Sunday 18 August 2019

Trish Deseine: The Traditional Irish Dinner

Pork belly with cider from Home by Trish Deseine, photo Deirdre Rooney
Pork belly with cider from Home by Trish Deseine, photo Deirdre Rooney
Liver and bacon with mash from Home by Trish Deseine, photo Deirdre Rooney
Bacon and cabbage from Home by Trish Deseine, photo Deirdre Rooney
Home, by Trish Deseine, published by Hachette

The traditional Irish dinner can be discovered anew as a culinary delight, writes Trish Deseine in her new book Home

Pork brined in cider with bay leaves

Use only free range, organic pork here. It is not easy to find these days but, thankfully, in Ireland, free range farms, such as Woodside in Cork and Olde Farm in Tipperary, are making a comeback.

Serves 6-8

10 minutes preparation 1 night's brining 1 hour 15 cooking You will need

200g light brown sugar

175g salt

1 tbsp black peppercorns ground coarsely

8 bay leaves

Liver and bacon with mash from Home by Trish Deseine, photo Deirdre Rooney
Liver and bacon with mash from Home by Trish Deseine, photo Deirdre Rooney

1 litre good Irish apple cider

1 pork loin roast (5lbs about)

Olive oil


Put the sugar, salt, pepper, 300ml of water and 2 bay leaves into a saucepan and let them dissolve over a medium heat. Pour this brine into a large bowl, add the cider and leave it to cool. Put the pork and the brine into a very large re-sealable freezer bag, seal and leave to chill in the fridge overnight. Remove the pork from the bag, pat it dry and let it come up to room temperature (about 30 minutes).

Pre-heat the oven to 220°C. Brown the pork in a little oil, either in a pan or in the roasting tin on the hob. Tuck the remaining bay leaves under the string and put the pork in the oven for about 1 hour and 15 minutes. Let the roast rest for 20 minutes before carving and serving.

Liver and bacon with mash and cider braised onions

I once heard Irish actor Gabriel Byrne comment that to make their mark, all Irish writers had to "first get James Joyce off their backs". I wonder if this is how some young and ambitious Irish chefs wanting to champion Irish food abroad might feel too. It's certainly Bloom's meal in Ulysses, of cider, mashed potatoes, bacon and liver slices at the Ormond Hotel that makes this dish say "Dublin" so clearly to me, even though I have never eaten it there.

Serves 4

10 minutes preparation 25 minutes cooking You will need

1kg fluffy potatoes

75g butter (or hot milk, optional)

Bacon and cabbage from Home by Trish Deseine, photo Deirdre Rooney
Bacon and cabbage from Home by Trish Deseine, photo Deirdre Rooney

4 slices calf's liver

4 slices back bacon

Salt and pepper

For the onions:

30g butter

1 large onion

Salt and pepper

300 ml cider


Peel the potatoes and boil for 20 minutes until they are soft. Mash them with butter, and a little hot milk, if you like and keep warm. While the potatoes are cooking, melt the butter in the pan and start to fry the onions. Season lightly and cook on a gentle heat until they soften and begin to brown.

Add the cider, stir and let the onions simmer gently for 5 minutes or so until most of the liquid has reduced. Remove from the pan and keep warm. Heat a little more butter in the pan and fry the liver until it is slightly crispy at the edges and still a little pink inside. Fry or grill the bacon until it is crispy. Season the onions before serving with the mash, liver and bacon.

Bacon and cabbage

By Seamus Hogan

Have a warm, strawed shed ready, as well as an ample trough and access to fresh water. Then choose an old breed of pig - I am partial to Saddlebacks - and buy two Bonhams of the same sex that are 10 weeks old and have been weaned at least two weeks already. Do not buy pigs without teeth or tails! Above all, buy from a reputable breeder.

And don't be afraid to chat about your project. Most pig people love to talk about pigs. For example, you will need to know what the piglets have been fed on up to this time, as a sudden change of diet for a young pig is often fatal.

Why two pigs, one might ask? Well, almost all animals are social and none more so than pigs. So two is company.

Returning to the shed. It is important that the pigs have access to a run where they can get out and root. If you are new to rearing pigs, what will strike you first is that the expression "Like a pig in s***" is a load of, well, s***. They are, I think, the cleanest of our domestic animals, and when possible will always go outside to go if they can.

I am no gardener, so if you are like me, then team up with someone who is green-fingered and decide on which variety of floury potato you wish to grow to accompany your bacon and cabbage. Even though it is a long way away, the day will come when your pigs will become pork and bacon and sausages and puddings and all manner of wonderful things, so get yourself a copy of Jane Grigson's Charcuterie And French Pork Cookery. It is also a good thing to prevent one from getting too attached to one's pigs. They do make great pals, so be careful.

We can now skip to the point where the potatoes and cabbage are ready and your pigs have moved to the barrel, the fridge and the freezer. If you want, you can cure your own bacon, but I found a butcher that cured mine for me.* Any piece of mild cured bacon will be lovely, but I find that a piece of bacon from the belly - streaky bacon as it is called - is the tastiest at the end of the day. For two people, a pound of bacon should be plenty.

Cut your head of cabbage in two and remove the core. Discard the outer leaves but not all the green leaves. Place the cabbage in a saucepan, and onto this place the bacon. Around the bacon, place four potatoes and pour enough water into the pot to just cover the potatoes and bacon. Bring to the boil and simmer gently until the potatoes are cooked - or "smiling", as I have heard my mother describe them. Then remove the potatoes and bacon and place on a warm plate and cover with a dish cloth.

Drain most, but not all, of the water from the cabbage, leaving a few tablespoons for taste. Toss in a lump of butter and chop up the cabbage, but not too finely. Slice your bacon thinly, not skinny, and serve with the potatoes, cabbage and lots of lovely butter. And a pinch of salt on the potatoes is a must. In Cork, people are said to "Ate their spuds, skins an all". I have not seen it myself.

*O Connell's, Little Catherine St, Limerick

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