ArchiveMarch 13, 2021

Happy St Patrick’s Day

I’ve just been re-reading my Examiner column for St Patrick’s Day 2020. There was general consternation around the country because parades were cancelled …. Not in our wildest dreams did we imagine that a year later the possibility of St Patrick’s Day parades wouldn’t even be discussed…..

I had just cancelled my annual trip to New York to promote Ireland and Irish food. This year despite the Covid 19 pandemic , there have still been numerous interview requests from radio, TV and print media. The continuing interest is due to Tourism Ireland and Bord Failte, who over the years have very successfully used St Patricks Day to focus the world’s attention on Ireland.  Whenever I get the opportunity, I love to wax lyrical about the creativity of Irish chefs and cooks to the Americans who heretofore had certainly not associated Ireland with a vibrant contemporary food scene.

Friends who live in New York tell me that there has actually been a construction boom there recently – No, they are not building more sky scrapers….. But thanks to the Mayor’s decision to allow the cities restaurants to remain open for outdoor dining, architects and designers are putting their energy into creating a combination of street dining options, restaurants have scrambled to keep going in novel ways despite the cold. Dotted all along the sidewalks are a combination of canvas or plastic tents,  wooden sheds, yurts, booths and Kotatsus (Japanese heated tables) and a variety of heaters.

Not an option here at present, the restaurants who have managed to ‘pivot’ to offer take-outs and/or meal kits for collection will hopefully be able to capitalise on St Patricks Day, to entice us to mark our national feast day make the day and celebrate at home.

 Every sector is hurting but a huge thank you to all of you who are making a determined effort to support the local businesses and small shops, farmers markets, butchers, bakers, fish smokers, cheesemakers… who are still open. Each and every decision we make,  can manage to sustain someone in our community for another few weeks, every euro really matters at present…

So what shall we cook for St Patricks Day? I feel drawn to something comforting and traditional. Personally I just love boiled bacon, cabbage and parsley sauce followed by a juicy rhubarb tart (see previous articles for these recipes) but I have chosen a gorgeous riff on a Kerry Pie for you to enjoy. It can certainly be made ahead and reheats and freezes brilliantly.

If the weather is still a bit frosty how, about Irish Scallion Champ soup – a hug in a bowl and of course some little soda bread shamrocks with crunchy oatmeal tops…how naff is that but sure it’s just a bit of fun and they are properly delicious.

For dessert it has to be carrageen moss pudding with Irish whiskey sauce or how about this St Patrick’s Day cake.  I’ve been out picking wood sorrel…the delicious shamrock shaped leaves have a tart lemony flavour and are just the thing to decorate my special convection.

For the past 11 years Tourism Ireland have worked to ‘Green’ iconic buildings around the World from Sydney Opera House to the Pyramids, to focus attention on Ireland. At home in Ireland, an increasing number of us including, Ballymaloe House and Ballymaloe Cookery School have been enthusiastically joining in and will continue to do so for the 4th year in 2021. Why not join in, and share the images with friends worldwide to encourage them to think about planning a post Covid visit to Ireland but meanwhile Happy St Patricks Day and spread the love.

Irish Scallion Champ Soup with Shamrock Scones

Serves 6

Most people would have potatoes and onions in the house even if the cupboard was otherwise bare so one could make this simply delicious soup at a moment’s notice. While the vegetables are sweating, pop a few white soda scones or cheddar cheese scones into the oven and wow, won’t they be impressed.

50g (2oz) butter

550g (20oz) peeled diced potatoes, one-third inch dice

110g (4oz) diced scallion, use green and white parts of the plant

salt and freshly ground pepper

1 litre (2 pints) homemade chicken stock or vegetable stock

100ml (4fl oz) creamy milk

freshly chopped herbs and herb flowers, optional

Melt the butter in a heavy saucepan. When it foams, add the potatoes and scallions and toss them in the butter until well coated. Sprinkle with salt and a few grinds of pepper. Cover with a butter wrapper or paper lid and the lid of the saucepan. Sweat on a gentle heat for 10 minutes approx. Meanwhile bring the stock to the boil, when the vegetables are soft but not coloured add stock and continue to cook until the vegetables are soft. Puree the soup in a blender or food processor. Taste and adjust seasoning. Thin with creamy milk to the required consistency.

Serve sprinkled with a few freshly-chopped herbs and a few wild garlic flowers of available.

Shamrock Soda Scones

The soda bread dough only takes 2 or 3 minutes to make and 20 – 40 minutes to bake depending on how you decide to serve it.. It is certainly another of my ‘great convertibles’. We have had the greatest fun experimenting with different variations and uses.

Makes 12 approx. depending on size of cutter

1lb (450g/4 cups) white flour, preferably unbleached

1 level teaspoonsalt

1 level teaspoon bicarbonate of soda/bread soda

sour milk or buttermilk to mix – 12-14fl oz (350-400ml) approx.

4oz (110g) grated mature Cheddar cheese and/or flaked oatmeal

A Shamrock ‘cookie’ cutter. Mine is roughly 7cm long and 6cm wide.

First fully preheat your oven to 230ºC/450ºF/Gas Mark 8.

Sieve the flour into a large bowl. Carefully measure the salt and bicarbonate of soda. Sieve into the bowl. Make a well in the centre.  Pour most of the milk in at once. Using one hand, mix in the flour from the sides of the bowl, adding more milk if necessary. The dough should be softish, not too wet and sticky. When it all comes together, turn it out onto a well-floured work surface. 


Tidy it up and flip over gently.  Pat the dough into a round about 1 1/4 inches (3cm) deep. Dip the cutter in flour in between cutting each scone to avoid the mixture sticking. Stamp out shamrock shaped scones.

Brush the top with buttermilk or egg wash and dip in oatmeal or a mixture of rolled oats and grated Cheddar cheese.

Bake in a hot oven, 230ºC/450ºF/Gas Mark 8 for 5 minutes, then turn down the oven to 200ºC/400ºF/Gas Mark 6 for 10 minutes or until cooked. If you are in doubt, tap the bottom of the scones: when they are cooked they will sound hollow.

Kerry Lamb Pie

Serves 6

450g (1lb) boneless lamb or mutton (from the shoulder or leg; keep bones for stock)

250g (9oz) chopped onions

250g (9oz) chopped carrots

2 good teaspoons cumin seed (the amount will depend on how fresh the seeds are)

300ml (10fl oz) mutton or lamb stock (or even chicken stock)

2 tablespoons flour

salt and freshly ground pepper


lamb bones from the meat

1 carrot

1 onion

outside stalk of celery

a bouquet garni made up of a sprig of thyme, parsley stalks

a small bay leaf


350g (12oz) white flour

175g (6oz) butter

110ml (4fl oz) water

a pinch of salt

Egg Wash

1 egg beaten with a pinch of salt to glaze

1 tin – 18cm (7 inch) in diameter, 2 1/2 cm (1 inch) high with a pop up base.

If no stock is available, put the bones, carrots, onions, celery and bouquet garni into a saucepan.  Cover with cold water and simmer for 3-4 hours to make a stock.  Cut all the surplus fat away from the meat and 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, set aside, and toss the meat in the remaining fat over a high heat until the colour turns.

Heat the cumin seed in a dry frying pan, stir for a minute or two until it smells aromatic, careful not to burn.  Stir the flour and cumin seed into the meat.  Cook gently for 2 minutes and blend in the stock gradually.  Bring to the boil, stirring occasionally.  Add back the vegetables, season with salt and freshly ground pepper and leave to simmer in a covered pot until tender.  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 soon as it cools it may be rolled out 3mm (1/8 inch) thick, to fit the tin.  The pastry may be made into individual pies or one large pie.  Keep back one-third of the pastry for lids.

Fill the pastry-lined tins with the cool meat mixture.  Brush the edges of the pastry with the 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, egg-wash the lid and then egg-wash the decoration also.

Bake the pies for 40 minutes approx. at 200°C/400°F/Gas Mark 6 until golden on top and bubbling hot in the centre.  Serve with a good Green Salad.

Myrtle Allen’s Carrageen Moss Pudding with Irish Whiskey Sauce

Carrageen moss is a little seaweed that grows on rocks all around our coast, collecting it after Spring tide is part of our traditional food culture. Many people have less than fond memories of Carrageen Moss, partly because so many recipes call for far too much carrageen. It is a very strong natural gelatine so the trick is to use little enough. Because it is so light it is difficult to weigh, we use just enough to fit in my closed fist, a scant 8g (1/4oz). 

This recipe given to me by Myrtle Allen is by far the most delicious I know. Nowadays more chefs are using carrageen, but often they add stronger flavours such as treacle or rosewater, which tend to mask the delicate flavour of the carrageen itself. When Ballymaloe House is open Carrageen Moss pudding is served on the famous Ballymaloe Sweet Trolley every evening.

Serves 6

8g (1/4oz) cleaned, well dried carrageen moss (1 semi-closed fistful)

900ml (1 1/2 pints) milk

1 vanilla pod or 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 large egg, preferably free-range

1 tablespoon caster sugar

To Serve

Irish Whiskey Sauce (see recipe)

Soak the carrageen in tepid water for 10 minutes. Strain off the water and put the carrageen into a saucepan with the milk and vanilla pod, if using. Bring to the boil and simmer very gently with the lid on for 20 minutes. At that point, and not before, separate the egg and put the yolk into a bowl. Add the sugar and vanilla extract (if you are using it) and whisk together for a few seconds. Pour the milk and carrageen through a strainer on to the egg yolk mixture, whisking all the time. The carrageen will now be swollen and exuding jelly. Rub all this jelly through the strainer and beat it into the liquid. Test for a set in a cold saucer: put it in the fridge and it should set in a couple of minutes. Rub a little more through the strainer if necessary. Whisk the egg white until stiff peaks form and fold it in gently; it will rise to make a fluffy top. Leave to cool. Serve with Irish lots of softly whipped cream and Irish Whiskey sauce.

Irish Whiskey Sauce

Makes 8 floz (1 x 230ml jar)

8 ozs (225g) castor sugar

3 fl ozs (80ml) cold water

3- 4 tablesp. Irish whiskey

4 fl ozs (120ml) hot water

Put the castor sugar into a saucepan with water, stir over a gentle heat until the sugar dissolves and syrup comes to the boil. Remove the spoon and do not stir. Continue to boil until it turns a nice chestnut-brown colour. Remove from the heat and immediately add the hot water. Allow to dissolve again and then add the Irish whiskey. Serve hot or cold.

St Patrick’s Day Cake with Wood Sorrel

Wood sorrel with it’s tart lemony flavour and resemblance to shamrock makes the perfect decoration for our celebration cake.

Serves 8-10

175g (6oz) soft butter

150g (5oz) castor sugar

3 eggs, preferably free range

175g (6oz) self-raising flour

To Decorate

Lemon Icing (see below)

Wood sorrel Leaves (oxalis acetosella)

1 x 20.5cm (8 inch) sandwich tin, buttered and floured.  Line the base of the tin with parchment paper.

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4.

Put the soft butter, castor sugar, eggs and self-raising flour into the bowl of a food processor. Whizz for a few seconds to amalgamate and turn into the prepared tin – make a dip in the centre so it rises evenly. Bake in the preheated oven for 25-30 minutes approx. or until golden brown and well risen.

Cool in the tin for a few minutes, remove and cool on a wire rack.

Meanwhile make the icing (see recipe). Once the cake is cool, pour the icing onto the top and spread gently over the sides with a palette knife.

Decorate with the lots of wood sorrel leaves.

Serve on a pretty plate.

Lemon Icing

225g (8oz) icing sugar

finely grated rind of 1 lemon

2-4 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

Edible green colouring (optional)

Sieve the icing sugar into a bowl.  Add a few drops of green food colouring (optional) Add the lemon zest and enough lemon juice to make a softish icing.


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