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



Indian Curry Paste and Powder (I)

A former pal at work came back from lunch one day with all the ingredients to make curry pastes that evening. I was in total awe. I thought she was amazing but she assuredc me that, not only was it simple, but that making your own paste made the final dish tastier. She was so right! A good hand blender and they are easy to make.

The list of ingredients may seem a little daunting but most are kitchen staples. The method is also simple.

This recipe produces enough for 3 curries (each serving 4 people). It can be stored in a jar in the fridge for two weeks or frozen in portion sizes

1lb onions, roughly chopped
6 large garlic cloves, chopped
6 inches, fresh ginger, roughly chopped
1 tsp, salt
2 tsp, paprika
1 tsp, turmeric
½ to 1tsp, cayenne pepper (adjust according to taste)
1½ tsp, ground coriander
1½ tsp, ground cumin
1tsp, curry powder*
2 tbsp, tomato puree
1¼ pints, cold water
1 dessertspoon, sunflower oil

1. Toast the spices in a pan for 1-2 minutes being sure not to let them burn
2. Place the onions, garlic and ginger in a large saucepan
3. Cover with water and bring to the boil
4. Reduce to a strong simmer, cover and leave to cook for 45-50 minutes until the onions are very soft
5. Add in the other ingredients
6. Place in a blender and whisk into a paste


*Curry powder

The recipe for curry paste requires curry powder. With all the spices now in my cupboard, I have given up buying ready prepared curry powder. Instead, I like to make my own. Here is an example of one of the combinations I use.

This makes enough for one curry serving 4 people

1 tsp, coriander seeds
1½ tsp, cumin seeds
½ tsp, turmeric
½ tsp, caraway seeds
½ tsp, black peppercorns
½ tsp, chilli powder (or ¼ cayenne powder)
¼ tsp, ground cinnamon
½ tsp, ground ginger

1. Heat a small frying pan
2. Toast the seeds for 1 minute
3. Add the powdered spices and toast for a further 1 minute, making sure not to burn
4. Transfer to a pestle and break up the seeds with a mortar**
5. Use immediately or store in an airtight container for up to 3 months

** If you do not have a pestle and mortar, you can put the spices once cooled into a plastic bag and use a rolling-pin to break them down.

Cooking for the Unreasonable, Uncategorized

Cooking for the Unreasonable

“But you’re going on holiday the next day?” came the response when I said having people over to eat was simply impossible. I work full-time and yet, this couple insist on inviting themselves to dinner. I explain that I am simply too stressed and busy getting ready to leave but they are having none of it. “Ah sure, don’t you have to eat anyway…” There’s no arguing with that (even though we would ring for a take-away if simply left alone). In the end, I cave only to hear “Now you better impress us with this dinner.”

I have to admit that when I heard those words, I wanted to use my limited knife skills for something other than culinary pursuits. So in between packing, cancelling the milk order, newspaper order, washing floors, emptying the fridge, dealing with bin juice, giving keys to neighbours, ironing…I pick a menu and buy food. I need something which takes little preparation, reduces washing up and the leftovers can be frozen. With that, I prepare a pot of chilli which can bubble away while I get on with other tasks at hand. I throw – and I mean t-h-r-o-w – together a Pavlova as I don’t have to watch it and there is rarely any leftovers from that.

And so, they arrive. I transfer chilli, rice, cheese, sour cream into bowls, plonk them down on the table and encourage everyone to dig in. Disappointed faces. “It’s a bit casual…” says she. “I’m not mad about chilli myself…” says he, lip curled as he pushes kidney beans out of the sauce and over to the side of his plate. “Oh and Pavlova…that will see my allergies flare up,” she adds. And then they laugh “Next time, we’ll order in advance” as they proceed to hoover up every morsel of food that is in their vicinity. They guzzle cold beers I offer on top of a couple of bottles of wine. Their contribution to the evening? Their charming wit and repartee… Despite subtle reminders that we need to finish packing and get to the airport by 6am, they won’t be budged. Eventually, as the witching hour approaches, the two waddle off down the drive, mumbling ‘thanks’ and whispering about how grumpy I am…

‘Never again’, I grumble as I finish the final preparations for our trip.

Until the next year. And bang on cue, we are heading off on holidays and the two pipe up to say they are coming to dinner. I repeatedly say ‘No’, ‘It’s not suitable’, ‘Not this year’ but they are heading in our direction. This year, I make even less effort. I roast a chicken, stuffed with lemon wedges, garlic with butter and sea salt spread on the top. I pop in a tray of vegetables to roast. And to make a point that time is precious, I buy a Viennetta ice cream and a container of cheap, commercial, chocolate sauce. The teen is horrified but I figure, if this doesn’t give the hint that time is limited, nothing will.

And so they plonk themselves down at the table and start to graze. The chicken arrives out, crispy and delicious. The vegetables the same and while they complain that there is no gravy, they work like termites through the fare. I take the ice cream block out of the box, in front of them for full affect, and instead of utter disgust, they gasp with childish delight, exclaiming ‘How retro!’ ‘How kitsch!’ They help themselves to big wedges, much to the teen’s annoyance who is left with only a sliver, and happily drown the dessert in chocolate sauce. I watch aghast as they shovel it in, piece after piece, without sparing a thought for anyone else at the table.

They leave at midnight, delighted with themselves. “Best dinner ever”, they declare before waving back a reminder that they’ll see us next year.

A year passes. Pointing out how unsuitable having people for dinner the evening before holidays has fallen on deaf ears. Time for a change of track. Slyly, I book holidays a week early and true to form, the phone rings – same date, same time. But this year an unexpected response. “No, we’re not going on holiday,” I tell them a whopper of a white lie. Stunned silence greets the news. I fumble through the idea of us coming over to them in a week or so and listen as she hastens her retreat from the conversation rather than issue an invitation.

Sigh of relief and a smile to the teen as I relax in the taxi on the way to the airport. I think God will forgive me that little fib…just this once!


Fish, Tuna and Tomato Risotto, Uncategorized

No stir tuna and tomato risotto

photo (24)

Risotto is a firm favourite in this house. It’s on the list of ‘Ultimate Comfort Foods.’ There are times, however, when standing over the stove, adding ladle after ladle of stock, is a task too far.

This is easy and quick to prepare. It’s also a big hit with the Teen and her pals. No stirring. No adding stock bit by bit. Perfect for the end of a long day!

1 large onion, chopped finely
2 cloves of garlic, chopped finely
2 courgettes, chopped into small cubes
1 cup of risotto rice (Arborio rice)
1 tin of chopped tomatoes
2 cups of vegetable stock
1 tin of tuna fish, drained
Salt and pepper to season

1. Combine all the ingredients in a casserole dish
2. Cover with lid and cook in a fan oven at 180C for 30 minutes (or until the rice is cooked)
3. Stir thoroughly before serving
4. Serve with a mixed green salad



Family Stories and Food, Mommy Dearest and Gur Cake, Uncategorized

Mommy Dearest and Gur Cake


As a child, I loved the sound of this cake but had no idea what it was. I heard others talk about it and when I asked Mommy Dearest to buy me a piece, she would constantly – and consistently – ignore my request.


And still I wanted to taste something which sounded like Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr! What a great name! Where did it come from? I looked at a number of sources and there is a difference of opinion. While accepted as a mainstay of Dublin confectionary, some suggest ‘Gur’ is ‘Gutter’ pronounced in a strong Dublin accent while others think it is short for ‘Gurrier’as this cake was traditionally popular among poor children.[1] Why was it so cheap? The majority of the mix was made from the ends of stale bread so where the British made Bread and Butter Pudding, Dubliners made Gur Cake!


So what is this brilliantly named cake? It has short crust pastry either side and a dark brown filling of bread, dried fruit, brown sugar and mixed spice. When I finally encountered the illustrious Gur Cake, I realised that it was already a regular feature in our house – a firm favourite of Mommy Dearest who in her infinite poshness called it by its other name ‘Chester Cake.’

[1] A local word defined as ‘street urchin’.

Baking and stuff, Jewish Orange and Almond Cake, Uncategorized

The Love-Hate Cake




I love oranges – always have, always will. Unfortunately, that does not extend to marmalade which is a taste I cannot endure in any shape or form. The Teen, however, loves it – created by an early affinity with Jaffa Cakes. This cake therefore appeals to some palates but alas, not all.

This is a cake of many dimensions. It is a cake for marmalade lovers as it has an intense orangey taste. It is a flour free/gluten free cake. Although I cannot taste the final product, it is also a cake I enjoy making – particularly, the aroma of orange that wafts through the house as the oranges are cooking.

Where did I find this? I have been asked this question on a number of occasions. In 2000,  I was carrying out research for a client on old newspapers. I found this in an edition of The Irish Press from the 1950s and couldn’t resist jotting it down.

Jewish Orange and Almond Cake

2 large oranges
6 eggs
9 ounces castor sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
9 ounces of ground almonds

1. Gently boil the two oranges for about two hours
2. Cool and pulp
3. Blend the eggs, sugar and baking powder until light, thick and pale
4. Add the ground almonds
5. Add the pulped orange
6. Turn into a cake tin
7. Bake in a non-Fan oven at 190 for about one hour. The cake is baked when a skewer inserted into the centre of the cake comes away clean.