Enjoy some Father Ted cuisine at home this Halloween

Recipes for creamy ham and cabbage pie and how to bake a perfect barmbrack

Recently I was singing the praises of our Irish tea brack to a Welsh journalist who was exploring traditional Irish Halloween customs. Along with bobbing for apples and colcannon, she was tickled by the idea that we place different objects into the batter of this rich tea loaf, which can symbolise either good or bad fortune. A pea, a ring and even a piece of cloth can be found in slices of a home-baked brack. I like to think that famous scene from Father Ted, where Mrs Doyle bakes an entire knitted jumper into a cake for her Daniel O'Donnellesque idol Eoin McLove, was inspired by the humble barmbrack. While my Halloween traditions don't normally stretch to slicing into massive cakes filled with Aran sweaters, I am happy to remember the slices of buttered brack my mother used to pack in my lunchbox in the run-up to Halloween every year.

Pumpkin carving

There was always fierce competition among friends over school lunches as to who would end up with a ring in their slice. I wonder is this a tradition still even allowed in the modern Irish school lunchroom? Perhaps not considering the obvious choking hazard! Carving pumpkins was also high on my agenda at Halloween growing up and perhaps one of the real treats was roasting the pumpkin seeds in butter and salt until they become nutty and golden. That is, of course, after you painstakingly remove the goop and slime and give them a good rinse.

These traditional recipes wheeled out around Halloween certainly set the tone for the type of cooking the season requires. Hearty comfort food best-served alongside open fires, in a world of autumn leaves, hats and scarves.

Velvet mash

The recipes in this week’s column should serve you well for Halloween celebrations, including a rich and creamy ham and cabbage pie topped with velvet mash speckled with steamed cabbage and spring onions. I’ve also provided a basic recipe for barmbrack which, like a traditional Irish stew, will no doubt have different variations up and down the country. If your loaf manages to provide you with any leftovers, they are best used up, crumbled and caramelised in a delicious barmbrack parfait with whiskey-soaked prunes and a hint of orange – most definitely a sophisticated take on a classic which I’m certain Mrs Doyle wouldn’t approve of.