Mad May Eve

30 Apr 2016

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May Eve is the evening before May Day (April 30). Legend has it that on this night a certain type of sorcery transpires in which female evildoers called pishogues (pronounced “pish- ohh-g”) come round and do their best to make people’s lives miserable in the Irish countryside. A pishogue would do things such as surreptitiously place eggs, bread, meats, and other foods on someone’s land, and doing so would somehow take the riches from that farm and transfer them to the pishogue’s estate.

Now, these pishogues were real people—neighbors, churchgoers—and everyone knew who they were. Real people were known to be sort of possessed and forced into doing dreadful acts. This pishoguery put the fear of God into people, and villagers began sprinkling holy water on their homes, livestock, farmyards, and machinery to ward off this evil on May Eve.

No May Eve would be complete without a story involving the ubiquitous “love potion.” Yes, coaxioriums were popular on this evening as well. Allegedly, if a woman made an advance on a man and was rejected, she would slip him a potion and he’d come around.

My absolute favorite bits of holiday folklore are stories of women who had the power to turn into hares. They would morph into wild hares and get into all kinds of mischief, then return home and have a cup of tea as if nothing had happened. Often, someone would come across a lady’s dress and shoes lying near a hedge, and they would take no notice, assuming that she had likely changed into a hare and was just out gallivanting in the field.

While this all seems far-fetched, many of these accounts have credible witnesses and are steeped in traditions that have withstood the test of time. Here in our village of Kilcolman, we sprinkle holy water to be safe and all I can say is, what’s good for the gander . . .

Each May Eve, I plan a special little tea party in the garden for whoever will come. These easy-to-make tea cakes are a fun take on traditional chocolate-covered marshmallow tea cakes. If you are short on time, you can substitute any packaged round tea biscuit or cookie for the base.

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Mad May Eve Teacakes
Makes about 30 teacakes
For the Biscuit Base
1 cup (100 g) whole-wheat flour
½ cup (50 g) all-purpose flour
Pinch of salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
¼ cup (50 g) golden superfine sugar
4 tablespoons (50 g) unsalted butter, cold
2 to 3 tablespoons whole milk
For the Marshmallow
3 large free-range egg whites
¾ cup (150 g) golden superfine sugar
6 teaspoons golden syrup (or light corn syrup)
Pinch of salt
Seeds from ½ vanilla bean
½ cup raspberry or blackberry jam (or marmalade)
For the Chocolate Coating
1 cup (150 g) milk chocolate, chopped (or chips)
⅓ cup (75 g) dark chocolate, chopped (or chips)
2 teaspoons vegetable oil (or coconut oil, if you prefer)
Make the Biscuit Base
Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C).
In a large mixing bowl, sift together the flours, salt, baking powder, and sugar. Rub in the butter with your fingers until the mixture resembles coarse bread crumbs. Add the milk, and stir everything together to form a smooth ball. You may need a little more or less milk—the dough should be smooth and pliable but not sticky.
Pat the dough into a flat oval then dust the work surface with flour. Roll the dough to approximately ⅛ inch thick. Using a 2½-inch round cookie cutter, cut out small rounds. Place on parchment paper, and chill in the fridge for 10 minutes; this should stop them from shrinking when baking.
Bake the biscuits for 15 minutes or until crisp. You don’t want a soft texture; a crisp base is needed for the teacake.
Make the Marshmallow Filling
Place the egg whites, sugar, golden syrup, salt, and vanilla seeds in a large, heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water (make sure the bottom of the bowl doesn’t touch the water). While it is heating, beat the mixture with an electric hand mixer for 6 to 8 minutes until it is smooth, silky, and double in volume. The trick is to have a good, stiff marshmallow texture so that it holds when piped, without overcooking. A thick whipped cream consistency is ideal.
Spoon the marshmallow into a piping bag.
Spread each biscuit with ¼ to ½ teaspoon jam, then pipe a 1-inch dollop of marshmallow on top. Leave the biscuits to set at room temperature for 2 hours.
Make the Chocolate Coating
When ready to assemble, line a couple of trays with a silicone mat or parchment paper. Melt the chocolates and oil in a heatproof bowl over a pan of simmering water. Set aside to cool slightly.
To coat the cookies, dip each one in the chocolate, then hold upside down to allow the excess to drip off. Very quickly turn right-side up and place on the prepared trays. Leave all the teacakes to set at room temperature about 1 hour.
Serve with glasses of milk or cups of hot tea.
Scullery Notes: These teacakes keep best at room temperature in an airtight container for one week. If you put them in the refrigerator, the chocolate will discolor.

Slan Abhaile,

Imen

Photos by Imen McDonnell. Styling by Sonia Chaverri Mulford.

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The Queen of Puddings

18 Aug 2010

I know, right? And yes, it tastes as divine as it looks…especially right out of the oven. Mmmmm.

Last week I was graciously given an old Irish cookery and home economics book that was used here in Ireland during the 1940’s and 50’s.  It is called “All in the Cooking, the Colaiste Mhuire book of Household Cookery”. Steeped in tradition and an absolute true gem to add to my cookbook collection, I had been pouring over it’s pages for days looking for the perfect first recipe to feature on my blog.  There are so many fascinating and historical recipes to choose from; from sweet puddings to savory sauces, a muriad of potato preparations to special “invalid cookery” dishes and the list goes on. But when I came upon the gorgeous and aptly titled, “Queen of Puddings” recipe, in all it’s glory….marked up and checked off as if it had been made a dozen times, I instantly {and giddily} decided that this would be the one.

Using meringue in Irish desserts was very common years ago as eggs were easier to come by than other more elaborate ingredients at the time. The same could be said for using jam and other conserves for sweet treats as well. Whatever the reason, this bread-ish pudding is utterly delicious.

I did a little research to see how many of my Irish friends had ever tried this and recieved a smattering of responses, a few who never had and many whom it brought back the fondest childhood memories. One of which, Tom Doorley, former Irish Times food writer and current Irish Daily Mail food columnist, commented via Twitter that this was a favourite of his when he was growing up, his mother had mostly used orange zest, but he prefers the lemon as prescribed in the forthcoming recipe.

Sweet, but also very light in flavour and texture…the perfect dessert to end a lovely Sunday family lunch or to accompany as part of a girly afternoon tea party or picnic.

I have provided the original recipe and also an updated version with oven temps and ml measurements.

Enjoy.

Odlums Recipe:

Ingredients

600ml/1pt Milk

25g/1oz Butter

50g/2oz Sugar

Rind of 1 Lemon

2 Large Eggs (separated)

125g/4oz Breadcrumbs

Topping

2 Tablespoons Raspberry Jam

Meringue

The Egg Whites

Pinch of Salt

125g/4oz Caster Sugar

Method

Preheat oven to 150°C/300°F/Gas 3. Grease a casserole or Pyrex dish.

Put the milk, butter, sugar, and lemon rind into a saucepan and gently heat, stirring occasionally, until sugar is dissolved. Allow to cool.

Beat the egg yolks and pour the heated milk onto them. Put the breadcrumbs into the prepared dish and pour over the liquid.

Bake for about 30 to 40 minutes until mixture is ‘set’ and golden in colour. Remove from oven.

Meanwhile, beat the egg whites with a pinch of salt until dry looking in appearance. Add the caster sugar and beat until shiney.

Spread the jam over the base then pile on the meringue, return to the oven until ‘set’ and golden brown.

Serve while hot.

Slan Abhaile,

Imen

Photo by Imen McDonnell. Assisted by Master Geoffrey McDonnell

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