did!)


Maeve Brennan’s Granny’s Queen Cakes


“I love my Nan’s cakes because when you bite them they are so creamy and you can put on any colour icing. I like to win this because I’d love to spend a day with my Nan.”

168g (6oz) margarine

168g (6oz) caster sugar

3 eggs

252g (9oz) self-raising flour, sieved

Place the margarine and sugar in a bowl. Cream together until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time and beat well into the mixture. Fold in the sieved flour. Place a teaspoon of the mixture into each cake case. Bake until golden brown and springy to the touch. You can add 28g (1oz) of coco if you want chocolate cakes. Ice the queen cakes with white or chocolate icing and decorate as you choose.


Meghan Ali Maguire’s Granny Grunts Boiled Fruit Cake


“My granny has been making this for as long as my mum can remember. It’s all done in a saucepan, apart from cooking, so it suits all lifestyles from student to super-cook, the wash up is minimal. This cake arrives at all our birthday parties and family celebrations. Friends would ring up and ask for charity donations of a fruit cake. Granny is sixty six and is very small and lively so we all call her ‘Granny Grunt’ for no logical reason at all!”

450g (1lb) margarine

600ml (1 pint) water

350g (12oz) brown sugar

450g (1lb) sultanas

4 large free-range eggs

900g (2lb) self-raising flour

2 teaspoons mixed spice

Put the margarine, water, sugar and sultanas into a saucepan. Bring to the boil. Turn down and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Allow to cool until it’s warm to the touch. Add the eggs and mix. Mix the spice and flour together and add gradually to the saucepan. Line 2 x 900g (2lb) loaf tins with greaseproof paper. Fill the mixture into both tins. Bake at 150°C/300°F/Gas Mark 2 for 1 1/2 hours. Test with a skewer to ensure it’s cooked.

Thrifty Tip

Keep citrus peels for beer traps for slugs.


Five Winemakers Special European Tour come to Cork.


As a part of the European Tour by the Five Winemakers, Ballymaloe House and Ballymaloe Cookery School in association with Moët Hennessy Wines are running a unique wine event. There will be a Gala Dinner in The Long Room, Ballymaloe House, Saturday May 9th and the Winemaker workshops will take place at Ballymaloe Cookery School on Saturday afternoon, May 9th, and Sunday morning, May 10th. Learn how the wines are made, tutored wine-tasting by the winemaker with emphasis on food & wine matching with a dish specially prepared at the same time to match the and by post from people all over the country – a collection of the county’s favourite Irish dishes that have been handed down from generation to generation. €1 from the sale of each book goes towards Age Action Ireland. Published by Mercier Press (021) 4614456

For further information and to book please contact Ballymaloe House 021 4653531


Our Grannies’ Recipes.

Our Grannies’ Recipes is a unique collection of delightful recipes from Grannies’ kitchens all over Ireland. The book is available in hardback and is edited by Eoin Purcell. Recipes were collected online via


Past Letters