Cookery Feature - Autumn Bakes from the Christmas Book List

We’ve been diving into some of the best new Irish cookbooks in search of tasty autumn bakes this month - and the year’s Christmas crop includes some pretty gorgeous recipes. 


The Irish Countrywomen’s Association (ICA) was founded in 1910 with the aim to ‘improve the standard of life in rural Ireland through education and co-operative effort’; today this thriving organisation has 700 guilds throughout Ireland and this is their fifth cookbook. Edited by Aoife Carrigy, with photograhy by Leo Byrne, THE ICA BOOK OF BREAD AND BAKING (Gill Books, hardback, 208pp €22.99) focuses on the speciality they’re best known for - home baking. The main emphasis is on all kinds of breads, but there’s plenty else including cakes, biscuits, muffins and buns, traybakes, puddings and more…

SAMPLE RECIPE: Bacon and Peanut Butter Muffins
From Marion Lyon, Maghera Guild, Cavan: “Indulgence isn’t just for those with a sweet tooth. These savoury muffins balance sweet and salty flavours and make a great choice for a mid-morning snack or lunch box addition along with some cheese and fruit.”
Makes 12 muffins
300g (10½oz) plain flour, sieved
2 tablespoons (30g/1oz) caster sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons (2½oz) bacon fat or butter
1 egg
275ml (½ pint) milk
3 uncooked bacon rashers, finely chopped
2 heaped tablespoons (2½oz) peanut butter

what you’ll need
12-cup muffin tin
paper muffin cases (optional)
wire rack

Preheat oven to 200ºC/400ºF/Gas 6. Lightly grease a 12- cup muffin tin or line with muffin cases.

Sieve the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt together in a mixing bowl.

Gently melt the bacon fat or butter. Meanwhile beat the egg in another large mixing bowl and whisk in the milk. Add the melted fat and chopped, uncooked bacon, and mix well. Stir in the flour mixture, but do not beat; the mixture should be just moistened.

Spoon out a little batter into each well of your muffin tin (or muffin case if using), then drop about a third of a teaspoon per muffin of peanut butter into each before topping up with batter to fill each well three-quarters full.

Bake in the preheated oven for 20–25 minutes or until risen and golden all over.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool in tin for a few minutes before transferring to wire rack to cool fully. These will keep for a day or two in an airtight container, or for a few months frozen if well-wrapped.

ICA Tip: For a sweet variation, reduce the salt to half a teaspoon, and replace the peanut butter and bacon with a cup of blueberries; you may not need quite as much milk to bind it so add half to start and then as much as you need after that.



Simplicity has always been Darina Allen’s mantra and it’s the main theme of her 19th book, ONE POT FEEDS ALL (Kyle Cathie hardback, £20) . “One pot, one dish, one roasting tin. I can’t believe it’s taken me so long to write this book as it’s been bubbling away in my subconscious for years,” she says in her Introduction. Down to earth as ever, the 100 classic and contemporary recipes cover a wide range of styles, from Irish seasonal treats to international favourites - with no complicated techniques required.

SAMPLE RECIPE: Apple and Blackberry Traybake with Sweet Geranium Sugar
You’ll find yourself reaching for this recipe over and over again. Here I use apple and blackberries with sweet geranium, but I also love it with green gooseberries and elderflower, or plums. I enjoy arranging the blackberries and apples in neat lines, but if you are super busy just sprinkle them over the top of the sponge base.
Serves 10-12

8–12 lemon geranium leaves (Pelargonium graveolens)
3–4 cooking apples, such as Bramley Seedling or Grenadier
150g (5oz) blackberries
75g (3oz) caster sugar
crème fraiche or softly whipped cream, to serve
For the Sponge Base
225g (8oz) softened butter
175g (6oz) caster sugar
275g (9oz) self-raising flour
4 organic, free-range eggs

Preheat the oven to 160°C/Gas Mark 3.

Line the base of a 33 x 23 x 5cm cake tin, or a 25.5cm sauté pan or cast-iron frying pan with parchment paper, allowing it to hang over the sides. Arrange 6–8 sweet geranium leaves over the base – these give the sponge a haunting lemony flavour.

To make the sponge base, combine the butter, sugar and flour in the bowl of a food processor. Whizz for a second or two, then add the eggs and stop as soon as the mixture comes together. Spoon the mixture over the base of the tin as evenly as possible (over the sweet geranium leaves).

Peel the apples. Cut into thin slices and arrange on top of the sponge in three lines. Arrange a line of blackberries in between each row. Sprinkle 25g (1oz) of the caster sugar over the top and bake for about 50 minutes.

Meanwhile, whizz 2–4 sweet geranium leaves with the remaining 50g (2oz) caster sugar in a food processor. Spread over a baking tray and set aside at room temperature to dry out.

Once it is fully cooked, the centre of the cake should be firm to the touch and the edges slightly shrunk from the sides of the tin. Serve in the tin, sprinkled with the sweet geranium sugar. Alternatively, leave to rest in the tin for 4–5 minutes before turning out. Serve with crème fraiche or softly whipped cream.


Following on the success of The Extra Virgin Kitchen and The Virtuous Tart, Sunday Independent columnist Susan Jane White’s third book CLEVER BATCH (Gill hardback, €24.99) is all about time management. Describing herself as ‘an undercaffeinated, financially cramped, time-pinched mum’, she sets about freeing up some time in her week by ‘creating nourishing dishes that can sit in your fridge all week, or hang out on your kitchen shelves’. Well planned shopping and batch cooking may not be a new idea, but she brings it to a new generation with her kickass style and a trademark healthy message - inspired by a serious immune disorder that she developed at 25, which marked the beginning of her nutritional pilgrimage and a career in wholefoods cooking.

SAMPLE RECIPE: Chocolate Buckwheat Granola
The number of expensive granolas to choose from in our supermarkets is unprecedented in the history of Homo sapiens. Trust me, you can make a much better one for a fraction of the price at home. This one has three different grains, making it a complete protein by virtue of its amino acid permutation. That’s bench presser speak for ‘high-five’. Sporty teens will go mental for it. Find rice malt and barley malt syrup in savvy delis and health food stores nationwide.

125ml extra virgin coconut oil or ghee
125ml rice malt syrup or barley malt syrup
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste or good-quality extract
150g oat flakes
150g barley flakes (or more oat flakes)
150g whole buckwheat groats (not flakes)
100–130g hazelnuts or pecans
4 tablespoons raw cacao nibs (optional)
Pinch of flaky sea salt
200g regular pitted dates, chopped
100g dark chocolate, such as Green & Blacks cooking chocolate, chopped into chunks

Fire up your oven to 160°C. Line your largest tray (or use two smaller trays) with non-stick baking paper.
In your biggest pot, melt your preferred fat, your syrup, cinnamon and vanilla over a timid heat. Turn off the heat.
Now tumble in all the remaining ingredients except the dates and dark chocolate. Scrape the contents of the pan out over your lined tray(s).
Bake in the oven for 25 minutes and not a minute longer. Allow the granola to cool completely before stirring through the chopped dates (Medjools are even more magnificent, but can bump up the price) and glorious chunks of chocolate. Store in a tall glass jar on the kitchen counter. Stunning stuff with ice-cold milk. Lasts for weeks on your kitchen shelf.



New from Trevis L. Gleason, author of the acclaimed Dingle Dinners, BURREN DINNERS (O’Brien Press hardback, €24.99) does for north Clare what Dingle Dinners did for north Kerry, by bringing together a collection of special recipes from the area’s chefs and artisan food producers that express its “rugged surroundings, local ingredients and generations-old passion for communal dining”.

SAMPLE RECIPE: Pecan and Maple Baked Cheesecake by Vivian ‘Viv’ Kelly, The Burren Storehouse, Lisdoonvarna.
Serves 6
For the base
225 g/8 oz shortbread biscuits
30 g/1 oz/2 tbsp unsalted butter plus more for greasing
For the filling
625 g/22 oz cream cheese
225 g/8 oz/1 cup + 2 tbsp light brown sugar
½ tsp salt
3 eggs
120 ml/4 fl oz/½ cup cream
2 tsp vanilla extract
For the topping
20 g/¾ oz/4 tsp butter
50 g/1¾ oz/ 1/3 cup pecans, roughly chopped
75 g/2 ½ oz shortbread biscuits, crumbled
25 g/¾ oz/2 tbsp light brown sugar
For the maple sauce
30 g/1 oz/2 tbsp butter
50 g/1¾ oz/¼ cup caster sugar
80 ml/3 fl oz/ 1/3 cup maple syrup
120 ml/4 fl oz/½ cup cream

Preheat oven to 140°C/280°F/Gas Mark 1. Butter a 23 cm/9-inch springform tin and line the bottom with greaseproof paper.

For the base, crush the shortbread into coarse crumbs, melt the butter and mix together in a bowl. Sprinkle the crumbs onto the base of the prepared tin.

To make the filling, beat the cream cheese, sugar and salt in a stand mixer until light. With the motor running on slow, beat in eggs, one at a time, scraping down in between. Fold in the cream and vanilla extract. Pour the mix over the biscuit base and smooth with the back of a spoon. Bake for 50 to 60 minutes until set.

Meanwhile, to make the topping, melt the butter in a saucepan over a low heat. Add the pecans and cook for 1 to 2 minutes until fragrant. Add the shortbread and sugar and cook for 2 to 3 minutes. Leave aside to cool.

Once the cheesecake has set, remove to a rack, cover with the topping and allow to cool.

To make the sauce, melt the butter, sugar, syrup and cream together in a saucepan over a medium–low heat. Increase heat to medium and bring to a boil. Cook until mixture has become a light caramel colour. Serve over the cheesecake.


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