Blackberry Jam

by Kristin on September 6, 2013

It was a verb that stopped me in my tracks last Friday: was.

‘The best Irish poet since Yeats, Heaney was 74.’ And then the sinking realisitation of exactly what that past tense was meant — the death of Seamus Heaney, Ireland’s most beloved poet. One week on, the nation is still reeling from the loss.

Heaney often wrote about food:* oysters, potatoes, grain, sloe gin, milk, mint, butter, blackberries. Scones ‘rising / to the tick of two clocks’. Butter being churned into ‘coagulated sunlight’. Fodder ‘falling at your feet, / last summer’s tumbled / swathes of grass / and meadowsweet’. ‘I was all hers as we peeled potatoes.’ Threshed corn that ‘lay piled like grit of ivory’. Oyster shells that ‘clacked on the plates’ and whose ‘tang / Might quicken me all into verb, pure verb’. Mint ‘Growing wild at the gable of the house’ that ‘spelled promise / And newness’.

Food is part and parcel of what I love best about Heaney’s poetry: the way he could shine a light on ordinary moments of quiet, everyday domesticity to reveal their beauty and grace, like these lines from ‘Mossbawn: Sunlight’, where the act of baking is elevated into an expression of love:

here is a space
again, the scone rising
to the tick of two clocks.

And here is love
like a tinsmith’s scoop
sunk past its gleam
in the meal-bin.

If you are at all literary minded and live in Ireland, chances are that you associate the end of August or the first sighting of fat, ripe blackberries in the hedgerows with Heaney’s poem ‘Blackberry-Picking’:

Late August, given heavy rain and sun
For a full week, the blackberries would ripen.
At first, just one, a glossy purple clot
Among others, red, green, hard as a knot.

You ate that first one and its flesh was sweet
Like thickened wine: summer’s blood was in it
Leaving stains upon the tongue and lust for

We headed down to a nearby lane two nights ago and picked a heaping bowl full of wild blackberries. But what to do with them? I had to make my mind up quick, for ‘Once off the bush … the sweet flesh would turn sour’:

I always felt like crying. It wasn’t fair
That all the lovely canfuls smelt of rot.
Each year I hoped they’d keep, knew they would not.

I turned them into jam that night, suspending the sunny September evening in darkly gleaming jars — a way to make them ‘keep’ after all, even when so much else is fleeting.

Wild Blackberry Jam

Makes about 1 litre

A few tips before you begin: You’ll be working with a big pot of boiling sugar, which can burn badly. Keep kids out of the kitchen (or make your jam after they’ve gone to bed) and be mindful of your own safety too. Don’t be tempted to lick the spoon for a little taste!

When making preserves, you need to use spotlessly clean, sterile jars, lids and rings (if using a Kilner/Le Parfait type of jar). If you have a dishwasher, you can simply run everything through a hot cycle. Otherwise, wash everything in hot, soapy water, rinse well, then place the jars and lids on a baking tray in an oven heated to 140°C (285°F) and keep them there until you’re ready to use them.

1kg (2lb) blackberries
1kg (2lb) caster sugar
juice of 1 large lemon (about 100ml/3.5 fl oz)

Place a saucer in the freezer for testing the jam later (have a look at this one-minute video on how to test jam using the wrinkle test).

Gently wash the blackberries, discarding any stems. Tip them into a large preserving pan or a non-reactive pot along with the sugar and the lemon juice. Cook over a medium heat until the sugar dissolves, stirring frequently with a long-handled spoon, then raise the heat and bring everything to a boil. Keep at a steady boil for 10 to 15 minutes, stirring frequently. Start testing the jam after 10 minutes. Place a teaspoonful of the jam onto the freezer-cold plate and push it with your finger — when it wrinkles up, it’s ready. Remove from the heat and skim off any foam that might still be on the surface.

Pour the jam into warm, dry, sterilised jars (see above) to within a few millimetres of the rim and seal immediately. Store in a cool, dry place and use within 2 years.

* Here are some of Heaney’s poems that deal with food if you would like to seek them out. His book Opened Ground: Selected Poems 1966–1996 is a good place to start: ‘Digging’, ‘Churning Day’, ‘The Barn’, ‘Fodder’, ‘Mossbawn: Sunlight’, ‘Oysters’, ‘Sloe Gin’, ‘The Milk Factory’, ‘Mint’, ‘When All the Others Were Away at Mass’.



5 Irish Summer Cookbooks

by Kristin on July 25, 2013

For the first time since I moved to Ireland 14 years ago, I’ve been avoiding turning on my oven for the past month. I’ve also kept the shades drawn to keep rooms cool, thrown open every window and the kitchen door all day long and dragged the fan down from the attic. In a country whose climate is usually more suited to stews and casseroles and long, slow braises on a cold rainy day, a spate of hot sunny weather like we’ve been having this July can leave you at a loss for what to cook outside of your usual repertoire. After all, we’re more accustomed to the dark, cozy pub than sunny poolsides. Here are some cookbooks — some new and some oldies but goodies worth revisiting — that have been getting a lot of play time in my kitchen this summer.

Relish BBQ by Rozanne Stevens

Launched in May, Rozanne’s new cookbook couldn’t have been better timed. Rozanne, who is originally from South Africa, has put her own al fresco spin on 10 different world cuisines (South African, Irish, Thai, Indian, Italian, Mozambique, Chinese, Mexican, Greek, American). The salads are particularly tempting and you’ll never want to settle for a bottled barbecue sauce again after trying these marinades, bastes and sauces.

Recipes to try: Black pudding burgers; soy-glazed salmon burgers; strawberry chilli flattie chicken; smoked paprika BBQ pork chops with guava salsa; BBQ prawn, avocado and melon salad; Monica’s berry Baileys meringue roulade.

Fresh from the Sea by Clodagh McKenna

Fish is the ultimate fast food, often taking only minutes to cook, which makes it perfect for those summer evenings when you want to escape the heat of the kitchen. With beautiful photography and celebrating some of Ireland’s fishermen and artisan producers, this cookbook focuses solely on seafood (with a few sides and desserts thrown in at the end for good measure) and is made for summer, when you want fast, light food.

Recipes to try: Roasted herb-crusted mussels; pan-seared scallops with smoked streaky bacon; crab cakes with lime guacamole; hake seared in a sun-dried tomato tapenade; smoked salmon mousse; chilli fried mackerel; marinated salmon in mint and lemon.

Martin & Paul’s Surf ‘n’ Turf by Martin Shanahan and Paul Flynn

One of my favourite new cookbooks last year, this is a collaboration between Paul Flynn, chef/owner at The Tannery in Co. Waterford, and Martin Shanahan, chef/owner at Fishy Fishy in Cork. At this time of year, the Salads and Quick chapters are the most well-thumbed, with plenty of recipes that are perfect for weeknight suppers, no matter which camp — surf or turf — you fall into.

Recipes to try: Crab claws, lemon, chilli and basil cream; mussels with sweet chilli and lime butter; butterbeans, chorizo and cider; grilled scallops, black pudding, lemon and thyme dressing.

Neven’s Food from the Sun by Neven Maguire

Inspired by Neven’s annual travels abroad, this book brings a bit of the sunny holiday flavours of Spain, Thailand and the Mediterranean to your kitchen. A little taste of the costas here at home in Ireland.

Recipes to try: Oven-roasted Dublin Bay prawns with tomato and chilli; crispy fried squid with harissa and creme fraiche; spicy chicken and mango noodles; baked Mediterranean vegetables with tomato, Cooleeney cheese and Parmesan; pineapple tarte tatin; coconut creme caramel.

Murphy’s Ice Cream Book of Sweet Things by Seán and Kieran Murphy

Summer. Ice cream. Need I say more? But if you need further convincing, Murphy’s is one of Ireland’s best-loved ice creams. Handmade in Dingle with milk from Kerry cows and premium ingredients, they say it best themselves: it’s ice cream that knows where it’s coming from. Head over to Bibliocook for an in-depth review of the book.


Elderflower Fritters

by Kristin on July 16, 2013

With the hot, sunny weather we’ve been having these past two weeks, the musky scent of elderflower hangs heavy in the still air, perfuming the countryside and drifting in the open windows at night as we fall off to sleep.

The elderflower was late to bloom this year, but the trees have made up for the delay by being especially abundant. After making the obligatory batch of cordial, I wanted to experiment with something new to me this year: elderflower fritters. The fritters are basically just deep-fried flowers; it’s like crossing the notorious fried foods of an American state fair with the Irish countryside. Delicate, crisp, sweet and floral, they are ethereally delicious.

The elderflowers are already starting to turn and by next week the flowers will be past their prime, so if you want to bring them into your kitchen, do it quick, before it’s too late this year.

*For more elderflower and wild food recipes, check out the archive.

Elderflower Fritters
adapted from Nigel Slater in The Guardian

Serves 4–6

The best time to pick elderflowers is on a dry, warm day, well away from traffic and roadsides. Shake the flowers gently to get rid of any insects.

100g plain flour
175ml sparkling water
sunflower oil
caster sugar
1 egg white
12–16 elderflower heads
gooseberry and elderflower compote, to serve (optional)

Sift the flour into a large bowl, then add the sparkling water and 2 tablespoons of the sunflower oil. Whisk together until a thick paste forms, then stir in 1 tablespoon of the caster sugar. Set aside for 30 minutes (don’t be tempted to skip this resting time, it’s essential for a light result). Just before you’re ready to fry the elderflowers, beat an egg white and fold it into the batter.

Gently swirl the elderflower heads in a bowl of cold water to clean them, then lightly shake them dry. Line a plate with some kitchen paper and sprinkle a good few tablespoons of caster sugar into a shallow dish.

Pour about 3cm (1 inch) of sunflower oil into a heavy-bottomed, deep-sided pan and heat the oil until it reaches 180°C (350°F). (If you don’t have a thermometer, you can test that the oil is hot enough by dropping in a cube of bread — the oil is ready when the bread turns golden in just a few seconds.) Dip the elderflowers into the batter and lower them into the oil. Fry for 1 to 2 minutes, until the batter is golden and crisp. Lift out and blot on the kitchen paper-lined plate to soak up any excess oil, then dip into the dish of caster sugar. Eat the fritters straightaway, while they are hot and crisp, pulling the fried flowers off the thick woody stems. You can serve them with a gooseberry and elderflower compote, but they are a delicious, decadent summertime treat just on their own.



by Kristin on June 20, 2013

Oh, Ireland. On a warm, sunny day, all is forgiven. The coldest spring on record that we just had? Let’s not speak of it. The past few washout summers? A distant memory. That day last year in July that I looked out my window at yet another cold, rainy day and actually cried? I’m not holding a grudge.

I’m not greedy. I don’t need, or even want, sweltering Continental temperatures. 20°C (70°F) qualifies as a scorcher here and suits me just fine: warm enough to sit outside with a book, maybe even without a jacket. Is a mere 20°C too much to ask for? Well, yes, apparently. Two weeks ago we had the best weather we’ve seen in years and it was “only” in the low 20°s (70°s) — old American me is laughing at how I now consider that to be a heat wave. In the 14 years I’ve been living here, I’ve never seen the beach as crowded as it was that weekend. Just look at that blue! Not a cloud in the sky, not a care in the world.

Such (rare) spectacular summer weather calls for something cold and refreshing to drink. There are the obvious choices — Pimm’s, G&Ts, maybe even an elderflower Bellini — and those are all fine if you just want one or two. But if you’re looking for something to sip over a long, hot afternoon, a shandy is the drink for you.

Beer cocktails are all the rage now, but the old school shandy isn’t getting much air time. In Ireland, a shandy is simply half beer, half lemonade, but check out all the versions of a shandy around the world, from a black shandy in Canada (stout and lemon soda) to a brass monkey in the US (beer and orange juice) or a tango in Portugal (beer and gooseberry cordial). A rock shandy refers to a non-alcoholic shandy, usually half lemon soda, half orange soda. And despite its wimpy image, shandy is a great drink if you’re out for the night and want to pace yourself.

My idea of a perfect summer day is pretty simple: a good book, a lounger, plenty of sun and something nice to drink. I’m keeping my fingers crossed for lots more shandy weather this year.


sparkling lemonade
light lager beer or pilsner

Half-fill a pint glass with the beer, then top up with sparkling lemonade — though you can of course adjust the ratio of beer to lemonade to your own taste. You could also try some of these variations in place of the lemonade:

  • Ginger beer or ginger ale (in which case, it becomes a shandygaff)
  • Orange soda (called a quianti in Argentina)
  • 7Up (called a Snow White in the Netherlands or a panaché in France)
  • Cola (called a diesel in Portugal and Germany)
  • Apple juice
  • Strawberry chile syrup


Postcards from Ireland #12

by Kristin on June 14, 2013

The Great Beech of Balrath Woods, County Meath.

You can see more of my photos on Instagram as edibleireland.

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Honest2Goodness Market

by Kristin on May 2, 2013

I have high expectations when it comes to farmers’ markets. Before I moved to Ireland I was living in Madison, the capital city of Wisconsin and home to the biggest producer-only farmers’ market in America. With 300 vendors, it completely encircles the huge capitol building and has everything you could possible need or want and a great buzz. It’s pretty hard to compete with.

Nicola from The Big Red Kitchen

I’ve been to plenty of fantastic markets around Ireland — the English Market in Cork, Limerick’s Milk Market or Belfast’s St George’s Market — but there’s no market in Louth, where I live, where you could do all your weekly shopping. A weekly market has finally started up in Drogheda, but only after I moved away and it’s on Fridays, which would mean taking a day off work to go to it. Until recently, any local markets were usually only run once a month, which is all well and good for a fun little weekend outing and if all you want is some nice olives or a pot pie to have for lunch or some handmade candles. But it’s no use at all if you’re hoping to connect with and support local producers in a meaningful way.

Lisa from The Natural Sauce Company

Which is all to say that Honest2Goodness is the market I’ve been hoping to find all these years. It does what it says on the tin — it’s a real deal, honest to goodness market where you can buy everything from basics like bread, milk and eggs to meat, fish and preserves through to baked treats and wine. Brid Carter, who runs the market, also set up The Pantry section specifically to stock everyday essentials so that regular market customers would only need to visit a big supermarket about once a month.


Pat O’Dwyer, aka The Spud Man

There’s a café on site too, where everything is sourced from the market. You can have a ham sandwich, then go meet the people who baked the bread and raised the pigs for the ham. How’s that for provenance?

Beautiful treats from The Wild Flour Bakery

The market is full of many, many good things, but here are some of my highlights:

  • The pineapple and chilli chutney and pear and vanilla jam from The Big Red Kitchen. The (very!) good news is that you can also order Nicola’s products online.
  • The romesco, muhammara and harissa sauces from Lisa and Ailbhe’s Natural Sauce Company are the best new products I’ve tasted this year. I was blown away by the bold, fresh flavours. The sauces last for a month in the fridge and can be frozen too, so stock up if you can.
  • Gorgeous sourdough breads from Arun Bakery, made by Vlad Rannis, a master baker from Prague.
  • Old school treats like homemade marshmallows, florentines and chocolate biscuit cake from Blas na Talún.
  • Pat O’Dwyer, aka the Spud Man, sells a wide range of seasonal fruit and vegetables, which are Irish wherever possible. Anyone looking for Irish apples or picture perfect produce (food bloggers, I’m looking at you), head here for beautiful French garlic or unwaxed lemons with the stems and leaves still attached.
  • The delicious treats from Sticky Fingers Bakery — you’d never guess they’re all gluten free.
  • Anything and everything from My Mexican Shop. I’ve been buying toritllas, tostadas and chipotles from Lily since she launched her business, but I’m crazy about the Gran Luchito Chili Paste she just started stocking.
  • Kate Packwood at the Wild Flour Bakery is surely one of Ireland’s most innovative, creative bakers, layering flavours in imaginative and beautiful ways. Weeks after visiting, I’m still thinking about her caramel and sea salt brownies — the best I’ve ever had. Get to her stall early though, because she regularly sells out.

Brid’s enthusiasm, energy and generosity are infectious and I only wish her market was closer to where I live. Couldn’t the Honest2Goodness market be copied elsewhere, especially given all the empty industrial estates all over the country? And wouldn’t everyone — farmers, food producers, consumers and the community — all be the better for it if it was?

136a Slaney Close
Dublin Industrial Estate
Dublin 11
Open Saturdays, 9:30 to 4:00


Wild Garlic Pesto

by Kristin on April 10, 2013

I was under deadline pressure, so my husband threw the wellies into the car and took the kids out of the house on a recent Saturday so I could get some work done. They came back a few hours later, running in to where I sat at my computer, saying, “We got you a surprise. Close your eyes!” I could smell it before I saw it — a bag full of freshly picked wild garlic.

My mother used to say that she felt like spring had arrived when the pastel-coloured M&Ms arrived in the shop. I know spring is here when the forest floor becomes a carpet of wild garlic. It gives new meaning to the Emerald Isle nickname at this time of year.

Wild garlic has long been prized in Ireland. In their new book, Wild Food* (a must-have for anyone interested in foraging), Biddy White Lennon and Evan Doyle write: “The early Celts appreciated wild garlic so much that annual wild garlic feasts had to be provided by the lower orders for their chiefs and kings … The Irish Brehon Law tracts (in use in Ireland from two and a half thousand years ago to until nearly the end of the sixteenth century) define the amount of garlic to be served as a relish as four stalks to each loaf of bread. It is widely used in salads, as a pot herb with fish, to flavour soups, stews, potato dishes, breads, scones, savoury pies and tarts. As a medicine it was mixed with honey for coughs, colds and chest complaints.”

If you want to know more about wild garlic (and a range of other wild foods), you can find fantastic downloads on the Wild & Slow website, including details of where to find it, colour photos of what it looks like, instructions on how to pick it, use it and preserve it plus a few recipes that include it. Georgina Campbell has also featured a few recipes from Wild Food in her April ezine.

I love to slice it into ribbons and add it to soda bread or stir it into mashed potatoes — like a wild version of colcannon — and this wild garlic, leek and potato bake from the Wild Food book sounds tempting too, but my favourite thing to do with it is to make big batches of pesto. It has all the same ingredients as a regular basil pesto, but the zippy, slightly grassy wild garlic makes a much punchier pesto. “Use it to impress as a dressing over salads, bake into your favourite bread dough, add to any pasta dish or mix with butter and slip under the skin of a chicken roast,” say Biddy White Lennon and Evan Doyle. Whatever you plan to do with it, just be sure to make a lot — it freezes beautifully, so scale up this recipe to make extra for a taste of springtime later in the year.

Wild Garlic Pesto

Makes 250ml (1 cup)

In their book Wild Food,* Biddy White Lennon and Evan Doyle advise using Kilner jars to store your pesto in, as the wild garlic and oil react with metal lids. I always make wild garlic pesto with a good squeeze of lemon juice to brighten the flavour, but feel free to leave it out.

50g (2 oz) Parmesan cheese
25g (1/4 cup) pine nuts
50g (2 oz) wild garlic leaves, stems removed
200ml (3/4 cup) rapeseed oil or extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice, or to taste
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Break off a 50g (2 oz) chunk of Parmesan cheese and cut it into a few slices. Place in a food processor and whizz until it’s roughly grated. Tip the cheese into a bowl and set aside. Place the pine nuts in the food processor and pulse until they’re roughly chopped. Tip into the bowl with the cheese. Doing it this way makes a pesto with some texture to it, which I love; if you’re not fussy about it, just blend the cheese, pine nuts and wild garlic together all at the same time.

Place the wild garlic in the food processor and whizz until it’s finely chopped. With the motor running, slowly pour in the oil until a thick sauce has formed (you might not need all the oil). Add in the lemon juice and pulse again to combine. Remove the blade from the food processor and stir in the Parmesan, pine nuts and a generous amount of salt and pepper. Taste the pesto and adjust the seasoning or add in more lemon juice if you want a little more zing.

Spoon the pesto into a clean Kilner jar (see note above) and store in the fridge for 1 or 2 weeks. This also freezes very well.

*I received a review copy of Wild Food from the publisher, O’Brien Press.


Beef and Irish Stout Stew

by Kristin on March 14, 2013

I have a confession to make: I don’t like Guinness.

When I first moved to Ireland, I tried to like it. I was determined to like it. It was practically my patriotic duty to like it, wasn’t it?

At my first publishing job in Temple Bar in Dublin, the five of us who worked there would often go to the pub for lunch together, and the man from Manchester who I worked with would sometimes skip food altogether and only have a pint of plain. My husband would order it in the pub, sigh contentedly after the first long sip and say, Now that’s a good pint, not that I could ever tell the difference between a good one and all the rest.

My first six months here I kept ordering it in pubs in the hopes that it might be an acquired taste, but I could only ever get halfway through the pints. I moved to Ireland in May but I officially gave up by Christmas. I was out with the same publishing crowd at the Stag’s Head in Dublin and they suggested I order it with a shot of blackcurrant syrup, saying a lot of girls drink it that way. It made it taste even worse — think cough syrup mixed with beer — and I could only take one sip before pushing away the glass. It was ales and lagers and Pinot Grigio for me after that.

But here’s the thing: it took me over 10 years to realise that Guinness and stout are not one and the same, and that even though I don’t like Guinness, Ireland has more to offer than that. The light bulb moment came at a beer tasting at the first Inishfood festival in 2011, when I was handed a cup of Dark Arts. Ugh, stout, I thought, but I guess I may as well try it, it would be rude not to. Instead of the metallic tang of Guinness, I tasted roasted coffee. I took another sip, and tasted chocolate. Cue Green Eggs and Ham–style revelation: Say! I do like stout! I’ve been making up for lost time ever since. Oh hello, Belfast Black, Carraig Dubh, Leann Folláin and Knockmealdown Porter, where have you been all my life?

Irish food

Before I started drinking stout, I would still buy a few bottles from time to time to cook with when I made Nigella Lawson’s chocolate Guinness cake, Catherine Fulvio’s apricot, date and Guinness slices or Jamie Oliver’s steak, cheddar and Guinness pot pie. These days, though, I cook with (and drink!) a craft beer instead — all that flavour goes right into the pot, making a classic beef and stout stew even better. As the saying goes, there’s both eating and drinking in it. Sláinte!

Beef and Irish Stout Stew

Serves 4

My version of this classic stew has a secret ingredient: some dried porcini mushrooms and their soaking liquid for an extra umami hit. To make this into a one-pot meal, add some whole or halved baby potatoes right into the stew along with the stout, beef stock and herbs instead of serving with mashed potatoes. Or for an extra-comforting version, try adding dumplings to the stew, like Nessa does.

Craft beers to try in this recipe — and, of course, to sip alongside it — are Dungarvan Black Rock Irish Stout, Eight Degrees Knockmealdown Porter, O’Hara’s Leann Folláin Stout or Whitewater Brewery Belfast Black.

olive oil
1 kg (2 lb) stewing beef, cut into 1-inch pieces
25 g (1/4 cup) flour
salt and freshly ground black pepper
10 g (1/3 cup) dried porcini mushrooms
4 carrots, cut into thick slices
2 onions, roughly chopped
3 large garlic cloves, chopped
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon dark soy sauce
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
500 ml (2 cups) Irish stout
500 to 750 ml (2 to 3 cups) beef stock
freshly ground black pepper
2 bay leaves
champ, colcannon or mashed potatoes, to serve
chopped fresh parsley, to garnish

Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F).

Heat some olive oil over a medium heat in a Dutch oven or a large, heavy-bottomed pot. While the oil is heating up, pat the beef dry with paper towels and toss it in the flour seasoned with some salt and pepper, making sure all the pieces have a dusting of flour. Tap off any excess flour, then brown the beef in batches in the pot for about 5 minutes per batch, turning occasionally. Don’t crowd the pot, otherwise the beef will steam instead of brown, and don’t be tempted to raise the heat too high or the flour will stick to the bottom of the pot too much. Transfer the browned beef to a plate and set aside.

While the beef is browning, put the dried mushrooms in a bowl and pour over 125 ml (1/2 cup) just-boiled water to rehydrate them. Set them aside to steep.

Once all the beef is browned, add the carrots and onions to the pot along with a pinch of salt to keep the onions from browning. Cook for 10 minutes, until the vegetables are softened. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Strain the mushrooms from their soaking liquid (save the liquid!) and finely chop them, then add them to the pot along with the tomato paste, Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce and thyme, stirring to coat all the vegetables. Cook for 1 minute more.

Add in a little of the stout to deglaze the pot, scraping up as much of the browned bits as you can. Add in the rest of the stout, the mushroom soaking liquid and 500 ml (2 cups) of the beef stock, then add the beef back to the pot along with any juices from the plate and a generous grinding of black pepper. Stir to combine everything, then drop in 2 bay leaves.

Cover the stew and bring it to a boil, then either transfer it to the oven and let it cook for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, or else reduce the heat to medium and simmer it, uncovered, on the stovetop. Either way, stir it from time to time and add in any or all of the remaining 250 ml (1 cup) of beef stock if you think it needs it. The stew is done when the beef is fork tender and the liquid has reduced and thickened a bit.

To serve, spoon off any fat that may have risen to the top of the stew and taste for seasoning. Spoon some champ, colcannon or mashed potatoes into individual shallow bowls or plates, making a well in the centre. Ladle the stew on top of the potatoes, garnish with the chopped parsley and serve. Like most stews, this one actually improves in flavour after a day, so the leftovers are even better.


Postcards from Ireland #11

by Kristin on March 8, 2013

The entrance to the 5,200-year-old passage tomb at Newgrange, Co. Meath.

You can see more of my photos on Instagram as edibleireland.


Dublin Coddle

by Kristin on February 28, 2013

In Ireland, people don’t say How are you?, they say, What’s the story? They say, Sit down. Have a cup of tea. Come here to me, wait till I tell you. Because people want to hear the story. There’s always a story.

Ireland is a country in love with language, with words, with writing. The Long Hall in Trinity College, built in the 1700s, is one of the most beautiful libraries in the world. Before the euro, there was even a writer, James Joyce, on the £10 note. In his visit to Dublin last year for his Layover TV show, Anthony Bourdain said, ‘It seems that every great poem, every great story, every great thing ever written not by a Russian was written by an Irishman. Point is, they like books around here.’

Then there’s the slang. When I moved here, not only did I have to work hard to understand the accent, but Irish slang is like a language all its own. Fourteen years later, I’m still learning. Go away out of that. I’m as sick as the plane to Lourdes. The head on him and the price of turnips. Sure this is it. I still sometimes get that panicked, apologetic smile when I haven’t quite caught someone’s meaning or the lilt of their accent and have to lean in closer while I ask them to repeat themselves.

Roddy Doyle said, ‘Dublin is the sound of people talking. Dublin city is the sound of people who love talking, people who love words, who love taking words and playing with them, twisting and bending them, making short ones longer and the long ones shorter, people who love inventing words and giving fresh meaning to old ones.’

Take this, the capital’s namesake dish: Dublin coddle. When I asked some Irish friends if anyone actually ever eats it, a born and bred Dub compared the boiled sausages you’d commonly find in it to ‘widows’ memories’ (I’ll leave that one to your imagination). It was said to be a favourite dish of Jonathan Swift and Seán O’Casey, two more wordsmiths, and James Joyce referred to it in Finnegan’s Wake (‘to cuddle up in a coddlepot’). The name of the dish itself comes from the verb coddle, which means to gently cook in liquid just below boiling, which itself comes from the word caudle, a hot drink given to the sick in the Middle Ages.

Can an expat – a blow-in no matter how long you live here, no matter how firmly you try to put your roots down since they don’t go deep – ever really know a place? The way I finally hit on was through the lens of Ireland’s food. I may not have grown up eating Dublin coddle or soda bread or seed cake, but I’m learning to love them now. I’m still trying to make this place mine, one new dish, one new word at a time: barmbrack, boxty, colcannon, coddle.

‘If you’ve got any kind of a heart, a soul, an appreciation for your fellow man, or any kind of appreciation for the written word … then there’s no way you could avoid loving this city,’ said Anthony Bourdain. Beneath its tough, gritty, ‘dirty old town’ veneer, Dublin is all heart. And the city — this country — now has mine. Come here to me and wait till I tell you.

Dublin Coddle

Serves 4

Traditionally, Dublin coddle is made simply by throwing all the ingredients into a pot and cooking them together for hours. The result, though, isn’t the most aesthetically pleasing, or the tastiest: ‘slimy onions and slimy sausages’, as someone put it on Twitter. Even Darina Allen says in her book Irish Traditional Cooking that when cooked that way, it looks ‘distinctly unappetising (lots of chopped parsley scattered over the top would take the harm out of the sausages, which still appear to be raw)’. Like any good soup, the key to this dish is to spend a bit of time at the start by browning the sausages and onions, though apparently this step is a bit controversial. ‘The sausages are supposed to be pink and raw looking. Sorts the men from the boys,’ said Séan. ‘You browned the sausages? I heard only Protestants do that!’ said Claire. And of course, since there are so few ingredients, use the best sausages, the best bacon and the best produce you can find for some pure Dub comfort food.

olive oil or rapeseed oil
450 g (1 lb) good-quality butcher’s sausages
200 g smoked streaky bacon or rashers, chopped into bite-sized pieces
2 onions, sliced
450 g (1 lb) baby potatoes, halved
500 ml (2 cups) chicken stock
salt and freshly ground black pepper
a small bunch of fresh parsley, chopped
good crusty bread, to serve

Heat a splash of olive or rapeseed oil in the bottom of a large, heavy-bottomed pot over a medium heat. Add in the sausages and cook on all sides just until they have a nice colour. Transfer them to a plate, then add the bacon and sliced onions to the pot. Cook for about 10 minutes, until the onions have softened and have a little colour. Add in the halved baby potatoes and transfer the sausages back to the pot, then pour over the stock. Season with some salt and pepper, but go easy on the salt because the sausages, bacon and stock will already be salty. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat, cover the pot and simmer for 1 hour, until the potatoes are cooked through. Stir through the chopped fresh parsley and ladle into soup bowls. Serve with plenty of crusty bread to soak up the broth.

If you don’t want to make Dublin coddle yourself, you can find it on the menu at these Dublin restaurants: The Gravediggers pub (aka John Kavanagh’s) in Glasnevin, Gallagher’s Boxty House in Temple Bar or The Bakehouse on Bachelor’s Walk or in the IFSC.