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Chef Fran Broadbery

Chef Fran Broadbery

It’s not every day I sit down with an Irish chef and it’s not every day I nearly miss a flight to America. Today I did both…virtually at the same time!

Dear Readers…if you’re flying anywhere this summer on Aer Lingus, Ireland’s national airline, listen up… Aer Lingus requires all passengers check-in two to three hours before all flights…and they mean it! If you’re not at the ticket counter when the “last call” for your flight is made, you’re snookered. Chances are you’re not getting to your final destination on the flight of your choice. In fact, you may not get to your final destination at all. I know: I learned it the hard way.

In typical fashion, I arrived at Dublin Airport 90 minutes before my plane from Dublin to Boston was scheduled to depart. I was feeling pretty chuffed (happy) with myself: 90 minutes felt positively luxurious. No husband, no kids, and clutching nothing but my carry-on bag, I sauntered over to one of those kiosk-yokes to check in. When a “Flight Closed” message flashed up on the screen before me, I wasn’t the least bit worried. Instead, I walked over to the “Flight Closing” desk and waited patiently {about 10 minutes} to clear up the problem.

“Didn’t you hear the two last calls for your flight?!”, said the young Aer Lingus representative dressed in green.

The last two whats?, I replied calmly. “My flight doesn’t leave for 90 minutes.”

“That may well be the case,” she said, “but check-in for all Aer Lingus international flights is three hours before take off. You have missed the last call for your plane. You’ll have to see if you can get a later flight…which is, unfortunately, showing oversold at the moment.”

Arguing the case, no matter how politely, got me nowhere so I hustled myself over to the next queue (line) to see if I could get on my flight. Five minutes passed…my position in the queue wasn’t improving and my heart was beginning to pound like a jack hammer. You see Dear Readers, I was meeting my youngest daughter at summer camp on the other side of the Atlantic and I HAD TO GET ON THAT FLIGHT!!!!

No longer calm and smug but rather stressed and glowing sweating, I thought all was lost until an Aer Lingus supervisor called to me saying, “Today is your lucky day!” It turned out the man directly behind me in the last queue was also supposed to get on my flight and, since there were two of us who’d screwed up, they were going to do us a favour by getting us through security, immigration, and customs and onto the plane. “You’d better not do this again!”, my new friend and I were chastised.

Cruising through lines like the ancient Israelites passing through the Red Sea {thanks to Moses}, my friend and I struck up a conversation. Turns out he was delayed getting to the airport because of a problem at the car hire (rental) place. Hertz or Avis or another company was giving him a hard time and he wasn’t able to check-in before the dreaded “last calls”.

It was in the U.S. Customs line that we finally exchanged names and handshakes and I asked him what he did. “I’m a chef!”, he replied in a soft Irish accent.

Hmmm…a chef!…an Irish food blogger saved by an Irish chef!…sounds too good to be true.

“You’d better watch out,” I warned, “I may just have to interview you on the flight to Boston.”

My new friend chuckled, “If we make this flight, I’ll be happy to talk.”

As luck would have it, we made the flight and, what’s more, Aer Lingus sat us together. A captured interviewee: my day just went from bad to great! So, Dear Readers, without further adieu, it is my pleasure to introduce to you my seat-mate and good luck charm…Chef Fran Broadbery.

Plum Island Grill Food

Tempura Shrimp, Thai Seafood Stew, and Apple Tarte Tatin served at Plum Island Grille

Q. So, Fran, what can you tell me about your restaurant?

A. It’s called Plum Island Grille and it’s on Plum Island, a beautiful barrier island with a single drive road leading up to a picturesque “old school” restaurant. It’s about a half-hour north of downtown Boston.

Q. What kind of food do you serve?

A. Oh, Jaysus…really good food {laughter}. No, seriously, it’s Mediterranean, strong French, with a hint of Thai.

Q. That sounds delicious. How did the Thai part work its way in?

A. I met my wife in a Thai restaurant and I’ve always loved Thai food. I guess you could say I’ve always had a soft spot for Thai.

Q. Did you meet your wife in Thailand?

A. No…I met her in the Chili Club in Dublin.

Q. Oh, I remember that place…it is great.

A. Yea, I worked in the kitchen there as a dishwasher and a precook. Anna the chef, she was about 83 years of age, took me under her wing and taught me some of the tricks of making proper Thai cuisine. She was one of the best chefs I ever worked with in my life.

Q. You’re Irish but you live in America now…how did that happen?

A. When I was twenty-one, my then girlfriend moved home to America and I went to Europe to sow a few “wild oats” and learn more about food. I went from Barcelona to Scandinavia cooking for about a year. Food, fun, drink…but in the end, I missed my girlfriend and headed back to Dublin on Dec 21 and was in Boston by Dec 24th. Arriving in Boston on Christmas Eve blew my mind! My girlfriend and I drove up to New Hampshire on Christmas morning…something I’ll never forget…no one had ever told me how beautiful America is. I never expected it. I fell in love with the countryside immediately.

Q. Obviously your girlfriend was American. Did it work out?

A. Twenty-two years later, two boys, and a flying restaurant…it certainly did. My life is busy but good!

Q. What influence, if any, has your upbringing had on Plum Island Grille?

A. Ireland…not so much…my Mum…plenty. My mum was not a good cook but there are certain dishes of hers that I remember fondly and I’ve tried to recreate them at Plum Island Grill. There are dishes from the Irish sea and the Irish land: salted and smoked cod chowder, wild mushroom soup, perfectly boiled ham, and, oh my God, my mother’s scones. I can never replicate them but I do make them. So, I’d say Ireland itself isn’t much of a strong influence but my mother definitely is.

Q. Where did you go to school.

A. I started school in Wexford and then did two years of school in Tallaght. I only remember it as the fluorescent green school where there was a very pretty accounting teacher…and therefore I love accounting. I then went to Blackrock College for 5th year and on to Bolton Street for architecture and property management (real estate) and, finally, finished at Trinity College with a degree in architecture.

Q. From architecture to becoming a chef…how did that happen?

A. Architecture is the creation of something from scratch…food is very similar.

Q. You mentioned that you are one in a family of eighteen children! What was that like growing up?

A. I loved my childhood. It was hard. We were poor. We struggled. But, we built an amazing family bond that will never be broken. When I see my family now…even if it’s a year or two between visits…there is no awkwardness…it’s like we see each other every day. I’m floored by my family. Thank God for Viber!

Q. How often do you get back to Ireland?

A. At least once a year, if not twice.

Q. I have to ask…what’s it like to be married to an American…as you know…I am American and married to an Irish man.

A. Kathleen has never been like any other American I’ve known. If she was I probably wouldn’t have married her! {more laughter!} She is a mind-blowing woman on so many levels. Tall, dark, beautiful and elegant…amazingly witty…and yet sweet at the same time. I am challenged by Kathleen on a daily basis and for that I am very grateful. My life is never boring with her and it never will be. She wont’ let me rest on my laurels and I like it that way. She’s an interesting lady.

Q. One last question…what is your favourite thing to eat?

A. Pan seared John Dory over perfectly hand-whipped potatoes, julienned zucchini, carrot and summer squash, finished with a vanilla-orange guerre blanc.

Q. Mmmm…that sounds delicious. Ok, Fran…thank you very much for getting me on this flight today and for giving me this unexpected yet lovely interview! It’s been a pleasure.

A. It was an interesting way to meet you. I really enjoyed it too.

Note: If you’re in Boston, you can call into Plum Island Grill at 2 Sunset Blvd, Newbury, MA 01951. Phone: 978-463-2290. Website: http://www.plumislandgrill.com. Tomorrow I’ll post one of Chef Fran Broadbery’s recipes.

Irish Elderflower Cordial

At this time of year the hedgerows around Ireland are full of pink and yellow and white blossoms that are so very fragrant. It’s an absolute pleasure to walk around small country roads just to take in their lovely sweetness.

One flower in particular, the Elderflower, has me captivated. Growing like lace caps on a bushy green {and sometimes very tall} shrub, these gorgeous little flowers can be brewed with the simplest of ingredients to make a cordial (flavoured syrup) that is refreshingly delicious.

You may think it takes ages to make Elderflower cordial but it doesn’t. Five minutes or less picking the blooms and another five in the kitchen doing a bit of work, plus an overnight sitting under the canopy of a clean tea towel, and you’re done. Easy-peasy.

Elderflower cordial is a summer time staple in our Irish home. I am sure it will be the same in your home once you give it a try.

Wild Irish Elderflower Cordial

Ingredients

10-15 elderflower sprays, pick on a dry day and stay clear of plants close to the ground or in high trafficked areas

1 litre cold water

2lbs caster sugar

1 lemon sliced, skin scrubbed clean first

2oz citric acid (available at a chemist (pharmacy/drugstore)

Directions

1. After picking the elderflower sprays, turn upside down and give them a good sturdy shake to remove any bugs. Next, pick off any leaves, cut down the stems, and bring into the kitchen.

2. Put the water into a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Add the sugar and stir with a spoon until completely dissolved. Allow to cool to room temperature.

3.  Pour the sugar water into a large bowl. Add the elderflower sprays. Zest the lemon and add to the bowl. Slice the lemon and add to the bowl. Push the flowers and lemon slices under the sugar water and stir. Cover the bowl with a clean tea towel and leave for 24 hours.

4. Strain the mixture through a clean muslin cloth. At this point you may add the optional citric acid. Pour into a clean bottle, seal, and keep in the fridge until ready to use. We prefer a 1:6 ratio of elderflower cordial to sparkling water but you can serve it at whatever strength you prefer.

Notes: This cordial would be lovely added to a tall glass of crisp Prosecco, sparkling wine, gin or vodka.

Not every day is a good day In an Irish Home. Some days are average, some days are not so great, and some days are dreadful enough that we need a bit of heavenly help to make it through the hours.

Yesterday was one such day: a close family member was in hospital having surgery and, well, you know yourself, no operation is without its possible complications so there was a good deal of worry going round. While the clock ticked away quietly in the background and we waited for word from the Professor (surgeon), I did what any good Irish woman does in these situations…I started to pray.

Now don’t get me wrong…I am no Holy woman, or even a good Catholic for that matter, but I do have a strong sense of faith and I pray regularly. For the most part, my prayers are of a conversational nature…”Hello God…it’s me…again!” or “Thank you, Lord, for the parking space near the shop door!” Other times, however, I need the comfort of a traditional prayer or set of prayers to calm my heart and mind and, in those moments, I turn to the old Catholic standby…the Rosary.

To those unfamiliar with the Catholic Rosary, it is an instrument of prayer and mediation. It’s real purpose is to allow a person to mediate on the mysteries of Christ’s life. I, however, like to use the Rosary to centre my mind and bring myself and/or my problems closer to God.

A Rosary consists of four Mysteries (the Joyful, the Sorrowful, the Glorious, and the Luminous), and each of these Mysteries is broken into five “Decades”, representing an event in the life of Jesus. Each Mystery is assigned to a different day of the week. For example: the Joyful Mysteries are prayed  Monday and Saturday; the Sorrowful Mysteries on Tuesday and Friday; The Glorious Mysteries on Wednesday and Sunday; and the Luminous (also known as the Mysteries of Light) on Thursday. Also, as you can see from the diagram below, a Rosary is broken up into various prayers:.

Diagram for saying the Rosary

Diagram for saying the Rosary

To begin praying the Rosary, one starts by making the Sign of the Cross (saying “In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.”) and then reciting the Apostles’ Creed. Next, one prays the Our Father, three Hail Marys, and a Glory Be to the Father on the beads connecting the crucifix (cross) to the rest of the beads. Then begin the Mysteries: start by announcing the Mystery, followed by announcing the first Decade of the Mystery. Pray one Our Father, ten Hail Mary’s, and one Glory Be to the Father and follow this with the Fatima prayer. Announce the next Decade and recite the same thirteen prayers (one Our Father, ten Hail Mary’s, one Glory be to the Father, one Fatima prayer again and then do it three more times (for a total of five times). Finally, there is one last Our Father, Hail Mary and  Glory Be, and a concluding prayer of the Hail Holy Queen prayer and the Sign of the Cross.

For anyone interested in praying the Rosary, below I’ve written out the four Mysteries and their Decades, the Fatima prayer, the Hail Holy Queen prayer and an extra prayer to the Hail Holy Queen that my mother-in-law always says when she says the Rosary. And, just to finish off this post, the surgery went well and the patient should be home tomorrow mid-day…thank God!

Prayers of the Rosary

Sign of the Cross: In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Apostles’ Creed (your version may be different depending on when you learned it and where you’re from): I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth; and in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord: Who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary; suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and was buried. He descended into hell; the third day He rose again from the dead; He ascended into heaven, is seated at the right hand of God the Father Almighty; from thence He shall come to judge the living and the dead. I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Holy Catholic Church, the communion of Saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting. Amen.

Our Father: Our Father, Who art in Heaven, hallowed be Thy name; Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven. Give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. Amen.

Hail Mary: Hail Mary full of Grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed are thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb Jesus. Holy Mary Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death Amen.

Glory Be to the Father: Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.

Fatima Prayer: O My Jesus, forgive us our sins, save us from the fires of Hell and lead all souls to Heaven, especially those who are in most need of Thy mercy.

Hail Holy Queen: Hail, holy Queen, Mother of mercy, hail, our life, our sweetness and our hope. To thee do we cry, poor banished children of Eve: to thee do we send up our sighs, mourning and weeping in this vale of tears. Turn then, most gracious Advocate, thine eyes of mercy toward us, and after this our exile, show unto us the blessed fruit of thy womb, Jesus. O clement, O loving, O sweet Virgin Mary! Amen.

Pray for us, O holy Mother of God. That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

Let us pray.

O God, whose only-begotten Son, by his life death and resurrection, has purchased for us the rewards of eternal life; grant we beseech you, that meditating on these Mysteries of the most holy Rosary of the Blessed Virgin Mary, we may both imitate what they contain, and obtain what they promise, through the same Christ our Lord. Amen.

The Four Mysteries and Their Decades

The Joyful Mysteries & Its Five Decades

1. The Annunciation – Mary is visited by the Angel Gabriel and asks her if she will be the Mother of the Saviour.

2. The Visitation – Mary visits her cousin Elizabeth who says, “Hail Mary, full of Grace, the Lord is with thee.”

3. The Nativity – Jesus is born.

4. The Presentation – Mary and Joseph present Jesus at the Temple after his birth to present him.

5. The Finding in the Temple – Mary and Joseph find Jesus in the Temple discussing his faith with the Elders.

The Sorrowful Mysteries & Its Five Decades

1. The Agony in the Garden – The thought of our sins and His coming suffering causes the agonizing Savior to sweat blood.

2. The Scourging at the Pillar –  Jesus is stripped and scourged until His body is one mass of bloody wounds.

3. The Crowning with Thorns – Jesus’s claim to kingship is ridiculed by putting a crown of thorns on His head and a reed in His hand.

4. The Carrying of the Cross – Jesus shoulders His own cross and carries it to the place of crucifixion while Mary follows Him sorrowing.

5. The Crucifixion – Jesus is nailed to the cross and dies after three hours of agony witnessed by His Mother.

The Glorious Mysteries & Its Five Decades

1. The Resurrection –  Jesus rises from the dead on Easter Sunday, glorious and immortal, as He has predicted.

2. The Ascension – Jesus ascends into Heaven forty days after His resurrection to sit at the right hand of God the Father.

3. The Descent of the Holy Spirit – Jesus sends the Holy Spirit in the form of fiery tongues on His Apostles and disciples.

4. The Assumption – Mary, having completed the course of her earthly life, is assumed body and soul into heavenly glory.

5. The Crowning of Mary – Mary is crowned as Queen of heaven and earth, Queen of angels and saints.

The Luminous (also known as the Mysteries of Light) & Its Five Decades

1. Baptism in the Jordan – God proclaims that Jesus is his beloved Son.

2. Self-manifestation at the wedding of Cana – At Mary’s request, Jesus performs his first miracle.

3. Proclamation of the Kingdom of God, with His call to conversion – Jesus calls all to conversion and service to the Kingdom.

4. The Transfiguration – Jesus is revealed in glory to Peter, James, and John.

5. Jesus’ institution of the Eucharist – Jesus offers his Body and Blood at the Last Supper.

 

Related Articles: 

To hear the Rosary said in Irish, please go to Coróin Mhuire

The Rosary in Irish (Gaelic) over at Catholic Online

Rosary ideas for kids on Pinterest here

The Rosary as a Tool for Mediation at Loyola Press

How to Say the Rosary at EWTN

Irish Scrambled Eggs

Irish scrambled eggs. Fluffy. Creamy. And, oh, so delicious…why did I fight so long to hang on to my American way of making ye? Why indeed. Like many things one clings to when they feel adrift in a sea not their own, I couldn’t wouldn’t give up my way of making scrambled eggs until recently.

This story starts with a young version of myself, standing at my mother’s side, learning to make scrambled eggs for breakfast. Break eggs into a bowl, add milk, put a dollop of butter in a hot frying pan…wait for the butter to foam…add the beaten eggs and milk mixture to the pan and cook quickly…whirling a spatula in a chopping motion…until the eggs form dry, separate, curds. Plate and eat immediately…simple to make.

Irish Eggs

Fast forward fifteen years…I’m now standing at my husband’s side, watching as he scrambles eggs for breakfast. Break eggs into a bowl, add salt and pepper to taste. Put two dollops of butter in a saucepan on low heat and add milk to the saucepan…wait for the butter to melt into the milk…add the beaten eggs and cook gently…stirring with a wooden spoon…until the eggs are set. Plate on a slice of warm buttered toast and serve immediately…also simple to make, but unacceptable to this Yankee girl.

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Yes, it is sad but true to say, I was set in my American ways and unwilling to give up anything the things that reminded me of home for the longest time. I believed, as many immigrants do, that everything from home is always better.

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What eventually changed my mind? Two very sweet little girls.

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You see, when you’re raising children who are both Irish and something else {in our case, Irish and American} it is sometimes often times easier to let go of long-held traditions for different, and somewhat uncomfortable, new ones…out of love.

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And, that Dear Readers, is what happened to me and my belief about how to make scrambled eggs. My American mother taught me to make scrambled eggs dry, served with a dollop of salsa (the Texas girl in me) or ketchup (the New Englander girl in her) and toast on the side. My Irish husband taught me otherwise. Our Irish American children cajoled me into changing my preference for how this breakfast dish is made such that, finally, I came round to making {and enjoying} scrambled eggs the Irish way…slowly, stirred in saucepan with a wooden spoon until barely set. I hope you enjoy them too!

Irish Scrambled Eggs

Serves One

Ingredients

2 eggs

salt and pepper to taste

1 oz butter

2 tablespoons milk

Directions

1. Crack two eggs into a bowl, add salt and pepper to taste, and mix with a fork.

2. Put butter, in a small saucepan, over low heat, and add milk.

3. When butter melts into milk, add eggs and stir constantly with a wooden spoon until eggs are set {they look about 75% cooked and slightly wet}.

4. Serve over warm buttered toast, with a sprinkling of chopped parsley, and eat immediately.

 

 

 

I love to spend time in my kitchen but I’ve never want to be a slave to it. Which is why, over the years, I have sought out recipes that are delicious, easy to make, and {one more thing} nutritious.

Today’s recipe for Leek and Potato Soup hits all the marks. This recipe is so easy, a child could make it…in fact, mine have. It’s perfectly good as a starter when you’re throwing a dinner party, but it’s also equally fine as a main course for any night of the week when you need to serve up a light supper.

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If you were to omit the leeks in this recipe, you would then have an Irish Master Recipe…meaning you have a fine potato soup that can then be turned into any number of other soups with the addition of one or two other ingredients. For example, Nettle Soup, Potato and Parsley Soup, Potato and Mint, Potato Soup Garnished with Fried Pancetta…the list is endless.

Though only a modest tuber, potatoes are still very popular in Ireland. I laugh when I think back to the early years of my marriage and how my lovely husband would always insist on making the boiled potatoes to go with our dinner. He didn’t trust me (the American) to boil potatoes properly…imagine!

I’ve come a long way…frying up, boiling up, roasting up, baking up, and mixing up many a potato since then. This recipe is one my favourites and always gets rave reviews from dinner guests. I hope you and yours enjoy it too!

Leek & Potato Soup

Serves 4-6

Ingredients

2oz butter

3 leeks, white parts only, chopped roughly *

2 onions, chopped roughly

2 potatoes, peeled and diced

2 bay leaves

1 liter chicken stock

salt and pepper to taste

75ml cream

Garnish Options

knob (slice) of blue cheese

chives, finely chopped

Directions

1. Melt the butter in a medium saucepan. When it starts to foam, add the leeks, potatoes and onions, turning them in the butter until well coated. Cover with a lid (or a piece of grease proof/parchment paper), and sweat for about 10 minutes on low heat.

2. Add the stock, bring to the boil and simmer until the vegetables are tender. Do not overcook or the vegetables will lose their flavour.

3. Liquidise until smooth, taste, add salt and pepper as needed.

4. Add cream and stir well. Garnish with a knob of blue cheese (we like Cashel) or top dress with some chopped chives.

Notes:
* The green tops of the leeks can be put into a compost heap or saved for another soup or homemade stock. I often put mine into the freezer and use when I’m making a chicken or vegetable stock.

 

Related Articles:

Ancient Irish Leek & oatmeal Soup at http://avillagepantry.wordpress.com/2011/03/04/ancient-irish-leek-oatmeal-soup-brotchan-roy/

Potato and Leek Soup…and Pink Irish Houses blog post at http://rileymadel.yummly.com/2011/11/potato-leep-soupand-pink-irish-houses.html

RTE Food blog Simple Leek and Potato Soup Recipe at http://www.rte.ie/lifestyle/food/recipes/2011/0929/1335-a-simple-leek-and-potato-soup/

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Opps…in all the hustle and bustle of the day…I forgot to hit the “Publish” button on this post yesterday!! 

Easter is finally upon us and the weather is still holding beautifully. We were meant to get showers from Wednesday onwards, but the sun has been splitting the sky and everyone is out and about in their spring finery.

Mother nature has been a bit of a show off too.

Spring in Ireland 1Spring in Ireland 2

 

We have a house-full coming for dinner this afternoon. Nineteen for supper (that’s the adults and the children) and another seven for the afters (tea and dessert/cheese board and port). The big debate in our Irish home has been lamb or ham?!? Yes, it’s the baa vs the oink!

My lovely husband is fed up with me asking everyone we meet, “Are you serving ham or lamb for your Easter supper?” Our Irish home is evenly divided. What about yours? To keep the peace, we’ve decided to split the difference and have both this year. Roast lamb with garlic and rosemary AND baked ham crusted with brown sugar glaze and honey.

For sides will be having roast potatoes and boiled potatoes (you can never have too many potatoes in Ireland), garden peas and a big green salad. And for our pudding (dessert) we’re serving Rhubarb Crumble, Apple Tart, Banoffee, Lemon Drizzle Cake, Meringues with fresh fruit and cream and, for the children, we have Rice Krispie Bars, Rocky Road Biscuits, and Caramel Squares. It’s an Irish desert feast!

To finish off the supper, we’re serving a selection of gorgeous Irish cheeses: Gubbeen, Cooleeney, Cashel Blue, Wexford Vintage Cheddar, along with Manchego and Saint Agur (the last two not being Irish).

It’s a huge Easter meal for a rather large crowd, but as my sister-in-law loves to say, “Many hands make light work!” We’ve got many hands cooking today: even two of the brothers-in-law are hard at work in the kitchen, each one making a leg of lamb! We can’t wait to see who makes the best one.

From our Irish home to yours, I wish you a very Happy Easter!

 

 

 

There’s a book I own that sits on the nightstand near my bed…one my mother gave to me when I was a child. The binding is tattered and the corners are torn, but I never mind that…the book means the world to me.

Hot Cross Buns Image 1

Behind the faded cover is a collection of poems known as Mother Goose Rhymes and one of my favourites is called Hot Cross Buns. Of course you know the poem:

Hot cross buns, hot cross buns.

One a penny, two a penny, hot cross buns.

If you have no daughters, give them to your sons.

One a penny, two a penny, hot cross buns.

In my youth and innocence, I had no idea what a hot cross bun was: I’d never seen one, let alone tasted one. Looking back, I’m not even sure I knew what a “bun” was. In America a bun is an updo-hairstyle worn by a ballerina.

What I knew for sure was the woman in the illustration looked happy and the image of the village and the pretty children was very romantic and that appealed to my young heart. It wasn’t until many years later when I was living in Ireland that I finally saw and ate my first hot cross bun.

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Soft, light, sweet and delicious when served warm from the oven with a pad of butter, they are perfect with a cup of tea. In the weeks between St. Patrick’s Day and Good Friday, hot cross buns are readily available. Some are better than others however, so buyer beware. To make them from scratch is easy enough…it’s just the rising time that makes them a bit of a bother.

Hot Cross Buns are very much a part of the Irish Easter tradition: specifically Good Friday, when they were once served to commemorate Christ’s suffering on the cross (hence the cross marking on the bun). Today they are common place and most young ones wouldn’t know anything about the religious or secular traditions they are steeped in.

One of those traditions, from my mother-in-law’s day, is that you would break a Good Friday Black Fast (drinking only water or tea during the day) with a hot cross bun. Two others I know are: if you hung a bun from the kitchen ceiling you could ward off evil spirits; and gratings from a preserved bun, mixed with water, would cure a common cold. Oh, if only it were only that easy!

In our Irish home, hot cross buns are a Good Friday treat. We’re enjoying them today just as much as we’re enjoying the lovely sunshine that we’ve been blessed with. We’re off to do the Stations of the Cross Passion in a few hours time and then finishing the day with a bowl of velvety leek and potato soup and some homemade brown bread. In some ways you could say we’re a bit old-fashioned but then that’s just the way it is for us. I wonder what it’s like for you?

Lent is coming to an end, finally. I hope you’ve enjoyed the recipes I’ve been posting these past six weeks and, likewise, I hope you’ve made it through your Lenten promise without having to hit the reset button too often. I slipped up a few times myself, but overall am quite pleased with my staying power!

I wish you and yours a very happy Easter and, if by chance you’re partaking in a hot cross bun today, I offer you the following poem of friendship: “half for you and half for me…between us two…good luck shall be!”

All the best.

 

Odlum’s Hot Cross Buns

Makes One Full Baking Tray

Ingredients for the Buns

625g/ 1lb 4 oz Odlums Strong White Flour (plus extra for dusting)

1 tsp salt

2 tsp ground mixed spice

50g/2oz butter, cut into cubes, plus extra for greasing

75g/3oz sugar

Rind of 1 lemon

1 sachet fast-action yeast (7g)

1 egg

275ml/10fl oz tepid milk

125g/4oz Shamrock Fruit Mix (or raisins)

Ingredients for the Topping

2 tbsp Odlums Cream Plain Flour

Vegetable Oil (for greasing)

1 tbsp golden syrup, gently heated, for glazing

Directions

For the buns, sieve the flour, salt and ground mixed spice into a large mixing bowl, then rub in the butter using your fingertips. Make a well in the centre of the mixture then add the sugar and lemon zest and yeast.

Beat the egg and add to the flour with the tepid milk. Mix together to a form a soft, pliable dough.

Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured work surface. Carefully work the mixed dried fruit into the dough until well combined. Knead lightly for 5 minutes, or until smooth and elastic.

Grease a large, warm mixing bowl with butter. Shape the dough into a ball and place it into the prepared bowl, then cover with a clean tea towel and set aside in a warm place for one hour to prove.

Turn out the proved dough onto a lightly floured work surface and knock back the dough. Shape it into a ball again and return it to the bowl, then cover again with the tea towel and set aside for a further 30 minutes to rise.

Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and divide it into 12 equal pieces. Roll each piece into a ball, then flatten slightly into a bun shape using the palms of your hands. Cover the buns again with the tea towel and set aside to rest for 5-10 minutes.

Grease a baking tray with butter and transfer the buns to the tray. Wrap the tray with the buns on it loosely in greaseproof paper, then place inside a large polythene bag. Tie the end of the bag tightly so that no air can get in and set aside in a warm place for a further 40 minutes to rise.

Preheat the oven to 240C/475F/Gas 8.

Meanwhile, for the topping, mix the plain flour to a smooth paste with 2 tablespoons of cold water.

When the buns have risen, remove the polythene bag and the greaseproof paper. Spoon the flour mixture into a piping bag and pipe a cross on each bun.

Transfer the buns to the oven and bake for 8-12 minutes, or until pale golden-brown. As soon as you remove the buns from the oven, brush them with the hot golden syrup, then set aside to cool on a wire rack.

 

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