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It may be spring, but there’s still a nip in the air here in Ireland. And on these cold and rainy days, when you’re chilled to the bone, there are few dishes more welcoming than a big bowl of chili.

This vegetarian twist on the classic chili con carne recipe comes from Lisa Leake’s cookbook 100 Days of Real Food. I was given the cookbook a few years ago and only recently started testing recipes from it. I like the book’s premise “simple, family-friendly recipes to help you ditch processed foods and eat better every day”. I’m in complete agreement with Lisa on eating well and eating consciously.

Years ago, after a health scare, I drastically changed my family’s diet. Foods designed to sit on our shelves for months, foods laden with sugar, foods that had no resemblance to what our parents, grandparents and great-grandparents ate were replaced by real foods, products with ingredients lists I could pronounce, foods that nourished our bodies, souls and minds. Friends used to tease me when they’d see me in the aisles at Tesco reading labels, but I never minded…my family’s health and well being were worth it.

And here we are, more than ten years later, and there’s been a seismic shift towards mindful eating…I’m not the only one reading labels anymore!

Lisa’s Leake’s version of vegetarian chili is hearty and delicious. It is a breeze to make and, if you double the recipe, it freezes beautifully. I hope you give this recipe and try…in the meantime… bundle up…it may be spring…but it’s still chilly out there!

~XoK

Vegetable Chili

Serves 4

Ingredients

2 tablespoons olive oil

114g/3/4-cup diced onion

1 bell pepper, any colour, cored, seeded and diced

132g/3/4-cup fresh or frozen corn kernels {no need to defrost frozen corn}

2 cloves garlic, minced

28 ounce can diced tomatoes with juice

15 ounce can kidney beans, drained and rinsed

2 bay leaves

2 teaspoons chili powder

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper, or to taste

Directions

1. Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat.

2. Add the onion and bell pepper and cook until they begin to soften, about 5 minutes

3. Stir in the corn and garlic and sauté for 1 or 2 minutes.

3. Add the tomatoes, beans, bay leaves, and seasonings and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer uncovered for at least 30 minutes and up to 1 hour. The longer it simmers, the better the chili will be.

4. Remove the bay leaves, ladle the chili into bowls, and serve with the desired toppings.

Additional Notes, Related Articles & Credit:

* Toppings might include grated cheddar cheese, sour cream, chopped red onion, diced avocado and/or homemade corn bread. And, if you want to eat chili the way I did growing up, serve it over a bowl of rice.

** My usual go to vegetarian chili recipe is from Elizabeth Buxton and Terence Stamp’s cookbook, The Stamp Collection Cookbook. You can find the recipe here.

 

 

 

 

 

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Roasted Carrots

This recipe is my favourite way to cook carrots, though it works especially well for beets too. I think it’s the combination of the sweetness of the carrot and the acidity of the white wine vinegar that makes it so moreish. There is no ingredient measuring per say. Everything is done by eyeball and a lick of your fingers! But once the carrots are roasted, they are an absolute joy to eat!

~XoK

Gorgeous Roasted Carrots

Serves 4

Ingredients

2 lbs/900g organic carrots, cut the leafy greens off but leave a little bit for flair

3-4 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed

olive oil, enough to coat the carrots and a little extra for the roasting tin

white wine vinegar, a healthy splash or two, to taste

salt and pepper, to taste

dried Herbs de Provence, to taste

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 220ºC/425ºF.

2. Wash carrots but don’t peel {unless you absolutely feel you must}.*

3. Dry carrots and place on a large baking sheet.

4. Pour over just enough olive oil to coat the carrots without drowning them in oil.

5. Liberally salt and pepper the carrots.

6. Sprinkle with Herbs De Provence to taste.

7. Give the carrots a good splash of vinegar.

8. Add the smashed garlic and give all the ingredients a good toss so that everything is well mixed and coated.

9. {This is a bit naughty here…} Taste your fingers to check for flavouring. Add more salt, pepper, Herbs De Provence and vinegar as needed.

10. Pop the tray into the oven for 20-30 minutes. To test for doneness, push a fork into the side of one of the carrots, if it pushes through easily the carrots are done, if you get some resistance, the carrots are undercooked and continue roasting for another 5 minutes and check and repeat again as needed.

Spring carrots with their greens still onFreshly Washed Carrots Ready for Roasting

Tray of Roasted Carrots

Additional Notes, Related Articles & Credit:

* In our Irish home we do not peel carrots because we buy organic. If you’re buying conventional carrots, I suggest peeling them…though if the peel contains pesticide then doesn’t it make sense that the whole carrot does too?

** According to Prevention.com: “Carrots are rich in compounds called polyacetylenes, and preliminary research is investigating their potential to kill human cancer cells in test tubes. They may have antifungal, antibacterial, and anti-inflammatory effects, too. But these compounds are concentrated just beneath the skin—so either leave your carrot skins on, or go easy with the peeler and remove only a thin strip.”

** Irish food blogger Aoiffe of ICanHasCook.com has a wonderful sounding recipe I’m dying to try: Honey and cumin roasted carrots with toasted couscous and a drizzle of harissa yoghurt.

**** Irishtractor.ie has this interesting article on Irish carrot grower Leo Dunne based in Durrow, Co. Laois…right along the River Nore.

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Traditional Irish Gur Cake

My mother-in-law was a resourceful woman…she had to be raising twelve children in Ireland in the 60’s, 70’s and early 80’s. All her life she lived the adage “waste not want not” and passed it down to her daughters and me before she left this world.

But in all the years Mama taught us to be thrifty at home, especially in the kitchen, she never mentioned Gur Cake…which in hindsight is so strange because she taught us to make fresh pressed apple juice, homemade Irish soda bread, thick and hearty vegetable soup, and so much more.

Gur Cake, also known as Chester Cake, Donkey’s Gudge, and Gudge Cake, depending on what part of Ireland you come from, is a speciality of Irish bakers and has been around since the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. In recent years, it’s fallen out of favour, having been replaced by muffins, Mars Bars biscuits, custard slices and the like, but it’s still deeply ingrained in the Irish food-psyche.

The ingredients for this cake are as they have always been: stale bits of bread and/or cake mixed with spices, dried fruit, brown sugar, and tea. The filling is rich and delicious and the smell is reminiscent of Christmas.

Gur Cake is a perfect year round treat that is simple to make and a pleasure to eat, especially with a hot cuppa tea. So, the next time you’ve got stale baked goods in your cupboards…don’t throw them out…get thrifty and turn them into something wonderfully Irish. You’ll be glad you did!

~ XoK

Gur Cake

Serves 8-10 Slices

Ingredients

8 level tablespoons/75g/3oz plain flour {self-raising flour}

8 slices of stale bread or cake/350g/12oz {crusts removed from bread and icing removed from cake}

cold water

1 level teaspoon baking powder

1 cup+1 tablespoon/225g/8oz brown sugar

4 tablespoons/50g/2oz butter

2 tablespoons/1 dessertspoon mixed spice {pumpkin spice}

1+1/2cup/254g/9oz raisins

1 large egg {lightly beaten}

2/3 cup/150ml milk

zest of a small orange

2 sheets of shortcrust pastry

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 190°C/375°F. Lightly grease a 22cm {9″ square} baking tin with softened butter, then lightly flour the surface, and set aside.

2. Cover the bread with cold water and allow to stand while making the filling and prepping the pastry.

3. Combine the flour, baking powder, sugar, butter, mixed spice, beaten egg, milk and orange zest. Mix well.

4. Squeeze the bread dry of the water, add it to the flour mixture and stir well.

5. Cut two pieces of shortcrust pastry just big enough to fit inside the baking tin. Line the bottom of the baking tin with one piece of pastry, pour over the fruit mixture and spread it level. Then cover with the second piece of pastry.

6. Prick the top pastry with a fork or score it three or four times across with a knife.

9. Bake for about an hour. Leave in the tin to cool completely. Cut in squares and sprinkle with icing sugar.

Additional Notes, Related Articles & Credit:

* The name “Gur Cake” is said to have come from the Irish slang word “gurrier“, which has been used to describe young lads from the city centre who frequently skip school and are said to “be on the gur“.

** It is said that the gurriers running around the streets of Dublin often had just enough money to buy a fruit slice which, over time, became known as Gur Cake.

*** If you’d like a slice of Gur Cake and don’t want to make it yourself, head into Mannings Bakery in Dublin where they’ve been making it since they first opened in 1945.

**** Recipe based on one found at Odlums.ie

 

 

 

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Irish salmon on a bed of quinoa and chopped kale

I’ve been a huge fan of Rory O’Connell for years. Not only did he co-found Ballymaloe Cookery School with his sister Darina Allen in 1983, but he has also worked with Alice Waters at Chez Panisse in California, he was the 2013 Winner of the André Simon Book Award for his book Master It, and he has been the Ambassador of the Year for Good Food Ireland.

Not too long ago, my husband and I took a cookery course at Ballymaloe and were fortunate to have Rory as one of our instructors. He was funny, wickedly talented, and generous with his knowledge. Here are a few photos from the weekend:

Today’s recipe for oven baked salmon in an aluminum parcel with lemon, chili and mint comes straight out of Master It: How to Cook Today. It is easy to make {despite its long-winded name} and tastes great. Of course, as you know, salmon is a hearty fish with a subtle flavour; the chili, lemon and mint in this recipe adds just a tiny bit of zing to this otherwise delicious fish. I recently served it with a side of quinoa, cooked in vegetable stock, mixed with chopped kale. Rory suggests boiled new potatoes and peas, and sometimes a tomato and basil side salad. Any way you chose, I think you’ll find this recipe really makes for a lovely little dinner.

~XoK

Rory O’Connell’s Salmon in a Foil Bag with Lemon, Chili & Mint

Serves 4

Ingredients

80g/5-1/2 tablespoons butter, softened

4 x 150g fillets of salmon, skin removed

Maldon sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Pinch of chili flakes

Grated zest of 1/2 a lemon

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1 tablespoon mint leaves

4 lemon wedges, to serve

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 200ºC/400°F and put a baking tray in to heat up.

2. Cut a piece of foil about 80cm long and lay it on your worktop. Fold in half from the top down, just to crease the centre line crossways, and open it out again. Rub the lower half of the foil, where the fish will be sitting, with some of the soft butter.

3. Place both pieces of {rinsed and dried} fish on the foil and season with salt and pepper, chili flakes and the lemon zest.

4. Pour the lemon juice over and dot the remaining butter on top of the fish.

5. Fold the top of the foil down and seal the sides with two sharp and definite folds. Seal the mouth of the bag with two more tight folds – there should be plenty of space around the fish inside the bag to allow for steam to build up during cooking.

6. Place the parcel on the heated tray and cook for 15 minutes, by which time the bag should be inflated like a balloon {mine did not inflate but it still cooked perfectly}.

7. While the fish is cooking, coarsely chop the mint leaves. Slash open the bag along the top of the foil and sprinkle the chopped mint all over the fish. Serve immediately, on hot plates with lemon wedges, making sure you spoon the buttery juices over the fish first.

Additional Notes, Related Articles & Credit:

* Here’s a few other delicious salmon recipes from In an Irish Home: Oven Roasted SalmonSalmon Fillets with Pesto and Pecorino,  Salmon Pesto Pasta.

** Burren Smokehouse, just 15 minutes from the Cliffs of Moher, is one of my favourite places to buy smoked Irish salmon.

*** From SpoonUniversity a quirky article: “What You Need to Know About Salmon Skin Before Eating It”.

 

 

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Top Banana Muffins

This has to be the ultimate banana muffin {or bread} recipe! Soft and delicious and easy to make…these are right up my alley…especially in times like these when the centre of my universe has been in chaos for months! Teenagers will do that to you. 

I also like this recipe because it appeals to my “waste not want not” belief. If you’ve got bananas with skins as black as midnight on your counter or in your fridge…give them a purpose and mix up a batch of these delicious muffins. You’ll be glad you did!

~XoK

Banana Muffins

Makes 18

Ingredients

4oz/ 1/2-cup vegetable oil, plus more for greasing the muffin tin

6oz/ 1-1/4 cup all purpose flour, plus more for sprinkling in the muffin tin

5 very ripe bananas

1 teaspoon bread soda {baking soda}

1/2 teaspoon salt

8oz/1 cup sugar

2 large eggs, lightly beaten

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 180ºC/350°F.

2. Smear the cups of a muffin tin with oil, sprinkle with a little flour, and shake the muffin tin to distribute the flour. Turn the muffin tin upside down over the sink or waste bin and tap out any excess flour and set aside.

3. Peel the bananas, place them in a large bowl, and beat them well with an electric mixer. The riper the bananas and the more you mush them, the more tender your muffins will be. Don’t expect absolute smoothness; there will always be a few lumps. Set aside.

4. In a small bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

5. Add the sugar, oil, and eggs to the bananas and mix well.

6. Add the dry ingredients to the banana mixture and stir just until the batter is thoroughly blended.

7. Pour the batter into the muffin tin and fill each cup about two-thirds full.

8. Place the muffin tin into the oven. After 15 minutes, check the muffins for doneness. A toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin should come out clean. If not, cook for 5 minutes more and check again.

9. When the muffins are done, remove the muffin tin from the oven and let the muffins cool in the pan for 5 minutes. Run a knife around the edges of the muffins to release them from the muffin tin.

Additional Notes, Related Articles & Credit:

* Peeling into the health benefits of bananas over at the Mayo Clinic’s website.

** Did you know there are 500 different types of bananas? Me either! Check out this article on the different types of bananas from the University of California Berkeley Wellness newsletter.

*** One of my girls LOVES jokes…for her and for all of your jokesters out there…here are some silly banana jokes courtesy of funkidsjokes.com.

**** If you love blueberry muffins…these are going to be your new favourite “go to” recipe!

 

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Pancake Tuesday 2014

Happy Pancake Tuesday! Shrove Tuesday, also known as Pancake Tuesday, is today and if you’re on some “healthy diet” regime…you’ll have to give yourself a special dispensation so you can partake in this festive tradition that we love so much in Ireland.

If you’re not familiar with the tradition of Pancake Tuesday, it falls the day before Ash Wednesday and marks the beginning of the Lenten season for Christians. {Don’t forget to get your Ashes tomorrow!} You can learn all about the tradition of Pancake Tuesday and find my tried-and-tested go-to recipe for traditional Irish pancakes here.

This year, in our Irish home, I am shaking things up. I’m not sure how my kids will feel about this, but I am making Korean-style pancakes in honour of the Winter Olympics in South Korea. I’d love to show you a Korean pancake I made earlier…but since we haven’t had dinner yet…I’ve got nothing of my own to show you just now*. But, what follows are some Korean pancake recipes that I’ve saved over the past few weeks to make tonight. I hope one of these appeals to you and yours!

~ XoK

Hotteok, Hoddeok or Hodduk, 호떡

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These gorgeous Korean pancakes are stuffed with delicious brown sugar, cinnamon and nuts…which just sounds so fabulous right now! According to Sue over at My Korean Kitchen, they are one of the “most popular Korean street snacks and are popular in winter”. What I particularly like about this recipe is the ingredient list is pretty much the same as we use for our traditional Irish crepe-style pancakes.

Pa Jun

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Ok, so he’s not Korean and he lives in Paris, but recipes from David Lebovitz are always good…so for me this recipe for scallion, red pepper, egg on top, Korean-style pancakes made the cut. Again, I love that David’s recipe because it uses simple ingredients…and I can imagine throwing in a few prawns or other ingredient to make them even more interesting.

Scallion & Shrimp 

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Does’t this pancake look good? Nami, a Japanese home cook, based in San Francisco, offers this delicious recipe on her blog Just One Cookbook. You might say, “but she’s Japanese…not Korean!”…and you’re right. But, you know, my sweet grandmother was Chinese and she had a bunch of friends from so many Asian countries and she and her girlfriends would share and cook up each other’s recipes with such regularity that I am going to believe Nami lives the same way…it works for me!

Flourless Korean Pancakes…aka Potato Korean Pancakes

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I won’t be making these tonight…but I thought for any of you who are not eating flour…but are eating potatoes…this recipe might work. From the very adorable Seonkyoung Longest, this blog posted recipe for Potato Pancakes also offers an easy to follow video.

Additional Notes, Related Articles & Credit:

* Busy mom note here: I meant to publish this post earlier in the day for my fellow Irish readers!

** For more delicious Pancake Tuesday recipe ideas please visit my previous post here.

 

 

 

 

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If your New Year’s resolution is to “get healthy” or “lose weight” in 2018…read no further. Seriously, if you do, you’re either going to hate me or love me for posting this Salted Caramel Popcorn recipe.

In our Irish home we call it…”crack-popcorn”. I kid you not: it…is…that…good. Full credit for this Master Recipe goes to Shelly Jaronsky over at CookiesandCups.com. She first posted it on 4 September 2013 and then it went into her 2016 cookbook, The Cookies & Cups Cookbook. I, thankfully, stumbled across the recipe on Pinterest a few years ago, was intrigued, and then got hooked. Thank you and damn you, Shelly! ♥

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Yesterday, I whipped up a double batch for neighbours and friends whom I didn’t visit before Christmas day. The jars came from TK Maxx {it’s the same as TJ Maxx} and were a steal at only €5 each.

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Unlike other salted caramel popcorn recipes out there, this one is a doddle to make. As per Shelly’s directions, you pop some popcorn, boil up a quick batch of caramel using only three ingredients, mix it all together, and pop it into the oven for 30 minutes. Bada bing, bada boom and you’re done. You’re gonna love it!

~ XoK

Salted Caramel Popcorn

Makes 16 cups

Ingredients

4.5oz/126g/½ cup unpopped popcorn

8oz/228g/1 cup butter

7.5oz/212g/1 cup brown sugar

3oz/1/3 cup golden syrup or corn syrup

1/2-2 teaspoons kosher or sea salt, divided*

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 150ºC/300°F.

2. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone mat. Set aside.

3. Pop popcorn kernels using air popper into a large bowl.

4. In a small saucepan melt butter, brown sugar, corn syrup and 1 teaspoon salt* together over medium heat. Bring to boil. Boil for 4 minutes without stirring.

5. Pour caramel mixture over popcorn and stir to coat evenly.

6. Pour popcorn into lined pan, sprinkle remaining salt on top (1/2 tsp – 1 tsp depending on your personal taste preference*) and place in oven. Bake for 30 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes.

7. Allow popcorn to cool on a parchment lined counter.

Additional Notes, Related Articles & Credit:

* Because I use salted butter, I opt out of adding salt to this recipe.

** To get rid of those pesky unpopped kernels, before making the caramel, pour the popcorn into a large bowl and toss it thoroughly with your hands a few times…this way the unpopped kernels will fall to the bottom of the bowl. Then, remove the popped popcorn to another bowl and, voila, the unpeopled kernels are visible for easy removal.

*** If kept in a well sealed container, this popcorn will last for weeks.

**** I adore Master Recipes…you know…the ones that are rare and wonderful, that you wouldn’t dream of changing a single thing about them, and you make them over and over again. Here are a few of my favourite Irish master recipes: Chocolate Whiskey Cake, Irish Mashed Potatoes, and The Art of Making & Serving Tea.

 

 

 

 

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Slice of ham and cheese frittata on a white plate

We love leftovers the first night after Christmas. By the second night, however, we are ready for something different. But, what about all that wonderful leftover turkey and ham that’s sitting in the fridge…right?

“Waste not want not” is a philosophy my mother-in-law Mary Rose taught me well, which is why the second night after Christmas, I usually make a ham and cheese frittata. {For your leftover turkey…why not try this Turkey Shepherd’s Pie?}

This recipe is incredibly quick to make and is, of course, delicious. It’s perfect for a morning meal, Saint Stephen’s Day perhaps, and also makes an ideal brunch main course. At a different time of year, say a beautiful summer’s day, this could easily be packed into a picnic basket too. Enjoy!

Ham & Cheese Frittata

Serves 6

Ingredients

2 tablespoons olive oil

½ onion, sliced

8 eggs

2oz/¼ cup milk

½ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon pepper

12oz/168g/2 cups ham, diced

3oz/88g/1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

Directions

1.) Preheat oven to 180°C/350°F.

2.) Heat olive oil in a 10” oven proof skillet over moderately high heat. With a pastry brush, spread the olive oil to the sides of the skillet.

3.)Add the onion and sauté until translucent.

4.) While the onions are sautéing, whisk the eggs, milk, salt, and pepper in a bowl. Set aside.

5.) Once the onions are translucent, remove from the heat and spread the diced ham evenly over them.

6.) Pour the egg mixture into the skillet.

7.) Sprinkle the cheese over the top.

8.) Place the skillet into the oven and cook for 30 minutes or until the eggs are fully cooked and the cheese is bubbling. Serve immediately.

Additional Notes, Related Articles & Credits:

* Want to know the difference between a frittata and an omelet? Check out this article from the good folks over at thekitchn.com.

** Here are a few Irish frittata recipes from the world of WordPress bloggers: Irish Breakfast Frittata from The Way I Make It Is; Feta Cheese and Red Onion Frittata from the Irish cookery school known as Cook’s Academy; Bacon Spinach and Potato Frittata from Irish writer Shiela Kiely at Gimme the Recipe; and, finally, a Courgette and Thyme Frittata from Irish food writer Catherine Fulvio.

*** Not into frittatas? Can I tempt you with this amazing Tomato & Almond Tart a la Ottolenghi?

 

 

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Traditional Irish Plum Pudding on a white plate

 

I know it’s late…but it’s not too late…to make your plum pudding for Christmas. This traditional Irish dessert is rich in spices and gloriously packed with delicious fruit.

A few weeks back I made homemade Mixed Candied Peel for this very recipe and it is incredibly more-ish…if you have the time and the inclination, I highly suggest you make you’re own too as it really is magic.

Of course, as one would expect, there are some superstitions {or call them traditions, if you will} that go hand in hand with making Irish plum pudding. They include:

* You make your Christmas plum pudding the Sunday before the first Sunday of Advent, also known in the north of Ireland and the U.K. as Stir-up Sunday.

* It must be made with 13 ingredients to represent Christ and His disciples.

* Every member of the family should take a turn stirring the pudding with a wooden spoon from east to west in honor of the three kings.

* If you make a wish as you stir your pudding, it will come true by Christmas morning.

* When serving, present the pudding with a sprig of holly on top as a reminder of Christ’s crown of thorns…or…add the holly for good luck…you decide the meaning.

* And set your pudding alight with a wee bit of brandy, to represent Christ’s passion.

Personally, I make plum pudding at Christmas for one reason…it’s my husband’s favourite dessert for the holiday and I want to make him happy. Though this might sound old fashioned and sappy, I don’t mind. Christmas is a time for giving and this is one of my gifts to my husband.

If you’ve never made plum pudding, fear not! This recipe is easy to make. The hardest part is being home for six hours while it steams. The recipe I use has been handed down from my mother-in-law, to my sister-in-law, to me…and now to you. It originally came from one of those little Stork Margarine leaflets written by Paula Daly back in the late 1970s. One last tip, however, if you’re making a pudding to give as a gift, a pot of brandy butter makes it all the nicer. Enjoy!

Irish Plum Pudding

Makes 2 Puddings

Ingredients
8oz/225g Stork margarine {or whatever margarine you can buy}, melted
8oz/225g dark brown sugar
7oz/200g plain flour {or self raising}, sieved
12oz/350g currants
8oz/225g raisins
6oz/175g sultanas
2oz/50g mixed cut peel
1oz/25g chopped almonds
1oz/25g glace cherries
6oz/175g fresh breadcrumbs
grated rind of 1 lemon
grated rind and juice of 1 orange
1 rounded teaspoon nutmeg
1 rounded teaspoon mixed spice {or pumpkin spice}
2 large eggs
3-4 tablespoons beer/milk
2 tablespoons of whiskey or rum

Directions
1. Mix all of the other ingredients together in a large bowl {don’t forget to melt the margarine first}.

2. Cover with a round of greaseproof paper that has been greased with margarine and leave overnight. {The greased side goes against the mixture in the bowl.}

3. The next day, grease a 2.5-3 litre pudding bowl with margarine.

4. Stir the pudding mixture again, very well, and pour into the prepared pudding bowl. Fill to about 1-inch of the top of the bowl. Smooth out the top.

5. Cover with greaseproof paper, which has been pleated in the centre and greased with margarine, and tie it down tightly under the rim with cotton twine.

6. Cover a second time, with a piece of aluminium, and tie it tightly under the rim with cotton twine. Make a twine handle so you can remove the bowl easily after the pudding has been steamed.

7. Place the bowl in a saucepan* and add enough water such that it comes halfway up the side of the bowl. Cover the saucepan with a lid and steam for 6 hours. Be sure to check every hour and top up with boiled water, if necessary.

8. After 6 hours, turn the heat off. Remove the pudding from the saucepan and allow to cool.

9. Re-cover with fresh greaseproof paper, be sure to put another pleat through the middle of the paper, and tie with more cotton twine as before. Store in a cool, dry, place until Christmas Day.

10. On Christmas Day, steam the pudding again for another 2 hours.

11. After two hours, turn the plum pudding out onto a warm plate, pour over some Irish whiskey or brandy and, very carefully, ignite with a match. Serve with brandy butter or cream.

Additional Notes, Related Articles & Credits:

* The way I steam a plum pudding is I use a saucepan that has a steam basket insert. I place the insert into the saucepan, put the covered bowl into the steam basket, and cover with a tight fitting lid. Then, when I have to check the water in the saucepan, I only have to lift the steam basket up to take a look.

** If you’re looking for an Irish music playlist for Christmas, checkout this one over at Spotify.

*** The meaning of holly and ivy at Christmas in an Irish home is explained well in this article from The Irish News.

 

 

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Homemade cranberry sauce in a white bowl with a vintage spoon surrounded by Christmas decor

I still remember, with some embarrassment, the first time I made homemade cranberry sauce. I was not yet engaged but having Christmas dinner, all the same, with my now husband’s parents and extended family. After Christmas morning mass, everyone descended on the home of my future in-laws, Dan and Mary Rose, for breakfast, present opening, and, much later in the day, supper. While the men watched the news and sport on T.V., the women retired to the kitchen to make the Christmas dinner {with much laughter and chat}.

Being a guest and wanting to make a good impression, I asked if there was anything I could do to help. Mary Rose replied, “you can make the cranberry sauce”.  In my innocence, I thought that’ll be an easy job. ThenI asked for a can opener. “Why would you need a can opener?”, she asked. “You know”, I said, “to make the cranberry sauce.”

For a moment the room went silent and I could feel my cheeks turn a funny shade of pink. Growing up, the only cranberry sauce I had ever eaten came from a tin can. It slid out nicely, if you opened the can at both ends. To serve, you sliced it neatly on the plate.

My future mother-in-law cocked her head and looked at me for a moment. Then, without missing a beat, she took a bag of Ocean Spray cranberries off the counter, a bag I had not seen, and handed them to me. In the nicest of ways she said, “we make them this way in Ireland”.

And with that, my future mother-in-law and my future sisters-in-law handed me a pot, a big spoon, the sugar, a weigh scale, and everything else I needed to turn American cranberries into an Irish side dish. Nary a word was said about my misstep. Those warm women took me into their hearts and homes that day. I am forever thankful for their love and gentle guidance through the years and for teaching me to make {from scratch!} this very delicious cranberry sauce. Enjoy!

Homemade Cranberry Sauce

Makes about 2 cups

Ingredients

1 cup water

1 cup sugar

340g/12oz fresh cranberries

Directions

1. In a medium saucepan, bring the water and sugar to a boil. Stir until the sugar is completely dissolved.

2. Add the cranberries and bring everything back to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer for 10-12 minutes, stirring occasionally. You can use the back of a spoon to pop the cranberries if you prefer your cranberry sauce smooth.

3. Remove from the heat and pour the sauce into a bowl, cover and allow to cool completely before putting into the refrigerator.

Additional Notes, Related Articles & Credits:

* For additional flavour, add a cinnamon stick or slices of fresh ginger to the water and simmer with the cranberries. Remove before serving.

** If you like your cranberry sauce boozy, stir in 1 tablespoon of rum, brandy, or whiskey to the cranberry sauce right after taking it off the hob {stove}.

*** For a citrusy zing, Add the peel of an orange to the water and simmer with the cranberries. Remove the peel before serving.

**** The American cranberry sauce I remember from my childhood from the good folks over at kitchn.com.

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