Ireland Guide

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Burns Night Special – an Irish ‘haggis’

So Burns Night is here at last – we’ve been waiting for it since January 6th, when the Christmas decorations came down. All because we have a strange but useful way of celebrating it around here, where it marks the final demise of the tree. What’s the big deal about Christmas tree disposal – carting them off to ‘local authority collection points’ and all that stuff – when anyone with an open fire can deal with it so easily at home? We just strip it down, cut up anything resembling a log and put all the bendy bits in the brown bin. Easy peasy. Anyway tonight is the night to burn it, and it will smell lovely too.

But this year is different. At lunchtime today Himself put a spanner in the works. “Are we having haggis tonight? That would be nice.” Quite. I like haggis alright but don’t happen to have any in stock at the moment. The nearest thing would be black pudding.

Okay, now that rang a bell. I remembered a recipe I made up for the Indo years ago and that could do nicely. I haven’t made it for ages but there was the recipe written into my 1978 calendar just as I remembered, and it’s homely comfort food, as easy as pie. I made it with red cabbage this time as it’s the only hard cabbage I had to hand, and it was good – although green or white cabbage is even better. Either way, just the business for the night that’s in it.

William’s Winter Warmer

This makes a balanced all-in-one winter meal, using foods that are likely to be in the house already – a useful standby. But big family appetites will be looking for more – you could do baked potatoes and perhaps another vegetable with it, if you like. Something green and lightly cooked would be refreshing, and maybe grilled or baked tomatoes.

Serves 2-4.

2 large or 3 medium parsnips, peeled

Pinch of curry powder or ground cumin

Butter for mashing

4 oz/125g hard cheese, eg Cheddar,grated

1 oz/25g butter

2 onions, finely sliced

2 cloves garlic, crushed

oil or butter to fry

1 or 2 black puddings, depending on size and appetite, sliced

1 small hard cabbage, shredded

Butter and grated cheese for topping (optional).

Boil the parsnips with the curry powder until tender. Drain and mash with some butter. Beat in the cheese and butter; season if necessary and keep warm.

Meanwhile, gently fry the onions and garlic in the butter, without browning. Add the black pudding and continue to cook gently.

Add the cabbage and continue to cook, stirring gently, until it is beginning to soften but still crisp.

Season the mixture to taste with black pepper and and turn into a buttered casserole.

Top with the mashed parsnips, dot with butter and/or sprinkle with a little extra grated cheese if you like, and then brown under the grill or in a hot oven.

Georgina Campbell

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