Irish Ham

Irish ham has been the best culinary discovery in Ireland. I have always thought that Polish smoked meat is the best in the world but Irish ham is also very good. Ham sold in supermarkets is made by several big companies. I was surprised by the taste of Irish ham. Irish ham is pickled in brine, then smoked over peat or over juniper. This gives it a spicy, evergreen taste that is difficult to find in other types of ham. It is simply delicious. Ham is made in several types and each has a various taste by adding some spice but all are smoked and all taste very well. Irish ham is served cold with sandwiches or hot as the main dish for dinner.

During my trips around Ireland I often eat ham with cabbage for dinner. In all traditional Irish pubs there is always smoked ham and bacon on the dinner menu.
The Irish are avid smokers. In many country cottages ham was smoked on two beams over the fireplace. Smokehouses exist all over Ireland. The Irish seem to smoke anything that runs, swims or flies, from beef and pork to pheasant and chicken, and from salmon, haddock and eel to trout, cod and herring. Currently there are more than a dozen smokehouses in Ireland which smoke ham in a traditional way.
Baked and smoked ham is served during Christmas dinner in all Irish homes and that type of ham is the one that I like the most and I serve it not only at Christmas.

Christmas Ham

Irish Smoked Whole Ham on the Bone
10g Whole cloves
1 cup brown sugar -
1 tbsp Balsamic or cider vinegar
½ tsp mustard
Orange slices
Maraschino cherries

Heat the oven to 160° C. Place the ham, fat side up, on the rack in a shallow roasting pan. Insert a meat thermometer so the tip is in the thickest part of the ham and does not touch the bone or rest in fat. Bake 1¼ to 2¼ hours or until thermometer reads 60°C (13 to 17 minutes per half a kilo).

About 20 minutes before the ham is done, remove it from the oven. Pour drippings from the pan and remove any skin from the ham. Cut it into uniform diamond shapes on the fat surface of the ham. Insert a clove into each diamond. Stir brown sugar, vinegar and mustard together; then pat or brush onto the ham.

Bake uncovered for another 20 minutes. Cover the ham and let it stand for about 10 minutes or until the thermometer reads 70°C. Garnish with orange slices and cherries to serve hot with potatoes and salads.

Any leftovers can be used in sandwiches or salads and you can save the bone for making soup!.



Irish butter

Irish butter is the best one in the world. It tastes like my grandmas home-made butter. I have been in love with it since the first bite of bread with this butter. The best butter brand is the Kerrygold butter. I was surprised that such a big company offers such tasty and natural products. I have tried other types of butter made by other companies but I have always come back to the Kerrygold butter. It tastes fantastic when it is spread on a piece of bread. It adds a lot of complexity to each bite. It is available in salted and unsalted varieties. That extra flavour is the result of cows in Ireland having a rich grass diet .
Irish cows are very happy animals because grass is fresh the whole year and they spend their entire lives on the pasture.

Butter is made from cream. Cream from around 15 litres of milk goes into making just half a kilo of butter. Around a third of the worlds milk is changed into butter. Ireland is the fourteenth largest producer of butter in the world.
Butter contains vitamins A, D and calcium and, of course, is high calorie.
In the past in Ireland butter was packed into wooden churns and stored in peat bogs, where it would keep well for some length of time. Sometimes forgotten butter turned into creamy cheese, which was often discovered by archaeologists.

Muffin with Kerrygold 

Buttermilk is used extensively in traditional Irish cooking. I have found many recipes for traditional Irish food where butter or buttermilk is used . My favourite are apple tart and buttermilk pudding.

Buttermilk Pudding

100 gram of sugar
250 ml of cream
500 ml buttermilk
1 teaspoon of powdered gelatine
1 vanilla pod

Dissolve 1 cup of gelatine in 2 tablespoons of boiling water. Cut the vanilla pod in half. Place it in a pan with sugar and half of the cream. Heat but do not boil. Remove a pan from heat and stir in the gelatine blending well. Remove the vanilla pod, then whisk buttermilk into hot cream. Whip the remaining cream until stiff, then fold it into the hot mixture. Pour into a bowl and chill well.
Serve with a teaspoon of your favourite jam.

St Johns Bread and Wine - Buttermilk Pudding and Raspberries


The story continues... under the grill exactly

So the chicken died of curiosity. Be careful when you cross the road next time.
Grilled chicken with kumara and passionfruit dressing 
 I was too hungry to take a better picture.


Under the grill

The more I cook the less I write, sorry! You are welcome to pop in for a tea instead!

My favourite food magazine, New Zealand’s Cuisine, has a nice short interview column titled Under the grill. I liked the latest issues so much that I decide to answer the questions (almost the same every time) myself. I guess the answers don’t change much with time.

When did you first become interested in food?
There where few episodes in my teenage years smashed by overbearing parents and the lack of groceries – I grew up in a small village far away from everywhere. Then as a history student I got tired of non-illustrated books and began buying colourful magazines. Then I was trying to impress my boyfriend. Maybe the kiwifruit tarte helped him to make a decision of marriage? And with my first job in the kitchen I totally fell in love with cooking. 

What’s your first food memory?
When I was a child food was simple and not so diversified. I was raised in the countryside so I recall milk fresh from the milking, hot and fat, the incredible strawberry jam and bread with butter and sugar only, vanilla sugar and semolina porridge. These are the first. My menu has changed much and often from that time.

What is your ideal party menu?
I rarely cook the same thing twice. I prefer aboundance and a huge choice. I had twice prepared a  party consisted of 25 dishes. Usually I would serve few starters, one main and again the choice of desserts. For the starter a savoury muffin, for the main a simple pasta with a nice sauce and then I have time for several refined desserts! Last time I served pizza muffins, meaty pasta with courgette, vegetarian pasta with broadbean, New Zealand’s lemon snow, roasted peanuts brownie and rhubarb pie.  

Who would be your dream dinner guests?
There are many of them, alive, and they pay us visits every now and then. And for the deads, I guess my three favourite poets, Mieczysław Jastrun, Tadeusz Chudy and Władysław Broniewski. For another party I would certainly invite Gaius Julius Caesar and Octavian Augustus.

What’s your pick of food destinations?
Big eclectic cities like London. This is where I learn most and where cookbooks and resources are easily available. When I travel for food I want to experience it very intensivly. In a big city you can meet not only the region’s cuisine but all of the world. My dream is to visit Melbourne and Singapore.

What’s the worst food crime?
There are many I guess. I particularly hate serving hot dish on a cold plate, carelessly washed lettuce and serving meat reheated or kept for some time under the grill meat. I prefer it straight from the pan!

What is coming next in the food world?
Sharpening the division between fast food and good food. Food prices may drive us towards old methods and skills at homes but shops will be full of junk food. 

Why did the chicken cross the road?
To check what’s on the other side!

Answer yourself!


Irish Soda Bread

When I moved to Ireland, shopping for groceries was the first thing I did. I needed the basic ingredients for my kitchen. I bought tradition Irish bread and flour in a bakery. I wanted to make a home-made cake. After shopping, I baked an apple cake and I was very surprised when I saw the cake after baknig. The cake was huge and tasted a little too much of soda. I didnt know what had happened because that recipe is without soda. As it turned out, I had bought flour with the addition of soda. I was wondering why the Irish added soda to flour.
The answer was on a wrapping of traditional Irish bread. It was soda bread.
In the book of the history of Irish cuisine I read that Ireland didnt have a strong tradition of yeast bread making. The use of baking soda as a leavening agent is quick, effective and it produced a much more consistent result than yeast did.
The original soda bread contained nothing more than flour, buttermilk, baking soda and salt. The dough should not be kneaded too much.
I have never liked soda bread because it tastes to me like salt cake.  However, Irish bread is different. It doesnt taste as normal bread and is heavy and dense. Soda bread is made using either wholemeal or white flour but you can often find bread with the mixture of both types of flour. In some recipes, buttermilk is replaced by yoghurt or even stout.

I am not enthusiastic about soda bread and I dont eat it every day but in a restaurant I always order soup and soda bread as a starter. Some restaurants bake their own bread and every one tastes different.
I ate the best bread in the north of Ireland.

Below there is a recipe for a traditional version of this bread.

Traditional Irish Soda Bread
1 ½ cups wholemeal flour
1 cup white flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 – 1 ¼ cups buttermilk
Preheat oven to 280 C and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
In a large bowl, combine all dry ingredients and stir together. Add buttermilk and mix with a large spoon (or with your hands, shaping your fingers into a “claw”) until the dough comes together. You might need two tablespoons more or less buttermilk depending on the weather. The dough should be moist, but not so sticky it is very hard to handle.
Shape into a round and place on baking sheet. Cut an X into the top with a sharp knife and bake for about 45 minutes, until dark golden. A toothpick will come out clean.
Cool on a wire rack for about 10 minutes before slicing.
This bread is best served soon after baking with Irish butter.

soda bread


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