Fairy Cakes

Once you’ve made your buns you can have fun icing and decorating, and putting twiddles and bows and whatever else on top! People used to make these laboriously using the creaming method, but I now shoot the whole lot into a food-processor, whizz it up for 4–5 seconds and bake in the usual way. It may not be a forgotten skill, but I don’t see any virtue in getting blisters on your hands from creaming when this gives a very good result.

  • Makes 12 buns 

Download Fairy Cakes and Variations PDF for Printing


Ballymaloe Irish Stew

In her Ballymaloe Cookbook (1977), Myrtle Allen discusses the question of carrots in the Irish Stew – everyone she asked says they did put them in. Her mother did, as did everyone in Shanagarry. It seems to have been common practice in the south and Myrtle noted that they were used as far north as Tipperary. She continues: ‘Originally, we made Irish Stew by putting alternate layers of onions, carrots, potatoes and meat in a pot. It was seasoned, covered with water and stewed gently for 2 hours. Very simple and enjoyable.’ Later on when my children were small, a good woman called Madge Dolan came to cook for us and brought us a new and better version, which is the basis of our current recipe.

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fresh rhubarb

Roscommon Rhubarb Pie

This is a perfect example of the way in which recipes originally cooked on an open fire can be adapted to produce the most delicious results today. Anna Dodd of Castlebaldwin in Co. Sligo, who gave it to me, remembers how her grandmother would strew the bastible with chopped rhubarb, sweeten it with a sprinkling of sugar and cover it with an enriched bread dough. When the cake was baked, it was turned out so that it landed upside down, with the sweet juice soaking into the soft, golden crust. It was served warm, with soft brown sugar and lots of softly whipped cream.

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Dingle Pie

Serves 6

  • 1 lb (450 g) boneless lamb or mutton (from the shoulder or leg; keep bones for stock)
  • 9 ozs (255 g/2 1/4 cups) chopped onions
  • 9 ozs (255 g/1 3/4 cups) chopped carrots
  • 2 good teaspoons cumin seed
  • 10 fl ozs (300 ml/1 1/4 cups) mutton or lamb stock
  • 2 tablespoons (2 American tablespoons + 2 teaspoons) flour
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper

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Fresh Or Smoked Ham Hocks

They are delicious with so many things – cabbage and champ, lentils, a bean stew, shredded into a broth with diced vegetables or in a split pea soup. We also love to add chunks of quartered cabbages to the cooking water about half an hour before the end of cooking.

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