Bangers and Colcannon

Bonfire Night in Ireland means something completely different to Bonfire Night in England. In Ireland, Bonfire Night is on 23rd June to celebrate St John’s Eve, and like most of Ireland’s feast days, the roots are in Celtic pagan times that cross over into religious celebrations.

It's autumn, which means that I usually overdose on Pumpkin Spice Latte's. And I'm cool with that. I love those warming spices against comforting blanket of dairy goodness. But what I'm less cool about is why I have never tried to replicate the Pumpkin Spice flavour at home. This recipe remedies that!

I made this recipe back in September just as the autumn was starting to make an appearance in earnest. And, despite it taking me a solid three months to get it up on the blog, thankfully all the flavours are still as relevant as we head into the end of one year and the beginning of a new one!

One of the absolute joys of recent years is discovering the wonder of slow cooked beef and pork cheeks!

I couldn't tell you how long I had waited and wanted to make this recipe.

Bangers and Colcannon

Bonfire Night in Ireland means something completely different to Bonfire Night in England. In Ireland, Bonfire Night is on 23rd June to celebrate St John’s Eve, and like most of Ireland’s feast days, the roots are in Celtic pagan times that cross over into religious celebrations.

To burn bonfires on St John’s Eve is to herald the start of a good harvest as well as the usual pagan nods to fertility, and close to the summer solstice as well.

Penny for the Guy (

In England, Bonfire Night is 5th November and celebrates the failed Gunpowder Plot of 1605 by Guy Fawkes to blow up Parliament, overthrow the Protestant King James I and restore Catholicism as the dominant faith. As kids, every year at home in Bristol, my sister and I would make an effigy of Guy Fawkes using old clothes donated by Dad or Grandad. The ends of the trouser legs were tied and stuffed with newspaper; an old shirt or jumper the same, the arms tied off at the end; and either a balloon or a plastic shopping bag, stuffed with paper with a face drawn on it for the head. Local kids would sit outside shops or go house to house with their Guy asking, “Penny for the Guy” and on Bonfire Night, Dad would place our Guy on top of the bonfire and light it. We’d let off fireworks in the back garden and hope the sparklers wouldn’t burn our hands! Afterwards, we’d all tuck into Bangers and Mash, hot apple juice and Cinder Toffee.

One of the first party nights I hosted at our home in West Cork was to recreate Guy Fawkes night. I remember that year feeling a little homesick and deeply nostalgic for the things I had grown up with and known my whole life. Ireland and England may only be a short hop across the Irish Sea, but at times, the customs and traditions can be hugely different. Bonfire Night being one of them. It was a crisp, clear chilly night, just like I remember from childhood. Bonfires and fireworks are illegal in Ireland, except for strictly controlled events, so instead we lit our firepit, wrote our names in the night air with sparklers, whacked a piñata and let off glitter bombs. Then we all tucked into our food and warmed our hands around hot cups of mulled cider, apple juice for the children, and stood around the fire pit sharing stories.

What precisely constitutes Colcannon is ferociously debated in Ireland. I recently attended a talk about it where I learned that in some parts of New Foundland where there is a huge Irish ex-pat community going back generations, their Colcannon doesn’t have any potatoes in it all! In Wexford, it’s quite typical to have parsnips in the Colcannon, or to boil the potatoes and cabbage together and mash it up in one big pot. But it would always have cabbage in it – although traditionally not Kale.

However, Kale is a type of brassica, so while it might not be the traditional variety of cabbage usually the staple of Irish Colcannon, I like it and, along with the scallion/spring onions, and an almost obscene amount of butter, makes for a seriously tasty plate of spuds. When it comes to the bangers (sausages), get the best quality you can and cook slowly – I usually place them in a cold frying pan and cook for up to 30 minutes over a low to medium heat turning every five minutes or so. Likewise, with the onion gravy: take your time! Time is the secret ingredient in truly brilliant onion cookery, so don’t rush it. Comfort food should never be rushed anyway – in my mind both the cooking and eating of food like this is what calms the soul and nourishes the body.

Bangers & Colcannon


  • 8 pork sausages, minimum meat content 80%
  • 1 kg of floury potatoes, peeled and diced
  • 250 g butter, cubed
  • 50 ml whole milk
  • Bunch of Russian Kale (apx 2 handfuls)
  • 4 scallions
  • 1 tbsp parsley (any kind), finely chopped
  • 4 medium red onions, peeled, halved and sliced
  • Olive oil and butter
  • 100 ml red wine
  • Fresh thyme leaves
  • 250 ml chicken or beef stock
  • Salt and pepper


  • Place the sausages into a cold frying pan, place over a low heat and cook slowly, turning every few minutes to brown all over. Add a little olive oil if your sausages are a high meat, low fat content. Depending on the size of sausages, cooking could take up 30 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, place the potatoes into a pan of salted water, bring to the boil. Do not cook to the point of mush, the potatoes must hold their shape.
  • Drain and allow to airdry in a colander for 10 minutes. Return to the pan and break the potatoes down with a masher, if you have a potato ricer you can use that instead. Begin to the add the butter a few cubes at a time and beat through using a wooden spoon. Repeat until you have a creamy texture. You may not need to use all the butter.
  • Add the milk, you may not need all the milk, it depends how floury your potatoes are.
  • I prefer not to cook my kale and scallions. The kale will wilt gently amongst the warm potatoes and that is sufficient. Remove the kale stems and finely slice the leaves. Top and tail the scallions and finely slice into rounds. Mix all through the potatoes with the chopped parsley.
  • Season with black pepper and salt to taste.
  • Place the colcannon into a serving dish, cover with parchment paper and place in the oven, no more than 100 degrees Celsius, to keep warm.
  • For the onion gravy, into a saucepan over a low-medium heat, add a glug of olive oil and a knob of butter. Add the onions and stir to coat with the fats. Cover with a lid and cook the onions down slowly, stirring every now and again. The onions should brown but be careful not to burn. This should take between 15-20 minutes, the longer the better.
  • Add the red wine and allow the alcohol to cook off for a minute. Then add stock and thyme leaves. Stir and cook uncovered for the stock to reduce and thicken.
  • Serve up the sausages on a large serving platter, alongside the bowl of creamy colcannon and a large jug of the onion gravy.


Pumpkin Spice & Maple Butter

It’s autumn, which means that I usually overdose on Pumpkin Spice Latte’s. And I’m cool with that. I love those warming spices against comforting blanket of dairy goodness. But what I’m less cool about is why I have never tried to replicate the Pumpkin Spice flavour at home. This recipe remedies that!

October through December is also when I love to indulge in toasted carbs. Pancakes, not crepes but American Style or Drop Scones as they are traditionally known in Ireland, are a firm favourite for breakfast, lunch and dinner. But also toasted Barmbrack – the traditional Irish fruit tea cake that gains popularity in the lead up to Hallowe’en, or Samhain, because of the trinkets stored inside said to bestow good or bad luck on whoever found them hidden amongst the cake. Toasted crumpets, drowning in butter; ditto toast in general and raisin and cinnamon bagels…

American Style Pancakes with Pumpkin Spice and Maple Syrup Butter

All of these things are vastly improved with butter. Vastly improved yet further if that butter is THIS butter: flavoured with the heady notes of Pumpkin Spice and the sweet succulence of maple syrup.

Of course, the irony of Pumpkin Spice is that it doesn’t contain pumpkins or even taste of them. I probably should have looked into the history of that more, but I don’t think it really matters because, ultimately, what’s important is flavour and comfort and this flavoured butter has both of those things in droves!

Pumpkin Spice and Maple Syrup Butter

Word to the wise: using unsalted butter and adding maple syrup to it does make this a soft butter that melts really quickly. I make sure it is well chilled before I use it, so the butter gets a fighting chance of sinking in to whatever you have lashed it on without just dribbling onto the plate and down your chin – although these are both perfectly acceptable too!

Ingredients (makes 1 x 15cm log of butter)

  • 100g unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 tbsp maple syrup
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp ground clove
  • 1/8 tsp ground nutmeg


  • Place all the ingredients into a food processor and blend until fully combined.
  • Empty out down the centre of a piece of parchment paper.
  • Wrap the parchment paper over the butter and start to twist the ends of the paper to force the soft butter into a log shape. Keep rolling and twisting until the butter feels compacted together into a tight butter log.
  • Place in the fridge and chill for at least four hours until very firm. If you can’t wait that long, pop it in the freezer for 30 minutes.
  • Slice into disks and serve on top of anything that is warm and deserves this delicious butter!


Kale & Pumpkin Orecchiette

I made this recipe back in September just as the autumn was starting to make an appearance in earnest. And, despite it taking me a solid three months to get it up on the blog, thankfully all the flavours are still as relevant as we head into the end of one year and the beginning of a new one!

With some dishes I come up with, I wonder where a dish transforms from being a mere assemblage of ingredients into an actual recipe, and this is very much one of those dishes. So whichever it may technical set upon, the ingredients and method, such that it is, is noted below. But aside from all of that, this is the kind of dish that is pure comfort and joy. Don’t stimp on loading the roasting tray for the squash/pumpkin with endless cloves of garlic so that the kitchen is filled with that: the best aroma of all!

Kale & Pumpkin Orecchiette

Ingredients (serves 2):

  • Enough Oriecchiette pasta for two people
  • 1/2 Butternut Squash, peeled, deseeded and cubed into 1inch pieces
  • Lots of garlic – at least 5 cloves, in their skin and smashed
  • 20g of blue cheese (Shepherds Store works well)
  • 1 pack of Gubbeen streaky bacon, sliced into thin lardons
  • 2 generous handfuls of seasonal kale, destem and tear the leaves.
  • Handful of toasted pumpkin seeds
  • Parmesan cheese
  • Olive oil, sea salt and pepper


  • Heat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius, prepare the squash and arrange it on a baking tray. Toss in the smashed cloves of garlic, drizzle over a small amount of olive oil. Toss through and roast until the squash is tender. Turn once during cooking.
  • Bring a pan of well salted water to the boil, add in the pasta, a drizzle of olive oil and cook until tender. Drain and set aside.
  • Fry off the bacon until all the fat has rendered out and the bacon has gone crispy. Drain on kitchen paper and set aside.
  • Keep the bacon fat, and once the squash is cooked through heat up the bacon fat again and quickly cook the kale leaves until they have softened.
  • Into a large sharing bowl, add the drained pasta, squash, pumpkin seeds and the crumbled blue cheese, season with sea salt and black pepper and toss together.
  • Scatter about the kale, then crumble the bacon over. Finally, using a veg peeler, peel off some Parmesan cheese over the whole dish and serve immediately.


Slow Braised Beef Cheeks

One of the absolute joys of recent years is discovering the wonder of slow cooked beef and pork cheeks!

Probably even five years ago, it might not be something we would choose to eat, but with the growing popularity in nose to tail eating and cooking, offal and many rediscovering how lovely slow cooking is (largely due to the rise in popularity of slow cookers again), they have started to crop up on restaurant menus and, if you are lucky enough to have access to a traditional butcher that still sells the less expensive cuts, in home kitchens too!

Beef Cheeks are a gift: the pack a punch flavour wise, give incredible yield of meat, are much more cost effective than a steak and also help in doing our bit to reduce waste when it comes to using all of the animal.

They are also a hard working muscle on the animal and so need long and slow cooking to break them down so we can access their incredible flavour and texture. Slow cooked, or braised, correctly, and the meat will do that thing where it just melts at a touch of a fork and feathers away.

Glorious Beef Cheeks!

I love cooking beef cheeks. I don’t own a slow cooker myself, so for me it is all about the slow braise with plenty of vegetables, herbs and red wine. The absolute best way to eat them is with a creamy, rooty mash of some kind: potato, celeriac or swede work particularly well. Alternatively, whip up a batch of creamed polenta and serve with a melange of wild mushrooms and wild kale. I always save the cooking liquor from the braise, sieve it and then reduce it and thicken it with a little roux for a sauce that perfectly reflects the cooking of the beef cheek. You can of course also use a slow cooker for this recipe if you have one, it will reward you with the most comforting of home cooked dishes for a cold winters’ night!


  • 2 tsp of olive oil
  • 2 celery sticks, washed, trimmed, finely sliced
  • 2 carrots, washed, peeled and finely diced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, peeled and smashed
  • 1 medium onion (red or white), peeled and finely sliced
  • Handful of cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 2 bay leaves
  • Small handful of mixed woody herbs: thyme and rosemary etc
  • 500ml of good quality chicken stock (preferably homemade)
  • 300ml of a robust, full bodied red wine
  • 2-4 beef cheeks (add more wine if cooking more than two cheeks)
  • Knob of butter.


  • About an hour before cooking, lightly salt the beef cheeks with a good quality sea salt. Set aside.
  • Bring the oven to 150 degrees Celsius, no fan.
  • Into a deep cook pot with a lid, add the oil oil and two thirds of the celery, carrot, onion, garlic and tomato mix, and half the amount of herbs. Mix together.
  • On top of the vegetables, add your beef cheeks.
  • On top of the beef cheeks, add the remaining vegetable and herb mix.
  • Pour in the chicken stock and red wine. Add a generous knob of butter on top.
  • No need to season at this stage, you can do this when you are preparing the sauce later.
  • Place into the oven and cook for 3.5 to 4 hours, turning the cheeks once or twice. Cook until the meat has cooked through to tender – if you were to press it with a fork it should be soft and yielding.
  • When cooked, remove the cheeks from the braising liquid and set them aside to rest.
  • Sieve out the vegetables from the braising liquid, keep the liquid!
  • Place the liquid in a saucepan and cook until reduced by half. Add in a little cornflower mixed with warm water, add to the sauce and whisk out any lumps that might form.
  • Bring the sauce up to a simmer, and return the cheeks to it to warm through gently. Season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.
  • Serve up with a creamy rooty mash, some kale and a generous drizzle of the sauce.


Lobster Mac n Cheese

I couldn’t tell you how long I had waited and wanted to make this recipe.

Mac n Cheese has seen a boom in popularity that, based on absolutely no fact-based proof at all, feels to me to be a result of the explosion of popularity of BBQ restaurants in Ireland.  It’s not the BBQ restaurants themselves, per se, but rather our new found love of American Cuisine.  I have long had my suspicions that American Food is not all Taco Bell and Wendy’s.  Since my first visit to the US in 2008, and two other trips subsequent, my suspicions that American food is one of the worlds most misunderstood cuisines have become a reality.

Although Mac n Cheese is English in origin (and classed as a casserole, baked as it is in the oven), but become imbedded in American food culture by former American President Thomas Jefferson in the 18th Century.  It is probably now the most beloved of all American “comfort foods” and is subjected to many variations depending on where you live.


I grew up eating Macaroni Cheese.  But not the American Style.  I wrote a blog post about this a couple of years ago, along with the recipe for “My Mum’s ‘Not Very Macaroni Cheese’ Macaroni Cheese” – I highly recommend you make this recipe by the way.  Thankfully, it seems my Mum was way ahead of the curve in elevating the traditional “macaroni pasta and cheese sauce” to something more desirable and downright classy.  This dishes’ resurgence on restaurant and bistro menu’s has provided the perfect (read : bland) canvas for chefs to become more experimental with this side dish and make it exciting once again.

This recipe has been a long time in the making.  Between spending time understanding American food and how they get layer upon layer of flavour going into their dishes; reading and tasting I’m feeling pretty confident that this is not only the BEST Mac n Cheese recipe in the world (sorry Mum), but also the only one you’ll want to make time again.

macncheeseYes, it contains lobster, but, unless you’ve not been paying close attention, the price of lobster has plummeted in the past couple of years reducing lobster status as only for the well-lined of pocket, and more accessible to Joe Soaps like you and me.  Pairing this with sweetcorn is basically the only vegetable you need here.  The secret to this is in the cheese sauce.  Surprisingly though, this isn’t a dish that will take you hours to prepare – especially if you buy a ready-cooked lobster.  Take your time bashing the shell for two reasons: 1: you’ll want to keep the head and legs intact; 2: it works better texturally if the body and the claws can come out whole.

Have fun, and trust me…you will ENJOY this one!


  • 1 whole cooked lobster
  • 1 white onion sliced
  • pinch of whole black pepper corns
  • 2 fresh bay leaves
  • small bunch of fresh thyme
  • smoked sea salt
  • 1 tbsp salted butter
  • 500ml best quality full fat milk (I suggest the beautiful Gloun Cross Dairy milk from Dunmanway, West Cork)
  • 75g of strong cheddar, grated. I recommend Collea Cheese (50g for the sauce; 25g on top before grilling)
  • 1 ball of fresh mozzarella, I recommend Macroom Mozzarella Company
  • Smoked paprika
  • Zest of 1 lemon; juice of 1/2 a lemon
  • Handful of fresh coriander, finely chopped
  • 1 whole fresh sweetcorn on the cob
  • 250g dried macaroni pasta
  • 1 tblsp of anchovy butter (bought or home made)


  • Firmly but gently break open the cooked lobster.  Take out the tail and the claws whole. Set aside the head and legs (shell on)
  • Slice the white onion and add these to a heavy bottom medium sized pan.  Add the black peppercorns, 2 fresh bay leaves, sprigs of thyme, smoked sea salt, the lobster head and legs and the milk. Poach everything very gently for about 10-15 mins.  Watch it carefully to avoid boil over or burn.
  • Strain the liquid into a bowl and discard the poaching ingredients.
  • Put on a large pot of well salted water to boil.
  • Stand the sweetcorn on a chopping board. Slice the sweetcorn off of the cob by using your knife to slice lengthways down the cob.
  • When the water is boiling, add the macaroni pasta to it.  After 5 mins add the sweetcorn kernels.
  • In a small, heavy bottomed pan, add 1 tbsp of salted butter and allow to slowly melt.  Add in a heaped tbsp. of plain flour.  Cook the flour off in the butter using a wooden spoon and stirring constantly.  Slowly start to add in the infused milk and stir with a mini hand whisk to ensure that all lumps are worked out.  Leave to cook and thicken a little, stirring every now and again with a wooden spoon.
  • Drain the macaroni and sweetcorn and set aside.
  • Add 50g of the grated medium strong hard cheese and add this to the milk.  Stir to melt and thicken further.  Check for seasoning and adjust.
  • Add in 2 tsp of smoked paprika, grate in the zest of a lemon and the juice of half a lemon.  Add in most of the chopped coriander.  Stir to combine and to thicken so it coats the back of the spoon very well indeed.
  • Chop up the lobster tail into small bite-sized chunks.  Not too small that the chunks of lobster will be lost in the dish, but then not too large that the pieces are then few and far between!  Set aside.
  • Place the drained pasta and sweetcorn back in the saucepan.  Pour over the cheese sauce, then add in the chopped lobster.  Stir to combine and then place in a deep, oven proof dish.
  • Scatter the other 25g of grated cheese over the top and dot half a ball of mozzarella around the top.  Scatter another small amount of paprika over the top.  Place under a re ally hot grill until the cheese had melted and browned.
  • Meanwhile, gentle rinse the lobster claws and drain on some kitchen towel.
  • Melt some anchovy butter in a pan and gently add the dry lobster claws.  Slowly and gently warm the claws through in the butter, basting as you go.
  • Take the Mac n Cheese out from under the grill, and finish off with a final twist of black pepper, and scatter the remaining coriander.  Place the two warmed through lobster claws on top.
  • Serve with a slice of lemon and some fresh crusty bread.  Eat immediately, and try to stop yourself from going back for seconds!


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