The Place for real traditions.Irish Culture begins in prehistory. First was a paleolithic mindset-based on hunting. The spirits of animals aid in this. Groups had totems- birds, boar,for identity. Next came a Neolithic awareness- crops, agriculture,farm animals. Villages and lineages. Multiple gods became single gods with many powers. Chieftains by birth ruled. Next the Bronze age with rule by heroes. We got cookbooks and recipes left the mind. How do we know what to do? That's our purpose.

Irish Chieftain's feast

Monday, February 25, 2008

Irish Soda Cake

SODA CAKE.— Take one pound of flour. half a pound of moist sugar and rub
in half a pound of butter, lard, or dripping. Then take four eggs well
beaten, a teacup- full of milk a little warm, and half a tea- spoonful
of soda dissolved in the milk. Mix all together, and put It Into the
oven immediately.

Flour, 1lb. ; sugar, 1/2 lb. ; butter, lard, or dripping, 1/2lb. ;
eggs, 4 ; milk, 1 teacup full soda 1/2. • teaspoon full. . Two hours will bake it In a quick oven.

-Source:The Dictionary of Daily Wants.,Robert Kemp Philip, 1861

Recipes from Maura Laverty

Recipes from Maura Laverty

Source: Maura Laverty's Cookery Book.,Longmans, 1946-48.

Maura Laverty was an Irish author and playwright who brought wonderful
descriptions of life in Ireland and her experiences to her recipes. The
cook book has modern or one might say internationally inspired recipes
but also contains a number of Irish standards.

Every time Ireland is put in the dock, I feel our diplomats are sadly
lacking as a counsel for the defense that they don't bring forward in
mitigation of our crimes the fact that we have given a four-leaved
shamrock to the world. One leaf is W. B. Yeats, another is boiled
potatoes in their jackets, another Barry Fitzgerald. The fourth is
Soda-bread. And the greatest of these is soda-bread. Spongy white
soda-bread with a floury, brown crossed crust…flat sweet griddle-bread
with an inch-and-a-half of tender well baked dough sandwiched between
thin crisp crusts…wholesome brown bread with growth and health and
energy in its pleasantly rough nuttiness…dark spicy treacle bread that
has been left for twenty-four hours to become firm and mellow and is
then sliced thinly and spread with good country butter---current bread
and buns, Indian meal bread, "spotted dog" rich with raisins, seedy
bread- there seems to be no end at all to them. The queer thing is that
in its native habitat soda-bread is never so called. We call it "cake"
or "cake bread." A loaf of bread comes out of the baker's van, but a
cake of bread comes out of the pot-oven. The secret of good cake-bread
is 3-day old buttermilk, a light hand for mixing and kneading and a
brisk oven. Buttermilk is not always easy to come by. In the winter
when the cows are not milking some people use instead the water in which
potatoes have been boiled. Far better is the "winter buttermilk" which
they used in Cork and Meath and this is how it is made.

Winter Buttermilk

Mix 1/4 lb flour to a smooth paste with 1 cup cold water. Put this in
the bottom of a large jug or crock. Add 2 grated raw potatoes and 2
mashed cooked potatoes. Now mix in 7 cups cold water. Cover and leave
it on the kitchen mantelpiece or in some such warm place for 2 days.
When you are baking pour off carefully, and without disturbing the
sediment, as much liquid as you require. This can be used in exactly the
same way as buttermilk and will give you lovely light bread. Add fresh
water to make up for what you have3 used. Stir up the contents of the
vessel, cover it and put it by for the next baking. The one lot of
potatoes and flour will give you a fortnight's supply of winter buttermilk.

Buttermilk Plant

There is another way of making sure of a constant supply of buttermilk.
You can start a buttermilk plant with yeast, sugar and skim milk, or
milk and water. The buttermilk plant is a kind of fungus like the
vinegar plant. After a few weeks it will grow and grow and you'll be
able to supply all your friends with a cutting. The milk it produces is
very good for the blood, particularly in rheumatic cases. It is
pleasant to drink too. (I first heard about this miraculous plant form
Miss Florence Irwin, of Belfast who is the best cook in Ireland). To
start the plant, you'll need:--
1 oz. sugar,
1 oz, yeast
1 quart tepid milk and water.

Cream the yeast with the sugar, gradually add the tepid milk and water.
Put the mixture in some vessel that may easily be washed and scalded,
cover it, and leave it in a warm place for a couple of days or until the
milk smells and tastes like butter-milk. When you want to use the
buttermilk, put a piece of muslin in the bottom of a strainer and strain
the milk through this. The funny-looking thing like lumpy corn flour
which remains will be the plant. Rinse every drop of milk off it, by
pouring a cup of tepid water over it. Let the water run through the
strainer into the buttermilk- it will all make excellent liquid for
mixing cake-bread. To start a new lot of buttermilk, scrape the plant
off them muslin and put it back into the scalded and well-rinsed vessel.
Add another quart of tepid milk and water, cover it and leave it as
before to increase and multiply.

That first ounce of yeast will go on growing and multiplying giving you
buttermilk until the end of time. But the plant needs a certain amount
of care.

1.--It must be strained at least every five days. If you don'
t want the milk for baking, you can always drink it. I knew a woman so
crippled with rheumatics that she couldn't kneel down to say the Rosary.
After six months of drinking this buttermilk, she was able to do the
Lough Derg Pilgrimage on her knees.

2.--Make sure the milk-and-water is never more than lukewarm. Strong
heat kills yeast.

3.--Cleanliness is very important. That careful rinsing after
straining, and the scalding of th container must be done if the plant is
to live.

Basic Recipe for Soda Bread

1 lb flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon bread-soda
Buttermilk to mix.

Sift the dry ingredients several times through your fingers. Make a
well in the centre. Pour in the buttermilk gradually, mixing in the
flour from the sides. Don't have the mixture too dry. Turn it out on a
floured board, knead lightly for a few minutes, pat the dough to a round
and cut a cross on it to keep it from cracking in the baking. Let the
cuts go over the sides of the cake to make sure of this. Brush with
milk and bake at once in a hot oven (450 degs.--Regulo 7-8) for 45 mins.
If you have any doubts about doneness, tap the bottom of the cake. If
it sounds hollow it is cooked. (When using milk from the buttermilk
plant, it doesn't hurt the bread to let it stand 15 mins. before baking).
Some people like to add 1/4 teasp. of cream of tartar or 1/2 teasp.
baking powder. I think this is unnecessary. The teaspoon of bread-soda
and good buttermilk provide all the leaven needed for a pound of flour.

Yalla Male Bread
Add 1/4 lb. of Indian meal.

Treacle Bread
Increase the sugar to 1 tablesp. and add to the milk 1/2 cup of treacle.
A beaten egg may bge added as well, in which case you may as well go
the whole hog and rub 2 oz of butter into the flour. Raisins, Currants
and chopped nuts make this a party cake.

Brown Bread
Use 1/2 lb. whole meal and 1/2 lb., flour. Increase the sugar to one
desseertsp, and rub in, if you like 1 dessertsp. of dripping. I always
add as well a handful of flakemeal. It gives a lovely nutty texture.

Friday, February 22, 2008

The Proper Irish Tea

It is said that the mixture of Asam and Ceylon teas that go into an
"Irish Blend" tea is designed to give one strength to ward of the cold.
It is strong medicine. One needs to make sure that it steeps for at lest
five minutes and that you use about 1/3 good real cream. Put cream and
sugar in first...Here is an interesting must have been
strong indeed at times!

Nearly twenty times as much tea must be drunk now in
Kerry as in the early sixties, and so far as I can recollect tea
was unknown, not only in the cabins but among the farmers
until after the famine. Fairly good tea is obtained, for the Irish will never buy
tea unless they are asked a high price, and for that price
they usually, owing to competition, obtain an article not too
perniciously adulterated. What is highly injurious is the method of making
the tea. A lot is thrown into the pot on the fire in the cabin in
the morning, and there it stands simmering all day long, that
those who want it may help themselves. This is in sharp contrast to the method employed by
Dr. Barter, the famous hydropathic physician at Cork, one
of the cleverest men I ever met and one of the very few
who never permitted medicine under any circumstances, relying
on water, packing, and Turkish baths, with strict attention
to diet. He used to make tea by putting half a teaspoonful into
a wire strainer which he held over his cup, and pouring
boiling water upon the leaves, the contents of his cup became
a pale yellow, to which he added a little milk and
instantly drank it off, the whole process lasting but a few
seconds. I remember he equally disapproved of the Russian
method of drinking tea in a glass with lemon, of the fashionable
way of letting the water ' stand off the boil' upon the
leaves in a teapot, and of the Hibernian stewing arrangement
alluded to above.

-From: The Reminiscences of an Irish Land Agent., Samuel Murray Hussey, 1904

Friday, February 8, 2008


The snipes intended to be used for this purpose must
be perfectly fresh. After being plucked, their logs and
wings are to be cut off; merely remove the gizzard
with the point of a knife, leaving all the inside or trail
undisturbed; the snipes should be split in halves, and
placed on a dish. Next, take what is called an earthenware
oval pie-pan, suc]i as is commonly used for potting
meats. >fcc.; line the bottom and sides of this with very
thin layers of fat bacon ; arrange therein the prepared
snipes in neat rows; season between each row with
coarsely ground black pepper and salt; and when the pan
is nearly filled, pour in sufficient clarified fresh butter
to cover the surface of the snipes ; put the lid of the pan
on; lute all round the edge of the pan with slack flour-
aud-water paste to confine the steam which arises from
the snipes, &c., while baking, and which, by being thus
prevented from escap ng entirely, not only improves the
flavour of the pie by condensation, but also tends to
dissolve the bones sufficiently to render them edible:
there being a hole on the top of the lid, it acts as a
safetyalve. These pies must be baked in an oven of
moderate heat, and are intended to be eaten when quire '-
old only. The snipes shot in Ireland are the finest flavoured known, and
are or were prepared in a very simple yet excellent fashion, which
renders them a great delicacy for the breakfast-table. In order to
enable you to indulge in this delectable bonne-bouche, I will at once
furnish you with the necessary instructions to solve the mystery and
gratify your longing. Note.—Woodcocks, fieldfares, plovers, young
partridges, or grouse, larks, wheatears, and especially
ortolans and becafioos, are most excellent when dressed
as indicated in this number.

.-From:The Cook's Guide, and LHouskeeper's &Butler's Assistant. Charles
Elme Francatelli, 1867.

Irish Sandwhiches

Between slices of very thin crisp toast place alternate
layers of very thin slices of roast game, shred celery,
and Tartar sauce; dish up on a napkin.
Note.—This pasts- serves also for potato croquets.

.-From: The Cook's Guide, and LHouskeeper's &Butler's Assistant. Charles
Elme Francatelli, 1867.

Work house cookery pre-famine

As among most classes in Ireland and England, the day is divided into
three acts or meals, breakfast, lunch, and dinner. By the_ last is not
to be understood the noonday meal» but the chief meal of the day. The
lunch is participated in only by the children and invalids. The healthy
and full-grown are excluded from it. The hours at which these meals are
taken are later than with us in Germany. Nine o'clock is the hour for
breakfast, and four in the afternoon for dinner. The breakfast, as
inmost parts of Ireland, among those who have the means of decent
maintenance, consists of new milk and stirabout, a kind of porridge of
oatmeal ; the dinner is composed of potatoes and buttermilk. The
children, for their lunch, receive bread and milk. On Sundays, holidays,
and on every Thursday, a little brose, or soup, is given, in addition to
the customary diet. An adult receives seven ounces of oatmeal and half a
pint of new milk for breakfast, and four pounds of potatoes and a pint
of buttermilk for dinner. The board of an adult is calculated to- cost
one shilling and fourpence three-farthings weekly. That of the children
is more expensive, on account of the bread, and the more liberal supply
of milk. The most costly of all is the board" of the children under two
year» old, who cost one shilling and sixpence three- farthings a week,
for which they receive one pint of new milk and a pound of bread daily.
There is therefore a potato diet for adults, л bread diet for children,
a rice and meat diet for the sick, and lastly, a fever diet for the
class of patients always most numerous in an Irish
workhouse-From:Ireland:Dublin, the Shannon, Limerick, Cork, and te
Kilkenny Races…,,Johann Georg Kohl, 1844.

I was astonished by the appearance of the potato-kettle at this house.
No less than 167» pounds of potatoes are boiled at once. This enormous
quantity is all divided into portions of three and a half and four
pounds, and eacli portion is enclosed in a small net. All these nets are
laid together in a large basket, and. this basket, with its nets and
potatoes, is deposited in the boiler. When the potatoes are supposed to
have been sufficiently boiled, the basket is wound up again by a
machinery^ constructed for the purpose, and the poor are then marched up
in military order, when each receives his net and marches away with it.-

-From:Ireland:Dublin, the Shannon, Limerick, Cork, and te Kilkenny
Races…,,Johann Georg Kohl, 1844.

Stirabout and Skilly

Stirabout a wonderful word for a staple. It can also be made using other
grains such as barley. You can also call it porridge. It can be thin and
is called Skilly. Most put things into it other than oats and hot water
however the Irish tended to keep it simple despite availablity of fresh
greens growing wild.

For instance, in the matter of food, Dr. O'Donovan renders a very
ancient commentary on the first clause of the law of fosterage as
follows: "What are their victuals? They are all fed on stirabout : but
the materials of which it is made, and the flavoring with it, vary
according to the rank of the parents of the children. The children of
the inferior grades are fed to bare sufficiency on stirabout made of
oatmeal on buttermilk or water, and it is taken with stale (salt)
butter. The sons of the chieftain grades are fed to satiety on stirabout
made of barley-meal upon new milk. taken with fresh butter. The sons of
kings are fed on stirabout made of wheat- en meal upon new milk, taken
with honey." According to one authority, every 641 foster-child should
be provided with two suits of clothing,-From: New Catholic World, 1871

The owner of the cast dries the corn himself, and supplies the turf.
In the time of the old kilns, the corn was sometimes dried at the
townlund kiln.
In this country up to sixty or seventy years ago, the first few
sheaves'of oats cut by the reapers used to be scutched and winnowed,
and the corn put in a pot over the fire, and dried. It was then ground
in a quern, and stirabout made from it for the breakfast of the reapers
and the family. The same was done in the case of any other meal at
which stirabout was used during reaping time. This shows the speed
with which food could be dressed by means of a quern. '
Phapin.' In Munster up to forty years ago, and perhaps yet in
remote parts of the province, the gleaning of the wheat crop was made
into stuff called ' prapin.' The grain was shed by rustling the ears in
the hands. The husks were removed by blowing, or by the wind. The
wheat was then put in a pot, or on a griddle, and dried over a fire. "
When dried it was ground in a quern, mixed with new milk or cream,
and eaten without more ado. ' Praupeen' was a great favourite with
children, and was their standard of comparison. Any nice cereal food
was said to be nearly as nice as praupeen.
To prepare food with a quern is easier than most people imagine,
and the system is marvellously economical, besides getting the best
out of cereals. Everyone knows the difference between freshly-
ground and old-ground coffee.- From: Proceedings of the Royal Irish
Academy, 1907.

Skilly (common), water-gruel, in
the workhouse and prisons.
So much the better for you, I say,
So much the better for you.
If you never act silly, you'll keep off the
That's so much the better for you. —
Music Hall Song, A Lincolnshire term, skillg, oatmeal - gruel, from
obsolete English skellg, thin and light, applied to thin, poor food ;
also sailor's soup of many ingredients. Skilly and toke (popular),
applied to anything mild, insipid. The mugs and the jugs never joke,
never gag, never work in a wheeze; no, their talk is all skilly and
toke.—Punch.-From:A Dictionary of Slang, Jargton&Cant.,Albert Barere, 1890

Thursday, February 7, 2008

The Irish and their Stew-One basic foundation

You should eventualy see more on this here....important to note that Irish stew
is never associated in the literature with beef....lamb or mutton. Note
also that there is the usual variety of interpretation. So go for it and
find your mode....enjoy!
Take a couple of pounds of small thick mutton cutlets with or without
fat according to the taste of the persons to whom the stew is to be
served ; take also four pounds of good potatoes, weighed after they are
pared, slice them thick, and put a portion of them, in a flat layer, into
a large thick saucepan or stewpan ; season the mutton well with pepper,
and place some of it on the potatoes, cover it with another layer,
and proceed in the same manner with all, reserving plenty of the vegetable
for the top; pour in three quarters of a pint of cold water, and
add, when the stew begins to boil, an ounce of salt; let it simmer
gently for two hours, and serve it very hot. When the addition of
onion is liked, strew in two or three minced ones with the potatoes.
Mutton cutlets, 2 Ibs.; potatoes, 4 Ibs.; pepper, 1/2 oz.; salt, 1 oz.;
water, f3/4pint: 2 hours.
Obs.—For a real Irish stew the potatoes should be boiled to a mash:
an additional quarter-hour may be necessary for the full quantity here,
but for half of it two hours are quite sufficient.-From: Modern Cookery,
in All It's Branches:reduced to a System of Easy Practice.,Eliza Action,

if Irish stew is put upon
the bill of fare it will be gone long before any other dish
on the list ; and what is Irish stew but one of the forms
of Scotch broth ? The Irish have nothing to do with it. -
The misnomer came from the French, who also call the
Scotch barley broth Orge a l'Irlandaise. The principle of Scotch broth
is to make a pot-au-feu of mutton, to 'work up the liquor into soup with
various assortments of vegetables, and to present the mutton to be eaten
along with it. Therefore it is a mistake to confine the name of
Scotch or mutton broth to barley broth. It is a name which equally
belongs to the thick potato-and-onion soup known as Irish stew, to the
pea soup which Soyer has called "the inimitable hotch potch." and to
various other assortments. It is not any particular soup, but a system
of soups set up in contrast to the French system of bouillon and bouilli
in homely life. Perhaps the best example of the Scotch or mutton broth
is the Hotch Potch, which will be found described under its own name.
Here we give the receipt only for what is especially in England called
Scotch broth. Take about six pounds of the neck or breast of mutton cut
as for Irish stew, and carefully trimmed of fat. Put it into the pot
with six quarts of cold water, six ounces of barley, and some salt. Boil
it, remove the scum, and then let it simmer for an hour; after which put
into it two carrots, two turnips, three onions, and three heads of
celery, all cut into dice or sliced, with a faggot of sweet- herbs and a
pinch of pepper. Let the simmering go on for another hour, and the soup
is ready. The cutlets can be served ei
ther with it or apart-From:Kettnere's Book of the Tabgle: A Manual of
Cookery, Practical, theoretical…, Eneas Sweetland, 1877.

Cut up about four pounds of either neck or loin of mutton into
eight or ten neatly trimmed chops, paring away all excess of m
and rough bone; season plentifully with pepper, and moderately
with salt; place the chops in a deep stewpan or saucepan, with
sufficient water to cover in their surface, add eight good sizeo
onions, put the lid on and set the whole on the fire to stew gently
for half an hour; the stew must then be removed from the fire,
the liquor poured into a basin, and after being freed from «11
grease, is to be poured back to the chops ; add a dozen pt«l«d
potatoes, and a pint of good stock or gravy, if handy, or failing
that, (in case that the moisture has been reduced to half its original
quantity) a like quantity of water will do. The whole i-<
then to be placed on the fire to boil gently for about three qnarten
of an hour, due care being taken that the moisture docs not K-
come wholly absorbed by the stew, or burnt at the bottom of t: -
etewpan, as this latter accident would entirely spoil the dish.
As soon as the Irish stew is done, let it be dished up as follows,
viz.: first remove the potatoes carefully on to a plate, and tlx:.
use a fork and spoon to place the cutlets or chops neatly round
the dish, add the potatoes in their centre, and pour the gravy acd
onions, &c., over the whole, and serve hot.
NOTE.—A less expensive method of making Irish stew, is to
use the scrag end of a neck of mutton, or indeed any infcr\r
pieces of meat most convenient, as well as the remains ol •
cooked joint of beef, mutton, or veal.-From:The Cook's Guide, and
LHouskeeper's &Butler's Assistant. Charles Elme Francatelli, 1867.

183. Good Plain Family Irish Stew. — Take about two
pounds of scrag or neck of mutton; divide it into ten pieces,
lay them in the pan; cut eight large potatoes and four onions
hi slices, season with one teaspoonful and a half of pepper, and
three of salt; cover all with water; put it into a slow oven for
two hours, then stir it all up well, and dish up in deep dishes.
If you add a little more water at the commencement, you can
take out when half done, a nice cup of broth.
The same simplified.—Put in a pan two pounds of meat
as before, which lay at the bottom; cover them with eight whole
onions, and these with twelve whole potatoes; season as before;
cover over with water, and send to the oven for two hours.
Almost any part of the sheep can be used lor Irish stew.
A gallon pan is required for this and the preceding receipt.-From: A
Shilling cookery for the people., Alexis Benoit Soyer, 1854.

STEW, Irish.
Ingredients.—3 Ibs. of the loin or neck
of mutton, 5 Ibs. of potatoes, 5 large
onions, pepper and salt to taste, rather
more than 1 pint of water. Mode.—
Trim off some of the fat of the above
quantity of loin or neck of mutton, and
cut it into chops of a moderate thickness. Stilton Cheese Pare and halve
the potatoes, and cut the onions into thick slices. Put a layer of
potatoes at the bottom of a stewpan, then a layer of mutton and onions,
and season with pepper and salt ; proceed in this manner until the
stewpan is full, taking care to have plenty of vegetables at the top.
Pour in the water, and let it stew very gently for 2A hours, keeping the
lid of the stewpan" closely shut the ,ikole time, and occasionally
shaking the preparation to prevent its burning;. Time. —2i, hours. A
rerage cost, for th,s quantity, 2л. S,/. ¿Sufficient for 5 or 6 persons.
Sea,unable.—Suitable for a winter dish. I STEW, Irish. Ingredieoti.—2 or
3 Ibs. of the breast I of mutton, Ц pint of water, salt and pepper to
taste, 4 Ibs. of potatoes, 4 large onions. Mod,.—Put the mutton into a ,
stewpan with the water and a little salt, and let it stew gently for an
hour ; cut the meat into small pieces, skim the fat from the gravy, and
pare and slice the potatoes and onions. Put all the ingredients into the
stewpan, in layers, first a layer of vegetables, then one of meat, and
sprinkle seasoning of pepper and salt between each layer ; cover
closely, and let the whole stew very gently for 1 hour, or rather more,
shaking it frequently to prevent its burning. -Time. —Rather more than 2
hours. Average cost, ls. 6d. Sufficient for 5 or 6 persons.
Seasonable,—Suitable for a winter dish. -Note.—Irish stew may be
prepared in the samo manner as above, but baked in a jar instead of
boiled. About 2 hours or rather more in a moderate oven will be
sufficient time to bake it.-From:Mrs. Beeton's Dictionary of Every-Day
Cookery., Isabella Mary Beeton.

The Mysteries of Colcannon

Sometimes the quest for roots locates multiple rootlets. Colcannon is
one of those. Just so it has something to do with potatoes and
greens...a good example of local and personal variation in which folks
often speak of as a unified foodway. So there are choices...

At dinner they had a dish, which we believe is, like the Boxty,
peculiarly Irish in its composition: we mean what is called stjilk. This
consists of potatoes and beans, pounded up together in such a manner
that the beans are not broken, and on this account the potatoes are well
champed before the beans are put into them. This is dished in a large
bowl, and a hole made in the middle of it, into which a miscaun or roll
of butter is thrust, and then covered up until it is melted. After this,
every one takes a spoon and digs away with the utmost rigour, dipping
every morsel into the well of butter in the middle, before he puts it
into his mouth. Indeed, from the strong competition which goes forward,
and the rapid motion of each right hand, no spectator could be mistaken
in ascribing the motive of their proceedings to the principle of the old
proverb, devil take the hindmost. Sthilk differs from another dish made
of potatoes in much the same way, called colcannon. If there were beans,
for instance, in colcannon, it would be sthilk. This practice of many
persons eating out of the same dish, though Irish, and not cleanly, is
of very old antiquity. Christ himself mentions it at the Last Supper.
Let us hope, however, that, like the old custom which once prevailed in
Ireland, of several persons drinking at meals out of the same mether,
the usage we speak of will soon be replaced by one of more cleanliness
and individual comfort.--From: The Irish Penny Journal, 1841.

Boil separately an equal amount of potatoes and
of fresh cabbage ; about half the amount of onions.
Mash all very finely, mix in a little butter or drip-
ping, with salt and pepper, put in a buttered bowl,
and bake, well covered up. Serve very hot.
-May Byron's Vegetable Book, May Clarissa Gillikngton Byron,k 1916

colcannon night : almost universal in St. Johns, Nfld., for Hallowe'en. [
The name is used by those who eat colcannon on that night Others speak
of it a» " snap-apple night." The term Hallowe'en is not generally
used.]-Dialect Notes.,The American Dialect Society, 1896.

Mix in about equal proportions some well-
mashed potatoes and some young sprouts, or greens
of any kind, first boiled till quite tender and chopped
up. Mash up all thoroughly together ; add a seasoning
of pepper and salt, a small bit of butter, and
a spoonful or two of cream or milk ; put a raw
onion in the middle of all, and stir over a clear
fire till very hot and sufficiently dry to be moulded
and turned out. The onion must be taken out
before the dish is served.
Turnips and carrots are often chopped up with
the greens and potatoes.
This can also be made with parsnips and
Colcannon. (Another way. )
Boil and mash greens, cabbage, carrots, turnips,
a shred onion with mashed potatoes — half the quantity
should consist of the latter ; add two eggs,
pepper and salt, and a good piece of butter ; put
it into a plain mould or pudding-basin, boil for an
hour, and turn out.-Dressed Vegetables a la Mode.De Salis,Hariet,Anne, 1888

9. Colcannon.—Boil potatoes and greens, or
spinage, separately; mash the potatoes, squeeze
the greens dry, chop them quite fine, and mix
them with the potatoes with a little butter, pepper
and salt; put it into a mould, greasing it well first;
let it slant! in a hot oven for ten minutes.-Mackenzie's Five Thousand
Receipts:In All the Useful and Domestic Arts.,Colin Mackenzie, 1854

Colcannon. — (No. 108*.)
Boil Potatoes and Greens, or Spinage — separately —
Mash the Potatoes — squeeze the Greens dry,
chop them quite fine, and mix them with the Potatoes
with a little butter, pepper and salt — put it into a
mould, greasing it well first; let it stand in a hot oven
for ten minutes. ,-From: The Cook's Oracle:Containing Receipts for Plain
Cookery.,William Kitchiner, 1822.

It is not common in the West to see a field of
turnips, and a field of turnips is an object of great
attraction to the peasant. The women, especially,
are very fond of them; and, all the world over, what
the women require the men must endeavour to procure.
The chief use that is made of this vegetable
is in the manufacture of colquit, or colcannon, otherwise
turnips, or cabbage, mashed up with potatoes—
a cottage delicacy, for the attainment of which many hundred felonies
have been committed;-From: Letters from the Irish Highlands.,J. Murray,

Colcannon.—Provide for this : One pound of cold
boiled potatoes, one pound of cold boiled turnip, one
ounce of butter, one tablespoonful of bread crumbs, one
saltspoonful of salt, one saltspoonful of pepper.
The bread crumbs must first be put upon a tin or
plate, and into the oven and browned to a light brown.
Grease slightly a plain mould holding about three pints,
and sprinkle around the sides and over the bottom of this,
the browned bread crumbs. Put into a bowl the potato
and with it the turnip, which must first be pressed down
and drained of any water that it may have gathered in
standing to cool. Mix these thoroughly together and season
them with the pepper and salt, adding also the butter,
and when all is stirred together, pack the mixture into the
mould, pressing it down with the blade of a knife, place
the mould in a moderate oven where it must remain until
its contents be thoroughly heated, then turn the form
carefully out into a vegetable dish and serve steaming hot.
-From:The Art of Cooking:A Series of Practical Lessons,Matilda Lees,
Dods, 1880.a

COLCANNON.—This popular Irish dish is usually made with cabbages and
potatoes, but cauliflower will make a more delicate dish. Take half as
much cauliflower as potato, both of which must have been boiled
previously and completely cooled. Chop them separately and very "fine.
Put a little milk and butter into a saucepan, and when boiling hot, turn
in the potatoes and cauliflower well mixed together. Place a flat tin or
dish over them, and let them warm through. Then remove the cover, and
add salt and pepper to the taste ;ake the dish boiling hot, and serve.
Another way is to prepare it with strips of salt pork. Cut the pork into
strips an inch long and as narrow as possible, and fry it to a crisped
brown ; then turn in the chopped cauliflower and potatoes, and mix well
with the pork strip and fat. Heat very hot, and serve on a platter. It
is a delicious dish ; and a little vinegar ia considered an improvement
to it.-From: To--day: The Popular Illustrated Magazine, Dio Lewis, 1872.

COLCANNON. How to Buy. — Purchase potatoes and greens or cabbage, in the
proportion of one-third greens to two-thirds of potatoes — usually,
however, col- cannon is prepared from cold vegetables. This is a good,
economical, and nourishing dish if well prepared, otherwise it is
indigestible and disagreeable. How to Cook.—Boil and then mash the
potatoes with salt and pepper; boil the greens or cabbage very tender,
and press very dry, and chop it finely; mix both together, and season to
taste with pepper, salt, and nutmeg; moisten with a little gravy; cover
with bread-crumbs, and on them lay either little bits of butter or
congealed butter; sprinkle a little fine salt over, and brown with a
salamander, or in the oven; this is the best mode, though it is
frequently fried in fat left in the pan from bacon rashers that have
been fried to serve with it ; in this way it is very apt to be strong.
How to Serve.-—Hot and quite plain, or garnished with fried bacon.
Note.—If cold vegetables are used, press the potatoes through a
colander, and chop the cabbage very fine, taking care it is not watery.-
From: Handbook of domestic cookery., Handbook, 1882.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

O'Curry Reveals Foodways of the Ancient Celts

In the case of Irish Foodways we have the unique opportunity of going
back to the earliest literature of Europe. But what is it....good
question. It is a mixed bag of written works derived from a large
variety of sources both domestic and foreign. Some could have been
fiction others mystical.....O'Curry does an heroic job of pulling things
all together. Elsewhere in this Blog you will find a link direct to the
book. Below is text without footnotes which are significant so nothing
relpaces the book itself but, this may be useful for those in search of
their Celtic dimension....


The food of a people is so intimately connected with their
agriculture, that in order to give a satisfactory account of the
former, it would be necessary to enter into some detail as to
the state of the latter. This, however, I cannot do here, and I
must content myself with referring to the subject as occasion
may arise in the following brief account of the food of the
ancient Irish.
The ancient Irish were more a pastoral than an agricultural
people ; every occupier of a homestead, however, ploughed
annually a certain amount of land, and sowed corn, the
general name for which was Arba, plural Orbainn. Under
this term mention is made of eight kinds of corn or seed,
Cruittiecht, Eorna, Corca, Seoul, Ruadan, Seruan. Maetan, and
Fidbach. Cruitnecht, one of the names of wheat, Triticum
Sativum, appears to contain the same root as the Greek K....,
barley. Tarai, sometimes written Tuirnd or Tuirnn, was
another name for wheat, which M. A. Pictet compares with
Sanskrit Trna, herb in its general sense ; he also mentions the
curious fact that the Mongolian name of wheat is Taràn. Eorna
and Corca are still the names of barley and oats respectively.
It is very difficult to determine now to what plants the remaining
names were applied. Secul is probably a loan-word from
the Latin Secale, rye ; but was it applied to the same plant in
Ireland as in Italy ? If so, what was Ruadan ? This is certainly
an older word than Secul, and if we could venture to compare
it with the Lettish Rudzi, rye, may have been the true ancient
name for that kind of corn, which in Ireland as elsewhere
seems to have been gradually displaced by wheat. If the
spelt wheat (Triticum spelta was) cultivated in Ireland, it may
have been known by either of the names in question, perhaps
by that of Secul. Seruan may not have been a variety of corn
at all. Pliny has the term Saurian for mustard, which is
very close to the Sanskrit Suri, Sinapis nigra, and may be
Celtic rather than Greek. It is, no doubt, very dangerous to
make comparisons between words merely because of similarity
of form, yet it is hardly possible to avoid doing so in this case,
especially as the only other Aryan name of corn like it with
which I am acquainted, belongs to a species which we have no
evidence for supposing was ever cultivated in Ireland, namely, /
Soru (plural Soros), the Lithuanian name of millet. Maelan
was, 1 believe, a leguminous plant, and not a cereal one, as
is shown by the name Maelan rnilce, being applied to the
tuberous bitter vetch, Orobus tuberosus, the tuberous roots of
which were formerly much prized for making a kind of drink
by the Highlanders, and used in times of scarcity as food. The
Oiobus niger, or black bitter vetch, which is said by some
to have supported the Britons when driven into the forests and
fastnesses by the Empeior Severus, was also called Maelan.
Fidbach is literally wood-gland, bach being cognate with
Sanskrit bhag, Greek ..., and may have been applied to
the hazel nut or the acorn, both of which were used as food.
From the frequent reference to oatmeal and porridge, there
can be little doubt that the kind of corn most generally grown grown.
was oats. Barley was also cultivated, not only for making
bread, but also for making malt. Frequent mention is also
made of wheat, but wheaten bread must have been used
almost exclusively by the higher classes. I have not met with
any direct evidence of the use of leaven or of yeast in early
times in Ireland, but I infer from incidental circumstances that
the yeast of Citirm, or beer, was used in the making of wheaten
bread. Oatmeal and barleymeal cakes appear to have

been unleavened, and to have been prepared as now by mixing
the meal with sweet milk or buttermilk, so as to make a
stiff dough, which was fashioned into flat cakes. The wheat-
meal and barley-meal cakes were baked upon a griddle, but
the oatmeal cakes, called Bocaire and Bletliacli. were always
baked by being supported in an upright position before the
fire by means of a three-pronged forked stick, still called
Maide an Bliocaire or the Bocaire stick, or the Cranachan,
which, however, included also the three-legged stool upon
which the cake was supported by the stick. From the latter
name the Bocaire is sometimes called Ciste cranachain, or the
cake of the Cranachan. The cakes of bread were called
Bairgins, a name still preserved in the " bairn breac", or cake
spotted with currants, of confectioners in Ireland. There were
different sizes of these cakes, but three are mentioned in the
laws: the Bairgin Ferfuine and the Bairgin Banfuine, the
former double the size of the latter—the larger representing
the ration of a man, and the smaller that of a
woman; the third was called the Bairgin iudriuc or whole
cake. This was a large cake which the mistress of a house
kept whole for guests, before whom no cut-loaf should be
placed. Any whole cake was, properly speaking, a Bairgin
Iudriuc, but the term was usually restricted to such large
cakes as those which Bricriu had had made, each of which
required a quarter of a Miach. Honey was sometimes mixed

with the dough of bread, as appears from a curious account
of the " champion s share at the feast given by Briciru one
of the heroic personages contemporary with Citchulaind.
Meal prepared from highly kiln-dried oats, mixed with new
milk or sweet thick milk, or boiled with water into stirabout,
was also much used. Coarsely ground meal of this kind
was called Grus and Gruth, and the food prepared from it
Gruiten ; the second form of the words is almost identical
with the Anglo-Saxon Grut. In discussing the names of
the different kinds of com grown in Ireland in former
times, I mentioned that filberts and acorns were used as
food. These were crushed, so as to form a kind of meal
to which the name Maothal was given. In early Christian
times those who devoted themselves to a religious life, built
their cells in remote woody districts or waste lands, which
seem to have been generally covered with a scrub of hazel,
judging from the quantity of hazel twigs found in turf
bogs. Nutmeal naturally formed a valuable resource to these
early monks, so important indeed that the word Maothal came
in process of time to mean the meal taken on fast days, and
which consisted at first of nutmeal and milk, and afterwards of
oatmeal, milk, cheese, etc. Thus a Lenten dinner mentioned in
the life of St. Moling consisted of Maolhla acus Loim. The

use of Maotlial was not, however, confined to monks and nuns,
but formed part of the food of even the higher classes, as is
proved by the finding of tlie nutshells in the neighbourhood of
forts, and by the occurrence of the word in combination with
Cathair and Lie in topographical names, such as Cathair
Moathal, now Cathermoyle, in the county of Limerick, where
full evidence was obtained of the use of nutmeal, and Lis-
maothal now Moyhill, near Maurice's Mills, in the county
of Clare.
Oatmeal formed also an important constituent of the porridge
which was one of the chief articles of food in Ireland. When
this porridge was made with water in which meat was boiled, it
was the Bruth or broth which was distributed or served out in
Dabachs or tubs to the retainers and servants at feasts and the
eyres or circuits of kings and Flaths. The simple porridge as well
as the broth were seasoned with leeks. Large quantities of leeks
and onions were grown around the houses, and served as a substitute
for pepper and other spices, introduced at a later period
into Europe. Some other culinary vegetables were also cultivated
in the Murathaig or enclosed Gort or garden, for we find
Lns Lubgort, or garden vegetables, mentioned as part of the
Imglaice or opsonia of the Oc Aire. The Birur or Water Cress

was also used at feasts as a salad with meat. Dulesc (i.e.,
water leaf), the Rhodymenia palmata of botanists, was gathered
on the sea shore, dried, and sold throughout the country. It is
mentioned in the Crith Gablach as an accompaniment of the
seasoned fowl to which the Aithech ar a Threba was entitled.
Sluican, sloke, or laver prepared from Porphyra laciniata and
P. vulgaris, as well as other marine vegetables, were also used
along the sea coast.
As the principal wealth of the Irish was in cattle, flesh-meat
and milk formed the most important part of the food of the
Aire class, milk, besides being taken in its natural fresh
state, and as skimmed milk, furnished butter, curds, and
cheese. Butter, while abundant in summer, was preserved Batter ;
in small firkins or barrels for winter use, and for expeditions
and feasts. Many of these vessels filled with butter are found
in peat bogs, the butter being altered into a hard crystalline
fat, free from salt. If salt was used in the curing of the original
butter, it must have been gradually removed along with the
products of the alteration of the glycerine. As butter
is still made without salt in some parts of Ireland, it is
probable that it was sometimes similarly prepared in ancient
times. The terms t-Saland, applied to salted meat and butter,
show that the method of curing provisions with salt was practised
at a comparatively early period in Ireland. The Privileges of the lower
grades of Bo Aire, as regards maintenance when wounded, absence from
home attending
absence from home attending their Flath, etc., as given in the Crith
Gablach, show that
the use of meat and butter was not universal. Thus the Oc
Aire, when on visitation to persons of his own rank, was
not entitled to butter; and only on stated days when on
Folach. An Aire Desa or Flath was, however, entitled
to butter at every meal in his own territory, while an Aire
Ard was not only entitled to butter at every meal for himself, but also
for his Foleithe, that is, the suitors of his Court Leet. A wounded
person on Foluch, of whatever rank, appears
to have been entitled to butter only on stated days. This legal
provision was, no doubt, adopted to prevent a defendant from
being ruined by the expense of the maintenance of a complainant who was
wounded. Curds was a favourite article of food of the ancient Irish. It
was made both from skimmed
milk, and Binnit, or rennet was used in its preparation. The
curds of fresh new milk was not unlike our modern cream
cheese. cheese. True cheese was also made, and seems to have formed
an important element in the food of the wealthier armers, specimens
of it from early Christian times have been found in
bogs impressed with a cross. From a passage in the tale of
the " Navigation of Maelduin's Curach, it would seem that
even different kinds of cheese were prepared, and especially a
rich kind from beestings milk.
Judging by the description of the " Champion's Share"
of Bricrius house, and other passages in Irish manuscripts, the
rearing and fattening of oxen and pigs for food was well understood
by the ancient Irish. Beef naturally took the first place
among the flesh meats : veal, lamb, mutton, and goat's flesh were
also eaten. Mutton was boiled, and the water in which it was
cooked constituted the basis of the Bruth or broth already
mentioned, which was so freely served out to strangers off the
road, that the word became almost synonymous with hospitality.
Part of the beef was eaten fresh, but a larger part was
cured with salt. The cattle intended for curing were fattened
in autumn, and then driven in from the Boulaglis on the approach of
winter and slaughtered. The carcass was cut up,
salted, and hung up to dry on hooks in the smoky air of the
kitchen. Flesh-meat of all kinds was called Saill, or when
salted, Saillti, or Saill t-salnd, the Sialfaeti of the Norse. Fresh
pork was considered a great delicacy, as is evident from the
curious poem in which Midir promises Befind a banquet of
fresh pork, new milk, and ale." Young sucking pigs were
roasted and were especially esteemed. Like the beef, the
pork was first salted in a Caire, or meat vessel, which
was usually kept in the Cull Tech, or store-house, or in
some recess used for the purpose, or when there was no special
store-house in any convenient place. It was left to season for
some weeks, and then hung up in the smoke. The meat of a
Muc Forais, or house-fed pig, appears, however, to have been
specially smoke-dried in the smoke of green wood, such as
beech, ash, and white thorn. The general name for bacon was
Tini, but smoke-cured hams and flitches were called Tineiccas.
This is almost identical in form with the Gallo-Roman word
Taniaccae or Tanacae, used by Varro for hams imported from
Transalpine Gaul into Rome and other parts of Italy.
Puddings prepared from the blood of pigs also formed an
article of export from Gaul to Italy, as we learn from Varro,
Puddings of the same kind were also made by the Irish. The
Mucriucht, or Caelana, Tona, bottom, or belly pudding, appears
to have been a black pudding of this kind, into which a
little tansy (Tanucetum vulgare) and onions, salt, etc., were introduced
as seasoning. Moroga was another term for puddings,
and, perhaps, included those prepared with liver. Saussages
were also made of different kinds of flesh. The word Tarsun
appears to have included regular saussages and seasoned mincemeats
of all kinds, and melted lard, and in this way was sometimes
applied to seasoned fowl and other birds. The name
Drisechan caorach, or as it is called in Cork, Drisheen, given
to a kind of pudding made of sheep's blood, seems to be a corruption
of the Irish Tarsun; the pudding itself probably affords
an example of one of the ancient Irish puddings. The Cisalpine
Gallo-Roman Tuceta mentioned by Persius and other
Latin writers is perhaps a Latinized form of the Gaulish representative
of the Irish Tarsun.
The Irish Aìre class were expert hunters, and trained several
kinds of hunting dogs, among which the wolf dog attained to
even a foreign reputation, and was much sought after. The
wild boar, the red deer, and other game must have also contributed
to the supply of animal food. I do not know whether
in early times the Irish, like the Britons, avoided eating the
hare, the goose, and the common domestic fowl. The curious
legend of Einglan, king of the birds, and Mesbuachala, the
mother of Conaire Mor, king of Eriu, shows that although birds
were killed as game, there must have been a tradition that at
some earlier period they were considered sacred. In many
of the transformations recorded in Irish legends, birds appear
to have been the favourite forms into which the personages of
the story were changed. Fish seems to have formed an important
article of the food of the ancient Irish. Tales and
poems are full of references to rivers abounding in fish ; and
we have distinct mention of the use of the commoner kinds of
fresh-water fish in the life of St. Brigit, and the ancient life of
St Patrick, known as the Tripartite Life. The salmon was
considered food for kings and nobles; king Cormac Mac Airt
is said to have been choked by a bone of one which he swallowed.
The ancient Britons are also said to have had a prejudice
against eating fish, but I do not know whether in very
ancient times this was shared by the Irish. But whatever

use the Irish may have made of game, fish, etc., the chief part Erin rich in
of their animal food was obtained from their cattle ; and
there can be little doubt that Caesar's observations regarding
the Britons, that they possessed " pecoris magnus nu-
rnerus might be equally well applied to the Irish.
The chief intoxicating drink of the ancient Irish, as of all
northern European peoples, was beer, which was called in old
Irish Cuirm, genitive Chorma, as in the Crith Gablach, where
we are told that the Brnghfer has always two vats in his
house—Ian Ais ocus Ian Chorma,—a vat of new milk and a vat
of beer. The Irish genitive is almost identical with ..... The name
the form of the word in Athenaeus, as amended by Casaubon. kno«m to
As Athenaeus quotes Posidonios, we may look upon the Greek
Korma as a pre-Christian, and, no doubt, genitive form of the
Celtic name of beer, corresponding to the Irish Chorma.
Dioscorides has the form .......The banqueting hall of
the Rig Tuatha, in which the Sabaid or councillors sat, was
called the Citirmtech or Ale house, which corresponded to a
certain extent to the Tech Midchuarda of the Ard Righ
Erind. In the fragment of the ancient tale of Tocmarc Emere,
or Courtship of Emer by Cuchulaind, preserved in the vellum
manuscript Lebor na h-Uidhri, beer is called ol n-guala. The
passage is as follows: "One time as the Ultonians were with
Conchabar in Emain Macha drinking in the Iernguali, one
hundred Brotha of ale used to be put into it for each evening.
This was the ol n-guala, which used to test the Ultonians, all
sitting on the one bank" The " one bank" here spoken of is evidently
the long bank
near the fire, which was called by the Norse the Brugge. In

the words ol n-guala the ol is evidently the same as the Old
Norse ol, Anglo-Saxon Ealu, modern English Ale. Ol and
Cuirm were probably synonymous, the former being perhaps
a borrowed name Possibly ol was a simple fermented, slightly
sour decoction of malt, as it is said to have been in England
before the introduction of hops, and that the wort of the Cuirm
was boiled with some bitter aromatic herbs.
The second part of the name has been explained in different ways.
According to one gloss, the word Guala is the genitive
case of Gual, that is, coal,—ól n-Guala, or "ale of the
coal ", and was so called because the wort was boiled over a
charcoal fire :and Conchabar Mac Nessa and his warriors sat
around the fire and quaffed their ale. Another gloss derived
the name from the pot itself; and a third from the son of the
first owner of the boiler. It must have been a difficult task
in those early times to procure a boiler sufficiently large to
make the ale necessary to regale the household of a king.
Even the Norse gods were on one occasion in the unhappy
plight of not having enough of ale, and to prevent so great a
misfortune in future, it is mentioned that Thor carried off the
giant Hymir's big boiler Conchabar Mac Nessa also went on an
expedition the secret motive of which may have been a great bronze
boiler which a petty chieftain named Gerg possessed. He succeeded in
carrying off the pot and killing Gercf himself. Conchabar had a
celebrated brewing vat, the proportions of

which befitted his wort-boiler. This brewing-vat was called
Daradach because it was made of oak, that is, of oak staves
bound by great hoops. The vat, or Dabach, appears to have
been always placed in the principal hall, which was hence
called the ale house or Cuinn Tech. The ale was doubtless
drunk fresh from the vat as in the old breweries of Germany.
The word Lin is sometimes used for ale, but it is rather a
general term for liquor than a special name for beer. Barley beer,
appears to have been the grain chiefly used for preparing the
malt for beer in Ireland, though there is reason to believe that
spelt wheat was also cultivated in Ireland, and also used for the
same purpose. As oats was the corn crop most usually grown,
it also must have been frequently used for malting, at least in
the more mountainous districts not adapted for barley. The Malt.
Irish name of malt was Brack, genitive Braich, or Bracha, corresponding
to the Welsh and Cornish Brag, whence Welsh
Bragaud, Old English Bragot, modern English Bracket, a kind
of sweetened ale. These words contain the same root as
the Anglo-Saxon Breovan, Gothic Briggvan, Old Norse
Brugga, Old High German Bracvan, whence modern German
Brauen, English Brew. As in other northern countries,
beer at first consisted of a simple fermented infusion of the
malt. Before the introduction of hops, attempts were made used.
to flavour the beer with aromatic and bitter astringent
plants — oak bark, it is said, among other things, having
been employed for this purpose. The Cimbri used the
Tamarix Germanica, the old Scandinavians the fruit of
the sweet gale, Myrica gale, the Cauchi the Iruit and twigs of
the chaste tree, Vitex agnus castus. In Iceland, where hops
do not grow, the yarrow, Achillea millefolium, was used for
this purpose, and was even called Valhumall, or field hops.

Even as late as the last century, the yarrow was still used
for giving a bitter flavour to beer in a district of Sweden65'
From the large quantities of the pressed and exhausted leaves
and stems of the marsh plant, the buck-bean, Menyanthes
trifoliata, which have been found in the neighbourhood of some
Raths, that plant was probably used in Ireland at an early
period to flavour beer. That some plant was used by the
ancient Irish to flavour beer, there can be no doubt. In a
curious legendary life of prince Cano, son of Gartnan, and
Ireland. grand-nephew of the celebrated Oedan Mac Gabhrain, king of
the Gaedhelic kingdom of Scotland, to escape whose hostility
Cano fled into Ireland, there is a poem in praise of the various
celebrated ales of Ircland. We have no means of fixing the

exact date at which the poem was composed. According to
Tighernachi Cano was killed A.D. 687, and the manuscript in
which the poem is found was compiled about the year 1390.
That the compiler of the manuscript was not the author of the
poem is certain ; and judging by the language, and by the general
character of the contents of the book, the poem in its present
form belongs to a period anterior to the twelfth century, and
the original materials out of which the tale was worked up, to a
period three or four centuries earlier. We may safely assume that
in the twelfth century at least, there were many places in Ireland
which enjoyed the reputation of making good ales, some, if
not all, of which were red, or " red like wine". Most of those
places have long since ceased to brew beer, but Caatlebelling-
ham still maintains the reputation of the ales of Muirthemne,
and until within the last few years beer of some local reputation
was brewed in Bray, which may have been the seat of the original
breweries of Cualawi, or of one of them. Among the ales mentioned in the
poem is " the Saxon ale of bitterness".
which deserves some attention, because it proves that England
had begun to make bitter beer at a much earlier period than is
usually supposed. Was the " ale of bitterness" flavoured with
hops? and if not, what was the flavouring plant? These are
questions which the poem of Cano Mac Gartnain does not help
us to solve, but it certainly suggests a doubt as to the correctness
of the date, 1524, assigned by Beckmann, Houghton,
Anderson, and indeed most wiiters on the subject, as that of
the introduction of hops into England. The ancient Gauls and Germans,
as Weinhold tells us,
mixed honey with the wort from which they brewed their beer.
The ancient Irish also mixed honey with their Cuirm, or ale,
and with other drinks included under the term Lin ; but I.
cannot say whether it was before or after the fermentation. If
added before, it would make the beer stronger and more intoxicating
The brewing of beer appears to have been the privilege of
Flaths. The Fer Fothlai, or wealthy middleman who had
Ceiles to whom he gave cattle, received his rent in corn, " for
he is not entitled to malt until he is a Flath". The Brughfer
must have had the privilege of brewing, in virtue of his
functions as public hospitaller, as he was bound to have a vat
of ale always ready for the refreshment of a Rig, a bishop, a
poet, a judge, or other person, and their respective suites entitled »
mi in to public entertainment. In Germany also the brewing of beer
appears to have been in the middle ages a privilege of the

nobility, and in some parts this privilege came down to
comparatively modern times.
Another drink of the ancient Irish, which was only second
in importance to, though perhaps considered a nobler drink
than, Cuirm or beer, was Mede, or metheglin, the Metu of the
Germans, the Medu or Meodu of the Anglo-Saxons, and the
Mjoor (?) of the Norwegians. The great banqueting hall of
Tara was called the Tech Mid ckuarda, or " mead circling
house". The great attention paid to the culture of bees, as is
proved by the numerous laws and legal decisions concerning
them which have come down to us, and the large quantities
of honey supplied as rents and tributes to the Kings and
other Flaths, show that mead was a general and favourite
drink of the ancient Irish; for although, as we have seen
from the account of the " champion's share " of Bricrius
house, honey was sometimes used in the making of sweet
cakes, there can be little doubt that the greater part of the
honey produced in ancient times was fermented into mead.
This drink is perhaps older than beer ; but, so far as I know, not
there is no evidence that at any time in Ireland it was the
exclusive intoxicating drink of the Irish, or that it was
generally used as beer. As in the older songs of the Edda
from the Niebelungen Saga, so in all the older Irish poems and
tales, the heroes drink beer. Metheglin was probably made by
the ancient Irish by simply dissolving honey in water, as the
Romans did, but in medieval times aromatic plants seem to
have been added, as in France,and perhaps in Germany also.
The brewing of mctheglin in the south of Ireland came down to
within my own memory, but is, I believe, now extinct there.
It was as much esteemed in Ireland as wine, and was considered
as the especial drink of women.

The ancient Irish also made a kind of cider called Nenadmim
from the wild or crab apple—numbers of apple-trees being planted in
hedge-rows and greatly prized. A drink
bearing the same name is mentioned as being made from
the "woodberry", probably the Vaccinum myrtillus, and
uliginosum, called in Irish Fraocháin, or Fraoclioga, and commonly
called " Frochans",popularly known in Cork and in
the west of England as Whorts. This liquor seems to have
been the same as that known in later times as " bogberry wine."
The name Bear Lochlanach, or " Norse beer", or more popularly "
Danish beer", given to it, shows that the Norsemen,
like the modern Icelanders, made a similar drink. According
to Herr Weinhold, a berry wine or acid drink is also still made
beer" of - Heather in the German Alps in Carinthia. The " heather beer"
which the Danes arc supposed to have made from the common heath, is a
The only way in which heath could be used for making beer would be as
a substitute for hops, but
even for this use of it there is no evidence whatever.

-Source: On the Manners and Customs of the Ancient Irish, O'Curry,
Eugene, 1873

17th Century Irish Foodways

One can always go back to the 17th Century for inspiration. It was by
and large a Celtic warlord based society impacted by invasion. Of course
this is a view from the other side of the cultural divide....

"Touching the Irish diet, some lords and knights and gentlemen
of the English-Irish, and all the English there abiding, having
competent means, use the English diet, but some
more some less cleanly, few or none curiously; and
no doubt they have as great and for their part greater plenty than
the English of flesh, fowl, fish, and all things for food, if they will
use like art of cookery. Always I except the fruits, venison, and
some dainties proper to England and rare in Ireland. And we
must conceive that venison and fowl seem to be more plentiful in
Ireland, because they neither so generally affect dainty food nor
so diligently search it as the English do. Many of the English-
Irish have by little and little been infected with the Irish filthi-
ness, and that in the very cities, excepting Dublin, and some of
the better sort in Waterford, where, the English continually lodging
in their houses, they more retain the English diet. The English-
Irish, after our manner, serve to the table joints of flesh cut after
our fashion, with geese, pullets, pigs, and like roasted meats; but
their ordinary food for the common sort is of white-meats, and
they eat cakes of oat for bread, and drink not English beer made
of malt and hops, but ale. At Cork I have seen with these eyes
young maids stark naked grinding of corn with certain stones to
make cakes thereof, and striking off into the tub of meal such
reliques thereof as stick upon their belly, thighs, and more unseemly
parts. And for the cheese and butter commonly made
by the English-Irish, an Englishman would not touch it with his
lips though he were half-starved; yet many English inhabitants
make very good of both kinds. In cities they have such bread
as ours, but of a sharp savour, and some mingled with aniseeds
and baked like cakes, and that only in the houses of the
better sort.
At Dublin and in some other cities they have taverns wherein
Spanish and French wines are sold, but more commonly the
merchants sell them by pints and quarts in their own cellars.
The Irish aqua vitce, vulgarly called usquebaugh, is held the best
in the world of that kind; which is made also in England, but
nothing so good as that which is brought out of Ireland. And
the usquebaugh is preferred before our aqua vitc e because the
mingling of raisins, fennel-seed, and other things, mitigating the
heat and making the taste pleasant, makes it less inflame, and yet
refresh the weak stomach with moderate heat and a good relish.
These drinks the English-Irish drink largely, and in many families —
especially at feasts—both men and women use excess therein.
And since I have in part seen, and often heard from others'
experience, that some gentlewomen were so free in this excess
as they would, kneeling upon the knee and otherwise, carouse
health after health with men; not to speak of the wives of Irish
lords or to refer it to the due place, who often drink till they be
drunken, or at least till they void urine in full assemblies of men.
I cannot, though unwilling, but note the Irish women more specially
with this fault, which I have observed in no other part to be a woman's
vice, but only in Bohemia. Yet, so accusing them, I
mean not to excuse the men, and will also confess that I have
seen virgins, as well gentlewomen as citizens, commanded by their
mothers to retire after they had in courtesy pledged one or two
In cities passengers may have feather beds, soft and good,
but most commonly lousy, especially in the highways, whether
that came by their being forced to lodge common soldiers or from
the nasty filthiness of the nation in general. For even in the best
city, as at Cork, I have observed that my own and other Englishmen's
chambers, hired of the citizens, were scarce swept once in
the week, and the dust then laid in a corner, was perhaps cast
out once in a month or two. I did never see any public inns with
signs hanged out, among the English or English-Irish; but the
officers of cities and villages appoint lodgings to the passengers,
and perhaps in each city they shall find one or two houses where
they will dress meat, and these be commonly houses of Englishmen,
seldom of the Irish, so as these houses having no signs hung
out, a passenger cannot challenge right to be entertained in them,
but must have it of courtesy and by entreaty.
The wild and (as I may say) mere Irish, inhabiting many and
large provinces, are barbarous and most filthy in their diet. They
scum the seething pot with an handful of straw, and strain their
milk taken from the cow through a like handful of straw, none of
the cleanest, and so cleanse, or rather more defile, the pot and milk.
They devour great morsels of beef unsalted, and they eat commonly
swine's flesh, seldom mutton, and all these pieces of flesh,
as also the entrails of beasts unwashed, they seethe in a hollow
tree, lapped in a raw cow's hide, and so set over the fire, and
therewith swallow whole lumps of filthy butter. Yea (which is
more contrary to nature) they will feed on horses dying of themselves,
not only upon small want of flesh, but even for pleasure;
for I remember an accident in the army, when the Lord Mountjoy,

the Lord Deputy, riding to take the air out of the camp, found
the buttocks of dead horses cut off, and suspecting that some
soldiers had eaten that flesh out of necessity, being defrauded of
the victuals allowed them, commanded the men to be searched
out, among whom a common soldier, and that of the English-
Irish, not of the mere Irish, being brought to the Lord Deputy,
and asked why he had eaten the flesh of dead horses, thus freely
answered, "Your Lordship may please to eat pheasant and partridge,
and much good do it you that best likes your taste; and I
hope it is lawful for me without offence to eat this flesh, that likes
me better than beef." Whereupon the Lord Deputy, perceiving
himself to be deceived, and further understanding that he had
received his ordinary victuals (the detaining whereof he suspected,
and purposed to punish for example), gave the soldier a piece of gold
to drink in usquebaugh for better digestion, and so dismissed him.
The foresaid wild Irish do not thresh their oats, but burn them
from the straw, and so make cakes thereof; yet they seldom eat
this bread, much less any better kind, especially in the time of
war. Whereof a Bohemian baron complained who, having seen
the Courts of England and Scotland, would needs, out of his
curiosity, return through Ireland in the heat of the rebellion;
and having letters from the King of Scots to the Irish lords then
in rebellion, first landed among them in the furthest north, where
for eight days' space he had found no bread, not so much as a
cake of oats, till he came to eat with the Earl of Tyrone; and
after obtaining the Lord Deputy's pass to come into our army,
related this their want of bread to us as a miracle, who nothing
wondered thereat. Yea, the wild Irish in time of greatest peace
impute covetousness and base birth to him that hath any corn
after Christmas, as if it were a point of nobility to consume all
within those festival days. They willingly eat the herb Shamrock,
being of a sharp taste, which, as they run and are chased to and
fro, they snatch like beasts out of the ditches.
Neither have they any beer made of malt or hops, nor yet any
ale, no, nor the chief lords, except it be very rarely. But they
drink milk like nectar, warmed with a stone first cast into the
fire, or else beef broth mingled with milk. But when they come
to any market town to sell a cow or horse, they never return
home till they have drunk the price in Spanish wine (which they
call the King of Spain's daughter) or in Irish usquebaugh, and
till they have outslept two or three days' drunkenness. And not
only the common sort, but even the lords and their wives, the
more they want this drink at home the more they swallow it
when they come to it, till they be as drunk as beggars.
Many of these wild Irish eat no flesh but that which dies of
disease or otherwise of itself, neither can it scape them for stinking.
They desire no broth, nor have any use of a spoon. They
can neither seethe artichokes nor eat them when they are sodden.
It is strange and ridiculous, but most true, that some of our carriage
horsesl falling into their hands, when they found soap and
starch carried for the use of our laundresses, they, thinking them to
be some dainty meats, did eat them greedily, and when they stuck
in their teeth cursed bitterly the gluttony of us English churls, for
so they term us. They feed most on white-meats, and esteem for
a great dainty sour curds, vulgarly called by them Bonaclabbe.
And for this cause they watchfully keep their cows, and fight for
them as for religion and life ; and when they are almost starved,
yet they will not kill a cow except it be old and yield no milk.
Yet will they upon hunger, in time of war, open a vein of the
cow and drink the blood, but in no case kill or much weaken it.
A man would think these men to be Scythians, who let their horses
blood under their ears and for nourishment drink their blood;
and indeed, as I have formerly said, some of the Irish are of the
race of Scythians, coming into Spain and from thence into Ireland.
The wild Irish, as I said, seldom kill a cow to eat, and if perhaps
1 Sampter horses.
they kill one for that purpose, they distribute it all to be devoured
at one time; for they approve not the orderly eating at meals, but
so they may eat enough when they are hungry, they care not to
fast long. And I have known some of these Irish footmen serving
in England (where they are nothing less than sparing in the
food of their families) to lay meat aside for many meals, to devour
it all at one time.
These wild Irish, as soon as their cows have calved, take the
calves from them and thereof feed some with milk, to rear for
breed, some of the rest they flay, and seethe them in a filthy poke,
and so eat them, being nothing but froth, and send them for a
present one to another. But the greatest part of these calves they
cast out to be eaten by crows and wolves, that themselves may
have more abundance of milk. And the calves being taken
away, the cows are so mad among them as they will give no
milk till the skin of the calf be stuffed and set before them, that
they may smell the odour. Yea, when these cows thus madly
deny their milk, the women wash their hands in cows' dung, and
so gently stroke their dugs; yea, put their hands into the cow's
tail and with their mouths blow into their tails, that with this
manner, as it were, of enchantment, they may draw milk from
them. Yea, these cows seem as rebellious to their owners as
the people are to their Kings, for many times they will not be
milked but of some one old woman only, and of no other. These
wild Irish never set any candles upon tables—what do I speak
of tables ? since indeed they have no tables, but set their meat
upon a bundle of grass, and use the same grass as napkins to
wipe their hands. But I mean that they do not set candles
upon any high place to give light to the house, but place a great
candle made of reeds and butter upon the floor in the midst of a
great room. And in like sort the chief men in their houses make
fires in the midst of the room, the smoke whereof goeth out at
a hole in the top thereof. An Italian friar coming of old into
reland and seeing at Armagh this their diet and the nakedness
of the women, is said to have cried out— "
Civilas Armachana, civitas vana,
Carnes crudce, mulieres nudtz." "
Vain Armagh city, I did thee pity,
Thy meat's rawness and women's nakedness.
I trust no man expects among these gallants any beds, much
less feather beds and sheets, who, like the Nomades removing
their dwellings according to the commodity of pastures for their
cows, sleep under the canopy of heaven, or in a poor house of
clay, or in a cabin made of the boughs of trees and covered with
turf, for such are the dwellings of the very lords among them.
And in such places they make a fire in the midst of the room,
and round about it they sleep upon the ground, without straw or
other thing under them, lying all in a circle about the fire, with
their feet towards it. And their bodies being naked, they cover
their heads and upper parts with their mantles, which they first
make very wet, steeping them in water of purpose; for they find
that when their bodies have once warmed the wet mantles, the
smoke of them keeps their bodies in temperate heat all the night
following. And this manner of lodging not only the mere Irish
lords and their followers use, but even some of the English-Irish
lords and their followers when, after the old but tyrannical and
prohibited manner vulgarly called coshering, they go, as it were,
on progress, to live upon their tenants till they have consumed
all the victuals that the poor men have or can get. To conclude,
not only in lodging passengers not at all or most rudely, but even
in their inhospitality towards them, these wild Irish are not much
unlike to wild beasts, in whose caves a beast passing that way
might perhaps find meat, but not without danger to be ill entertained,
perhaps devoured, of his insatiable host."

-From: "Fynes Moryson's Description of Ireland" In:Ireland under
Elizabeth and James I., 1599 -1603
By Edmund Spenser, John\Davies, Henry Morley Fynes Moryson 1891

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Foods of the Ancient Irish

For those interested in the very earliest layer of the cake which is
Irish Traditional food I have provided a link on the right side of the
page to On the Manners and Customs of the Ancient Irish
By Eugene O'Curry. O'Curry was a master of the literature and ancient
texts of Ireland. Go to the table of contents and you will find an
entire chapter on foods. Note the relationship between foods and the law
and ceremony. For the Irish food is much more than just a meal.It held
society together as it should still do today.

How much more basic can you get- Oatcakes

Take oats, mix them in water and let it dry out. Quite basic. Oatcakes
are pan Celtic-wherever oats were found. In Scottish farm houses in the
19th century left over oat porridge was placed into a wooden drawer. There it dried out and was sliced and heated to crisp. Surely the oat cake is ancient and a root food.

I returned on foot to the little cabin upon the barren hillock where we had left our cars, and as a hard shower of.hail was falling over the dark plain and among the old ruins, I was compelled, for the sake of shelter, to take a closer inspection of the interior of this cabin. This gave me an opportunity of watching the preparation of those oat-cakes which play so important u part in the national cookery both of Ireland and Scotland, and which are even found carved upon their monuments, as I have above described, These far-famed cakes are made of oats very roughly ground. The coarse flour is mixed with water, into a thick gritty paste, and spread upon a warmed iron plate. This round j iron plate, which is found in the poorest Irish, cabins, is warmed by a handful of lighted straw placed underneath it, and in a few moments the cooking process is over, the paste being taken off in the shape of a hard, thin, dry biscuit. This paste is dignified by the name of cake, and is eaten daily by the poor Scotch and Irish. These cakes are not much more palatable than a mixture of flour and water, made dry and hard, would be, yet many people are passionately fond of them. The Irish generally assure the stranger, when they show him their oat-cakes, that these are a particularly wholesome, nourishing, nndstrengtheningkindof food, which can be true only when they are compared with the watery, tasteless, and meager potatoes upon which the Irish have to subsist. The English, generally very curious about our black bread, and to whom the word " black" seems to convey a kind of horror,* often repeat that with them people would never think of giving such a mess to any but horses ; forgetting that with us nobody would think of giving oats to any but horses, and forgetting how many millions of hungry poor there are in their empire who would be most thankful for this despised black bread, and whom it would certainly nourish much better than oat- paste which they call cake, and the nourishing qualities of which they praise so highly.-

From: Johann Georg Kohl , 1844, Ireland: Dublin, the Shannon, Limerick, Cork, and the Kilkenny Races

Oats as it turns out are also healthy.
Lower your fats! Here is how to connect with the ancient oaten past.


Take a quantity of rolled or other oats. (I ground my oats till it
filled a standard quisinart sized food processor bowl after grinding)

Place in food processor- run on high adding oats slowly till a powdery
flour is obtained. As fine as you can get it without too much work.

Add in a teaspoon of salt- to taste try and see...

If you don't' mind fat add in a few tablespoons of bacon fat. If you
don't mind oil add in a few tablespoons of some form of oil- I found
olive oil worked. So be healthy....

Once you grind the flour add in about a cup of whole oats.

Place flour mixture in electric mixer- a strong one.

Use the flat paddle blade.

Slowly add cold water till it thickens to a stiff dough but not too
hard. The paddle should still turn well enough. Switch paddle to dough
hook and run on high for about two minutes.

Let dough sit for about three hours.

The dough will now be hard- don't worry break it into small bits and
pout back into your mixer. Add more cold water and beat with paddle
blade till you have a medium stiff mixture. The paddle turns but does
not strain.

Once dough is re-constituted roll out to thickness of choice- I like
about 1/8 inch. Thinner ones tend to scorch and cook too fast. Toss oat
flour and whole oats on the board to flour it so that some oats get
stuck to the surface of the dough- not many just the occasional one or
several per oatie....

Using a glass or cutter cut out rounds of the dough.

Place the rounds on a dry cookie sheet and bake at low heat- 275-300.
Basically all you are doing is drying them out so if you want to get it
done quicker simply raise the temp but keep an eye on them. They are
done when between crisp and slightly chewy. Some like them totally
crisp. Beware of scorching. Watch carefully even when on low heat.

Place hot oaties into a metal tin with tight lid right out of oven. This
helps redistribute the heat and even out the cooking.

Serve with home made butter (take heavy whipping cream beat through
whipped cream stage (add salt if you wish-to taste-) till butter
separates, strain out curds compress and cool... The oaties are great
with cheese. A dram of whiskey should not be refused. The texture should
not be too fine the occasional whole oat should be evident but not too many.

Now you have something that a Bronze Age Celt would recognize!

Monday, February 4, 2008

Going back to the halls of the Ancient Chieftains-Spiced Beef not Corned

Due to the time it takes I thought I would post this one well in advance
of March 17. St. Patrick's day is just one of the many important Irish
days of celebration. Patrick never made ale- Brigid did it all the time!
(her day is Feb. 1) so honor her as well and what could be better for
the Saint of the farm than a good beef meal.

There were no Jewish Dellis in New York when the Irish arrived and
spices were expensive therefore we have to go back before your grand
mother and great grand mother to get to the root of this Irish
ceremonial staple. This is how it would have been in the Chieftain's
hall with the warriors gathered around sticking their forks in to get
their appointed portions out of the huge pot.

This is an easy dish. You can leave the preservative out if you cook the
beef within a short period of time.

Irish Spiced Beef

Ingredients:20 cloves, 2 tsp ground allspice or cinnamon, 6 Shallots, 2
tsp Prague Powder(preservative/cure)(can be obtained from the Sausage
Maker-26 military Rd,Buffalo,N.Y. 14207), 1Pound Kosher Salt (coarse), 1
tsp black pepper, three tsp. ground mace, 7-8 lb. beef. 2-3 bay leaves,
ground nutmeg, Two Pints Guinness Stout. Instructions:1. Grind all dry
ingredients and mix 2. Add finely chopped shallots 3. Rinse beef and
place in plastic or glass container(avoid iron). 4.Take 1 seventh of the
spice/salt mixture and rub it all over the meat. Place meat back into
container, cover and set out on the back porch or in a cool spot-if too
warm out place in fridge. Each day for seven days rub the meat with one
seventh of the mixture, turn over and re-cover. Leave the liquid that
forms with the meat. At the end of seven days place meat and liquid into
a big pot -add water to top up and cover the meat and boil until the
meat is tender.(a fork should just barely be able to lift up strands of
meat-dont over do it!) Change water adding clean water and boil for
another 30 minutes. Then add veg-large carrots,onions, and potatoes-
cook until almost done. Add two pints Guinness Stout and boil for
another 10-20 minutes.
You can eat this hot or leave to cool overnight-place meat into colander
with weight on it and plate or dish under it.

I use eye of round as it has much less fat. I make one big one into
three portions. I spice them cook and freeze them. One for Patrick One
for Brigid and one for my wife's birthday. I am out to put the daily
salt on now.


Here is a 19th century recipe....remember that if you keep the beef in the salt for a long time you need a preservative- prague powder or equivalent.

SPICED BEEF ; (good and wholesome.)
For twelve pounds of the round, rump, or thick flank of beef, take a
large teaspoonful of freshly-pounded mace, and of ground black pepper,
twice as much of cloves, one small nutmeg, and a quarter teaspoonful
of cayenne, all in the finest powder. Mix them well with seven ounces
of brown sugar, rub the beef with them and Jet it lie three days; add
to it then half a pound of fine salt, and rub and turn it once in twenty-
four hours for twelve days. Just wash, but do not soak it; skewer, or
bind it into good form, put it into a stewpan or saucepan nearly of its
size, pour to it a pint and a half of good beef broth, and when it begins
to boil, take off the scum, and throw in one small onion, a moderate-
sized faggot of thyme and parsley, and two large, or four small carrots.
Let it simmer quite softly for four hours and a half, and if not wanted
to serve hot, leave it in its own liquor until it is nearly cold. This is
an excellent and far more wholesome dish than the hard, bright-
coloured beef which is cured with large quantities of salt and saltpetre:
two or three ounces of juniper-berries may be added to it with the spice,
to heighten its flavour.
Beef, 12 Ibs.; sugar, 7 ozs.; mace and black pepper, each, 1 large
teaspoonful; cloves, in powder, 1 large dessertspoonful; nutmeg, 1;
cayenne, J teaspoonful: 3 days. Fine salt, £ Ib.: 12 days. Beef broth (
or bouillon), ij pint; onion, 1 small; bunch of herbs; carrots, 2 large,
or 4 small: stewed 4$ hours.
Obs.—We give this receipt exactly as we have often had it used, but
celery and turnips might be added to the gravy; and when the appear
ance of the meat is much considered, three-quarters of an ounce of salt
petre may be mixed with the spices; the beef may also be plainly boiled
in water only, with a few vegetables, or baked in a deep pan with a
little gravy. No meat must ever be left to cool in the stewpan or sauce
pan in which it is cooked; it must be lifted into a pan of its own depth,
and the liquor poured upon it.-From: Eliza Acton, 1858,
Modern Cookery, in All Its Branches: Reduced to a System of Easy Practice

Couldn't Be easer or more traditional- Potato Farls

A centerpiece of the Ulster Fry but also very close to Boxty and known
as Potato Bread. Boxty is more of a batter and made with raw as well as
cooked potatoes. Interesting that these can be given a sweet content
generally apples prepared as apple pie filling with brown sugar
etc...pre cooked or raw. Apple potato cakes are associated with the eve
of St. Brigid's day (February 1) so they are on my mind.

We recently tried many recipes. The one below was found to be the best.
It is interesting that one should not totally mash the potatoes. The
potatoes should be well cooked till soft then dried a bit by putting in
colander over hot dry pot for a few minutes. The mashing done by hand
with other ingredients should not have any hard lumps- hence the well
cooked instruction but lumps can be the size of peas or smaller and be ok.

The question of texture and durability is up to the cook. Try less flour
first- as in the recipe- handful....if you like the texture leave it
that way or add more flour and more hand mixing till you get a more
durable cake. Cook till brown on both sides on dry griddle then fry in
bacon fat (about 1/2 inch in pan) till crispy on each side.

More durable cakes with more flour are heavier but they will stand up
better to a fruit filling. While the potato tastes surprisingly well
with the fruit as it is I would add a little sugar- tablespoon or two to
the recipe and maybe some spices to the potato. Simply put cake on pan
in raw state. Cook till skins over on bottom put in fruit and fold over
on itself. Cook on dry pan till potato is solid then fry in butter.

Here is the basic recipe:
Potato Farls (Rev. J. Mattison,Ulster)

3 large potatoes
Knot of butter (1-2 tablespoon)
Pinch of salt
Handful of soda bread flour

Directions: Boil the potatoes. Mash with knot of butter and salt. Add a
handful of soda bread
flour. Dust your baking surface and roll out, about ½-inch thick. Place
on heated griddle. Cook
both sides.
Alternative: Potato Oaten are made the same way, but with one handful of
pin-headed or ordinary oatmeal

We have reserved to the last the potato-cake, made by bruising, with the

bottom of a tin porringer, two cold,
well-boiled potatoes, and mixing therewith
a pound of the finest Flour, the
yolk of a fresh egg, a print of butter,
and a sup of new-milk, the whole
being well kneaded, then pounded with
a rolling-pin, made into a cake five-
eighths of an inch thick, cut into
squares and diamonds, baked on a
griddle, and, when properly browned
and mottled, each piece torn asunder
like a muffin, and a bit of butter slipt
in to melt in the interior, and then
eaten at tea or breakfast, but particularly
at the former, it is because it was
the most widely disseminated and universally-
admired form of potato-eating
known to all tea-drinkers and cup-toss-
ers from Cape Clear to the Causeway. -Dublin University Magazine. 1854

What do you think? What is your tradition? Great for breakfast and this
is an ancient thing that goes way back.