St Patrick’s Day brings with it lots of excitement throughout Ireland, not least when you see the level of celebrations being held throughout the world.
Indeed Irish Food is taking centre stage in the World Food Scene in recent times.
With the increase in international students travelling to Dublin to attend our 4 week and 8 week cooking courses, we have experienced a renewed interest in our older “Irish Recipes” which we have loved in the school since we opened our doors 10 years ago.
I think every Irish child has memories of eating scones as a treat. My grandma used to have them freshly baked when we arrived home from school during the cold damp winter months. They are particularly good with lashings of Irish butter and raspberry jam.
One of my greatest pleasures in the cookery school is when we welcome our students on their first day with some refreshments and these very simple scones. They really are the easiest scones to prepare and the secret to their success lies in a very light kneading of the dough. We have lots of different scone recipes, but the day I made these scones, people commented on how the taste reminded them of “old fashioned” scones and it’s because they are not full of butter, cream and sugar which so many more modern scone recipes contain.
Trust me, when you need to make a scone quick, these are the ones you can trust.
Cauliflowers grow fantastically in our Irish climate and are often overlooked (apart from Cauliflower with Cheese sauce which is a firm family favourite across the land).
We truly enjoy cauliflower soup, which is rich and creamy and always goes down well in the cookery classes. As with most soups, it is the extent to which you whizz your soup that delivers a smooth velvety texture which is infinitely more enjoyable to eat.
Popular ways to tart up your cauliflower soup include adding a pinch of nutmeg or chorizo or chilli, so try them when you feel like it. I think someone snuck a little roasted red pepper into this one (see pic.) as a garnish, but in a cookery school, creativity is both accepted and encouraged.
As an island nation, it used to be only the rich who got to travel in an airplane when we were growing up in the 80s.
The recent popularity of the “Staycation”, whereby people opt to stay closer to home and engage in a leisure pursuit while on vacation has resulted in an increase in people attending our 1 week Essential Cookery Course.
The course covers many classical cookery techniques such as baking bread, filleting a flat fish, making fish goujons, making pastry, meringues etc.
The added bonus to learning new skills is that it is also in a really social environment where people share their passion for food (or indeed discover a passion for food during the week).
When designing the one week cookery course we planted our Irish Apple Pie on the final afternoon. After spending a week with us baking desserts like Pavlova, Cheesecake and making delicious breads and biscuits, the students always get a nice surprise and even get a bit nostalgic when they see Apple Pie on the menu, which they take home to share with friends and family.
As you can see, it is very important that everyone writes their name on their pie, lest anyone should take the wrong one home! One retired gentleman proudly told me that he brought his Apple Pie to show his grown up sons and they wouldn’t let him take it away again…
Here are the recipes, I hope you get a chance to make them to celebrate St Patrick’s Day!
IRISH SODA SCONES
450g plain white flour
1 level teaspoon salt
1 level teaspoon bread soda (sieved)
1 egg, lightly whisked (egg wash)
Equipment: baking sheet lined with Parchment Paper
- Preheat oven to 200ºC/400ºF/Gas 6.
- Sieve the flour, salt and bread soda into a large, wide mixing bowl. Mix in the Sultanas.
- Make a well in the centre and pour in most of the buttermilk. Using one hand with the fingers open and stiff, mix in a full circle drawing in the flour from the sides of the bowl, adding more milk if necessary. The dough should be soft but not too wet and sticky.
- When the dough all comes together, turn it out onto a well-floured work surface and give it one or two turns and lightly pat it down flat with the palm of your hand, to a thickness of 4cm. Dip a scone cutter into some flour and cut into scones and place on the baking sheet.
- Brush the top of each scone with egg wash.
- Place in a preheated oven for 20-25 minutes, or until cooked.
600g Cauliflower (cut in florets)
100g onion, chopped finely
100g leeks, chopped finely
2 cloves garlic, crushed
75g potato, finely diced
1 litre Chicken Stock
- Sweat the onions, leeks and garlic in butter until soft but do not brown.
- Add the cauliflower and cook gently for 3 – 4 mins.
- Add the potato.
- Gradually add the stock, and bring to a boil.
- Simmer for 15 mins or until the cauliflower is soft.
- Purée the soup and adjust consistency with the cream.
- Season with salt and pepper.
- Serve hot in a warm bowl.
IRISH APPLE PIE
For the filling
1.5kg cooking apples, peeled, cored and thinly sliced
5 tbsp granulated sugar
6 whole cloves
Caster sugar, for sprinkling
For the pastry
300g plain flour
225g butter or hard margarine
1 tablespoon caster sugar
1 egg yolk
3-4 tbsp cold water
Preheat oven to 200°C/400°F/gas Mark 6.
- To make the Pastry, Sieve the flour in a large bowl and add the cold diced butter. Rub the butter into the flour with your fingertips until you have a mixture that resembles breadcrumbs with no lumps of butter remaining (work quickly so that it does not become greasy). Add the sugar and vanilla extract. Stir in the egg mixed with a little cold water to bind the dough (add more water as required). Bring the dough into a ball, using your hands. Wrap the dough in cling film and chill for 20 minutes.
- To Assemble the Pie, Divide the pastry into two and roll one piece 4cm / 1½ inches larger than an ovenproof pie plate. Line the plate with the pastry, cutting off the excess. Brush the pastry rim with lightly beaten egg white (reserved from making the pastry) and lay the pastry trimmings on top.
- Arrange alternate layers of apples and sugar in the centre of the plate with the cloves.
- Roll out the second piece of pastry just large enough to cover the pie. Brush the pastry rim with egg white and cover the pie with the pastry lid. Press the edges firmly together to seal and flute to decorate. Brush the pie with the remaining egg white and sprinkle with caster sugar. Score a line in the centre of the pastry to release any steam.
- Bake in the preheated oven for 20 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 180°C/350°F/ gas Mark 4 and bake for a further 25-30 minutes, until the apples are just tender and the pastry is a golden colour.
- Sprinkle with more caster sugar and serve hot or cold with whipped cream.