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Kitchen Index • Irish Kitchen Library
Preparing the Puddings
by Bridget Haggerty
At our house, my mother served three different kinds of Christmas pudding. Not all at the same time, mind you. If we could afford it, which was seldom in my memory, she’d begin making an incredibly rich version weeks before the big day; when times were lean, which was often, we had a much simpler dessert which could be made on Christmas Eve, or even on Christmas. Then, there were the really hard years, when we had a commercially-made travesty that came in a tin...
Mum would send word to her family that we were struggling. Just before Christmas, a box would arrive and inside would be tinned Christmas pud as well as a plucked goose and fresh butter. The goose and butter were expected; they were sent every year. But, oh, what a let down to see that little square cardboard box with the round tin inside.
As with most kids, we were oblivious to budgets and bills, but Christmas pud from the relatives told us that we’d be disappointed if we asked Santa for something as big as a bike or a doll house. That said, my mother was a dyed-in-the-wool traditionalist. She stretched every penny so we’d have a Christmas celebration with all of the trimmings, including a sprig of holly on top of the pud - no matter which version was served.
These days, commercially-made puddings are far better than they were in the 1950s; but, I still get a twinge when I see them on the shelf at the grocery store. Another disappointment on seeing that tin was realizing that we wouldn’t be helping mum with the preparations. No need to. So, that meant we’d miss the stirring in of each ingredient and then the excitement of watching her drop a threepenny bit into the mixture; we’d miss the tantalizing aroma as the pudding steamed on the stove, and then later, at the Christmas feast, we’d also miss the anticipation of wondering who would find the threepenny bit.
Regretfully, I wasn’t very good about writing down my mother’s recipes; the closest reference I’ve found to a pudding that sounds like the simpler one she used to make is in Kevin Danaher’s book, The Year in Ireland. He writes that in Co. Wexford, “Cutlin Pudding” was made on Christmas Eve. Thick porridge made from wheaten meal, sugar, dried fruit and spices were mixed together; the mixture was then gathered into a ball, wrapped in a greased cloth and dropped into boiling water. For how long, I can’t say, but I should imagine it would be for at least two to three hours. (I’d welcome any feedback from experienced steamed pudding makers!)
My mother’s best pudding recipe implied a no-expenses celebration, and for us kids, when we saw what she was up to, visions of bicycles and doll houses danced in our heads!
Several months before preparation day, she’d take a little of her housekeeping money and purchase one or more ingredients. She timed it all out so that everything was set to go about six weeks before the big feast. And then the day would come when she’d announce that it was time to make the pudding. Out would come this vast array of fruits, spices, eggs, even bottles of beer and liquor! Just to be extra nice to Dad, because, after all it was Christmas, she always made the pudding when he was home so he could judge whether or not the mixture had exactly the right “balance”.
I’ve read a good many recipes and the one that follows appears to come closest to what I remember. Truth is, I haven’t tried it. Regretfully, my family prefers trifle, pies, or a Christmas cake to pudding. I will also confess that in a fit of nostalgia, I’ve served the tinned version. Even flamed with brandy and then presented with a fresh sprig of holly, it’s a distant runner-up to my mother’s recipe - rich or simple.
Uncle Arthur’s Christmas Pudding
Originally called Mr. Guinness’s Christmas Pudding, this is a recipe that appears in Georgina Campbell’s Classic Irish Recipes cookbook; she got it from “Uncle Arthur”, the affectionate name for the Guinness Brewery in Dublin. Since Christmas is a time for family, I thought that, in this case, Uncle Arthur would be appropriate.
5 cups fresh whole-wheat breadcrumbs
1 cup dark brown sugar
1 3/4 cups currants
1 3/4 cups raisins, chopped
1 3/4 cups golden raisins
2 ounces chopped mixed peel
10 ounces shredded suet
1/2 level teaspoon salt
2 to 4 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
Grated rind of 1 lemon
2 teaspoons lemon juice
2 large eggs, beaten
1/2 cup skimmed or low-fat milk
1 cup Guinness (If you’re in Ireland, use Guinness Extra)
1. Mix all dry ingredients in a large bowl.
2. Stir in lemon juice, eggs, milk and Guinness and mix well.
3. Generously grease two 2 1/2 pint pudding bowls and line each on bottom with wax paper.
4. Turn mixture into bowls. Cover tightly with several layers of wax paper and foil and leave over night.
5. Place in boiling water and steam for about 7 1/2 hours. Top up with boiling water as needed and be certain not to let the puddings go off the boil.
6. Remove from boiling water and allow to cool. When cool, re-cover the puddings and store in a cool, dry place.
7.When needed for a meal, steam for another 2 to 3 hours and serve with Whiskey Sauce. (recipe follows)
Makes two puddings; each serves 6 to 8.
Irish Whiskey Sauce
2 cups milk
4 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 cup Irish Whiskey to taste (rum or brandy may be substituted)
1. Melt the butter, stir in the flour and cook over low heat for a minute or two.
2. Boil the milk in a separate pan.
3. Gradually add the milk to the butter and flour mixture.
4. Simmer for a few minutes, then sweeten to taste with the sugar
5. Flavor with Irish Whiskey.
Note: My friend and Irish Tips guru, Ruth Mark made this recipe last Christmas. She was concerned about how the puddings might turn out because she didn't make them until right before Christmas. No need to worry - she said that they were delicious! If you'd like to visit Ruth's site, please click here: Irish Life Tips
For another Recipe for Christmas Pudding please click Christmas Pudding2
Resources: Christmas pudding recipe from Classic Irish Recipes by Georgina Campbell ©1991
Photo Credit & Recipe: RTE
Marinated Pork Chops
St. Martin's Day is November 11 and it was customary to eat fresh pork for the main course. With apples also plentiful at this time of year and the weather turning chilly in the Northern hemisphere, the following entree makes for a great marriage of ingredients as well as a hearty, satisfying meal.
4 pork chops
1 onion, finely chopped
1/2 tsp thyme
1 cup cider
2 tbsps oil
1 tbs butter
1/2 cup flour, seasoned with salt and pepper
1 or 2 apples, peeled, cored and sliced
3/4 cup beef or chicken stock
1 tsp honey
1 tsp Dijon style mustard
1. Place chops in oven-proof dish
2. Add the onion and herbs to the cider and pour over the chops
3. Leave for several hours, turning the chops from time to time
4. Drain the chops and dredge them in the seasoned flour, lightly coating both sides
5. Heat the oil and butter in a heavy skillet; sear the chops in the pan, lightly browning on both sides
6. Strain the marinade into a bowl; rinse the baking dish, dry, and then grease. Place a layer of sliced apples on the bottom and put the chops on top
7. Add the onion from the marinade to the fat in the pan, cook until soft and stir in the remaining seasoned flour
8. Allow mixture to brown slightly, stirring constantly. Gradually add the liquid from the marinade and the stock, then sir in the honey and the mustard. Bring to a boil and pour over the chops
9. Preheat oven to 350F degrees. Cover dish with foil and bake for 45 minutes
10. Serve with baby peas, creamed potatoes and a garnish of fresh apple slices and sage leaves.
Recipe & Image: From the book Irish Cooking, compiled by Helen Walsh and photographed by Peter Barry. We have tried without success to locate a retailer for this book. If you know of one, please contact us. Many thanks!
This recipe comes from Aideen, the generous soul who provides the translations and pronunciations for our Irish language pages. Traditionally baked for Hallowe'en, some of the 'lucky' ingredients used and their 'significance' vary from house to house and region to region, so I've given the ones we always used. Two never change - the ring and the coin! Some houses use a pea and a bean for wealth and poverty, a thimble for spinsterhood etc. I have read of a religious medal, to forecast a life in Holy Orders, but I can honestly say I can never remember it being used!
If you're in the USA, you may be used to children having pumpkins for their lanterns.That's not a usual vegetable in Ireland and a hollowed-out turnip is always used. Apart from the Barm Brack, we don't really have any special foods but apples and nuts are always on the table, usually for playing games like 'bob-apple', where apples are put in a big basin of water and the kids have to bite them with their hands behind their backs. It's really only children who celebrate Hallowe'en and the main meal for them in the early evening is more of a 'High Tea' than dinner, with the Barm Brack being the centrepiece and the finding of the 'lucky charms' in it being the high point of the fun.
Barm Brack - Arán Breac (Speckled Bread)
1 lb flour
6 oz sugar
1 lb mixed dried fruit
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp all spice/mixed spice
Pot of hot Irish tea
The 'lucky' ingredients
- a 'gold' ring, to foretell marriage within a year
- a small coin, to forecast wealth
- a small piece of cloth to forecast poverty
- a little piece matchstick to forecast the husband will beat his wife
- a thimble to forecast spinsterhood
- a button to forecast bachelorhood
Wrap each 'lucky' item carefully in greaseproof and/or tissue paper.
The trick to making a Barm Brack is the soaking of fruit overnight in the
tea. While this makes the dried fruit softer and more appealing in general,
one must be careful when mixing the dough not to over-knead or the
rehydrated fruit will break too much. Add the sugar and egg to the fruit mix the next day. Sift in the remaining dry ingredients. Mix gently. Stir in the wrapped 'lucky' items and try to distribute them evenly. Use a 7" round
baking tin at 350°F for 80 minutes. Cool on a wire rack.
The Brack can be made up to a week in advance and stored in an air-tight
container. It is traditional that only he/she who has baked the cake should
cut and serve the slices, as only he/she may know where are the 'lucky'
items and will distribute them equitably!!
Crunchy Apple & Blackberry Crumble
Contributed by Hartson Dowd
"In autumn the hedgerows are bursting with juicy, plump blackberries. Apples are the perfect flavor partner to blackberries, and now is the time when local varieties are in season. Crumbles are a classic and so easy to make. Here is one to welcome in the autumn!"
For the filling:
2lb Bramley or Granny Smith cooking apples
6oz brown sugar
For the topping
8oz plain flour
2oz brown sugar
4oz muesli or a mixture of oats, seeds and chopped nuts
1. Pre-heat the oven to 400F.
2. Peel, core and chop the apples into small chunks. Cut the lemons in half and squeeze the juice over the apple and mix well. This not only adds flavour but prevents the freshly peeled apples from discoloring.
3. Layer the apples, blackberries, and sugar in a large pie dish
4. Place the flour in a large bowl and then rub in the butter until it resembles breadcrumbs - leave a few lumps of butter so that the topping is not too fine. Add the muesli or oat/seed/nut mixture and the sugar and mix through.
5. Use a spoon to sprinkle the crumble topping evenly over the fruit. Bake for 45 minutes or until the fruit is cooked and bubbling juices seep through the topping.
6. Cool for a few minutes and then serve with custard or fresh cream.
Serves 6 to 8
Blackberries Image from All Posters.
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Wed, Feb 27, 2013
"...the freshest of food and
the oldest of drink"
- Irish Proverb
Darina Allen has reissued "A Simply Delicious Christmas". It's a chatty cookbook, annotated with brief childhood tales of making the pudding and suggestions for how best to enjoy the food. But it's also filled with smart tips, such as a guide to the recipes indicating how long before the holidays each dish can be prepared, and suggestions for edible gifts, from truffles to jams. The range of recipes is impressive, with alternate versions of several recipes provided to accommodate fussier eaters. All the traditional favorites are here, along with many new ideas for fabulous holiday entertaining.
Review by Deirdre McFadden.
Click here for Delicious Christmas
Celtic Folklore and Cooking
by Joanne Asala
Feast days, festivals, and informal gatherings all have something in common--food. But choosing the right food for the occasion can be difficult. Celtic Folklore Cooking takes the guesswork out of planning a feast, with plenty of sumptuous ideas for an entire meal, from soup to dessert and even drinks. Joanne Asala gathers generations-old recipes from Wales, Cornwall, Scotland, Ireland, and England, associates them with appropriate festivals and times of the year, then sprinkles a dash of folklore between them. Perhaps you would like to learn the 400-year-old "Song of Harvest Home" while making Marigold Buns? Celtic Folklore Cooking is like having centuries of Celtic tradition in your kitchen, and it will help you find just the right flavor for your festivities. Review by Brian Patterson
Click here for Folklore & Cooking.
The New Irish Table
by Margaret Johnson
Margaret Johnsons love of Ireland permeates page after glorious page of mouthwatering Irish dishes, from Smoked Salmon Chowder to Raspberry Buttermilk Tarts. Lavish color photographs of the food, the landscapes, and the people are woven through the text, making The New Irish Table the next best thing to sitting down to dinner in Ireland itself.
Click here for New Irish Table.
With simple ingredients and easy to follow instructions, these recipes will help the home chef create a rich, plentiful feast! Among the 200 recipes are classics like Irish Stew, as well as Mince Pie, which Oliver Cromwell unsuccessfully attempted to ban because of its then-religious Irish shape. Each of the eleven chapters that puts the food into its context - whether its prepared for a celebration, to welcome guests - or even to seduce! Info' from back cover.
Click here for Feasting Galore.