Tuesday 12 December 2017

Gaelic grub

Traditionally, Barm Brack, a delicious sweet bread packed with dried fruit and candied peel, is served at Halloween. The name comes from the Irish bairín breac, or speckled bread, thanks to the fruit scattered through the loaf.

In the old days, little tokens wrapped in cloth were hidden in the dough and baked with the cake: a ring, a coin, a pea and perhaps a thimble.

Whoever got the slice with the ring in it would be married within the year; the money signified wealth; the pea, poverty; and the thimble, spinsterhood.

Colcannon is about as traditional an Irish dish as you can get, a blend of mashed potatoes mixed with cabbage. Purists insist that kale should be the brassica of choice in this dish, but since the name of the dish comes from the Irish cál ceannann, or white cabbage, I'll stick with cabbage.

The Scots have a similar traditional dish, shredded onion and cabbage mixed with mashed potatoes and baked with a topping of cheese, which is magnificently named rumbledethumps.

Champ is another Irish potato dish, closely related to colcannon, in which finely chopped scallions or green onions are mixed with mashed potatoes moistened with hot milk with a well of melted butter on the top. Champ means to bruise or pound, hence the other name for the dish, poundies.

Dublin Lawyer is a traditional but not quite so luxurious dish that has been around for a long time. It features lobster cooked in a lot of butter, cream and whiskey and served in the shell. No one is sure how it got its name, but the suspicion is that it was an expensive dish and lawyers were the only people who could afford it.

Yellowman is a sweet inextricably linked to the Old Lammas Fair, which has been held since the 16th century in Ballycastle, Co Antrim.

Made by boiling together golden syrup, brown sugar, butter and vinegar it becomes a delicious honeycomb, a bit like a Crunchie without the chocolate covering, thanks to the reaction of bread soda added at the end with the vinegar.

Irish Independent

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