Lamb Ciste

Lamb CisteTucking into some boiled mutton last week simply gave me more of a taste for lamb and made me determined to try this traditional Irish recipe for Easter.

A lamb ciste* (pronounced with a hard C) is the biggest festival of meat I’ve seen in a long time and I think we all know I am pure carnivore these days. You layer lamb chops and lamb kidneys with lamb mince and then top it all with a topping of suet pastry and put your hands over the eyes of any passing vegetarians just in case.

I have never heard of the dish before stumbling across it on a random online search for slow cooked dishes and I have no idea if it’s actually that traditional or Irish, but I can tell you that it’s utterly brilliant in every single way.

I used shoulder chops, made the mince rich with a gravy using stock from the boiled mutton and then baked it all in the oven to give that perfect chewy lightness that only suet can give pastry. I served it as Easter lunch and it was fantastic and very easy to make in advance.

Lamb Ciste (serves 6)

  • 8 lamb shoulder or saddle chops
  • 750g lamb mince
  • 3 lamb’s kidneys (optional)
  • 2 carrots, diced
  • 150g celeriac or 3 sticks celery, diced
  • 1 onion, diced (if not fodmapping)
  • 150g swede, diced (turnip for our Scottish and Norn Iron chums)
  • 3 tablespoons plain flour
  • 200ml lamb stock
  • 3 anchovies
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • salt and pepper
  • 450g plain flour
  • 250g suet (not the ‘veggie’ stuff)
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon mustard powder
  • salt and pepper
  • 250ml milk

I made the meat part of this the night before and the suet pastry just before serving as it works best freshly made. It made for a really easy and impressive Sunday lunch which required little effort beyond opening a bottle of something fizzy while it cooked.

Season the lamb chops well and seal in a hot frying pan for about 3 minutes each side. Rest in the dish you intend to serve the ciste in.

Seal the lamb mince in the same frying pan you used for the chops. You might need to do it in two batches to stop it from boiling in its own fat instead of sizzling.

Once it’s about halfway cooked, drain the fat off and then put all the lamb mince together in the same pan and scatter in the tablespoons of plain flour, the anchovies and Worcestershire sauce. Add the lamb stock and allow the mince to thicken into the gravy. Season well.

Tip it all into a bowl and pour the reserved fat back into the frying pan and soften the diced vegetables in it for about 15 minutes. Add the lamb to them all and mix well. Take off the heat

Core the white part out of the kidneys and cut each one into 4 pieces and stir through the lamb mince mix. Spread the mince mix over the top of the lamb chops and allow to cool. Refrigerate overnight if needed.

Allow the meat to come back to room temperature next day and allow the oven to heat to 180C. Put the flour in a large mixing bowl along with the salt and pepper, mustard and suet and baking powder. Add the milk half at a time and bring the dough together until it just comes together cleanly.

Roll it out on a lightly floured surface until it is about 3/4 inch thick and big enough to roughly cover the dish you are using. Drape over the dish and pull any overhanging bits off and patch them onto any gaps. Brush it all with a bit of milk.

Bake for 45 minutes and then turn the heat to 200C for ten minutes to give the top a golden sheen. Serve immediately. Your lamb chops should still be slightly pink if they are quite thick but the mince and kidneys will be smooth and rich.

I served mine with roast potatoes and parsnips but honestly I think some peas or kale would be more apt as it’s a very rich dish. We had generous lunch portions and I had three decent goes at leftovers too. I might have finally reached my lamb limit (for this week at least) but my mince love is back in action for sure!

This post was inspired by #livepeasant for Simply Beef and Lamb. *And I’m told by the fantastic Wholesome Ireland that ciste in Irish means ‘treasure chest’ which fits this dish beautifully!

 Irish Lamb Ciste


Champ Rosti


*Warning: this recipe may contain surprise cheese…

It was Pancake Day this week and with my usual organisational skills when I went to make pancakes for dinner on Tuesday, I had run out of eggs. And I don’t want to know how to make pancake batter without eggs thank you very much.

I thought what other flat foodstuff I could make for dinner and my mind went to rosti. Basically a pancake made almost entirely of potato, it’s quite the favourite of mine for that and its relative ease to make. Its Irish cousin boxty defeats me every time. Which might explain why I’m single on Valentine’s Day as apparently its your boxty making skills men are after. Who knew?

No such challenges with rosti (unlike me bothering to find the umlaut on my keyboard it would seem.) I decided to make one large rosti and to fodmap it, replace the onion with the greens of spring onion which gives it a champ flavour.

I also stealthily slipped some sliced mozzarella on top of the first layer of potato before adding a second layer and baking it all in the oven so I ended up with a gooey cheesy filling for a fantastic easy one pot brunch or dinner.

When I say serves 2, you of course know I ate the lot myself but in two sittings which totally counts.

Champ Rosti (serves 2)

  • 700g potatoes, grated
  • 3 spring onions (greens only if fodmap friendly)
  • 25g butter
  • 1 ball mozzarella, sliced
  • salt and pepper

The knack to a good rosti is potato starch to stick the strands of spud together and the best way I’ve found is to peel your potatoes (I used these Elfe ones I’ve been getting in Lidl which are fantastic) and boil them whole for exactly eight minutes.

Drain and allow to cool enough to be able to handle the potato and then grate on the coarsest side of the grater. You will have the correct amount of potato starch needed with the minimum of fuss. It should be sticky rather than gluey.

Put the grated potato in a bowl. Thinly slice the spring onions and add to the potatoes. Season it all well and mix the spring onions through well. I have in the past also added thinly shredded cabbage here too.

Melt half the butter in the base of an ovenproof pan or skillet until it starts to foam. I actually used some brown butter I had left from another batch of these cookies which is why my rosti is so toasty brown.

Press half the potato mix into the pan without packing it down too tightly. Put the sliced mozzarella on top of it all and then press the other half of the potato on top of that. Press it all down quite firmly with a fish slice or spatula. Dot the remaining butter on top it all and put the pan in a preheated 200℃ oven for 20 minutes.

I went to clean the bathroom while mine was cooking but you may prefer to kill time other ways. Either way you’ll have a gorgeous golden rosti with crisp edges and a delicious cheesy centre and the only other effort being whether to top it with an egg or not. Any spare lemon and sugar from thwarted pancake making is not recommended though…



gur cake

Hot Chocolate Gur Cake

gur cakeI was walking home one day last week when a friend called me and said without much preamble ‘you know about donkey’s gudge, don’t you?’ Pausing slightly to see if the noise of the A23 had made me mishear, I hedged my bets and said ‘refresh my memory…’

My friend said impatiently ‘you know, the Irish cake made of cake’ and I remembered that what his Cork based family knew as ‘donkey’s gudge’ was what other Irish people know as gur cake after the Dublin expression for wide boys or ‘gurriers’. It uses leftover stale fruit cake soaked in liquid and put between pastry to give baked goods a new lease of life. I immediately thought of Caitriona’s recipe here and didn’t think to ask why Cork and Waterford folk call it donkey’s gudge*.

I passed the recipe onto my friend who wanted to make the cake for his mum and didn’t think much more of it until on Easter Sunday I realised I was never going to be able to eat all the hot cross buns I’d made. I had some pastry from making pastiera for Easter and realised it would be a shame not to make gur cake.

I decided to give mine a further inauthentic twist by soaking my hot cross buns in chocolate milk and a splash of cream to enhance the dark chocolate of the buns I made. I simply melted a bar of chocolate into the milk so this would be an excellent way to use up any Easter eggs you’ve tired of simply eating out the wrapper absent mindedly.

Hot Chocolate Gur Cake (adapted from Wholesome Ireland)

  • 500g stale cake or hot cross buns
  • 250ml milk
  • 100g dark chocolate
  • 50ml cream
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 250g shortcrust pastry
  • 25g caster sugar

This is incredibly easy to make, especially since I used the shop bought pastry I had in the house. I have a knack of making pastry shrink and I need to spend a weekend making it when there’s no pressure and getting it right. Easter Sunday is not that time.

Start by crumbling up your cake or hot cross buns into a large bowl. Heat the milk in a pan on the stove, breaking your chocolate into it and stirring gently until it melts into a lovely hot chocolate. Pour it over the crumbs and add the cream and cinnamon and vanilla extract. Leave to absorb the liquid for about 20 minutes (which is co-incidentally how long it took me to do my washing up to have space to roll out pastry.)

Lightly flour your work surface and roll the pastry out to about 2-3mm thin. Cut it in half and carefully place one piece into a lined brownie tray. Mine was 23cm square and about 8cm deep. Prick the pastry well with a fork. Put the soaked crumb mixture on top of the pastry, flattening it down well and making sure it is right into the corners. Cover with the remaining pastry and again prick well with a fork. Sprinkle with the caster sugar.

I chilled my cake for 20 minutes in the fridge to prevent the pastry shrinking when it cooked, but if you’ve worked quickly with the pastry you could just put it straight into a 160℃ oven for 90 minutes or until the pastry is cooked but not golden.

Allow the cake to cool completely on a rack before cutting into squares. I ate mine the next morning for breakfast when I was tired and hungover after a late night over Easter dinner and it was just the ticket. Richer and smoother thanks to the chocolate than the fruit squares my aunt Kathleen used to make or the Christmas pudding version I’ve done before, I really enjoyed this cake. I still have no idea how it got christened donkey’s gudge so if anyone can elaborate, please do!

*I believe people in the rest of Ireland call it Chester Cake but I couldn’t find any link to the city of the same name.

gur top down

cabbage rolls Ocado

White Pudding Stuffed Cabbage Leaves

cabbage rolls Ocado Here at North/South Food, we are such black pudding fans, it’s one of our biggest  and best used tags, but we’ve completely neglected its close cousin, the white pudding. Made from oats, onions and pork fat, it has a lot of the flavour of black pudding but without the fear factor some people feel toward blood.

It’s a very traditionally Irish dish, but not really eaten in England and I have to admit I’d forgotten about it a bit until a friend mentioned their love of it recently, so when I saw it in the Ocado Irish shop, I knew I had to get some. Usually served fried in slices as part of a breakfast, I needed to perk it up for dinner.

Most people associate cabbage with Irish food (mainly alongside boiled bacon) and if I’m honest, I’ve never met a cabbage I didn’t love so it was a logical conclusion to use the heavily spiced white pudding to stuff cabbage leaves for a simple meal that promises to impress. I teamed with a beurre blanc and some Vichy carrots for added (and accidental) green, white and gold on the plate.

White Pudding Stuffed Cabbage Leaves (serves 4)

Preparation time about 25 minutes

Cooking time about 30 minutes

  • 1 cabbage (I used sweetheart, but Savoy works a treat)
  • 300g white pudding
  • 2 spring onions
  • 25g dried porcini mushrooms
  • 1/2 teaspoons pul biber or red chilli flakes
  • 1/4 teaspoon white pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground mace

Vichy Carrots (serves 4)

  • 500g carrots
  • 500ml sparkling water (I doubt you’ll find Vichy handy sadly)
  • 1 dessertspoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 50g butter
  • 1 teaspoon caraway seeds (optional) or parsley to serve

Beurre Blanc (makes 250ml but keeps well)

  • 50g shallots or spring onions, finely chopped
  • 15g fresh tarragon, finely chopped
  • 50ml white wine or vermouth
  • 25ml white wine vinegar
  • 25ml double cream
  • 125g butter at room temperature
  • salt and pepper

This might sound like a complicated meal but it really isn’t. I made it while half distracted and apart from accidentally buying dill for the beurre blanc instead of tarragon, it worked perfectly.

Boil a kettle of water and pour about two thirds into a large saucepan and the rest into a shallow bowl. Put the porcini mushrooms into the shallow bowl and allow to soak for 10 minutes. Keep the pan of water at a rolling boil and carefully peel the leaves of your cabbage off one at a time. Remove the central rib and split the leaves in two if using the pointed sweetheart cabbage.  Blanch each leaf individually for about a minute and use a slotted spoon to fish them out again. I lay mine on a clean tea towel.

Call that slotted spoon back into action and scoop your porcini out and finely chop them. Add to a mixing bowl, along with the spring onions which you have also chopped as finely as possible. Crumble the white pudding in, adding the extra seasoning and mash it all together with your hands.

Lay a cabbage leaf out at a time and put a heaped dessertspoon of white pudding on it close to the base. Roll the base of the leaf over the filling once and then fold the sides in as well to make a parcel. Keep rolling the leaf until the filling is completely covered. Repeat until all the filling and cabbage leaves are used. I got about twelve from mine. Steam the leaves for about 30 minutes.

raw cabbage leaves

While they are steaming, cook the carrots. Peel them and cut into batons (or if you have baby ones, peel and leave whole) and put in a saucepan. Just cover with the sparkling water and add the salt. You want to season them quite heavily to mimic the salinity of Vichy water (but without the sulphurousness.) Don’t forget the sugar. Boil them rapidly on a high heat without moving the carrots around as you want the water to evaporate leaving a glaze on them. Mine took about 15 minutes to become tender. I then added the butter and cooked them for another 6-7 minutes on a medium heat. Add the caraway seeds at this point to soften them or they are unpleasantly crunchy.

Carrots under control, turn your attention to the beurre blanc. In a dry pan, soften the shallots (I only had spring onions so used the whites) for a minute or two. Add half the tarragon, wine and about half the vinegar and reduce down for about 5 minutes to infuse the flavours.

Add the cream and bring to the boil. As soon as it hits boiling point, start adding the butter, whisking vigorously until it comes together. Take it off the heat and blitz it all with a hand blender until foamy and add the remaining vinegar and chopped tarragon.

Serve the cabbage leaves with the beurre blanc and the carrots on the side and enjoy the praise for a meal that’s full of flavour but with very little hassle to make. I kept the main course a little lighter so you could enjoy the cream of potato soup and the coffee Baileys marshmallow pie in style too. Perfect to give cabbage a new lease of life for the doubters!



potato soup

Cream of Potato Soup

potato soupFor some reason despite more or less worshipping at the shrine of the spud, I have never made a potato soup without adding either leeks or kale for caldo verde. In fact I’d never heard of cream of potato soup until I moved to England and saw packets of the Erin stuff in Irish sections of the supermarket and discovered it was thought of here as quintessentially Irish.

So when I checked out Ocado’s Irish shop for an event with them and Bord Bia for St Patrick’s Day, I was amused to see that they don’t stock this but lots of things I really do think of as Irish. I decided to make my own cream of potato soup though to be sure and top it with soda bread croutons, fresh dill and smoked salmon to make sure no one confused it with the packet stuff.

Cream of Potato Soup with Soda Bread Croutons (serves 4 to start)

For the soup:

  • 1 large onion
  • 25g butter
  • 500g potatoes
  • 650ml vegetable or chicken stock
  • 100ml buttermilk
  • salt and pepper

For the soda bread:

  • 225g plain flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 250ml buttermilk

To serve:

This is a very simple dish with a surprising amount of flavour from very few ingredients. I know I’ve described it as cream of potato but I forgot to buy any so I used the leftover buttermilk instead and the slight tang works brilliantly, so if you use cream, don’t skimp on a squirt of lemon juice too.

Finely slice the onion into half moons and allow it to soften into a sticky caramel tangle in butter over a low heat for about 30 minutes. Or use a batch of my slow cooker caramelised onions from the fridge where they last up to a month.

Peel the potatoes and cut into inch chunks. Add to the pan of onions and pour the stock over it all, seasoning well. Simmer on a low heat until the potatoes are collapsing around the edges for about 25 minutes. Use a handblender to blitz it all into a smooth soup.

It will thick and almost gluey at this stage but don’t panic. Add the buttermilk and blitz again and the texture will lift into a sleek soup with an almost foam like texture to the surface.

While the soup has been cooking, you’ll have been making the soda bread. I do buy mine for a emergency stash in the freezer, but having finally found a source of decent buttermilk, it seemed a shame not to make my own farls here.

Heat a dry heavy bottomed frying pan on the stove. Put the flour in a large bowl and add the sugar, salt and bicarb. Gradually add the buttermilk, bringing the dough together to a lump that shouldn’t be sticky. You may not need all the buttermilk. The acid in it activates the bicarbonate of soda and allows the bread to rise, so if you only milk, don’t forget to sour it with a splash of lemon or vinegar.

Flour the worktop and place the dough on it, pressing it into a circle with your hands until it is about an inch thick. Cut into four pieces or farls and cook two at a time in the dry frying pan giving them about 7 minutes on each side. Flip them over if they start to burn. Repeat with the remaining farls.

To make the croutons, split the farls in half and cut into small cubes. Add some oil or bacon fat to the frying pan and add the cubes to it and fry until the croutons are crisp and golden. Drain on some kitchen roll.

Serve the soup in shallow bowls scattered with the hot croutons, thinly sliced smoked salmon and chopped fresh dill. It probably doesn’t reheat well due to the buttermilk, but as there were only clean bowls from my guests, I’m not sure!