Extracts from Recipes for a Perfect Marriage:
These recipes went down so well with readers of the novel so I decided to share them with you on my blog. Loading new ones from the novel and new 'finds' with modern twists on old favorites in every week so keep checking.......
Although I always had a sweet tooth, I never liked honey until I ran clean out of sugar one day and tried this. Mix one tablespoon corn flour, 2 teaspoons baking powder and 1lb flour and set aside. Cream together about 5oz butter with just short of a full jar of honey. Gradually add the dry ingredients, along with three eggs beaten into a 1/4 pint of milk until the mixture is smooth and creamy. You can add a teaspoon of vanilla, or cinnamon to taste – but I always preferred it plain. Turn into a greased loaf tin and cook in a medium/hot oven for up to one and a half hours.
Head and tail the rhubarb and cut into small pieces; about a quarter inch – your eye will tell you. When the rhubarb is young, you can put it raw into the tart. In late August when it is tougher, I fill a pan with water and leave it to warm over the fire with a little sugar while I am making the pastry. Sift 10oz flour with a half-teaspoon salt then mix in 2 dessertspoons sugar. Chop 4oz butter, then crumble into the flour with your fingers. Beat an egg into 2 tablespoons of milk and work the mixture into a dough. Line a well floured pan with a half inch thick of the pastry then put in your rhubarb and as much sugar as suits. I like it sweet and could take up to three tablespoons. James prefers it sour, but I’d put in an extra spoon anyway so as not to poison him. Cover with a pastry lid then put in a medium oven and watch for up to one hour.
It seems foolish to be writing a recipe for bread because it was just something that had to be done every day, like peeling spuds or cleaning the range. Every woman found her own way of doing it, and the ingredients were certainly never measured except in the cook’s eye of what looked right. You might be feeling generous the odd morning, and add a handful of fruit or a spoonful of cooking fat if you had it to hand. After a while, you learned how much flour would suit you and how much buttermilk would wet it.
As for method, it is so ingrained in my fingers I would not know how to describe it. All I know is that as I got older, my bread improved in texture and became more consistent. I nearly poisoned your poor grandfather, your mother only barely survived and you – my wee Tressa – got the best of it! If you really want to master an Irish soda bread, make it every day until it becomes as automatic as walking. There is no escaping its boring drudgery and only you can decide if it’s worth it.
If you want to try, the basic ingredients are around 1lb flour– brown or white, a teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda, and as much buttermilk as to make a wet dough, but not so wet as you can’t handle it. To this you can optionally add a tablespoon of butter or any cooking fat, dried fruit, up to a dessertspoon of honey or sugar, a pinch of salt, wheat meal, porridge oats – use your imagination. Cook in a hot oven for up to one hour, and tap the bottom listening for a hollow sound to see if it’s cooked. Wrap immediately in a clean tea towel to stop it going hard on you and let sit for a good half- hour before cutting.
MODERN IRISH STEW
This is not my grandmothers recipe, but my own. Because sometimes, no matter how much pleasure you get from somebody else’s work, there is no replacement for a recipe that you have developed yourself.
YOU WILL NEED:
Rack of lamb (around 6 cutlets)
3-4 shallots, chopped
One clove garlic, finely chopped
2 handfuls tiny new potatoes
8 small whole baby carrots
one and a half cups lamb stock
2-3 sprigs rosemary, leaves removed and chopped
Brown the rack of lamb for 3 minutes on each side In a hot pan. Remove from the pan and throw in your shallots and garlic for one minute, then remove. Throw the hot stock into a saucepan and add potatoes, carrots and rosemary, then bring to the boil. Place rack of lamb on top, cover and simmer for 15 mins (rare) 20 mins (medium rare). Remove rack of lamb and the vegetables with a slotted spoon and place in a shallow casserole dish. Cover with a teatowel and leave to rest for 5 mins. Meanwhile, reduce the pan liquid by a third (on a high heat for 2-3 mins). Once reduced, add a good slug of red wine, and leave on high heat for another 2 mins. Take off the heat and cover with a lid to keep gravy hot. Slice the lamb into six cutlets, place 3 on each plate, and spoon the spuds and carrots around it. Add the red wine sauce just before serving.
Accompany with buttered, wilted white cabbage sprinkled with thyme. (Finely chop a quarter of a head of white cabbage, simmer over a very low heat with 2 knobs of butter for ten minutes, adding a little of the red wine. Add thyme 2 minutes before removing from the heat).