In preparation for St. Patrick’s Day next week on 17th March I’ve been reading through The Farmette Cookbook: Recipes and Adventures from My Life on an Irish Farm (Roost Books) by Imen McDonnell, who blogs over at The Farmette.ie. With kind permission of the publishers I can share with you some of the delicious Irish recipes from the book with you today. After much deliberation I picked out the Dublin Lawyer lobster recipe, the Moonshine syllabub and a very delicious-looking Chocolate Porter Cake for my Irish-themed Pieday Friday menu. And of course, I couldn’t share recipes from this book without trying the traditional Tea Brack recipe for myself – yum!
Here are the beautiful recipes from The Farmette Cookbook:
DIVINER’S TEA BRACK
One wet March afternoon, my husband announced that our local water diviner was going to come and help us locate a new well. Up until the moment he arrived, I honestly thought his visit was some kind of madcap prank. I simply couldn’t believe that in the twenty-first century we would be enlisting the services of a person with a willow divining rod to find water on the farm.
But, as I have learned time and time again, many practices of the past are still very much alive in the Irish countryside. When I saw the man hiking in the fields behind our garden, I quickly made up a tea bread to share after he finished his work. We sat around the table sipping tea as I sliced piece after piece of this fruity brack, chatting for nearly an hour, and when the water diviner left, he thanked me for a tea cake as “fine as my mother’s.”
Brack is a cross between cake and bread and is often enjoyed with a cup of tea or coffee.
Ingredients (Makes 1 loaf) 200 g mixed dried fruit, 240 ml hot black tea (Barry’s Tea is perfect if you can get it), 130 g flour, 1½ teaspoons baking powder, 1 teaspoon salt, 100 g superfine sugar, 1 large beaten egg, 2 tablespoons orange marmalade
- Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C). Grease a 9-inch loaf pan.
- Place the fruit in a small mixing bowl, pour the hot tea over the top, and allow to soak until the fruit swells, about 1 hour.
- In a separate bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, salt, sugar, egg, and marmalade. Pour in the fruit and any tea left in the bowl; stir thoroughly. Pour into the loaf pan, and bake for 1 hour.
- Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly before turning out of the tin. Serve the brack with butter and cups of tea.
- Store any leftovers in the bread box, where it will keep for one week.
CLASSIC DUBLIN LAWYER
The origins of Dublin Lawyer, a rich dish of lobster, cream, and whiskey, are allegedly unknown, but I’m told that this dish has been served around Dublin for at least a hundred and fifty years. I can testify that it has been served in our house for the last eight.
After tasting this succulent dish at a seafood festival in the eponymous capital city, I vowed to prepare it at home. Now, Dublin Lawyer has become a much requested meal for special occasions—and sometimes just because.
I prefer to serve it with the meat still in the tails, allowing each person to dip the meat into the sauce as they wish.
Special Tools: A kitchen torch
Ingredients (Serves 2) Two 2-lb lobsters, fresh, 235 ml Irish whiskey, 12 tablespoons butter, 235 ml heavy cream, Salt and pepper, to taste, Lemon slices, for garnish, Chopped parsley, dill, or chervil, for garnish
- Steam or boil the lobsters for about 8 to 9 minutes. Remove from the pot. Split the lobsters in half. Clean out the top halves of the body, but leave the tail meat intact.
- Heat the whiskey in a small saucepan over low heat. In a large skillet, melt the butter over medium heat until foamy. Add the heated whiskey, and flambé with a kitchen torch. Allow the flame to die down completely before adding the cream. Heat through. Season with salt and pepper.
- Divide the butter mixture evenly between two dipping bowls, or pour into the cleaned top halves of the lobsters. Serve the lobster with lemon slices and sprinkled with chopped parsley, dill, or chervil.
Syllabub is a drink or dish made of milk or cream; curdled by the addition of wine, cider, or other acid; and often sweetened and flavoured. Reputedly, the most traditional way to make it is by milking a cow directly into a jug of cider.
Since we live in Ireland, I like to use a splash of poitín (moonshine) instead of wine or brandy. This dessert is simple and creamy and presents beautifully, especially at a summery outdoor gathering, garnished with edible herbs and flowers.
Ingredients (Serves 4) 30 ml Irish poitín, 100 g sugar, Zest and juice of ½ lemon, 240 ml heavy cream
- In a small bowl, combine the poitín, sugar, lemon zest, and juice; stir to dissolve. In a large, chilled bowl, start beating the cream with a hand whisk or an electric mixer. Gradually add the poitín mixture, whisking constantly, until soft peaks form.
- Serve immediately, or cover and chill until ready to serve.
A few years ago I snuck a bottle of a supersmoky American home-brewed craft porter beer back home to Ireland. I found a recipe for porter cake in an old folder at the farm and swiftly decided to put that special American beer to use.
Porter cake is a tradition in Ireland that began when some clever baker decided a porter would make a perfect addition to the dark, robust flavour of the popular fruitcake. For my variation, I kept the mixed spice, left out the fruit, and added superdark chocolate. The end result is a rich, velvety, smoky chocolate cake that carries the porter flavor evenly throughout. I’ve iced it in chocolate espresso buttercream, but it doesn’t need frosting, especially if you are serving it with a scoop of ice cream or a dollop of fresh cream.
You can use any porter or stout for this recipe, but Knockmealdown Porter by 8 Degrees Brewing in Cork is perfect. A chocolate stout would also be superb if you can find it.
Ingredients (Makes 1 cake – two 9-inch layers or four 3-inch layers) 3 oz (85 g) unsweetened dark chocolate (75% cocoa solids), chopped, 14 tablespoons salted butter, room temperature, 350 ml extra-smoky porter (or regular or chocolate stout), 250 g superfine sugar, plus 3 tablespoons, 280 g all-purpose flour, 2 teaspoons baking powder, 1 teaspoon mixed spice, ½ teaspoon baking soda, ½ teaspoon salt, 3 large eggs, separated
- Position the rack in the centre of the oven, and preheat to 350°F (175°C). Butter and flour two 9-inch round springform cake pans with 1½-inch-high sides or four 4½-inch springform minicake pans. Line the bottom of each pan with a round of buttered and floured parchment paper.
- Put the chocolate, butter, and beer in medium metal bowl. Set the bowl over a saucepan of barely simmering water, and stir until the mixture is melted and smooth. Remove the bowl from the saucepan and let cool slightly.
- In a medium bowl, whisk the sugar with the flour, baking powder, mixed spice, baking soda, and salt to blend. Add the egg yolks, one at a time, to the lukewarm melted chocolate mixture, beating until well blended after each addition. Beat in the flour mixture, in two additions, just until incorporated.
- Using clean, dry beaters, beat the egg whites and remaining 3 tablespoons of sugar in another medium bowl until stiff but not dry. Fold one-third of the egg whites into the cake batter to lighten, then fold in the remaining egg whites in two batches.
- Divide the batter between the prepared cake pans, and smooth the tops with a spatula.
- Bake for about 30 minutes, until a tester inserted in the centres comes out clean. Transfer the cakes to wire racks and cool in the pans for 20 minutes. Release the spring form and invert the cakes onto the racks, remove the parchment paper, and cool completely.
- Place one cake layer on a cake plate and spread the frosting (recipe follows) on top. Place the remaining cake layer on top. Spread the top and sides of the cake with the remaining frosting, swirling to coat in a decorative fashion. (If the frosting becomes too soft, refrigerate it to firm it up.) Cover the cake with a cake dome and refrigerate overnight. Bring the cake back to room temperature before serving.
DARK CHOCOLATE ESPRESSO BUTTERCREAM
Ingredients (Makes about 1 cup/225 g) 114 g unsweetened dark chocolate (75% cocoa solids), chopped, 2 teaspoons instant espresso powder, 3 tablespoons milk, 227 g butter, softened, ½ teaspoon vanilla extract, ⅛ teaspoon salt, 500 g confectioner’s sugar
- Place the chocolate in a medium, heatproof bowl. Set the bowl over a saucepan of barely simmering water, and stir until melted and smooth.
- In a glass measuring cup, dissolve the instant coffee in the milk.
- With an electric mixer, beat the butter, vanilla, and salt in a large mixing bowl for 3 minutes. Beat in the melted chocolate until blended, scraping the side of the bowl occasionally. Gradually beat in the confectioner’s sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the coffee mixture, 1 tablespoon at a time, until the mixture reaches spreading consistency.
- This frosting can be made a day in advance. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator, and bring back to room temperature before icing the cake.
What do you think of these recipes? Have you been inspired to create something special at home? And what do you think of the book? Will you be investing in a copy for your kitchen too? Leave me a comment below and let me know – and I hope these recipes will help you to enjoy an authentic Irish meal this coming paddy’s day. Have a good one!
From The Farmette Cookbook, © 2016 by Imen McDonnell. Reprinted by arrangement with Roost Books, an imprint of Shambhala Publications Inc., Boulder, CO. www.roostbooks.com and credit to www.bordbia.ie for this inspirational recipe content.