Nana's corner, Uncategorized

Cooked retro ‘sangers’!

Long before the arrival of gadgets such as the Breville toaster or the phenomenon of sandwich bars, my mum loved her cooked sandwiches. At home, she would make do with a slice of bread, thinly sliced tomatoes, a smattering of finely chopped opinion, a generous pinch of oregano and covered with cheese toasted under the grill (I know as I was the one charged with making it!).

If out for lunch, she loved “proper sandwiches”. These could range from ladylike sandwiches, cut in triangles with the crusts off to sandwiches the size of door stoppers. She would revel in the marvel that was the Club Sandwich, declaring it to be ‘a meal in itself!’ Dainty sandwiches would be eaten delicately, with pinkie finger extended. accompanied by tea served in proper china cups. The larger of the species would be cut into small slivers to be eaten with a fork, never directly by hand.

Ever the one for etiquette, these would be pronounced by her as ‘sandwiches’, never ‘sangers’ or ‘sangwitches’ and definitely, never, ever, ever, ‘hang sangwitches.’ And she would have subscribed to the club which believes sandwiches always taste better cut in triangles or long fingers but never squares. In Ireland of the 1960s and 1970s, this was the very height of her lunchtime eating!

It is little wonder then that I found a bundle of retro recipes for cooked sandwiches among the cookery notes.


Swiss Cheese (serves 6)

½ Swiss Emmental Cheese, grated
2 eggs
Pepper to season
1 teaspoon, finely grated onion
1 tablespoon, cream
6 slices wholemeal or granary bread
2-3 ounces, butter

1. Separate the eggs
2. Add the egg yolks to the grated cheese
3. Add the grated onion
4. Season with pepper and mix together
5. Whisk the egg whites to form firm peaks
6. Fold in the prepared mix and add the milk
7. Divide the mixture between the six slices of bread and spread evenly
8. Melt a little butter in a frying pan
9. Cook the prepared slices, filling sides down, until golden brown
10. Turnover and fry until golden brown on the other side
11. Cut into triangles to serve


Tuna Bunwiches (serves 4)

1.7 ounce tin tuna
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 dessertspoon capers, chopped
Pepper to season
4 soft bread rolls
4 slices of cheese

1. Mix the tuna, mayonnaise and capers together
2. Season with pepper
3. Cut each roll in two
4. Divide between the four roll bottoms
5. Cover each with the cheese
6. Place under a low grill until the cheese is melted
7. Put the bread top on each


Rodeo Relish (serves 2)

4 thin slices of buttered wholemeal bread
4 streaky bacon rashers
1 hard boiled egg
2 tablespoons mustard pickle

1. Place the bread, butter side up, under a medium grill until crisp
2. Grill the bacon until cooked through
3. Chop the egg and bind together with the mustard pickle
4. Place the bacon on two of the slices of toasted bread and spread the egg mixture over the bacon
5. Cover with the remaining slices of break, toasted side down
6. Press firmly in place
7. Place under the grill to toast the remaining sides

To serve
These sandwiches serve two and can be served with a side of pickled onions


Sardine Savoury (serves 1-2)

2 slices of freshly made buttered toast
1 tablespoon Horseradish relish
1 can sardines (in oil)
Salt and black pepper to season

1. Spread the hot toast with a little of the horseradish relish
2. Drain the sardines and arrange on the toast
3. Season with the salt and pepper
4. Place under a hot grill for 2-3 minutes to heat through

To serve
These sandwiches can be served with some gherkins on the side.


Hot Shrimp Frenchie (serves 4)

1 crusty French loaf
½ level teaspoon salt
½ level teaspoon paprika pepper
1 tin (3 ½ ounce) shrimps
4 ounces butter
1 tablespoon lemon juice

1. Preheat oven at 350F (c. 170C) degrees
2. Drain the shrimps
3. Add the salt and paprika to the shrimps and pound together
4. Add the softened butter and lemon juice
5. Mix together until completely combined
6. Cut the French bread diagonally in thick slices but leaving the base uncut
7. Spread the prepared shrimp butter liberally on alternative side of this bread
8. Wrap the bread in tin foil
9. Place in the oven for between 10 and 15 minutes to heat through


Nana's corner

Nana and Teresa’s Christmas Pudding


At Christmas, my mother was a traditionalist. With idiosyncratic perfection, she would prepare the turkey, perfectly stuffed with her own recipe of bread stuffing. She would sew up the stuffed cavity with needle and twine. Such time taken to get it just right. and each year, she would whinge and moan about how dry and tasteless this poultry was and how “Did I ever tell you…?” Goose with potato stuffing was the traditional fare for an Irish Christmas before this mass bred import arrived.

Next would come the ham. She would lift the skin off and with such precision, cut the remaining skin into identical squares. She would then stud each and every one of those squares with a clove pressed into the skin. She would cover the entire ham with rings of tinned pineapple secured neatly with cocktail sticks. Glazed cherries placed in the centre of each ring, the ham all liberally covered in brown sugar, she would bake it in the oven until that sugar turned to a caramel covering the ham. And complete, she would place the 18lb ham onto one of the large meat plates handed down through the years. Every year, I would marvel at the result as it looked like the cover of one of those Cordon Bleu magazines she loved collecting.

The vegetables? All traditional. Fresh Brussel Sprouts would be prepared, cleaned, outer leaves discarded and a cross cut into the stem. The Marrowfat Peas would be placed in muslin, soaked in water with a tablet left to dissolve gradually. Carrots cleaned, cut into batons and placed in sugared cold water to keep overnight. The potatoes would be peeled, turned and also left in salted cold water until required.

And the butter? She would take out two wooden panels which belonged to her own mother. Cubing the butter, she would roll each between the wooden panels until it was a perfectly shaped ball with diamond pattern adorning it. Or she would take a more modern gadget. Digging it into the block of cold butter and pulling back, she would create curls of butter. Whatever tool she picked, one thing was for sure – butter would not adorn her Christmas table in a pack, block or tub.

Then there was Cranberry Sauce. Being out of season, she would choose a frozen block of Oceanspray cranberries and work her magic until it was transformed into a bitter tasting accompaniment for the turkey and ham.

The sweet accompaniments of the festival? Every year, she would prepare a Christmas cake. It had a lighter cake mix than the traditional one and she didn’t ice it. Why? She couldn’t be bothered as none of us ate the madeira like cake so icing it seemed silly. She would, however, put a recycled Yuletide frill around it each year to take away the beige-ness of the cake.

And every few years, she would make Christmas Puddings. Rich in fruit and suet (and alcohol), she would place them in plastic bowls, add buttered paper, cover the top and secure each with string. She would boil these puddings until cooked and, when cool, she would seal with a plastic lid, clipped onto the top. There they would lie in the cupboard until required. And I mean that. The amount of alcohol would preserve them indefinitely. Finally released from the plastic bowl, Mum would douse it with brandy, light it and we would all marvel at the burning mass before one by one we would refuse a piece because quite simply, we all hated it. Mum would sit there, solemnly, eating the pudding with the Brandy Butter she had prepared for the occasion.

As the years passed, I grew to love Christmas Pudding – the darker and richer the better. I always wished I could make Mum’s version but I couldn’t find a recipe. In the little notebook of recipes, there it lay. Covered in specks of food from having prepared the puddings with the pages open. Dated 12 December 1955, I give to you ‘Teresa’s Plum Pudding.’

1lb, sultanas
1lb, raisins
¼ lb, mixed peel
½ lb cherries
¼ lb almonds, chopped
½ lb suet, chopped finely
½ lb brown sugar
¼ lb flour
4 large eggs
1 carrot, finely grated
1 apple
¾ lb breadcrumbs
Pinch of salt
1 ½ teaspoons of mixed spice
1 generous glass of whiskey

1. Mix all the dry ingredients together
2. Beat the eggs
3. Add in the whiskey
4. Combine the wet and the dry ingredients
5. Place the mixture into well-greased pudding bowls
6. Cover tightly with butter paper and then with cloth tied with twine*
7. Boil for 3 ½ to 5 ½ hours

This amount makes
4 small puddings – cook for 3 ½ hours
3 medium puddings – cook for 4 ½ hours
1 large pudding – cook for 5 ½ hours

On the day of using
Boil for another 1 hours

Serve with
Brandy Butter
Thick whipped cream
Pouring cream

*In years to come, this would be replaced by parchment paper

Nana's corner

Aunty Teresa’s Cherry Cake


In the days of letters and phone calls and the absence of text messaging, emails and Skype, my aunty Teresa was still a principal character in my life. She and Brendan made their life together in Springfield, in the middle of the emigrant community from West Kerry, socialising in the John Boyle O’Reilly Club and returning home at regular intervals. For visits. Only ever for visits.

I always had this image of her in an American style pinny – of which many were gifted to us – in a flurry of baking and cooking. That probably bears no resemblance to reality but I like that image nonetheless. It is based on the number of recipes she gave my mum and the fact that she was a nice, gentle, lady.

Cherries? I love them. When I was little, they were the only thing among the dried fruit mix that I would venture near. But they weren’t dried but rather plumped up with sugar. Glazed cherries appeared in so many cakes and breads. There were no fresh cherries to be had and my first encounter with those was in the Schwartzwalder Cake which adorned the menu in Jury’s Hotel, Ballsbridge. On all other menus it was Black Forest Gateau but that’s me. Always leaning towards the more exotic!

This is a plainer cake but still one I really like.

½ lb unsalted butter
½ lb castor sugar
¾ lb self-raising flour, sifted
¼ to ¾ lb cherries (adjust according to taste)
4 large eggs

1. Pre heat the oven to 220 degrees
2. Roughly chop the cherries and coat thoroughly with a little flour. Set aside
3. Cream the butter and sugar together until pale
4. Drop in one egg at a time and mix well
5. Add a little flour at a time and beat well
6. Continue one egg, some flour and beat until those ingredients are gone
7. Add the cherries to the cake mix
8. Turn into a cake tin which has been lined with greaseproof paper
9. Bake in a very hot oven for ten minutes or less
10. Drop the heat to a 180 degrees and bake for 1 ½ hours (this cooking time includes the first 10 minutes)
12. Check the centre with a skewer to see if it comes out clean
13. Turn onto a wire rack and leave to cool

Honey Comb Pudding, Nana's corner

Honeycomb Pudding

My mother wasn’t fond of desserts. She’d get into a flurry of baking and confectionary if preparing for guests or baking for charity.

Desserts for us were simple. Jelly with cream or ice cream. Ice cream with a crumbled Flake chocolate bar. Packet Apple Crumble which was actually quite delicious. And whipped jelly which was as weird and vile as it sounds.

She made Honeycomb Pudding a few times and I really loved it. When I would ask her to make it, she would say she had lost the recipe. Well, Mommy Dearest – you lied! There it is. In the book. In your own very distinct handwriting.

1 pint, full fat milk
4 ounces, castor sugar
3 eggs
½ ounce, gelatine
1 teaspoon, Vanilla essence

1. Dissolve gelatine in a little warm water
2. Separate the eggs
3. When the gelatine is dissolved, add the milk, sugar and beaten egg yolks
4. Place this mixture into a heavy saucepan and stir gently until the mixture thickens
5. Beat the egg whites until a stiff froth
6. Fold them into the other mixture
7. Place the combined mixture into a prepared mould
8. Leave until completely set
9. Serve in individual portions with whipped cream

Nana's corner

Nana’s ‘Handy Measures’

At the back of the notebook is a section entitled ‘Handy Measures’. How can I resist not including such a piece with that title!

Here they are

Slow oven 300 degrees
Very moderate oven 350
1 ounce 1 well heaped tablespoon of flour, rice, etc.
½ ounce 1 well heaped dessertspoon of flour, rice, etc. or a level tablespoon
¼ ounce 1 level dessertspoon of flour, rice, etc.
1/8 ounce I level teaspoon
3 ounces A teacup which holds ¼ pint of water holds 3 ounces of flour
6 ounces A cup which holds ½ pint of water holds 6 ounces of flour
Pound 2 cups of butter is equal to 1 pound in weight
1 egg (medium) 2 ounces (when weighed in shell)
Nana's corner


Shrove Tuesday and my mother would get out a special measuring jug, the likes of which were never seen at any other time of the year. A big, white, plastic jug with red writing measuring out the sides. Out would come the two frying pans, a clatter of plates while a clump of butter, a bowl of sugar and a Jif plastic lemon containing lemon juice would be placed on the table.

Once the batter was made, the annual ritual would begin. Mum would fry the most delicious, large, spongy, pancakes that would be golden brown on both sides. And she would keep making them until the batter was gone or we, as children, admitted defeat as one of us tried to out eat the other.

And amongst those sepia frayed pages, I found the recipe which she sized up to fill that jug. I have eaten many in my time but none as good as those pancakes I ate at my mother’s kitchen table, my legs swinging between the legs of the stool.

2 ½ cups, plain flour
2 teaspoons, Baking Powder
¼ teaspoon, salt
2 tablespoons. Sugar
1 egg
Enough milk to make a thin batter
3 tablespoons, butter

1. Heat a knob of butter in the pan until hot
2. Add batter to cover the base of the pan
3. Cook for a couple of minutes before turning over
3. Cook for another couple of minutes until cooked

Nana's corner

Taste of Springfield, MA


My Mum was born in April 1929. Her sister was born in March 1928. Not quite ‘Irish Twins’ but close enough. They were as close as close as sisters could be. When Mum was in Dublin studying to be a Primary Teacher, they were still close even though her sister was back home on the farm in West Kerry. Nothing prepared my Mum for the news that Teresa was moving to American with her boyfriend.

The move to America was familiar to many in West Kerry and off my Aunt and her beau went to link up with family and friends in Massachusetts. This was a familiar path. So much so that Tomás Ó Crohan in his classic book, The Islandman, speaks about people going to Springfield rather than to the United States.

That was in 1953. My mother’s heart was broken. They kept in contact. They saw each other. They wrote frequently. They sent food parcels. Every Christmas, my mother would pack up a parcel of Cadburys Chocolate, Walnut Whips and packets of Irish Potato Soup. And in return, my aunt would send over such gems as Shake ‘n’ Bake, instant Iced Tea, tea bags, charcoal mix for steaks and mix for corn muffins. While we had tea bags, and my mother hadn’t the heart to tell Teresa, the rest was the closest to Manna from Heaven that I have ever experienced. We were afraid to even touch these delights for fear they would run out too quickly.

Through those years, another gem would be sent back and forth across the Atlantic. A 45 single. My mother and her sister exchanged songs to cry to. The single would arrive and be popped on the record player. And as the lyrics unfolded, the tears would flow. This masochistic exercise was always lost on me and dismissed as ‘totally daft’.

On the first of my mother’s many trips to Springfield, she compiled recipes from the women she met. In a sepia stained notebook, I see my mother’s familiar writing – a hand written index set out with exact ruling at the front. ‘American Cooking Notes – September 1953’ appearing on the front.

I love looking through this piece of my Mum’s culinary legacy. It makes me smile at how my mother assessed the recipe. No star rating for this lass. Instead comments such as ‘very successful’ (underlined twice) or ‘No worry’ or red lined throughout!