Archive for the ‘Potatoes’ Category

Viking Bowls for French Onion Soup (And Shepherd’s Pie Recipe)

Last year I posted a recipe for French Onion Soup – a real favourite with us this time of year.  With a great supply of onions hanging in the shed and longer nights, it’s the perfect comfort evening meal.  Yes, a meal – if I make this for dinner that’s it!  A hearty bowl of this soup and a nice warm glass of red wine.

I’ve never found just the right bowl for this dish and been on the lookout for years.  Standard bowls are too wide on top and may not withstand the hot grilling at the end.  The perfect vessel for me would be a fairly narrow earthenware bowl where the base is roughly the same width as the surface but with a tulip narrowing towards the surface.

Last year at the Roscommon Lamb Festival a Historical Reinactment Group camped on the grounds of Roscommon Castle.  They were dressed in costume, slept in canvas tents, show-cased some medieval skills and battles and we, the public, were invited to wander around their camp.   A small camp that got my attention was inhabited by potter Jaqui Wright.  She makes replicas of archeological pottery discoveries.  It was here I came across her “new” range of pottery made with black Viking clay.  They are hand-shaped and then fired.  She glazed the inside of the bowls and mugs, although the glazing step wouldn’t have happened back with the hardy Vikings.  In fact, they would have eaten/drunk everything out of the one vessel and were not fussed, I’m sure, about cross-contamination.

I ordered 6 bowls from Jaqui that day.  She said it would be a few months and she would phone me.

So I was very excited a couple of months ago when she phoned me to say they were ready.  She lives in quite a rural part of the country – in county Sligo but very near the Roscommon border.  Jaqui does not do mobile phones, email, or websites so she gave me good, old-fashioned directions to her house.  I got lost on the way (my fault, because I do find, if you really take instructions litereally, people generally give perfect directions to their houses – I did a lot of home calls in my previous job as a community dietitian) but did find her secluded dwelling where she creates all this fabulous pottery.

The bowls are just what I wanted.  They’re beautifully rustic, oddly shaped and very pre-old worldy.  They look quite stone-age on my dresser with glassware and delicate china coffee cups but I love them!  Perfect French onion soup vessels, they have the added bonus of being oven-proof and are great for individual pies.

Jacqui Wright, Pottery Design’s contact number is 071-9182022 and here’s a site telling you some more about the Historical Reinactment Group.


Traditional Shepherd’s Pie with Root Vegetable Topping:

For 4-6.  Make individual pies or a large dish of it.


1 tablespoon rapeseed oil

1 large onion, finely diced

2 carrots, finely diced

500g minced lamb

200ml lamb or vegetable stock

2 tablespoons tomato puree

few dashes Worchester sauce

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

1 teaspoon honey

1 tablespoon freshly chopped thyme leaves

salt & pepper


Root Vegetable Mash:

3 medium potatoes, peeled & halved

1 carrot, peeled & chopped into 2.5cm chunks

2 parsnips, peeled and chopped into 6cm chunks

1/4 turnip, peeled and chopped into 2.5cm chunks

1 tablespoon butter

dash milk

Salt & pepper


Preheat the oven to 190 C.


For the meat:

Heat the oil in a wide frying or sauce-pan.  Add the onions and carrots.  Season with salt and cover to sweat over  a low-medium heat for 5-10 minutes until soft.  Remove the lid and increase the heat to high.  Add the lamb and another pinch of salt and cook, stirring often over a high heat.  Continue cooking until the lamb is browned all over.  Add the tomato puree, Worchester sauce, balsamic vinegar, honey, thyme and stock.  Bring to the boil and reduce to a simmer.  Simmer gently for 20 minutes.  Taste and adjust seasoning with salt, pepper and add more honey or Worchester sauce as needed.


For the topping:

While this is happening, cover the prepared vegetables for the topping in a large saucepan with just enough cold water.  Bring to the boil with a lid and cook gently until the vegetables are tender.  Drain the water off fully and return the saucepan to the heat.  Add the milk and butter, salt and pepper.  Heat the milk fully before mashing the vegetables together.


To assemble:

Lay the meat sauce in the base of your serving dish.  Spoon the mash on top and spread it out to cover the meat.  You can make a design on the top with a fork and brush with melted butter or top with grated cheese.  Bake until the mash is golden and the meat is bubbling underneath.  Serve with a green salad or extra green vegetables.  …… plus tomato ketchup: “Tacky but good” as Jamie would say.

20 Mile Cookalong: Lambs Liver, Chard, Creamy mustard, New Potatoes!

Hello!  My first cookalong and very excited.  I cooked something I wouldn’t often do for myself, though would probably order when out.  It collects some of my favourite seasonals around here – lovely young chard from our garden, freshly dug baby potatoes, and best of all Roscommon grass-fed lamb’s liver from Castlemine Farm.  Roscommon produce a lot of lamb and celebrate this fact every May bank holiday weekend at the Roscommon Lamb Festival (  I made some lambs liver pate that weekend for a couple of events – wasn’t sure if it would be too strong but have to say it went down a treat served alongside carmelised red onions.

I fed my two hefty brothers this lunch today.  We were remembering eating liver as children and loving it.  Developing a young taste for liver helps I think as it really has quite a distinct flavour and texture.  Lambs liver has almost 4 times the amount of iron as a lamb chop and is high in certain vitamins particularly Vitamin A and some B vitamins.  When presenting for consumption it demands a couple of additions to cut through the richness in texture and flavour.  I chose a creamy wholegrain mustard sauce, wilted chard and crispy streaky bacon bits.

Castlemine Farm ( have a shop in Roscommon town and also sell in Galway and Moycullen markets.  The meat comes from animals reared at their nearby farm in Four-mile-house, Roscommon.

Lunch for Two:

2 * 3oz liver slices (2.5cm/1″ thick)

2 steaky bacon rashers

6 baby potatoes (home-grown)

6 good sized leaves swiss chard (home-grown)

3 tbsp creme fraiche (Glenisk – just over 20 miles)

1 heaped tsp wholegrain mustard (Lakeshore – East coast)

1 level tsp soft brown sugar (def not)

salt & pepper

butter for cooking

To start:

  • Put the new/baby potatoes on to boil.
  • Chop 2 streaky bacon rashers in 1-2 cm dice and fry in a small amount of butter until crispy.  Remove from the pan with a slotted spoon, reserving the oil for frying the liver.
  • Wash the chard and chop it finely.  Heat a small knob of butter in a large frying pan and cook the chard with a pinch of salt & pepper for 1-2 minutes over a medium heat.  Set aside until ready.
Cook the liver:
  • Heat the pan the bacon was cooked in over a medium heat.  Season the liver on both sides with sea salt and black pepper.  Fry the liver slices for between 3-5 minutes on either side, depending on how pink or cooked you’d like it to be.
To make the sauce:
  • Remove the liver when cooked and keep warm for a couple of minutes (it should be nicely carmelised on both sides). Drain off any excess fat.  Add the creme fraiche to the pan, along with the mustard, and sugar.  Heat through and help any lovely crispy bits loosen from the pan.  Taste – does it need any seasoning?
To serve:
  • Reheat the chard if necessary.  Sit the liver on a bed of lovely green chard.  Add some just boiled potatoes to the plate.  Scatter a few bacon pieces and drizzle some mustard sauce around the plate.

Wild Garlic & Chicken Bake

Castlemine Farm’s Brendan Allen has got me thinking about Eating Only Irish – happening 9th – 15th May ( based on a brilliant idea by Brendan.  He will not let any food or drink pass his lips that does not come from this Island of ours.  His rules are:

“Rule 1 Food that is bred, planted, grown, reared, caught, foraged, slaughtered, harvested and processed entirely on Irish soil, or caught within Irish territorial waters.

Rule 2 If the label says “Produced in Ireland” all ingredients must conform to Rule One”

I’m in thinking mode about how nutritionally adequate this diet will be – there’ll be lots of vegetables but any ideas about fruit this time of year?  I came across Irish cooking apples (bramleys) the other day and of course there’s rhubarb but both of these need added sweetener for palatability.  We’ll probably have strawberries in the tunnel by then so that’s another one but they may not be widely available.

Oh and because Brendan comes from a bountiful farm it puts him at an unfair advantage so he will not be relying on any of his own produce in order to achieve the aim.

Here’s an almost Irish dish based on free-range chicken and foraged wild garlic (I cracked and used sea salt & black pepper….it’s so hard!).  I wanted to case the chicken (I’m using legs only here) completely in wild garlic leaves and bake it altogether.  It was incredibly tasty with a lovely hint of garlic that mellowed completely during cooking.  The chicken leg meat was so moist and the skin crisped up deliciously under the garlic and took on a beautiful flavour.  I want to try this with a breast also to confirm that it would have the same effect.

It was the simplest thing.  I pass Mote Park on the way home from work so I gathered some wild garlic fresh.  I placed a layer of the garlic on a roasting dish.

Wild Garlic Base

I seasoned the chicken legs well with sea salt & black pepper (cheating) and started wrapping and covering them with the garlic.

I poured and patted some Donegal rapeseed oil over the top and put into the oven at 190C for 40 minutes.  After 15 minutes I threw in some sliced Irish potatoes and enjoyed a pretty decent meal at the end of it.  The garlic jacket became crispy and stuck to the chicken but it was very edible too.

Wild Garlic & Potato Soup

Though very comforting, root vegetables begin to lose their appeal as the days get longer.  This time of year we have to jump on spring greens and what better than free and fresh spring greens?   Not so far from here there is a Coillte forest area called ‘Mote Park’.  It’s a great place to go for a wander and forage for wild garlic – you’ll know it when you smell it.

Wild Garlic Mote Park

I had brought my scissors and a carrier bag so filled it up, brought the wild garlic back to the kitchen, washed it and quickly made wild garlic & potato soup.

Here’s the recipe:

For 6

1 large white onion, peeled & roughly chopped

1 leek, washed & roughly chopped

1 tbsp butter or olive oil

3 large potatoes, peeled & roughly chopped

1 carrier bag wild garlic

1.5L light vegetable stock or water

sea salt & black pepper

1 clove garlic (crushed)


Melt the butter in a large saucepan and add the onion and leek.  Season with salt, cover and sweat for 15-20 minutes stirring a couple of time.  Remove the lid and add the potato and stock/water.  Bring to the boil and simmer until the potatoes are just cooked.  Add the wild garlic and crushed garlic clove.  Cook for less than 1 minute.  Blitz with a blender and season well.  This soup should look lovely and green.  A dash of cream at the end would be fab.

Potato & Wild Garlic Soup

St. Patricks Day Food: Granny’s Boxty

I don’t think my Granny Hunt will mind me telling you that she’s in her 92nd year.   She announces it proudly herself these days.  Her 25 grandchildren all remember the smell and taste of potato cakes & boxty in her house growing up.  Potato cakes are the traditional Irish tea (evening meal) where leftover potatoes from dinner (middle of the day) are mashed up with flour, salt and made into ‘cakes’ that are fried in butter until golden.  There was always a plate of potato cakes in granny’s house!  There are few people who would say they don’t like potato cakes.

A few of years ago Katie, my sister, took lots of photos of Granny Hunt making her potato cakes.  We watched diligently trying to soak up the proper method of making the perfect potato cake.  I do not succeed in replicating them.  There’s something in the hand that makes them – the no-weighing, the feel, the no-fuss, the years of turning out the right potato cake!

Over the last few years Granny hasn’t been making so many potato cakes.  Her husband of almost 60 years died, she broke her hip (and recovered) and there aren’t as many leftover, cooked potatoes.  But in the last couple of weeks a familiar smell returned to the house.  A faint whiff of frying lingered in the kitchen.  Granny produced a plate of boxty from the oven!   The taste is as good as ever.

Boxty is a little different – it’s grated raw potato mixed with flour and milk to make a batter that’s then fried until golden on both sides.  Sounds simple.

“I want to learn Granny’s boxty”, I said to my mother.  “Bring her a big potato, she’ll really want to make boxty if she sees a big potato.”  Now I don’t want to put a 92 year old lady under too much pressure so I needed to approach this right.  I also wanted to share photos and tell you all how to make good boxty.

Large potatoes

So I rummage around the potato sack for a decent spud and head down to Grannys (a 2 minute walk from my office – how lucky am I?).  I ask her if she’s in the mood to make boxty and show her the big spud.  I explain that we didn’t grow up making these kinds of things every day and it’s important we know how to make this delicious national dish.  She smiles and agrees.  I tell her I’m going to put the recipe and photos on the internet – she says I should have given her more notice but I don’t think she minds.  The flour, milk and salt are out and that’s all we need.

As I mentioned making good potato cakes or boxty (and soda bread) is all about the no-weighing technique.  In my silliness I tried to sneak a digital scales under Grannys mixing bowl to quantify the magic.  She looked at me and said “What’s this?” before taking it away.  So back to basics.  I did however weigh the potatoes before giving them to her and most of the flour went in before she took the scales away so I have a rough idea of what happened.  I know I shouldn’t want to weigh it but these ladies grew up making it every day!  They wouldn’t dream of measuring….but me, well I want to make the boxty taste like hers.

First we peeled the potatoes (450g) and Granny grated them into a mixing bowl while she looked out the window.

Potato Peelings

Boxty by the Window

Grating Raw Potato

She then threw in some self-raising flour (about 135g) and salt (about 1 teaspoon), followed by milk (now here I’m guessing but maybe 100-150ml).  She started to mix it with a wooden spoon and added the milk gradually until the grated potato is suspended in a thick-ish batter.

Adding salt & flour

Adding Milk

And Mix

And Mix 2

Final Mix


You might be surprised when I tell you this but Granny does not fry her potato cakes or boxty in butter anymore – she uses olive oil.   I have to say they still taste as good and you get a nice crispy outside.  She keeps up to date on health and food and this is one of the changes she has made to her diet over the years.  (Other possible secrets to long and healthy life – lots of salmon in recent years, no alcohol, not too much stress, crosswords).

She then spooned the batter to make individual boxty cakes into the hot oil and fried them on both sides until they were golden.   So if you’re wondering if you have the right consistency, the batter should not spread out or ‘leak’ over the pan.  It’s like making a drop scone almost.  They did puff up nicely and the potato cooked perfectly.

Adding to Pan

Cooking Begins


Here’s the first one – I ate it straight away and was delicious.

First Boxty

The cooking continues.

Cooking Continues

Cooking Continues

They pile up (if not too many people around).

Pile Begins

They are finished and the kettle is on.

The grater goes back behind the pipes on the stove.

A nice cup of milky tea with Boxty.


Granny – go raibh míle maith agat.

Happy Saint Patricks Day!