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

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Don't play with your food but play during the meal!

When I talk of games to mind will come all of the famous board games-
endless sessions of monopoly, then the endless sessions of card
games....for the non player tedious as they can do nothing else but run
errands for the players. Nothing wrong with a games evening if everyone
is on board for the game but not for general feasts and celebrations
where a diverse audience is present. For this you need to consult the
solutions brought about through centuries of cultural adaptation.

The Irish tradition is filled with many many games. These were developed
by families waiting for others to reach them over the poor roads of the
time on foot or slow horse. It took several days for people to get to
their wakes and weddings. While the prepares and keeners were busy with
their work the children and others needed to be entertained. So out came
the short energetic and often violent games.

The games specialize in being short. They also were filled with
surprises. Acting and counting skills were required but no boards or
cards. Today one is amazed at the ability of participants to withstand
the penalties- being stuffed in the dung heap, hit on the
shins....covered with mucky ash.

Today we must be more careful or else risk being locked up-such is
freedom! However, all is not lost. The games can be modified with the
muck being substituted with allergy free powder etc....

Games of recitation can be done around the table between courses. The
food will settle better and the minds will be working. The host will get
a break and the energy of the children otherwise spent in causing
destruction and chaos will be burned off.

The dramatic games will take place between courses. Another way to add
to the event. A bit of high drama, acting and fun. Laughter is the best
medicine and the best course of the good feast as well!

For Great games go to the Wake Page where they are kept!

Watch this space as I provide all manner of diversion through games. Put
the instructions on cards and have someone select the game of the moment
from the deck. Let that person set it up and be the judge. Soon there
will be more room for that wondrous dessert!

Stories - the between course for the feast

Some oft complain that they do hours of cooking for only a short period
of time used for eating. Well that can happen but it is their own fault-
savoring food takes time. If you have nothing to entertain you whilst
savoring the food or letting it settle then you will move on to the next
course too quickly! Your body will not appreciate it. As a host you need
to have a break. Draw out the meal. Draw out expression, creativity,
have your guests show off.

But beware! Demons will try to raise their ugly heads. By this I mean
Politics, Religion, Family, Money and the lead demon Sports. We no
longer have an oral tradition. The only things in peoples heads are the
demons. You know this though after having perfectly good feasts erupt
into arguments and fights or into score reports and stock tickers. And
then there is the frequent case of loosing them to the television
entirely. To avoid prying them from the tube cut the cord, unplug it or
tape a nice picture on the screen for the evening.

Now what to put in place of the demons. Well not hard to say....Go find
cards- print short traditional stories on them and hand them out. Have
guests read stories and get the bones of them then tell them to each
other. This works. Go to this web page to find loads of five minute stories. Some are very very short others longer. Have guests pick them but if they are too long they can exchange. The point is not to read or memorize but just to read through and get the bones of the story and tell it in their own words-

It will be music to the ears with a room full of people telling
traditional stories and wondering with the century old spark of ancient
time lighting the space.

In addition to stories the Irish are famed for their short knowledge- that is, ranns, proverbs, sayings and triads and jokes... you will find loads of these here. But remember you have to print out the texts for them but that is easy enough

Another thing to do is to invite your guests to bring stories of their
own. Banish the deamons and let the ancient sun shine! The meal will
take its proper pace, the host will be entertained and rested- a
treasure worth the time of preparation and clean up.

The Musical Dimension of Food-

Of course there is a musical dimension of food and you don't have to
have a cake dance either! Food and music go together and depend on each
other as foundations of the larger cultural experience-music is the
window that you open to get fresh air. As the palate and the stomach
work it is their accompaniment. It frees the mind to wander and provides
dance to work it off! In this spot recommendations for music will be
posted from time to time. Stop in frequently.

While music which is recorded is fine and good the best music is that
which comes out of the guests themselves. In order to avoid having the
music of bodily functions alone one must take a few steps.

The first thing to do is to get rid of any concept of quality. It simply
does not matter. The human mind is able to straighten out the bumps of
any performance. Traditional music is a music that is known- you will
know the tune so if played a bit off you can still follow it in your
mind. Yes there are pros but if you wait till you can afford them you
may wait for a longtime.

Second- you must make everyone welcome. Especially those learning. No
preasure...just sit in the corner and play. No one has to study you. You
just play. This is the essence of all good traditional gatherings.
Always let people know that they can bring whatever they wish. From food
and drink to music to whatever. You just coordinate.

Once everyone is welcome and tolerated you need only provide a few
resources. Most people today have not been brought up in the oral
tradition. That means that they do not have the songs in their heads
that they would have had had they grown up say for 10 or 15 years within
a culture singing regularly.

There is no way that you will have a singing crowd when you assume that
they know the words. But, all is not lost. You will have a singing crowd
immediately after providing song sheets or little booklets made up of
the songs you expect your guests to play. A little work done every so
often will see you prepared.

Another thing to keep in mind is that the tradition is growing every
day. Find a few ancient songs-the Grand Airs of Connemara but then
include others which have been added right down to the present day. You
want all generations to be welcome so mix it up for them. I am sure
that the younger folk will tolerate the Clancys and the Dubliners a lot
better with a bit of the Pogues and Flogging Molly thrown in.

Here are a few musical resources- enjoy!

So....add the musical ingredient to your cookery. Put a spring in your
step and song in your heart.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Nun's Cake

Ingredients: 3/4 cup butter, 1 cup sugar, 3 eggs, 2 tablespoons corn
starch, 4 cups sifted flour, 1 teaspoon vanilla, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 3
teaspoons baking powder, 1/2 cup mil. 1 strip citron peel.

Method- Sift flour with cornstarch and baking powder. Cream butter. Add
sugar, one tablespoon at a time, beating well. Add beaten eggs one at a
time, beating well after each addition. Just before beating in the last
egg, sprinkle a little of the flour mixture. Add vanilla. Fold in dry
ingredients alternately with milk. Place strip of citron peel on top.
Bake in a greased lined tin for one hour in a moderate (350 degree)
oven. When done let stand 5 minutes in the tin before turning out onto
a rack

-Maura Laverty, Feasting Galore

Lenten Cake

Ingredients: 4 cups sifted flour, 1/2 cup (1/4 pound) butter, 3
tablespoons molasses, 1 cup milk, 3/4 cup sugar, 3 teaspoons allspice,
1/2 cup raisins, 2 teaspoons baking powder, 1 teaspoon baking soda, 1/2
teaspoon salt.

Method: Melt butter, add molasses and milk and cool. Sift flour, spice,
baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Stir butter mixture into dry
ingredients. Add raisins and mix well. Pour into buttered tin and bake
1 1/2 hours in 350 degree oven.

-Feasting Galore, Maura Laverty

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Gur (or Chester) Cake

I imagine this cake owes its name to the fact that tuppence worth of
inferior baker's Chester Cake is the usual provender of boys who are "on
gur," i.e., playing hookey. But a grand way to use up stale bread or
cake is in making good homemade gur.

Ingredients: 1/2 recipe for Lardy Cakes, 2 cups sifted flour, 2 cups
fine cake or bread crumbs, 2 teaspoons baking poweder, 1/2 cup corn
syrup (about) 1 cup currants, 1 teaspoon ground ginger, a little beaten egg.

Method: Divide the pastry in two and roll thin. Use half to line the
bottom of agreased jelly-roll pan (shallow baking pan about 112'' x
9""). Now sieve flour, baking powder, and ginger. Mix in currantws nad
crumbs. Add corn syrup to make a stiff paste. Mix thoroughly and
spread evenly in tin. Cover with remaining pastry. Brush with beaten
egg nad mark in squares. Bake 40 minutes in a 375 degree oven. When
cold, cut into squares.- Maura Laverty, Feasting Galore

Lardy Cakes

These are a delicacy associated with pig-killing time when the "flead"
or leaf lard is plentiful,

Ingredients: 3 cups sifted flour, 1 1/2 cups (2/3 pound) leaf lard, 1
teaspoon salt, 1 egg, cold water to mix.

Method: Sieve flour and salt together. Scrape 1/3 of the flead and rub
lightly in. Mix to a dough with cold water and roll out on a floured
board. Scrape another third of the lard and spread it over the paste in
flakes. Fold in three and beat out with the rolling pin. Repeat with
remaining lard and beat again. Roll out 1/4- inch thickness, cut in
small rounds, brush with beaten egg, and bake 12 minutes in a 450 degree
oven. Eat hot with butter.

N.B.: This makes good shortcrust pastry for pies.

-Maura Laverty, Feasting Galore.

Nettle Soup

For many a long year nettles were to the Irish what spinach is to other
peoples. And many of us still feel that young tender nettles more than
equal the best of spinach. "One feed of nettes in the spring will keep
you healthy for the year" is a belief which persists in country parts
where the blood purifying qualities of nettles are still appreciated.

Ingredients: 6 cups (tightly packed) chopped nettle leaves, 2 medium
onions, 4 tablespoons butter, 3 cups white stock, 3 cups milk, 4
tablespoons flake oatmeal, 1 leek (chopped). For seasoning: a teaspoon
salt, 1 teaspoon pepper, 1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg. For binding: 1 egg
yolk and 1/2 cup medium cream.

Method: Melt butter in a heavy stewpan over moderate heat. Saut/e the
chopped onion in the fat (without browning), add nettles and chopped
leek. Stir in flake oatmeal. Add combined stock and milk and simmer 50
minutes. Remove from heat and stir in egg yolk beaten with cream. Add
seasoning reheat but do not allow the soup to boil.-
Maura Laverty,
Feasting Galore.

Consomm/e Befinn

This soup can be nothing but ancient. Simple foods but with the alspice
flavour of the middle ages....A great use for bones.

Maybe consomm/e by any other name would taste as good, but this clear
soup is rather special. It is full of the zest of ham and beef and
vegetable juices. This particular soup inherits its name from a famous
heroine in Irish mythology. The reason we connect the lady with ham is
this: When King Midir was cajoling her to accompany him to Tir na n-/Og,
the Land of the Young, he promised her, among other things, that she
should feed on unlimited supplies of pork.

O lady, if thou comest to my valiant people,
A diadem of gold shall be on thy head;
Flesh of swine, all fresh, banquets of new milk and all
Shalt thou have with me there.

-O'Curry: Book of the Dun Cow)

Ingredients: For stock: 1 ham bone, 1 beef shin bone, 2 medium onions, 4
outside stalks of celery, two medium carrots 1 teaspoon allspice. For
garnish: 6 tablespoons each of ham, carrots, and celery cut in julienne
strips; 1 tablespoon chopped parsley. Salt and pepper to taste.

Method: Place all stock ingredients in pot, cover with water and simmer
three hours. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Garnish each bowl
with strips of ham, carrots, and celery just before serving sprinkle
with parsley.
-Maura Laverty, Feasting Galore.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Brothch/an Buidhe

This is pronounced "Brohawn Bwee" and it means Yellow Broth. A savory
concoction of vegetable stock, thickened with oatmeal and enriched with
milk, Brothch/an Buide was the favorite pottage of St. Columba.

There is a story that when Lent came around the saint decided to mortify
himself with ersatz broth, so he instructed his cook to put nothing into
the broth except water and nettles, with a taste of salt on Sundays.

"Is nothing else to go into it, your Reverence?" asked the cook in
horror. "Nothing except what comes out of the pot stick," the saint
replied sternly.

This went on for two weeks. The saint grew thinner and weaker, and the
cook grew more and more worried. And then, all of a sudden, St. Columba
started to put on weight again and the worried look left the cook's
face. The devoted lay brother had made himself a hollow pot stick down
which he poured milk and oatmeal. Thus he was able to preserve his
master from starvation and himself from the horrible sins of
disobedience and lies.

When questioned by the saint he was able to assure him honestly that
nothing went into the broth save what came out of the pot stick.

Ingredients: 45 cups chicken stock, 4 tablespoons butter, 1/2 cup flour,
2 tablespoons flake oatmeal, ,1 medium onion, 1 stick celery, 1 small
carrot, 1 3/4 cups spinach, 2 tablespoons cream, pepper and salt to
taste, 1 tablespoon parsley.

Method: To stock add chopped celery, onion, carrot and salt and pepper
to taste. Cook 30 minutes. Knead butter and flour together and add to
stock. Sprinkle in oatmeal and add chopped spinach. simmer 15 minutes.
Pass through a sieve, correct seasoning, stir in cream. Sprinkle with
minced parsley.-Maura Laverty, Feasting Galore., 1952/61.

Brigid's Broth

Ingredients: 2 pounds lean mutton, 4 tablespoons barley (soaked
overnight in cold water), 4 tablespoons each chopped carrot, turnip,
onion, celery and cabbage; 2 chopped leeks, 2 tablespoons butter, pepper
and salt to taste, 1 tablespoon chopped parsley, 5 cups cold water.

Method: Cut the mutton in 1/2 inch cubes, season and cover with cold
water, bring quickly to boiling point, skim, and add the barley; simmer
1 1/2 hours or until the meat is tender. Fry the diced vegetables in
butter for five minutes without browning. Add to soup with salt and
pepper to taste and continue cooking until vegetables are tender.
Finally, add the parsley. Shin of beef may be treated this way , too, to
make a very good broth known as Hough Soup. Use 6 tablespoons of rice
instead of the barley.-
Maura Laverty, Feasting Galore, 1952/61.

Irish Bacon-Boiling Bacon that is....the Wiltshire Cure

Corned beef found in the USA is not something which has a long tradition
in Ireland- certainly it has made its way there as with everything else
but not a long tradition. If you wish to work with beef then use the
spiced beef recipe- much more flavour but similar to a corned beef. If
you wish to cook something with cabbage you should use boiling bacon
generally available from web based importers of which there are several.
This is not generally pork belly but a joint, boned above the ham or
collar. This is nothing at all like American bacon. It has a sweet
rather than a salty flavour and is in texture slightly like corned beef
but not as rough or fatty as when brisket is used.

The process of making the ham is not all that complex. The process is
known as a "wet cure" or Wiltshire Cure. The steps are laid out below.
You can purchase cure mixes ready made. The essence of it all is being
very clean, measuring out the ingredients properly to create a proper
brine and then watching the time and controlling the storage temps.

Generally sugar is added-treacle-or molasses and at times beer. All must
be thoroughly boiled first. Spices seem to vary. Spices noted are
nutmeg, juniper berries etc...

The meat can be smoked but is generally not smoked. In Wiltshire- a pork
producing region of England they also do a salt dry cure but this is not
what you want for boiling bacon. Recipes are often closely guarded. Farm
workers on holiday would bring their own prized bacon with them.
Although they used a common pot each man would tie his bacon with a
special identifiable string.

Some recipes and sources to get you thinking-
Steps for performing a Wiltshire Cure

1. Start with pork sides

2. Brine injection

2.. NaC3 placed in scapula

3. cover brine 3-5 days 4-5 degrees C.

4. Drain

5. Maturation 5 days 4-5 degrees C

-A Colour Atlas of Food Quality Control
By Jane P. Sutherland, A. H. Varnam
1986 (see Google Books)

A typical cure follows:

250 gms salt

150 gms Molasses or Demerara sugar

10 gms Saltpetre (Potassium Nitrate) – Anti bacterial, provides pink colour.


Use 40 gms of cure mix per ½ Kg of pork hind leg. Add the mix to enough
liquid to totally cover the meat. The liquid typically can consist of 3
parts water and 1 part ale.

Pickle the meat for 4 days. Remove the meat from the pickle and hang for
a further 2 weeks in a cool room.

Traditionally, the Wiltshire cure does not require smoking.

Jane Grigson's English Brine Ingredients:
7 pt Water
1 1/2 lb Sea or coarse salt
1 lb Dark brown sugar
2 oz Saltpeter
1 Bayleaf
1 Sprig thyme
10 Juniper berries; crushed
10 Peppercorns; crushed
Jane Grigson's English Brine Instructions:

Boil hard for 5 minutes.
Leave to cool.
Clean crock or bucket and lid with soda dissolved in boiling water,
rinse well, and leave to DRAIN dry.
Pour in cold brine, though a muslin lined strainer.
Immerse the meat (duck, pork, beef, mutton) and keep it below the
surface by laying a piece of boiled wood, or scrupulously clean plate on
Cover and keep in a dry place at a temperature below 60°F Salting time.

This depends on the thickness of the meat.
Trotters, 24 hrs, a leg of pork can take 10 days.
Joints required for roasting rather than boiling will be improved by a
12 hour soak in brine, without tasting too salty afterwards.
In home conditions, in a cool larder, meat can be kept in brine for up
to a fortnight or three weeks, sometimes longer.
The moments islands of white mould begin to float on the surface, remove
meat and throw away the brine.
The crock will need washing in boiling soda again.
The meat will be OK.
Recipe Charcuterie and French Pork Cookery - Jane Grigson

And another.....

2kg course salt
50g saltpetre (You can get this at the pharmacy)
6 ltr water.

Bring all of above to the boil and then boil for 10 mins.

Allow to cool completely and then place in a container which can be
glass, plastic or earthenware but definately not metal. Put the meat
into the liquid and make sure it is fully submersed in the brine by
placing a board on top of it. Allow to cure for 12 hours per kilo.

When you take them out dry them with a cotton cloth and hang them in a
cool place to dry. ( I hang mine in the fridge) They must be hanging and
not touching anything else. Dry for at least 24 hours and then they can
be stored in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.

There are further recipes for Wiltshire cure which involves molasses,
beer and is lovely or a Suffolk cure which involves vinegar, cloves and
brown sugar.

And another....

Wiltshire Ham Cure

Course : Pork
Serves: 1
Amount Measure Ingredient -- Preparation Method
-------- ------------ --------------------------------
1 1/2 pounds cooking salt
4 ounces saltpeter
2 ounces prunella
1/2 ounce juniper berries
2 pounds treacle
1/2 pound bay salt
1 ounce black pepper
2 quarts beer
Mix together 1 1/2 lbs cooking salt, 4 oz saltpeter, 2 oz sale prunella,
1/2 oz juniper berries, 2 lbs treacle, 1/2 lb bay salt, 1 oz black
pepper, 2 qts beer. Boil together, cool slightly & pour over ham, which
has been sprinkled with cooking salt, left 12 hours and wiped dry. Turn
& rub pickle in each day for 1 month. Dry well before storing. I said
some time back that I would post these ham & bacon cures. They are all
traditional methods, and assume for the most part that you have a whole
pig to deal with. I have not used all of them, but have based cures on
some. If you need any further info, let me know. Some scaling will be
needed, and some modification. I have not bothered to update units or
nomenclature, but that will add to the fun :-)

Cure sources:

I have found the greatest difficulty with available recipes is that they
tend to assume that you know how to make the cure brine and adjust it
properly for the cut of meat you are using. Perhaps the best way to go
is to select a prepared mix which will have proportions laid out
correctly. Enloy!

Friday, March 7, 2008

Convent Loaf

Convent Loaf

Ingredients: 4 cups sifted flour, 1 cup (1/2 pound) butter, 3/4 cup
sugar, 3 teaspoons baking powder, 2 teaspoon caraway seeds, 2/3 cup
candied peel, 2 eggs, a little milk, 1/2 teaspoon salt.

Method: Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt. Rub in butter;
add sugar, seeds, and thinly sliced peel. Add beaten eggs with enough
milk to make light dough. Place in a well-greased tin and bake 1 1/2
hours in a moderate (375 degree) oven.

-Feasting Galore., Recipes and Food Lore from Ireland., Maura Laverty,

Oaten Health Bread

A concept dating well back into ancient times:

Oaten Health Bread

Ingredients: 4 cups each flour, whole meal, and flake oatmeal; 1
tablespoon salt, 2 cups milk, 1 cup boiling water.

Method: Sift together flour, whole meal, flake oatmeal, and salt. Mix
the yeast with the sugar. Dissolve the butter in the boiling water and
add to the milk. Add a cupful of the tepid milk and water to the yeast
sugar mixture. Make a well in the center of the flour and pour in the
yeast. Sprinkle a little flour on top and set in a warm place until the
yeast honeycombs. Add the remainder of the tepid milk and water, mix
well, turn out onto a floured board, and knead well for at least 10
minutes. Return to the bowl, cover with a cloth, and leave in a warm
place until the dough doubles its bulk. Cook 50 minutes in a hot (475
degree ) oven.

-Feasting Galore., Recipes and Food Lore from Ireland., Maura Laverty,

Sunday Tea Cakes from Maura Laverty

Always good to be prepared for a traditional tea-time.

Sunday Tea Cakes

Ingredients: 4 cups sifted flour, 2 teaspoons salt, 1 package dry yeast,
2 teaspoons sugar, 4 tablespoons lard, 1/2 cup boiling water, 1/2 cup
milk, 1/2 cup currants, 1/3 cup candied peel, 1 cup white seedless
raisins, milk and sugar for glaze.

Method: Sift flour with salt. Mix yeast with 2 teaspoons sugar, add 1/2
cup lukewarm milk. Make a well in center of four, pour in yeast mixture,
sprinkle a little flour on top, and leave to honeycomb in a warm place
about 20 minutes. Dissolve lard in boiling water, add milk mixture.
Leave until lukewarm. Add this mixture to flour and mix to a smooth
dough. Turn onto floured board, sprinkle with fruit, and knead well.
Divide the dough into 6 balls, flatten, and pierce with fork. Place on
greased and floured baking sheet, cover, and leave to rise 30 minutes in
warm place. Bake 20 minutes in hot (450 degree) oven Five minutes
before the cakes are done, brush with milk and sprinkle with sugar.

-Feasting Galore., Recipes and Food Lore from Ireland., Maura Laverty,