ArchiveMarch 17, 2007

St Patrick’s Day 2007

Let’s have some delicious bacon and cabbage and parsley sauce for St Patrick’s Day. All over the world Irish emigrants are celebrating. Many, particularly in the US, will be tucking into corned beef and cabbage and turning their thoughts towards Ireland. For the past few weeks, I’ve had innumerable phone calls from foreign press wanting to know how we celebrate St Patrick’s Day and what special foods we eat in Ireland. 
In fact, many Americans still think we live on corned beef and cabbage and are amazed to discover that the majority of Irish people don’t eat corned beef and cabbage from one end of the year to the other. Last year and again this year, I will be in Philadelphia for St Patrick’s Day.

Why Philly? Well apart from the fact that it’s a lovely town with great food and a large Irish contingent, its home to QVC, the mammoth shopping channel. The studios are in Westchester, and I join a large group of Irish people who go over to sell their products every year, Waterford Glass, Galway Crystal, Belleek, Irish tweeds, linen, jewellery, perfumes, pottery. …. Stephen Pearce from Stephen Pearce Pottery came last year also. For the past few years I’ve been selling my book on Irish Country Cooking which the Irish Americans love to have to remind them of the food of their childhood. We cook up a variety of traditional dishes. Irish Stew of course, and Beef with Stout, Champ and Colcannon, lots of soda bread, spotted dog and treacle bread, Kerry Pies, Roscommon Rhubarb Tart, Scones with homemade jam and cream, porter cake, carrageen moss pudding …..

I have a short slot of maybe five or six minutes on air, but I’m joined by one of the QVC hosts – brilliantly skilled sales people who could unquestionably sell billions of gallons of oil to the Arabs. Even if one is on a maiden voyage or camera shy, they manage to generate enthusiasm and excitement for the product. People telephone in from all over the country with nostalgic memories of forgotten flavours, often looking for mislaid recipes from the days of their happy childhood in Ireland.

It’s a thrilling experience racing against the clock. They suddenly tell you – that’s it, you’re sold out and they’re on to the next product. The books are then beautifully wrapped and posted all over America to people who want to recapture the forgotten flavours they yearn for.

This year I will again be selling my Irish Country Cooking book which is the US edition of Irish Traditional Cooking.

Back here in Ireland its easier to find a Thai Chicken Curry, fajitas or fried Halloumi than it is to find a bowl of Colcannon or Irish Stew. In fact, the dreaded breakfast roll, or ‘belly roll’, as its now being dubbed, is fast becoming our national dish.

Traditional foods are part of our national food culture, lets serve them proudly at least on St Patrick’s Day.

Buy this Book from

Over 300 Recipes from Ireland's Heritage 
I had a magical Irish country childhood. I grew up in a tiny village...... 
Read some more..............

Irish Traditional Cooking by Darina Allen, published by Kyle Cathie.

Beef with Stout

Use your favourite stout for this recipe. In Cork we use Beamish or Murphy, but even Cork people have divided allegiances!
Serves 6-8

2 lbs (900g) lean stewing beef, eg. Chuck
seasoned flour
3 tablespoons (45ml) olive oil
2 thinly sliced onions
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon dry English Mustard
1 tablespoon concentrated tomato puree
1 strip of dried orange peel
a bouquet garni made up of 1 bay leaf, 1 sprig of fresh thyme, 4 parsley stalks.
4 fl oz (125ml) Beamish, Murphy or Guinness
¾ pint (425ml) beef stock
8 ozs (225g) mushrooms
½ oz (15g) butter
salt and freshly ground pepper

Cut the meat into 1½ inch (4cm) cubes and toss in seasoned flour. Heat some oil in a hot pan and fry the meat in batches until it is brown on all sides. Transfer the meat into a casserole and add a little more oil to the pan. Fry the thinly-sliced onions until nicely browned; deglaze with the stout. Transfer to the casserole, add the stock, sugar, mustard, tomato puree, orange rind and bouquet garni. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Bring to the boil, cover and simmer in a very low heat, 150C/300f/ regulo 2, for 2-2½ hours or until the meat is tender.

Meanwhile wash and slice the mushrooms. Saute in a very little melted butter in a hot pan. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Set aside. When the stew is cooked, add the mushrooms and simmer for 2-3 minutes, taste and correct the seasoning. Serve sprinkled with chopped parsley.

Note: This stew reheats well. You may need to add more sugar to the recipe if you find it a little bitter.

Leek Champ

I came across this lesser known recipe for Champ in Ulster, but it is now also firmly entrenched in Co. Cork.
Serves 4

1 lb (450g) potatoes
¾lb (350g) leeks
1-2 ozs (30-55g) butter
8-10 fl.ozs (250-300ml) milk
salt and freshly ground pepper

Scrub the potatoes and cook in boiling salted water until cooked through. Meanwhile wash and slice the leeks into thin rounds, melt 1 oz (30g) butter in a heavy pot, toss in the leeks, season with salt and freshly ground pepper, cover with a butter wrapper and the lid of the saucepan. Cook on a gentle heat until soft and tender. As soon as the potatoes are cooked, drain immediately. Bring the milk to boiling point, peel the potatoes and mash immediately. Beat in the buttered leeks and their juices and enough boiling milk to make a soft texture. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper. 

Kerry Pies

Mutton pies, made in Kerry, were served at the famous Puck Fair in Killorglin in August and taken up the hills when men were herding all day. The original hot water crust pastry was made with mutton fat but we have substituted butter for a really delicious crust.
Serves 6

450g (1lb) boneless lamb or mutton (from shoulder or leg - keep bones for stock)
275g (9 1/2oz) chopped onions
275g (9 1/2oz) chopped carrots
1 teaspoon parsley 
1 teaspoon thyme leaves
300ml (8fl oz) mutton or lamb stock
2 tablespoons flour
Salt and freshly ground pepper

350g (12oz) white flour
175g (6oz) butter
125ml (4fl oz) water
Pinch of salt
1 egg beaten with a pinch of salt to glaze

2 x 15cm (6 inch) diameter tins, 4cm (1 1/2inch) high or 1 x 23cm (9 inch) tin

Cut all surplus fat away, then cut the meat into small neat pieces about the size of a small sugar lump. Render down the scraps of fat in a hot, wide saucepan until the fat runs. Discard the pieces. Cut the vegetables into slightly smaller dice and toss them in the fat, leaving them to cook for 3-4 minutes. 

Remove the vegetables and toss the meat in the remaining fat over a high heat until the colour turns. Stir the flour into the meat. Cook gently for 2 minutes and blend in the stock gradually. Bring to the boil, stirring occasionally. Return the vegetables to the pan with the parsley and thyme leaves, season with salt and freshly ground pepper and leave to simmer, covered. If using young lamb, 30 minutes will be sufficient; an older animal may take up to 1 hour.

Meanwhile make the pastry. Sieve the flour and salt into a mixing bowl and make a well in the centre. Dice the butter, put it into a saucepan with the water and bring to the boil. Pour the liquid all at once into the flour and mix together quickly; beat until smooth. At first the pastry will be too soft to handle but as it cools it will become more workable. Roll out to 2.5-5mm (1/8-1/4inch) thick, to fit the tin or tins. (The pastry may be made into individual pies or one large pie.) 

Fill the pastry-lined tins with the slightly cooled meat mixture. Make lids from the remaining pastry, brush the edges of the base with water and egg wash and put on the pastry lids, pinching them tightly together. Roll out the trimmings to make pastry leaves or twirls to decorate the tops of the pies, make a hole in the centre and egg wash carefully.

Bake the pie or pies at 200C/400F/gas mark 6 for 40 minutes approx. Serve hot or cold.

Porter Cake

1 lb (450g) white flour
8 ozs (225g) butter
8 ozs (225g) brown sugar
3 eggs, preferably free range
1/2 teasp. bread soda
2 teasp. mixed spice
1/2 pint (300ml) stout, Guinness, Beamish or Murphys
1/2 lb (225g) sultanas
1/2 lb (225g) raisins
4 ozs (110g) cherries (halved)
4 ozs (110g) mixed peel
rind of 1 orange

9 inch (23cm) round tin

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/regulo 4.

Melt the butter, sugar and stout in a saucepan. Add the orange rind and all the fruit except the cherries. Bring the mixture to the boil and boil for 3-4 minutes stirring frequently. Remove from the heat and allow to cool until it is lukewarm.

Sieve the flour, breadsoda and spice into a mixing bowl. Add fruit to the flour and add the cherries. Beat the eggs, add gradually, mixing evenly through the mixture. Cook at 180C/350F/regulo 4, on the middle shelf for 1 hour 10 minutes approx. If you wish you may later pour 4 tablespoons of stout over the cake when its cooked. Keep for 2 or 3 days before cutting.

Country Rhubarb Cake

This delicious juicy Rhubarb Cake, based on an enriched bread dough, was made all over the country. Slow traditional food which originally would have been baked in the bastible or baker beside an open fire. My mother, who taught me this recipe, varied the filling with the seasons – gooseberries, bramley apples, plums, blackberry and apple….
Make with the first of the new season’s rhubarb.
Serves 8

350g (12oz) flour
A pinch of salt
1/2 teaspoon breadsoda
50g (2oz) castor sugar
75g (3oz) butter
1 egg, preferably free range and organic 
165ml (5 1/2fl oz) milk, buttermilk or sour milk
700g (1 1/2lb) rhubarb, finely chopped
Egg wash
175-225g (6-8oz)) granulated sugar

Castor sugar for sprinkling
Softly whipped cream
Moist brown sugar

1 x 25.5cm (10 inch) enamel or Pyrex plate

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/gas mark 4

Sieve the flour, salt, breadsoda and castor sugar into a bowl, rub in the butter. Whisk the egg and mix with the buttermilk. Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients. Pour in most of the liquid and mix to soft dough, add the remainder of the liquid if necessary. Sprinkle a little flour on the work surface, turn out the dough and pat gently into a round. Divide into two pieces, one should be slightly larger than the other, keep the larger one for the lid. Meanwhile dip your fingers in flour. Spread the smaller piece onto the plate. Scatter the finely chopped rhubarb all over the base, egg-wash the edges and sprinkle the rhubarb with the granulated sugar. Roll out the other piece of dough until it is exactly the size to cover the plate, lift it on and press gently to seal the edges. Make a hole in the centre for the steam to escape, egg-wash and sprinkle with a very small amount of sugar.

Bake in a moderate oven, 180C/350F/gas mark 4, for 45 minutes to 1 hour or until the rhubarb is soft and the crust is golden. Leave it to sit for 15-20 minutes so that the juice can soak into the crust. Sprinkle with castor sugar. Serve still warm with a bowl of softly whipped cream and some moist brown sugar.

Foolproof Food

Mollie Keane’s Potato & Bacon Cakes

The late Mollie Keane, the indomitable Irish writer - author of Good Behaviour and countless other books on the life of the Irish Ascendancy - included this recipe in her book Mollie Keane's Nursery Cooking.
Serves 4

4 rashers of streaky bacon, rinds removed, chopped
1 lb (450g) mashed potatoes
1 oz (30g) plain white flour
salt and pepper
butter or dripping for frying

Fry the bacon without any additional fat until crisp. Remove and drain on absorbent paper. Stir the bacon into the mashed potatoes with the flour, salt and pepper. Form the mixture into four cakes. Heat the butter or dripping in a frying pan, add the cakes and fry for about 5 minutes on each side until golden and crisp.

Hot Tips

St Patrick’s Day Farmers Market
Will be held from 10am – 5pm on Emmet Place Cork. (the Square by the Opera House)

New Aga Showroom in Cork
Now open at City Quarter, Lapps Quay – beside the Clarion Hotel and Irish Examiner Offices. Showing Aga and Rayburn cookers and the AGA Cookshop range of accessories.

BBC Goood Food Summer Festival 13-17 June, NEC Birmingham

This year the festival will be co-located with BBC Gardeners World Live and BBC Good Homes Live – one ticket can be bought for all three shows – ticket hotline 0970 380 0139 or book online

Ballycotton Light

Doug Jeffords from Nashville did the 3 month Certificate Course at Ballymaloe Cookery School ten years ago, a great music lover he comes back every year to attend the music weeks at Ballymaloe House. On his recent visit he launched his CD Ballycotton Light which includes some of his own compositions along with his own favourites – Ballycotton Light is available from the Ballymaloe Shop at Ballymaloe House.


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