It's summer and that means a little more time on your hands to try out those Irish recipes that you've been filing away all winter.
Let's start with dessert, like the lunatics we are. Ireland has some truly outstanding dessert offerings and many of these desserts you just can't get anywhere else once you're wheels up over Dublin.
Take the singular and deceptively simple dish Banoffee, for example. It's a perfect union of toffee, cream, chocolate, shortbread and bananas that taken together, is somehow much stronger than the sum of its parts.
You can't find Banoffee in America. Or at least, you'll have a search on your hands. So why not learn the basics of the dish and produce one for your next big Irish get-together? This recipe is adapted from Catherine Leyland's of Odlums Irish Baking Supplies.
The good news is that Banoffee is a complete cinch to make, as long as you pay strict attention to the recipe, that is - I'll explain why in a minute, but first let's assemble the ingredients (be sure to pick up some Odlums Cream Plain Flour at your local Irish store).
Banoffee pie recipe
For the shortbread, you will need:
1 cup of Odlums Cream Plain Flour
1 stick of butter, softened
2 tablespoons of icing sugar
1 heaped teaspoon cornflour
For the toffee, you will need:
1 tin of condensed milk, simmered for 3 hours and cooled
For the Banoffee topping, you will need:
3 bananas, sliced
1 carton of organic cream, whipped
1 serving of grated chocolate pieces or 1 crushed Cadbury's Flake
Method for the shortbread:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Grease and line a loose-bottomed 9-inch cake tin.
Sieve the flour, icing sugar, and cornflour into a bowl. Rub in the butter until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs.
Press the mixture into the prepared loose-bottomed tin and bake in preheated oven for approx 20 minutes until golden in color.
Leave to cool in the tin.
Method for the toffee:
Place the unopened tin of condensed milk in a saucepan covered with enough water to cover the top of the tin. This is very important, if the water line drops below the top of the tin it could explode and leave you with a toffee covered ceiling.
Bring the water to the boil along with the tin and then reduce to a low simmer for 3 hours. Check every 30 minutes that the level of the water does not fall below the tin of condensed milk during simmering. Remove the tin from the saucepan and allow to cool. This can be done a few days in advance.
Method for the Banoffee topping:
Spread the toffee over the cold shortbread. Gently remove from the cake tin and place on a serving plate. Arrange the sliced bananas on top of the toffee, cover with the whipped cream and decorate with the flaked chocolate pieces. Voila, a perfect Irish dessert!
Another kind of popular Irish dessert is a feathery light cake that you can find anywhere at home in Ireland, but never seem to find anywhere in the States. I'm talking about the Genoise or Victoria Sponge Cake.
Named after the 19th-century English queen with the 50-inch waist, it may not be the healthiest but my word it's one of the most delicious, and it couldn't be easier to bake. Here are the ingredients and the method.
Victoria Sponge Cake recipe
3/4 cup of self-raising flour
1 stick of butter (at room temperature)
3/4 cup of superfine sugar
1 level teaspoon baking powder
4 eggs, beaten
2 tablespoons milk
One carton of organic cream (for whipping)
Jar of good quality Raspberry Jam (try Bonne Maman)
Icing Sugar, for dusting
Victoria Sponge Cake recipe method:
The method is simple. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease and base line two 7 or 8-inch sandwich tins. In a large bowl, beat all the cake ingredients together to form a smooth soft batter.
Divide the mixture between the two prepared tins and smooth the top of each with the back of a spoon. Bake for about 20 minutes until they're golden brown and the cake springs back when pressed. Turn onto a wire tray or cooling rack and allow them to cool completely.
Meanwhile, make the cake filling by beating the cream until whipped. Spread the whipped cream filling over the base of one of the sponges, spread the raspberry jam over the other and sandwich the two together. Dust lightly with icing sugar before serving. Store in an airtight container and enjoy within 3 days. Irresistible.
Here's an Irish bread that has the texture of a cake and yet clearly comes from the Irish baking tradition. Know as Curnie Cake, Railway Cake or Spotted Dog, depending on what part of Ireland you're in, it's a savory and sweet summer treat that will prove hard to pass up.
You will need:
3 1/4 cups of self-raising flour
1 level teaspoon baking powder
Pinch of salt
2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 cup of butter
1/4 cup of sultanas or raisins
1 egg (beaten)
1 1/3 cups (approx) of milk
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Lightly dust a flat baking tray with flour. Sieve the flour, baking powder and salt into a mixing bowl. Add the sugar and mix well. Rub the butter into the dry ingredients until mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Add the sultanas or raisins and gently mix through.
Finally, add the egg and sufficient milk to make a soft dough, but not too wet or sticky. Turn onto a lightly floured board and gently bring the dough together. The less you work it the lighter the results will be.
Transfer the mixture to the prepared baking tray and shape into a round about 1 and a half inches deep. Cut a cross on top with a sharp knife. Bake for about 40 minutes until golden brown and the bread has a hollow sound when tapped underneath. Serve, freshly baked, with butter and jam.
Sticky Toffee Pudding
No one can resist a Sticky toffee pudding and in Ireland, with its outstanding dairy products taking it to the next level, they're the most delicious you'll ever have. This recipe is adapted from the famous Ballymaloe Cooking School's.
For the pudding, you will need:
1 cup of chopped dates (use block dates)
1 cup of tea
1 stick unsalted butter
3/4 cup Muscovado sugar
2 cups self-raising flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon Espresso coffee
For the hot toffee sauce, you will need
1 stick of butter
3/4 cup dark soft brown, Muscovado sugar
1 cup of cream
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
8-inch spring form tin with removable base or a heavy cake tin
Here's the method:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Soak the dates in hot tea for 15 minutes. Line the bottom and sides of the cake tin with some greaseproof paper. Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, and then fold in the sifted flour.
Add the sieved bread soda, vanilla extract and coffee to the date and tea and stir this into the mixture. Turn into the lined tin and cook for 1-1 1/2 hours or until a skewer comes out clean.
To make the sticky toffee sauce: put the butter and sugar into a heavy-bottomed saucepan and melt gently on a low heat. Simmer for about 5 minutes, remove from the heat and gradually stir in the cream and the vanilla extract. Put back on the heat and stir for 2 or 3 minutes until the sauce is absolutely smooth.
To serve: Pour some hot sauce on to a serving plate. Put the sticky toffee pudding on top, pour lots more sauce over the top. Put the remainder into a bowl, and to serve with the pudding as well as softly whipped cream. Yum!
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*Originally published in June 2019. Updated in June 2023.