My husband and I just returned from 2 glorious weeks in the west of Ireland in a little village called Spiddal. We own a guest house there which is rented throughout the year. In October, we make an annual pilgrimage to do repairs, yardwork, big clean, spiff up, etc. It is truly a labor of love and this year we only had one day of rain in 14! Quite unusual for Ireland in October. Our kitchen window overlooks the ocean. Here is a shot of the sun setting over Galway Bay.
I do a lot of cooking and baking in IRE. It is rare for us to go out to eat, although there are some wonderful restaurants in the area. Cooking in Spiddal is challenging as I have no recipe books, very few utensils or measuring cups, baking dishes…it’s a pretty stripped down kitchen and you never quite know how things will turn out, but that is half the fun! I’m going to start with some oat cookie/ cakes that were delicious and almost seemed healthy!
I am calling these cookie/cakes as they were thicker than cookies
and nearly had the consistency of a cake; almost like a scone.
The apples (and butter!) kept them nice and moist.
1 cup coarse whole wheat flour
1 1/2 cups oats
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. cinnamon
1 1/2 sticks softened Irish butter (I love Irish butter!)
1 cup raisons
2 small apples, cut in pieces
1 cup sugar
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. This is another tricky detail as my oven in Spiddal is calibrated in numbers from 1 to 9 rather than degrees, but the conversions are not that hard to figure out. On my oven 350 degrees is between 4 and 5. Here is a standard conversion chart:
275°F = 140°C = gas mark 1
300°F = 150°C = gas mark 2
325°F = 165°C = gas mark 3
350°F = 180°C = gas mark 4
375°F = 190°C = gas mark 5
400°F = 200°C = gas mark 6
425°F = 220°C = gas mark 7
450°F = 230°C = gas mark 8
475°F = 240°C = gas mark 9
Mix all dry ingredients in a bowl. Add the raisons and apple to the dry ingredients–the flour mixture coats the raisons and apples so when mixed with wet ingredients they don’t clump up. In a separate bowl cream together softened butter and sugar. Add eggs, one at a time, and beat after each addition. Mix the creamed butter mixture into the dry ingredients and mix thoroughly until just held together. Drop by heaping tablespoon on an ungreased cookie sheet and bake for 10-12 minutes. Let them cool a few minutes before removing from pan and then place them on a rack to cool completely. These were great with a pot of tea!
I was watching a cooking show one night and saw an interesting recipe for potatoes. In Ireland potatoes are ubiquitous and often served several different ways at a meal: boiled, mashed, and fried. This recipe is a little different and went well with steamed carrots we had just dug from Sarah’s garden mixed with frozen peas and lamb chops from Mr. Feeney, our local butcher.
SMASHED NEW POTATOES WITH HERBS AND GARLIC
16 new, small white potatoes, scrubbed, left whole with skins on
2 cloves peeled, but whole garlic
Big sprig of rosemary
4 Tbsp. butter
1/2 cup grated cheddar (I used a nice local Irish cheddar, but any cheddar will work.)
4 Tbsp. chopped Herbs-chives, parsley, sage, additional rosemary, thyme–your choice
Cover potatoes with salted water. Bring to a boil and cook until tender. Drain. Discard rosemary. Chop garlic and smash potatoes and garlic with a large fork or potato masher. Do not mash completely; leave them a little chunky. Add 4 Tbsp. butter, 1/2 cup grated cheddar, salt/pepper, and herbs of choice. I used the above herbs. They recommended tarragon and parsley on the show which sounds great, but I didn’t have any tarragon growing. Put the potatoes in a shallow baking dish (you may want to dot with a bit more butter and sprinkling of cheese) and reheat until very hot, about 15-20 minutes. Very simple, but the herbs and cheddar are a nice twist. Now on to…more potatoes!
This is an old fashioned Irish traditional way to serve potatoes and as with almost every recipe has variations. I like to make it simple with cream and lots of butter mixed into the mashed potato and steamed cabbage. It can also be made with steamed kale, green onions, regular onions or leeks. This time I did add some leeks because they are in season and I had a ton of them on hand. As I said we just raided Sarah’s garden so the root veg were plentiful. In Hungary, my Mom’s homeland, there is a dish called Kaposzta’s Kocka Galooshka, which is a cabbage and noodle dish. Very similar, but here in IRE the potatoes replace the noodles…of course!
10-12 potatoes, peeled and rough chopped
1/2 cabbage cut into big chunks; don’t skimp on the cabbage. If it is small, use the whole head.
1 leek cut into thin slices, white part only
1/4 cup cream or milk
2 Tbsp. salt
5 Tbsp. butter
Salt/Pepper to taste
Place peeled and cubed potatoes in a pot. Cover with water and add 1 Tbsp. salt and bring to boil and cook until fork tender; about 15 minutes. Drain well in colander. In same pot add cabbage and leeks. Cover with water; add 1 Tbsp. salt. Bring to boil and cook until tender; about 10 minutes. Drain. Mash potatoes in a glass pyrex type bowl or dish. Add cabbage and leeks. Stir in 5 Tbsp. butter and 1/4 cup cream or more if potatoes are not creamy making them really rich and delicious. This can be made ahead of time and reheated. Leftover colcannon also makes great potato pancakes in the morning or if you just want to fry the cakes without going to the fuss of adding egg and flour they hold together nicely; probably because of so much butter!
Just a quick word about PARSNIPS. They are not either mine or my husband’s favorite veg, but since we had so many freshly dug I decided to make a whipped parsnip dish with butter and cream. I am calling it PARSNIP CREAM. To make: peel parsnips and cut into cubes. Cover with salted water. Bring to boil. Drain well in colander. Whip (this was not easy as I don’t have a mixer, but whipped by hand with a fork) until creamy. Add butter, a little cream and salt and pepper. Again, very simple, but delicious. They also made wonderful cakes the next morning for breakfast. Just drop a heaping tablespoon in olive oil and form the cake with the spatula and your fingers. Cook until brown and turn and brown the other side. I served these parsnip cakes topped with Irish smoked salmon and poached eggs with white pudding which is the oppositie of black pudding; kind of like a spicy sausage, but contains no pigs blood as does black pudding.
I think the most exciting thing I made in Ireland this year was a roasted duck. They were on sale at the market for 9 Euros and I couldn’t resist. I asked the butcher what kind of duck it was and he said FREE RANGE…that didn’t give me much information, but I have never cooked a duck anyway so didn’t have much to go on. It was absolutely delicious, but my technique was imperfect. Here is the roasted duck which was yummy, but the flaw was not completely rendering the fat under the skin.
I have since done some research and am going to try this again at home and let you know how it goes. The 2 biggest errors were: #1. I cooked at high heat and I believe the recommended method is long, slow heat; and #2 (and I KNEW this!!) I did not score the skin. Oh well, as I always say, the fun is in the doing and it won’t always be perfect, although I must say that the orange sauce I made for this plump duckling was scrumptuous so you’ll be hearing about that soon. After our first duck dinner, I cooked the duck two different ways: Duck Risotto (out of this world!) and a rich root vegetable soup made with duck stock. Not to mention the duck made about 2 cups of duck fat which was used in all sorts of ways for flavoring and frying.
Until next time, this is Cindrina (that’s my Irish chef name) saying goodbye from Spiddal, County Galway.
LIVE LARGE, COOK BIG, GET CREATIVE IN THE KITCHEN.
PLEASE TUNE IN AGAIN SOON FOR ANOTHER EPISODE OF:
P.S. Thanks again to all of you who have been following my quest for the position of Chief World Explorer for Jauntaroo. For those of you who do not know, I did not make the final five. Your support meant the world to me and I had a blast along the way!