A celebration of Irish food!

I am sharing three very different recipes in today’s blogs. The first is my mother’s famous Seafood Chowder. This is a meal in itself and just delicious and so so flavoursome. For the second recipe we have a Goat’s cheese puff pizza with rocket and finally a beautiful lamb shank dish. I hope you enjoy cooking the three recipes and of course that you all enjoy the eating them even more!

MUM'S CHOWDER... This is such a filling and delicious dish.

MUM’S CHOWDER… This is such a filling and delicious dish.

Vera’s Seafood Chowder

This recipe from my mum has been on and off the restaurant menu for as long as I can remember. It’s actually very filling and more like a stew than a soup. Use the very best quality fish and shellfish for the best flavour.

Serves 6


1 tbsp rapeseed oil

15g (½ oz) butter, softened

2 celery sticks, cut into 1cm (½in) dice

1 small onion, cut into 1cm (½in) dice

1 carrot, cut into 1cm (½in) dice

1 large potato, cut into 1cm (½in) dice

½ small leek, cut into 1cm (½in) dice

1 tbsp plain flour

150ml (¼ pint) dry white wine

300ml (½ pint) fish stock

100g (4oz) skinless salmon fillet, cut into cubes

100g (4oz) natural smoked haddock or cod fillet, cut into cubes

100g (4oz) cooked mussel meat

100g (4oz) cooked peeled prawns

150ml (¼ pint) cream

1 tsp chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

1 tsp chopped fresh dill

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

MacNean wheaten bread to serve


Heat the oil in a large pan over a medium heat and then add the butter. Once it stops sizzling, tip in the celery, onion, carrot, potato and leek and cook for 5 minutes, or until softened but not coloured. Add the flour and cook on a low heat for 2 minutes, stirring continuously. Season to taste.

Gradually pour the wine into the pan and allow it to bubble down, stirring continuously, then add the stock and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Stir in the salmon and smoked haddock or cod and simmer for 5 minutes, then add the mussel meat, prawns and cream and simmer for another 2–3 minutes, until warmed through. Stir in the herbs and season to taste.

To serve, ladle the soup into warmed bowls and serve with the wheaten bread.

Goat’s cheese puff pizza with rocket


500g packet frozen puff pastry,

thawed 1 egg, beaten with a little milk

4 tbsp olive oil

1 small red and yellow pepper, cored, seeded and diced

1 small courgette, trimmed and diced

½ small aubergine, trimmed and diced

2 garlic cloves, crushed

2 plum tomatoes, peeled, seeded and diced

1 tsp tomato purée

1 tbsp chopped fresh basil

100g (4oz) hard goat’s cheese

3 tbsp basil pesto

handful wild rocket leaves salt and freshly ground black pepper


Roll out the pastry to a thickness of about 5mm (¼in) and cut out 4 x 15cm (6in) rounds.

Arrange on two large baking sheets and put into the fridge for at least 30 minutes to rest. Preheat the oven to 190°C (375°F), Gas mark 5.

Prick the surface of each pastry base with a fork (this prevents the pastry from bubbling up or rising too much). Place in the oven to cook for 10-15 minutes until golden brown, swapping the baking sheets halfway through to ensure the pastry bases cook evenly. Remove from the oven and brush each pizza base with some eggwash to seal the pastry.

Meanwhile, heat the half the oil in a frying pan. Add the pepper, courgette and aubergine and sauté for about 5 minutes until almost tender. Season to taste and set aside. Heat the rest of the olive oil in a separate frying pan, then sauté the garlic, tomatoes, tomato purée, basil until the tomatoes have softened. Season to taste.

Spread some tomato sauce on each pizza base and then divide the vegetable mixture on top. Crumble over the goat’s cheese and drizzle with half of the pesto. Return to the oven for 6-8 minutes or until the goat’s cheese is bubbling and lightly golden.

Place each pizza on a plate and drizzle the rest of the pesto around the edge of each plate. Scatter around the rocket before serving.

PUFF PIZZA... A delicious and moreish dish

PUFF PIZZA… A delicious and moreish dish

Braised Lamb Shanks with Carrots

Ask your butcher to trim off any excess fat from the lamb shanks and remove the knuckles, as that can be a difficult job. Although now popular restaurant fare, lamb shanks are still good value for money so it’s well worth seeking them out. Serves 6


1 tbsp rapeseed oil

6 lamb shanks, well trimmed and knuckles removed

4 celery sticks, sliced

4 garlic cloves, peeled

1 onion, roughly chopped

75g (3oz) plain flour

1 fresh thyme sprig

1 fresh rosemary sprig

2 litres (3 ½ pints) beef stock (page 227)

600ml (1 pint) red wine

1 tbsp tomato purée

200g (7oz) carrots, cut into wedges

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

champ, to serve

chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley, to garnish


Preheat the oven to 160°C (325°F/gas mark 3).

Heat the oil in a large casserole (that has a lid) over a high heat. Add the lamb shanks and fry until lightly browned on all sides, turning regularly. Transfer to a plate. Add the celery, garlic and onion to the pan and sauté for 5 minutes, until lightly golden. Stir in the flour to coat.

Return the lamb shanks to the casserole with the thyme and rosemary sprigs. Pour over the stock and wine to cover, then stir in the tomato purée. Season and cover tightly with foil and then the lid. Cook in the oven for 1 ½ hours. Remove the casserole from the oven, add the carrots and cook for 1 hour more, until the lamb is very tender and almost falling off the bone.

Strain the cooking liquid into a separate pan and then put the lid back on the casserole to keep the lamb shanks warm. Bring the cooking liquid to a simmer, then cook until reduced to a sauce consistency. Season to taste.

To serve, spoon the champ onto warmed serving plates and arrange a lamb shank on top of each one. Spoon the vegetables to the side and drizzle around the reduced sauce. Garnish with the flat-leaf parsley.


For the Champ:

Creamy Mashed Potatoes

These mashed potatoes will keep warm in a very cool oven (120°C/250°F/gas mark ½) for up to 3 hours. Alternatively, leave to cool and then reheat gently using a little more butter. I think the red-skinned Rooster potatoes make the best mash, as they have a consistently floury texture and lovely smooth flavour. Serves 4–6

1.5kg (3lb) floury potatoes (such as Roosters), cut into even-sized chunks about 120ml (4fl oz) milk and/or cream

100g (4oz) butter

1 tsp chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Place the potatoes in a large pan of salted water. Bring to the boil, cover and simmer for 15–20 minutes, or until the potatoes are tender without breaking up. Drain and return to the pan over a low heat to dry out.

Mash the potatoes, or pass them through a potato ricer or vegetable mouli if you want a really smooth finish. Heat the milk and/or cream in a small pan. Using a wooden spoon, beat 75g (3oz) of the butter into the potatoes until it’s melted and then beat in enough of the hot milk until you have achieved a smooth, creamy purée. Season to taste.

To serve, melt the remaining 25g (1oz) butter in a small pan or in the microwave. Put the creamy mashed potatoes into a warmed serving dish and spoon over the melted butter.

Season with pepper and sprinkle over the parsley. Use as required.



Once mastered, this recipe can be adapted for different results. Try replacing a couple of tablespoons of the milk with crème fraîche or cream for a richer version. A couple of tablespoons of chives or a good dollop of Dijon mustard can also work well, depending on what you are serving with the mash.


Blanch half a head of shredded cabbage in a pan of boiling salted water for

2–3 minutes, then drain and quickly refresh. Add 2 finely chopped spring onions to the milk and/or cream while it’s heating. Fold the cabbage into the mashed potato mixture and then gently reheat to serve.


Melt a good knob of butter in a frying pan and gently sauté a finely diced red pepper and small onion until softened, then beat into the mashed potato with 150g (5oz) finely chopped cooked ham and 2 tablespoons of chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley.


Heat 4 finely chopped spring onions with the milk and/or cream before beating into the mashed potatoes.


Roast Leg of Spring Lamb with Boulangère Potatoes


This dish is hassle free – perfect for a dinner party or Sunday lunch. Serves 6


1 tbsp rapeseed oil

knob of butter

3 onions, thinly sliced

1.5kg (3lb) potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced

4 fresh thyme sprigs, leaves stripped

400ml (14fl oz) chicken stock (page 226)

1.75kg (4lb) leg of lamb

3 garlic cloves, sliced

2 fresh rosemary sprigs

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

wilted spinach (page 225), to serve



Preheat the oven to 200°C (400°F/gas mark 6).


To make the boulangère potatoes, heat the oil in a frying pan with the butter and sauté the onions for 3–4 minutes over a medium heat, until softened but not coloured. Season to taste.

Layer the potatoes, onions and thyme leaves in a large roasting tin large enough to fit the leg of lamb. Season each layer as you go and finish with an attractive overlapping layer of the potatoes. Pour over the stock and set to one side.

Using a sharp knife, make small incisions all over the lamb and press a garlic slice and a tiny sprig of the rosemary into each one. Weigh the joint and allow 20 minutes per 450g (1lb) plus 20 minutes (add a further 20 minutes for well done), then place the lamb carefully on top of the potatoes in the roasting tin. Roast for 20 minutes, then reduce the oven temperature to 180°C (350°F/gas mark 4) and roast for 1 hour 20 minutes for a leg of lamb this size (1.75kg (4lb)).

Transfer the leg of lamb to a carving platter and cover loosely with foil, then leave to rest for 15 minutes, keeping the boulangère potatoes warm.

To serve, carve the lamb into slices and arrange on warmed serving plates with the boulangère potatoes and wilted spinach.

Irish stew

Serves 6

900 g (2 lb) boneless lamb neck, trimmed and cut into cubes

50 g (2 oz) pearl barley, washed

225 g (8 oz) potatoes, cut into chunks

225 g (8 oz) carrots, thickly sliced

225 g (8 oz) leeks, well trimmed and thickly sliced

225 g (8 oz) baby pearl onions, peeled

100 g (4 oz) rindless piece smoked bacon, diced

2 fresh thyme sprigs



450 g (1 lb) lamb bones

1 carrot, cut into cubes

1 onion, sliced

2 whole peppercorns

1 bouquet garni (bundle of herbs tied together with string)

salt and freshly ground black pepper

chopped fresh parsley, to garnish

Turnip mash with crispy bacon and onion, colcannon and glazed parsnips and carrots, to serve

To make the stock, place the lamb bones in a large pan with the carrot, onion, peppercorns and bouquet garni. Cover with cold water and bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer gently for 2 hours until you have achieved a good flavour. Leave to cool, then skim off any scum and/or fat and strain into a large jug. Cover with clingfilm and chill until needed.

Place the boneless lamb pieces in a clean large heavy-based pan and pour over the reserved stock. Bring to the boil, then skim off any scum from the surface and stir in the barley. Reduce the heat and simmer for 50 minutes until slightly reduced and the lamb is almost tender.

Add the potatoes to the lamb with the carrots, leeks, baby pearl onions, smoked bacon and thyme and simmer for 30 minutes or until the lamb and vegetables are completely tender but still holding their shape. Season to taste.

Transfer the stew into a warmed casserole dish and scatter over the parsley. Have dishes of the turnip mash with crispy bacon and onion, colcannon and glazed parsnips and carrots alongside and allow everyone to help themselves.

Apple Tart with Custard

Homemade apple tart – a winning combination of delicate sweet pastry filled with heavenly scented apples – simply can’t be beaten. To ring in the changes, mix the apples with blackberries or try a mixture of rhubarb and strawberry. To make your tart extra special, add a vanilla pod to your bag of sugar and leave for at least a week before using. Serves 6–8


  • 225g (8oz) plain flour, extra for dusting
  • 2 tbsp icing sugar
  • 100g (4oz) butter, diced and chilled
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 2–3 tablespoons ice-cold water


  • 900g (2lb) Bramley cooking apples
  • 100g (4oz) caster sugar
  • ¼ tsp ground cinnamon
  • good pinch of ground cloves
  • 1 tbsp milk


  • 5 egg yolks
  • 3 tbsp caster sugar
  • ½ vanilla pod, split in half and seeds scraped out
  • 300ml (½ pint) milk
  • 100ml (3 ½fl oz) cream


To make the pastry, sift the flour and icing sugar into a bowl. Using a round-bladed knife or the tips of your fingers, work in the butter and then mix in the egg yolks with enough of the ice-cold water, until the dough just comes together. Wrap in clingfilm and chill for at least 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 190°C (375°F/gas mark 5). Lightly dust the work surface with flour.

Divide the pastry into 2 portions, one slightly larger than the other, then roll out the larger piece until it’s about 30cm (12in) in diameter. Use to line a 20cm (8in) pie dish or a 23cm (9in) flat plate, gently pressing into the corners. Trim the edges with a knife and reserve the excess for decorating. Place back in the fridge to chill while you prepare the apples.

Peel, core and slice the apples. Place in a large bowl with all but 1 tablespoon of the caster sugar. Add the cinnamon and cloves and mix together. Brush the edge of the pastry with a little milk and then pile the apples into the lined pie dish. Roll out the second piece of pastry into a circle slightly larger than the pie dish and use to cover the apples. Press the edges together to seal, then use a sharp knife to cut away any excess.

Crimp the edges of the tart with a round-bladed knife and using your fingers as a guide. Roll out the pastry scraps and cut into leaf shapes. Brush the shapes with milk and stick on top of the pie. Brush the entire top of the pastry with milk and sprinkle over the remaining 1 tablespoon of sugar. Bake for 25–30 minutes, then reduce the oven to 180°C (350°F/gas mark 4) and bake for another 20–25 minutes, until golden brown.

Meanwhile, to make the custard, place the egg yolks in a large bowl with the sugar and vanilla seeds. Whisk with an electric mixer for a few minutes, until pale and thickened.

Place the milk and cream in a medium pan and bring to the boil, then immediately remove from the heat. Gradually whisk the heated milk and cream into the egg yolk mixture until smooth, then pour back into the pan and place over a gentle heat. Cook gently for 6–8 minutes on a medium heat, stirring constantly, until the custard coats the back of a wooden spoon. Keep warm.

To serve, cut the warm apple tart into slices and arrange on warmed serving plates with some of the custard. Put the remainder into a jug on the table.

Irish Tea Bread


This keeps very well wrapped in clingfilm and then in tin foil. The leftovers can be made into bread and butter puddings with a dash of Coole Swan Irish Cream liqueur or even just a simple French toast works well.

Makes 1 loaf


100g (4oz) sultanas

100g (4oz) currants or raisins

50g (2oz) glace cherries, chopped

50g (2oz) cut mixed peel

good splash of Irish whiskey

300ml (½ pint) strong hot tea

225g (8oz) light muscovado sugar

a little sunflower oil, for greasing

275g (10oz) self-raising flour

good pinch of freshly ground nutmeg

1 egg, beaten

1 tbsp clear honey

butter, to serve


Place the sultanas in a large bowl with the currants or raisins, glace cherries, mixed peel and whiskey. Pour over the tea and then stir in the sugar until it’s dissolved. Cover with a plate and leave overnight to allow all the fruit to plump up.


Preheat the oven to 150°C (300°F/gas mark 2). Lightly grease a 900g (2lb) non-stick loaf tin with sunflower oil, then base line with parchment paper.


Sieve the flour and nutmeg into a bowl, then stir it into the soaked fruit mixture with the egg until evenly combined. Turn into the prepared tin and level the surface. Bake for 1 ½ hours, or until well risen and firm to the touch. A fine skewer inserted into the centre should come out clean.


Allow the tea bread to cool in the tin for about 10 minutes before turning it out. Brush the top with the honey, then leave to cool completely on a wire rack.


To serve, cut the tea brack into slices and spread with butter. Arrange on a serving platter.


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