I found the coolest book this week at the library – Traditional Irish Recipes by John Murphy. I wasn’t fooled by the calligraphy, though it was very beautiful – the book has definitely been made to look antique though it was published in the 1980s as far as I can tell. But more important are the recipes inside, which are very old and taken from a variety of sources.
What a collection – from confections like “Yellow Man,” to “Willicks” cooked in their own sea water, to stick-to-your-ribs meals like “Donegal Pie,” this book is a fascinating picture at what the people on this small island of been eating for the last 200, 300, 400 years! Maybe longer!
One thing is for sure – your typical Irish cook was probably making food for a small army. Or maybe just her kids. 🙂
I considered – for about 5 seconds – cooking through the book and blogging about each recipe (like the Julie/Julia Project), just for the fun of doing old Irish recipes. There are only 63 in there anyway! Well, sorry to disappoint, but I’m not going through with that. I just don’t think our systems would be able to handle all the old Irish food, including POUNDS (yes, pounds) of suet, intestines, offal, blood, seaweed and various mysterious fish and shellfish. And seriously, how many ways can you possibly eat oatmeal????
I will, however, share the recipe for a REAL Irish classic that still gets cooked a lot today – Bacon and Cabbage.
Now this is no ordinary American-style bacon, and it’s not even rashers, exactly. Frank’s uncle Kevin, who has lived on the East Coast this long while says he can’t find anything like it outside of Ireland. Basically, it’s a big hunk of cured ham-like bacon. But not really ham, either.
Here’s what it looks like, before being boiled.
You can cook it a few ways, but the most common is to boil it for a few hours, then slice it and serve it hot with boiled cabbage and some kind of potatoes. A simple supper, but one that the real Irish folk pine for when they’re abroad! It’s actually quite a lovely, hearty meal, even if it does seem strange to an American to boil bacon!
Boiled Bacon and Cabbage
Taken from Traditional Irish Recipes, John Murphy, Copyright 1980 (?), Appletree Press
1 Cabbage (I used Savoy)
2 lb. piece boiling bacon
Place the bacon in a saucepan. Cover with water and bring to the boil. Simmer for about two hours, or until tender. Remove the bacon, slice the cabbage and add to the water. Boil for about ten minutes, keeping the bacon warm. Slice the bacon, drain the cabbage and serve. (I think this typically serves 3 – 4 people – we typically eat large portions and there is always some leftover.)
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There you have it, a classic Irish supper. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got a load of dishes to do… for some reason I seem to have dirtied a lot of pots, bowls, plates and silverware in the cooking of this meal. My reward will be a nice big, warm slice of Nectarine and Ginger Cake with custard. (That one’s my own recipe, which I will have to share another time…) 🙂
Also, if you want to find Traditional Irish Recipes for yourself, click on the link at the top, or check your local library. I know for certain it’s readily available on Amazon.com. Have a peek – it’s funny! Next on my list to make is the “Nettle Broth,” if I’m actually brave enough to try it. Lord knows we have enough nettles to go around…