In the 18th C the characteristic flavour of the Limerick smoked ham was obtained from juniper berries which grew freely in the county. All smoked hams should be soaked overnight in cold water, drained and then boiled for 20-25 minutes to the pound in cold water to cover, with a heaped tablespoon of brown sugar, pepper and a pinch of mace. When cooked the brown skin should be removed and, if serving boiled, the fatty layer covered with a mixture of half breadcrumbs, half brown sugar and a good pinch of ground cloves is then put into a slow oven to ‘set’ the crust. If a baked ham is preferred, bake with a cupful of ham stock for 30-40 minutes in a moderate oven
In County Sligo, when green winter vegetables in particular were scarce, watercress was cooked with ham or bacon joints. As watercress wilts down like spinach, at least a pound of picked watercress should be used for a 3-4 lb (1.4 to 1.8 Kg) ham. Cook the ham as before in cold water and 45 minutes before it is ready add the watercress. After the cooked ham has been removed, lift out the watercress with a strainer and squeeze out the liquid. Chop coarsely and arrange around the ham. The peppery flavour of watercress makes for a good contrast with sweet hams.
LEMON SAUCE FOR LIMERICK HAM /BOILED HAM
A suitable sauce for cooked ham is to melt 1 heaped tablespoon butter in a saucepan. Add the same amount of flour and when well mixed add 1 cup (24oml) of the hot ham stock. Stir until it boils and there are no lumps. Add the grated peel and juice of 1 lemon, stir again and serve hot.
Drisheen is the traditional name for a ‘black’ or ‘blood’ pudding from County Cork, traditionally made from sheep’s blood,
The pudding is made from two parts lamb’s blood, well salted to keep it liquid, to one part cream or full cream milk, mixed together with a handful of breadcrumbs or oatmeal, pepper and a pinch of mace with a sprig of tansy added. When made in the home and sausage casings not available, the mixture is poured into bowls and either steamed or cooked with the bowl in a pan of water in a moderate oven (150C – 300F – gas 3) for about 1 hour. It can be eaten warm. When left to go cold, it is sliced and either fried or grilled often with bacon, eggs and sausages for breakfast or supper.
Traditional black pudding is made with pig’s blood, often with pigs liver.
The pudding is made from two parts pigs blood, well salted to keep it liquid, to one part cream or full cream milk, mixed together with a handful of breadcrumbs or oatmeal, pepper and a pinch of mace and a sprig of tyme. When made in the home and sausage casings not available, the mixture is poured into bowls and either steamed or cooked with the bowl in a pan of water in a moderate oven (150C – 300F – gas 3) for about 1 hour. It can be eaten warm. When left to go cold, it is sliced and either fried or grilled often with bacon, eggs and sausages for breakfast or supper.
TIPPERARY BLOOD PUDDING
In Tipperary blood puddings were made from turkey or goose blood.
The pudding is made from two parts turkey or goose blood, well salted to keep it liquid, to one part cream or full cream milk, mixed together with a handful of breadcrumbs or oatmeal, pepper and a pinch of mace with a sprig of thyme. When made in the home, and sausage casings are not available, the mixture is poured into bowls and either steamed or cooked with the bowl in a pan of water in a moderate oven (150C – 300F – gas 3) for about 1 hour. It can be eaten warm. When left to go cold, it is sliced and either fried or grilled for breakfast or supper.
BRAISED PLOVER (OR WOODCOCK)
4 plover, 3/4 pint (450ml or 2 cups) stock, 1/4 pint (150ml or 1/2 cup) white wine, 1 blade of mace, 1 tablespoon flour mixed with 1 tablespoon butter to thicken, juice of 1/2 lemon, salt and pepper
For the Stuffing: 4 hard boiled egg yolks, 4 artichoke bottoms, 2 tablespoons chopped parsley, salt, pepper, pinch of nutmeg
Mix the stuffing ingredients together and divide into four. Put the stuffing in the body of each bird and then lay them in a casserole dish. Season them well, pour over the stock, wine and add the blade of mace. Cover and cook in a moderate oven (180C – 350F – gas 4) for 35 – 40 minutes. Thicken with the flour rubbed in butter, then add the lemon juice. Heat up before serving.
CORNED BEEF & CABBAGE / SALT BEEF
This dish is also called ‘salt beef’. The beef is rubbed with coarse salt to a thickness of about 1/4 inch (1cm) then with brown sugar and 1 teaspoon saltpetre. The joint is put into a bowl and turned each day for about a week. Before cooking it is advisable to soak the meat for at least 3 hours, the stock from the meat can then be used for soups.
4 lb (1.8Kg) corned beef, 1 large sliced carrot, 2 large onions – 1 stuck with 4 cloves, 1 large or 2 small cabbage, 1 teaspoon dry mustard powder, sprig of thyme and sprig of parsley, pepper, cold water.
Put the meat into a large saucepan with all the ingredients except the cabbage. Cover with cold water and bring to the boil, then skim off any scum. Cover and simmer very gently for 3/4 of an hour, then put in the trimmed and quartered cabbage. Leave a little of the stump on as this adds flavour. Cook the meat for 30 minutes to the pound and serve on a dish surrounded with the cabbage. When the stock is cold remove any fat from the top and add 1 lb (500g) split peas per 2 quarts (2.2 Litres – 4 pints) stock. Cook fairly fast for around 1 1/2 – 2 hours or until the peas become a puree. If the split peas are soaked overnight they will soften and cook much quicker.
(Rhodymenia palmata.) A reddish-brown seaweed found on all coasts of Ireland. Also called dillisk and dillesk. It is sold dried and can be eaten raw or added to fish or vegetable soup. To cook, the dulse must be soaked for 3 hours in cold water, then simmered in milk for the same time with a knob of butter and pepper. It can be added to mashed potatoes for Dulse Champ and goes with all meats or fish.
(Porphyra laciniata) or sea-spinach found on rocks all over Ireland. Called laver in England and Wales. Sloke should be simmered in water for 4 – 5 hours; drained then dressed with butter, cream and a squeeze of orange or lemon juice. Sloke is excellent with roast lamb, boiled ham or fish.
WILLICKS or WILLOCKS
(Littorina littorea) The local names in Ireland for periwinkles or winkles, which are small shellfish or sea snail. Winkles are boiled in the shells in cold sea water for 10 minutes. Traditionally, having used a pin to get them out of their shells, they are then dipped in fine oatmeal before eating.
SWEETBREADS AND BACON
1 lb (500g) of calf or lamb sweetbreads, 1 lb (500g) streaky bacon rashers, 1 small onion, 1/2 lb (250g) tomatoes (or 1 tin), 1 tablespoon chopped parsley, 1 cup (240ml) water or stock, salt and pepper
Soak the sweetbreads in cold salted water for at least 30 minutes. Change the water, salt it and bring to the boil. Cook for 10 minutes, strain and let them get cold. When cool enough to handle remove any skin or membrane. Take the rind from the rashers and wrap each sweetbread in the bacon. If the sweetbreads are not all the same size, cut them accordingly. Place into a lightly greased, oven-proof dish and season well. Add the small onion finely chopped, the sliced peeled tomatoes and stock. Sprinkle with chopped parsley and cook in a moderate oven (180C – 350F – gas 4) for 35 – 40 minutes. Any unused bacon rashers can be rolled into curls and grilled. When serving, these crisp bacon curls can garnish the top of the sweetbreads.
2lb (1Kg) potatoes, 2 medium onions, 6 rashers streaky bacon – crisply fried, 2 oz (60g) butter, 3 pints (1.8 Litres) of half milk and water or stock and milk, 1 cup (240ml) light (single) cream, chopped chives or parsley, salt and pepper to taste.
Melt the butter in a saucepan, add the peeled and chopped onions and cook gently but do not brown. Add the peeled and sliced potatoes, season to taste, then pour over the milk and water or stock. Cover and cook gently for about an hour. It is then put through a sieve or liquidised until it is pureed. Add the cream and gently re-heat but do not boil. Serve with freshly chopped chives or parsley on top, and the crisply fried bacon rashers finely broken up with a fork as garnish.
Colcannon should correctly be made with kale, but it is now more often made with cabbage. It is traditionally eaten in Ireland at Hallowe’en or All Hallowes Day on 31st October, and a plain gold ring, a sixpence, a thimble and a button are often put into the mixture. To whoever gets them, the ring means marriage within the year; the sixpence denotes wealth, the thimble a spinster and the button a bachelor.
1lb (500g) of kale (or cabbage) and 1lb (500g) potatoes (cooked separately), 2 small leeks or green onion tops, 1 cup (240ml) single (light) cream, 4 oz (115g or 1/2 cup) approx butter, salt, pepper and a pinch of mace.
Have the kale (or cabbage) cooked, warm and well chopped up while the potatoes are cooking. Chop up the leeks (green and white) or onion tops and simmer them in milk or cream to just cover until soft. Drain the potatoes, season and beat them well: then add the cooked leaks and milk. Finally blend in the kale, beating until it is a pale green fluff. Do this over a low flame and pile it into a deep warmed dish. Make a well in the centre and pour in enough melted butter to fill up the cavity. The vegetables are served with spoonfuls of the melted butter. Any leftovers can be fried in hot bacon fat until crisp and brown on both sides.
IRISH SODA BREAD / BASTABLE CAKE
Irish soda bread is one of the specialities of Ireland and is still baked in many homes all over the country. Soda bread is made in loaves of white or brown, the brown being made from whole-wheat flour. Classically, soda bread should be cooked in a ‘bastable oven’ – a pot oven with handles, lid and three short legs for standing at the side of the hearth or suspended by chains. Therefore in some parts of west Cork soda bread is known as Bastable Cake.
WHITE SODA BREAD
1 1/2 lb (750g or 6 cups) plain flour, 1/2 pint (300ml or 1 cup) buttermilk, sour milk or fresh milk; if using fresh milk 1 teaspoon of cream of tartar is added to dry ingredients, 1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda, 1 teaspoon salt.
This quantity will make 1 large loaf or 2 small ones. Mix all the dry ingredients together in a basin and make a well in the centre. Add enough milk and stir with a wooden spoon to make a thick dough. The milk should be poured in large quantities rather than spoonfuls, the mixture should be loose but not wet and the mixing done lightly and quickly. Add a little more milk if it seems too stiff. With floured hands put on to a lightly floured board or table and flatten the dough into a circle of about 1 1/2 inch (4cm) thick. Put on to a baking sheet and score a large cross over it with a floured knife; This will ensure even distribution of heat. Bake in a moderate to hot oven (200C – 400F – gas 5) for about 40 minutes. Test the centre with a skewer before removing from the oven. To keep the bread soft it is wrapped up in a clean tea-towel.
BROWN SODA BREAD
Follow the same method as above for ‘white’ soda bread but use 1 lb (500g or 4 cups) whole-wheat flour and 1/2 lb (250g or 2 cups) plain white flour. A little more milk is used to mix the dough. If a brittle texture is required add 1 tablespoon of melted butter to the above quantities. The bread should not be cut until it is quite cold and set – this takes from 4 – 6 hours.
TREACLE SODA BREAD
A favourite is Treacle Soda Bread. It is made as ‘white’ soda bread (above recipe) but 2 tablespoons of black treacle (molasses) is heated with the milk and 2 tablespoons of sugar is added to the dough. Sultanas (about 180g or 1 cup) are sometimes also added to the dough.
BOILED FRUIT CAKE
1 lb (500g or 2 1/2 cups) sultanas, ½ lb (250g or 1 cup) butter or margarine, ½ lb (250g or 1 cup) granulated sugar, ¼ lb (125g or 1/2 cup) water, 1 teaspoon mixed spice
Boil the above ingredients for 10 minutes, mixing well. Let it go cold then add: 1 lb (500g or 4 cups) sifted flour, 2 well-beaten eggs
Blend very well, then put the mixture into a greased and lined cake tin 8 inches (20cm) in diameter and bake in a slow oven (120C – 250F – gas 1) for about 2 hours. This is a good moist cake which keeps very well. Chopped nuts may be added if liked.