Connacht is the ancient province in the west of Ireland, and these are a collection of local and regional recipes handed down within families who have lived and worked in the Connacht area. All of the recipes below are regionally authentic, originally coming from recipe books published in the 1800s or 1900s, with the weights and measurements adjusted (alongside the old standards) where appropriate for the modern kitchen.
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.
1 lb (500g) raw potatoes, 1 lb (500g or 2 cups) cooked mashed potatoes, 1 lb (500g or 4 cups) flour, 4 oz (115g or 1/4 cup) melted butter or bacon fat, salt and pepper.
Peel the raw potatoes and grate into a clean cloth. wring them tightly over a basin, catching the liquid. Put the grated potatoes into another basin and spread with the cooked mashed potatoes, pour off the water and scrape the starch on to the potatoes. Mix well and sieve the flour, salt and pepper over it. Finally add the melted butter or fat, Knead, roll out on a floured board and shape into round flat cakes. Make a cross over so that when cooked they will divide into farls. Cook on a greased baking sheet in a moderate oven (150C – 300F – gas 3) for about 40 minutes. This quantity will make about four cakes. Serve hot, split in two, with butter.
Use the same ingredients as the recipe above (‘Boxty Bread’) with the addition of 1 teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda and enough milk to make a batter of dropping consistency. Grease a pan or griddle lightly and spoonfuls of the mixture are cooked at a time over a moderate heat on both sides. Serve with butter. Sometimes they are sprinkled with sugar.
1/2 lb (250g or 2 cups) grated cheese such as Cheddar, 2 tablespoons beer, 4 oz (115g or 1/2 cup) butter, 3 tablespoon milk, 1 teaspoon made English mustard, 1 tablespoons chopped mixed pickles or chutney. 4 large rounds of hot buttered toast, pepper
Grate or cut the cheese into small cubes and put into a saucepan with the milk, butter and beer. Stir over a low flame until the mixture is creamy. Then add the made mustard, pepper to taste and when well mixed, the chopped pickles. Serve at once on rounds of hot buttered toast.
BROTCHAN FOLTCHEP / NETTLE BROTCHAN
This is a traditional leek and oatmeal soup. For many centuries oatmeal, milk and leeks were the staple diet of the Irish and they are combined here to make a substantial soup. Brotchan is the Irish for broth and this soup can be made with the addition of young nettle tops.
6 large leeks, 2 tablespoons flake oatmeal, 1 heaped tablespoon butter, 2 pints (1.2 Litres or 4 cups) milk or stock, 1 tablespoon chopped parsley, salt and pepper
Wash the leeks thoroughly to remove grit, cut them up into chunks of about 1 inch long – including the green part. Heat up the liquid with the butter and when boiling add the oatmeal. Let it boil then add the chopped leeks and season to taste. Put the lid on and simmer gently for 45 minutes. Add the parsley and boil again for a few minutes. For Nettle Brotchan, use 4 cups of tightly packed young nettle tops. Wear gloves when picking them and cut with scissors. A little cream can be added if liked.
KIDNEYS IN THEIR OVERCOATS
This is a very popular breakfast dish, and the best way to get the most flavour from lamb kidneys – the kidneys are cooked in a hot oven in their coat of fat (un-skinned of the white fat or ‘overcoats’) ensuring they stay moist and not overcooked.
2 to 3 lamb kidneys per person, depending on their size.
Put the kidneys with their case of fat into a baking dish and cook in a pre-heated oven (200C – 400 deg F – gas 6) for 30 minutes or until the fat is crisp and melted. Serve kidneys on broken open on slices of dry toast with salt and pepper. A little butter is optional.
BAKED SALMON WITH CREAM AND CUCUMBER
5lb (2.25 Kg) salmon, 1/2 pint (300ml) cream, 3 heaped tablespoons butter, 1 medium sized cucumber – peeled and cubed, juice of 1 lemon, 2 sprigs parsley, salt and pepper.
Put the parsley in the cleaned body of the fish and rub the butter over the outside. Place in a fireproof baking dish, season well and pour the cream around. Cover with foil and bake in a moderate oven (180C – 350F – gas 4) for 10 minutes to the pound (20 minutes to the Kilo). Remove from the oven and add the peeled and cubed cucumber with the lemon juice. Baste well and cook uncovered for a further 15 minutes. Skin the fish before serving and pour over the sauce. The cucumber should be a little firm to add texture to the buttery salmon. This dish is excellent served hot and delicious if served cold. Small cuts such as a tail end can be cooked in the same way but leave whole.
PIG’S LIVER CASSEROLE
1 lb (500g) pigs liver, 6 rashers bacon, 1 large onion, 1/2 teaspoon meat essence, 1 tablespoon chopped parsley, 1 cup water or stock, a little flour, salt and pepper.
Serves 3 to 4. Take the rind from the rashers and lay two on the bottom of a casserole dish. Rub the liver slices – not too thinly cut – in flour. Lay half the sliced onion on top of the rashers followed by a layer of liver. Repeat the layers until all the ingredients have been used up ending with the bacon rashers. Season very well between layers. Add parsley, stock or water, cover and cook in a moderate oven (180C – 350F – gas 4) for no longer than 1 1/2 hours. If preferred, the liver can be left in one piece with a cooking time of two hours.
10 oysters per person, oil for frying
Batter for 2 dozen: 1 cup (200g) of flour, 1 cup (240ml) of milk, 1 egg, salt and pepper to season
Make the batter by beating the egg and adding it to the flour, salt and pepper. Beat in the milk gradually to make a smooth batter.. Use a whisk or an egg-beater to get rid of any lumps. Leave the batter rest for 30 minutes in a cool place. Meanwhile, open and beard the oysters. Dip the oysters in the batter and fry in deep hot – but not smoking – oil, until light golden brown. Do not over-cook. Serve hot with lemon wedges.
1 dozen (12) oysters or the equivalent jar or tin, 1/2 cup (100g) fresh white breadcrumbs, juice of 1/2 lemon, 2 eggs – yolk and whites separated, 1/2 cup (100ml) cream, pinch of mace, salt and pepper
Serves 4. Save the oyster liquor and add it to the lemon juice, then heat it and pour over the breadcrumbs. Chop the oysters and add to the crumb then mix in the cream. Separate the eggs, beat the yolks, add to the mixture and season to taste. Finally add the stiffly beaten egg whites. Butter a basin or individual cups and put in the soufflé mixture, up to 1inch from the top to allow for rising. Cover with buttered paper and steam in a large basin for one hour or 40 minutes if using individual ones. Turn out carefully and serve hot.
6 oz (170g) flour, 3 oz (85g) butter, 1 tablespoon sugar, 1/2 teaspoon salt, water
Filling: 1/2 lb (250g or 2 cups) sweet curds or cottage cheese, 2 eggs – yolks and whites separated, 2 heaped tablespoons sugar (vanilla sugar if possible), grated peel and juice of 1/2 lemon, 1 tablespoon butter
Topping: 1 egg, 1 tablespoon each of sugar, flour and melted butter
First make the pastry by mixing the fat into the flour, sugar and salt to a firm, pliable dough with a few tablespoons of water. Cool before using. Make the filling by mixing well the curds with the sugar, soft butter, grated peel and juice of the lemon and beaten egg yolks. Beat it well, then fold in the stiffly beaten egg whites. Roll out the pastry to fit an 8 inch (20cm) diameter flan tin and line the tin with it. Brush with beaten egg to prevent the bottom pastry from becoming heavy. Put the filling into the pastry case and using the rest of the egg, mix it with the topping sugar, melted butter and flour. Pour evenly over the top. Bake in a moderate oven (150C – 350F – gas 4) for 35-40 minutes or until the top is golden brown. Serve cold but not chilled, cut into wedges. A handful of raisins or sultanas were sometimes added to the filling.
ROAST CHICKEN WITH BOILED HAM
1 chicken (about 4 lb / 1.8Kg) chicken giblets, cooked in 2 cups (450ml) water, chicken dripping or oil or butter
For the Stuffing: 3 large slices of crustless white bread, the liver of the chicken, 1/2 cup (120ml) milk, 2 tablespoons chopped parsley, 1 level teaspoon chopped thyme, 1 clove garlic or 1/2 small onion, pinch of mace or nutmeg, salt and pepper
Soak the bread in the milk and if necessary, adding a very little more milk. The bread should absorb the milk but not be wet. Add all the other ingredients, chopped quite small, mix thoroughly and season well. Put into the crop or body of the bird and secure with a skewer. Put the bird into the roasting pan and rub with dripping, oil or butter all over the breast and legs. Cover with foil and roast in a moderate oven (180C – 350F – gas 4) for not more than 1 1/2 hours. It will only be dry if overcooked. Remove the chicken and place on a warmed dish. Strain off the excess fat and add 2 cups (440ml) of giblet stock. Season to taste and let it boil rapidly on top of the stove until it has reduced and thickened slightly. Serve with Bread Sauce (see below).
1 cup (100g) white breadcrumbs, 1 pint (600ml or 2 cups) milk, 6 cloves, 1 medium onion, 1 small bay leaf, 1 knob butter, pinch of mace, 10 peppercorns, 2 tablespoons cream, salt
Peel the onion and stick the cloves into it. Put into a saucepan with the milk, mace, bay leaf and peppercorns. Bring to the boil, remove from the heat and let it infuse for around 30 minutes. Strain the milk and add the breadcrumbs. Stir gently to let the breadcrumbs absorb the milk, then bring gently to the boil. Season to taste and finally add the knob of butter and the cream. Serve as soon as possible.
SCALLOP AND MUSHROOM PIE
8 scallops, 1/4 lb (125g) mushrooms, 1/2 pint (300ml or 1 cup) milk, 1 heaped tablespoon flour, 4 tablespoons sweet sherry, 1 tablespoon chopped parsley, 1 heaped tablespoon butter, salt and pepper, 1 lb (500g) approx cold mashed potatoes.
Serves 4. Cut the cleaned scallops in half but not the red coral; simmer in the milk for 15 minutes with salt and pepper to taste. Strain and reserve the milk. Melt the butter in a saucepan, add the flour and mix well, gradually stir in the warmed milk making sure it is free from lumps. Add the mushrooms, cut into pieces, the sherry and the scallops. Put into an oven-proof dish and cover the top with mashed potatoes. Dot with butter and bake in a moderate oven (180C – 350F – gas 4) for 20-30 minutes until the top has gently browned. Garnish with parsley. If available, soft roes can be added to the scallops.
1/2 lb (250g or 2 cups) flake oatmeal, 2 oz (60g or 1/2 cup) ground almonds, 1 pint (600ml or 2 cups) milk, 3 heaped tablespoons sugar, 3 eggs separated, 2 tablespoons honey, 2 heaped tablespoons raisins or the grated rind of 1 lemon, 3 tablespoons melted butter, pinch ground cinnamon
Bring the milk to the boil and sprinkle in the flaked oatmeal. Cook slowly for around 15 minutes, stirring all the time. Leave to cool then beat in one at a time the ground almonds, honey, sugar, raisins or lemon peel, cinnamon, melted butter and beaten egg yolks. Mix well and finally add the stiffly beaten egg whites. Put into a buttered bowl or basin, cover and steam over hot water for about 1 1/2 hours. Turn out and serve hot with warm melted honey or cream. If made with lemon peel the flavour is more delicate.
1 1/2 lb (750g) sirloin or fillet steak, 1 long fresh crusty loaf, made up mustard butter, salt and pepper.
Slice the loaf in half lengthways and butter it. Frill the steak according to taste but do not overcook. Trim off any gristle or fate when it is cooked and put it warm into the sliced bread. Season to taste and if liked, spread with mustard. Put the top on and press down. Wrap in greaseproof (wax) paper or foil and put a light weight on top. When cold, cut downwards into fairly thick but biteable piece and put back into the foil. The bread will absorb the juices from the meat and keep it moist. This ‘sandwich’ is often taken to race meetings or on shoots.