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Monday, 24 October 2011

a confit of Irish lamb...

Did you ever eat Colcannon, made from lovely pickled cream? 
With the greens and scallions mingled like a picture in a dream? 
Did you ever make a hole on top to hold the melting flake 
Of the creamy, flavoured butter that your mother used to make? 

Yes you did, so you did, so did he and so did I. 
And the more I think about it sure the nearer I’m to cry. 
Oh, wasn’t it the happy days when troubles we had not, 
And our mothers made Colcannon in the little skillet pot?

'Colcannon' – traditional Irish folk song

There is no better way to remind yourself how much Ireland has to offer than when you have visitors from abroad. We Irish love to travel and are always curious to learn about people, their food & culture, their history & celebrations. This is true also when friends from far away places come to see us. It is a joy to recommend scenic villages for exploration, street markets to stroll and historical sites to visit.

What is difficult, however, is to put a menu together for friends visiting. Not because there is so little to choose from, but because there is so much. In the past few decades we have embraced many of the cuisines of our European neighbours and more exotic tastes from further afield, but all the while our own tradition of hospitality and the country's native ingredients are second to none.

You do not need to be an expert in food, history or culture to share the joy of Irish contemporary cuisine. As far as agriculture is concerned, farmers can exploit our temperate climate where grass grows year-round and grazing cows, sheep and goats produce world class dairy products. Soft rains reward us with fertile land where wheat, barley, oats, and rye are easily cultivated. Hearty sausages and blood puddings, farmhouse cheeses, crusty bread and sweet butter, fresh milk and ales jostle for position on the delicatessens' shelves. Hunted or farmed game and fowl abound, the rivers are full of salmon, trout, and eels and our costal waters filled with seafood and shellfish.

Even though I have swopped the wooden fenced landscape of Tipperary for the stonewalled ruggedness of Galway, my choice of local produce is not limited, just different. Recent visitors to my house were treated to wonderful Atlantic mussels to take the edge off their appetite while I finished prepping our confit of Irish lamb.

One of the most versatile of Irish meats is lamb - traditionally used in stews (as well as it's older muttony counterpart), it's also arguably the perfect roasting meat. We can also adapt the roasting process to the confit method, more common with duck… but one of the great results when you confit your lamb in olive oil is that it mellows the strident gaminess of the meat that some people dislike. As with duck, the slow oil poaching makes the meat tender and silky. Team with the zingy gremolta and serve with pureed parsnip and a seasonal green.

A rich, dense dessert of chocolate mousse spiked with coffee with a sweet Irish whiskey cream to finish rounds off a great snapshot of Irish food.

As one of the well-fed guests remarked before heading out into the night "The west of Ireland is a lovely place to visit but an even better place to eat!"

Pride in Irish food needs to be celebrated and many enthusiastic home cooks are starting to give greater value to their culinary heritage.

Bain sult as do bhéile!

Confit of Irish Lamb

Olive Oil
8 Lamb Chops
2 Shallots
4 Sprigs of Fresh Rosemary
16 Peppercorns
4 Cloves of Garlic (smashed)
Sea Salt
Fresh Ground Pepper

Arrange lamb chops in an appropriately sized roasting tin with the shallots, rosemary, and garlic. Pour in enough olive oil to cover all of the chops. Cover tightly with tin foil and bake in the simmering oven of your range (120 degrees Farenheit in a conventional oven) for 2-3 hours (depending on desired doneness*). When done, remove from oil and drain on kitchen paper. Cover chops with another double layer of kitchen paper to mop up any excess oil. Season the chops with salt and some fresh ground black pepper. Heat a non-stick pan until hot and sear the lamb chops on both sides to color.

Lemon Hazelnut Gremolata

2 Cloves of Garlic (peeled and chopped)
Handful of basil
2 Tablespoons Fresh Lemon Juice
Grated peel from half a Lemon
3-4 Sprigs Flat Leaf Parsley
A large handful of Hazelnuts**
2 tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Maldon Sea Salt
Fresh Ground Black Pepper

Add first all ingredients except oil salt and pepper to a small food processor or blender.
Drizzle in olive oil slowly as you process the ingredients.
Be careful not to over process, leaving small chunks for a better texture, then add salt and pepper to taste.

*Check your meat for level of doneness by inserting a sharp knife into the chop to check the color of the meat.
**To bring out the true taste of your hazelnuts, dry roast them for a few minutes in a dry pan and rub off their skins in a clean tea towel.

Irish Coffee Mousse - chocolate, whiskey and cream!


  1. I am raving with the hunger reading this. The hazelnuts look so plump and beautiful. It all looks beautiful! And I do love gremolata....anyway I get it.
    Glad you have left Tipp for Galway. Lucky us :0)

  2. Surely that well-fed guest had something poetic to add about the beauty of the hostess?

  3. Ah thanks Mona - sure ye are stuck with me now :)

    He did say something, Mise possibly about my handsome Irish complexion, but it was all foreign you see so I didn't quite catch it.

  4. This looks fabulous, Amee. And a wonderful feast to feed to visitors coming to Ireland!

  5. I love reading how proud you are of Irish food. I hope your visitors liked the food and will spread the news about it.

  6. Your photos are gorgeous and the lamb made me drool. When I visit Ireland I want to come to your house! Good luck with the Cheffactor competition!

  7. This looks and sounds absolutely delicious. I've only been to Ireland once and you're post is making me want to go there right now (or pop round to yours for supper...!) :-)

  8. Looks absolutely delicious!! Best of luck with the competition :)

  9. Gorgeous! Congratulations on the win - richly deserved.

  10. Congrats, Amee, stunning dish. Love the gremolata!


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