Saturday, March 26, 2016

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

St. Paddy's Day: Kinky Eton Mess

Happy St. Patrick's Day! Hopefully you're wearing green, putting away a spoonful of Dublin Coddle or two...and celebrating your Irish connections. (If you're lucky enough to have them.)

Today's recipe is a real mess -- an Eton Mess. Supposedly, it started out as an accident -- the original ingredients were part of a picnic basket that a dog accidentally sat on. Fortunately, the smashed-together ingredients were so delicious that the dog's owners had him regularly sit on picnic baskets from then on. (I hope not!)

Eton Mess started as a British dish...but the Irish have made it their own. This version comes from Kevin Dundon's Modern Irish Food. Dundon and his wife founded the Dunbrody Country House Hotel and cookery school -- but you may also know him from his appearances on television and radio.

His version: Kinky Eton Mess. ("Try it with the basil oil -- you won't regret it.")


Meringue:  4 egg whites
1 1/4 cups caster (superfine) sugar    -- powdered sugar
1/2 tsp cornflour (cornstarch)
1/2 teaspoon white wine vinegar

Lemon Curd:  grated rind and juice of 2 lemons
 4 large eggs
2/3 cup caster (superfine) sugar
1 stick (1/2 cup) cold butter, cubed

The Rest (combine):  1 3/4 cups raspberries
1 1/2 cups strawberries, halved
juice of 1/2 lemon
1-2 tablespoons Basil Oil   (recipe follows - you'll want to make this ahead of time)

Heat oven to 250 degrees (120 degrees C). Line a cookie sheet with nonstick baking paper.

Beat egg whites until stiff, then add sugar, cornstarch and vinegar, a little at a time. Mixture should be glossy. Spread onto covered baking sheet -- bake for 1 hour, until meringue is firm to the touch, but still soft in the middle. ("I normally leave mine to cool in the oven with the door propped ajar.")

While meringue is cooling, mix all the lemon curd ingredients (except butter) in a double boiler over simmering water. Keep whisking until mixture thickens, then slowly add pieces of butter -- cook 10-12 min. until curd thickens. Set aside.

To serve:  Lightly break the meringue into uneven pieces, then layer with berry mixture and lemon curd in a clear glass bowl or four glasses. Serve and enjoy.

* * * * * *

1 pound basil
10 1/2 oz. flat leaf parsley
1 cup grapeseed oil

Plunge the herbs in boiling water for about a minute, then transfer them to a bowl of iced water for 3 min. -- this helps them keep their color and flavor. Dry lightly on paper toweling.

Put herbs in a bowl, then gradually drizzle in oil. (Use a handheld blender -- or do this, bit by bit, in a regular blender.) Once all the oil is added, let rest for 20 min. (thus "infusing" it). Push through a strainer or cheesecloth; resulting oil can be stored in refrigerator for up to two weeks.

* * * * * * * *

No time to fuss? Try a simpler version of this mess-y dish, inspired by the Irish Mess.


1 pound strawberries, stemmed, cut in half, and lightly smashed
5-6 crumbled meringue, shortbread or macaroon cookies
whipped cream

Layer all three ingredients in four tall-stemmed clear glasses -- top with a fluff of whipped cream and chocolate sprinkles, if you want to be fancy-pants. Serve and enjoy.

Connemara, courtesy of Wikipedia

St. Paddy's Day: Burnt Oranges

In honor of St. Patrick's Day -- and partly because we've already given a number of the 'traditional' dishes (traditional for the U.S., especially) -- we've been searching for some of the more unusual Irish treats to share with you. 

This one has to top the list. 

It's Burnt Oranges -- a dessert that started as Bishop, a steaming punch flavored with lemon. Somewhere along the way, the flavoring changed to oranges, especially Seville oranges from Spain. And  it became one of the favorite dishes of Dean Swift. Jonathan Swift. Yes, the author of Gulliver's Travels and that lovely little essay, A Modest Proposal. (Click on the latter if you want to find out more -- but don't do it around suppertime.)

 Swift eventually became the Dean of St. Patrick's Cathedral in Dublin...for a while, anyways. Eventually he was buried there.

This sweet almost-drink, almost fruit soup, is actually quite delicious, and a good way to use up oranges heading past their prime.


  • 4 large oranges or 6-8 Seville oranges
  • 150 ml sweet white wine (or a medium white wine if using eating oranges)
  • 4 tablespoons butter, sliced
  • 6 tablespoons sugar  (3 tablespoons x 2)
  • 300 ml fresh-squeezed orange juice
  • 2 tablespoons warmed Irish whiskey
Peel oranges with a peeler or sharp knife -- but just the skin, not the white part, which can be bitter. (This is called "zesting," by the way.) Cut zest into strips and marinate in the wine for a few minutes.
Zesting, zesting...

Pull the oranges apart into segments -- but get rid of as much white as possible. Discard seeds, but do it over a bowl, so not to lose any juice.
Put the oranges into an oven/stovetop-proof dish. Sprinkle with the butter and half of the sugar. Bake at 400 degrees F (200 degrees C) for 10 min., until the sugar caramelizes and oranges brown up.
While you're waiting, mix orange juice with the rest of the sugar; bring to a boil, then let simmer until thickened. Add the orange peel/wine mixture, bring to a boil again, then cook until thickened.
If the orange segments didn't brown, then broil them lightly. (Watch carefully - you don't want them to burn.) Warm the whiskey, pour over the oranges, and set the mixture on fire. (It won't flame if the whiskey isn't warm.)
Add the orange syrup and let the whole shebang simmer for about 2 minutes.
Serve right away -- or cold. "Pouring double cream over the cold version, in the Irish style, works very well."

Go here for the full scoop. 
    Recipe was adapted from

Jonathan Swift by Charles Jervas detail.jpg
Yum!   (Courtesy of Wikipedia)

St. Paddy's Day: Dublin Coddle

March winds are quite blustery around here. Now our stove insert is up and working, there's nothing nicer than a warm spot by the flames, and a plateful of the 'coddle' that's been simmering on top all day. This warm stew makes good use of bacon, sausage and winter vegetables. It can be made quickly, but needs at least a few hours of cooking to really bring out the flavors. If your fireplace is still on hold, try a crockpot or kettle, instead. 

(this version adapted from

Dublin Coddle

1 pound Irish sausages (look for 'bangers,' or substitute breakfast sausage links)
1 pound bacon, chopped
1 pound potatoes, peeled and chunked
2 onions, chopped
6 carrots, chopped
1 cup of sliced mushrooms  (a cup or so of diced cabbage is good, too)
1 quart chicken stock
1 quart milk
salt and pepper to taste


Saute your bacon until cooked; add onions and sausage to brown, as well. Drain off part of the bacon fat, then dump everything else in. Cook gently for at least 30 min. -- but for the best coddle, let it simmer for 2-3 hours, or 5-8 hours (on low) in a crockpot. Serve hot in large soup plates, along with a good beer.


St. Paddy's Day: Potato Farls

Warm and filling... these potato scones make good use of leftover mashed potatoes. The basic recipe asks for just potato, flour, butter, salt and pepper -- but I like to add some finely chopped onion, as well. (The word, by the way, comes from the Gaelic fardel -- or 'fourths.')

Serve underneath a fried egg, and with a pot of tea, for a substantial breakfast.


1 1/2 - 2 cups mashed potatoes (warm in the microwave for 1-2 min. for best results)
1/2 cup flour
4 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon each salt and pepper
1-2 chopped green onions (or 1/4 cup finely chopped white onion)

Mix all together to make a soft dough. (If it feels sticky, add a bit more flour.) Press out by hand into a rough-shaped circle, then cut into quartered wedges. Carefully transfer to a hot ungreased frying pan -- cook for 3-4 min. on one side, then flip and cook 3 more min. Keep warm in the oven while you fry the eggs. (Preferably pulled warm from underneath your chicken friends, down in the coop)

From the Guardian article about the subject: 
     Farls are most often served with a cooked breakfast or at breakfast, try them topped with crisp bacon or served instead of fried tea time they are best served simply, with just butter and salt, but they are good too with dollop of jam. 
     At lunch or supper they go particularly well with smoked fish, grated beetroot salad and horseradish cream. Jane Baxter (my collaborator on this column) like them with butter and melted cheese, but she is a bad woman...


(Here's AllRecipe's take on potato farls.)

Irish Potato Farls

The Rock of Cashel, Cahir, County Tipperary, Ireland
Spend your vacation at this Irish castle -- go here for more.

Monday, March 14, 2016

St. Paddy's Day: Irish Cream Cake

Time to celebrate one of the most beautiful countries on earth.

The largest Norman castle in Ireland -- courtesy of Wikipedia

And what better way than a graceful and easy to make cake, flavored with liqueur (or liquor!). This version shortcuts with boxed cake and pudding mixes.

Irish Cream Celebration Cake

(recipe from Betty Crocker --
   serves from 8-12, depending on your slices. Great with coffee, by the way.)


box Betty Crocker™ SuperMoist™ devil’s food cake mix
box (4-serving size) chocolate instant pudding and pie filling mix
cup vegetable oil
cup Irish cream liqueur   (or substitute 1/3 cup of a fine whiskey, like Jameson's)
cup sour cream

Irish Cream Frosting

cup butter, softened
oz (half of 8-oz package) cream cheese, softened
cups powdered sugar
cup Irish cream liqueur
teaspoon vanilla

Chocolate Glaze

oz bittersweet baking chocolate, chopped
cup whipping cream
cup light corn syrup
teaspoons vanilla
cup sliced almonds, toasted


  • 1 Heat oven to 350°F (325°F for dark or nonstick pans). Spray 2 (9-inch) round cake pans with cooking spray.
  • 2 In large bowl, beat all cake ingredients with electric mixer on medium speed 5 minutes, scraping bowl occasionally, until well blended. Pour batter into pans. Bake 35 to 45 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes; remove cakes from pans to cooling racks. Cool completely.
  • 3 In large bowl, beat butter and cream cheese with electric mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy. Reduce speed to low. Add powdered sugar, 1 cup at a time, beating until blended. Add 1/4 cup liqueur and 1 teaspoon vanilla; beat until frosting is smooth and spreadable.
  • 4 Place 1 cake layer on serving plate; spread with one-third of the frosting. Top with second layer. Frost side and top of cake with thin layer of frosting to seal in crumbs. Refrigerate 30 minutes. Frost cake with remaining frosting.
  • 5 Place chopped chocolate in small bowl. In small saucepan, heat whipping cream over medium heat until bubbles form around edge. Pour warm cream over chocolate; let stand 1 minute. Stir with whisk until chocolate is melted. Add corn syrup and 2 teaspoons vanilla. Stir until smooth. Let stand 10 minutes or until thickened.
  • 6 Pour glaze on top of cake, letting some glaze drip down side. Sprinkle almonds around edge of cake. Store in refrigerator.
  • Go here for Betty's page...

Happy St. Paddy's Day!

Being born-and-bred Irish (plus a mutt's mix of a few other nationalities), I enjoy celebrating March 17. 

The Brick, whose last name is more Irish than mine ever was (it actually is based on the Gaelic for 'badger'), is more skeptical.

"I'm not Catholic," he insists. "Why shouldn't I wear orange then, instead of green?"

(The color choice does have a lot to do with religion there.)

Why not forget about that for now, dig out your dusty copy of John Wayne's The Quiet Man, and cook up a few Irish specialties for the holiday? We've run a number of traditional favorites already...go back to here and you'll find them, from corned beef to Irish stew, to champ and colcannon.

This year's Irish dishes, then, will be some of the more unusual choices for an Irish feast, focusing, of course, on the country's favorite products, including salmon and (what else) potatoes.

Stop by -- we'll have something new every day.

Wear a celtic cross, and you'll be celebrating St. Patrick's influence, as well.
 This version's courtesy of Wikipedia.