Mary Berry’s Ireland visit: here’s what she did and what she cooked

Rain-soaked whistlestop tour of some of Ireland’s culinary treasures for the 85-year-old includes a ride in a sidecar, in biker’s leathers and goggles

Mary Berry photographed in the Merrion Hotel, Dublin. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons

Mary Berry photographed in the Merrion Hotel, Dublin. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons

 

Did you hear the queen was back in Cork’s English Market? No, not that queen, or the duchess either, for that matter. The real queen of home cooking, Mary Berry, was in Ireland last year to film an episode of Mary Berry’s Simple Comforts, and you can watch it on BBC2 tomorrow night at 8pm.

Once the market, a seemingly essential stop on any royal visit to Ireland, has been ticked off, it’s off with the pale pink duster coat and on with with the biker’s leathers for a spin in a sidecar on the Butter Road. The 85-year-old is nothing if not up for it. Though having climbed the 127 steps to the Blarney Stone, she blows it a demure kiss rather than undertaking the horizontal contortions required to make physical contact with the rock.

Mary Berry on the Old Butter Road in Cork. Photograph: BBC/Endemol Shine UK/Alice Binks
Mary Berry on the Old Butter Road in Cork. Photograph: BBC/Endemol Shine UK/Alice Binks

“When I think of Ireland I think of colourful towns, beautiful scenery, and unpredictable weather,” she tells viewers at the start of the 30-minute programme, the third in a six-part series. By the end of her visit, utterly predictable might have been a more accurate; it seems to lash rain throughout her entire visit.

Except perhaps when she visits another baking goddess, Nuala Hickey of Hickey’s Bakery in Clonmel, Co Tipperary. Beaming when she, at around the fourth slice, manages to secure the gold coin in one of Hickey’s famous bracks, her golden glow banishes the clouds.

“Ireland’s food is its beating heart,” she says appreciatively, before signing off with a slightly stern dig at the weather gods. “I will never forget my enchanting visit to Ireland, the emerald green fields washed by the rain.” Quite.

The sprightly octogenarian more than earns her tot of 18-year-old whiskey at the Midleton Distillery, and, visit completed, this lamb casserole is what she cooks to thaw out and dry out.

Braised lamb with sweet potato and haricot beans

Serves 6

A hearty family stew, this is full of flavour and perfect for feeding a crowd. If an extra person turns up unexpectedly, just add another can of drained beans.

Ingredients

2 tbsp sunflower oil
1kg (2lb 3oz) lamb neck fillet, diced
2 large onions, sliced
4 celery sticks, sliced
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 tbsp cumin powder
1 tbsp medium curry powder
450ml (15fl oz) lamb or beef stock
1 x 400g (14oz) tin of chopped tomatoes
1 tbsp sun-dried tomato purée or paste
2 tbsp mango chutney
1 x 400g (14oz) tin of haricot beans, drained and rinsed
2 sweet potatoes, peeled and sliced into 2cm (¾in) cubes
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Method

1 You will need a large deep frying pan or sauté pan with a lid or a flameproof and ovenproof casserole dish. Preheat the oven to 160°C/140°C fan/Gas 3.

2 Heat a tablespoon of the oil in the pan. Quickly fry the lamb over a high heat, until golden brown all over – you may need to do this in batches so as not to overcrowd the pan. Remove each batch with a slotted spoon and set aside.

3 Add the remaining oil to the same pan and fry the onions, celery and garlic for a few minutes. Add the spices and fry for another 30 seconds, stirring. Add the stock, tomatoes, tomato purée or paste and the mango chutney. Bring to the boil, stirring, then add the lamb and season with salt and pepper. Stir for a few minutes, then cover the pan with a lid and transfer to the oven for about an hour.

4 Put the pan back on the hob and add the beans and sweet potatoes. Bring everything back up to the boil, then cover the pan again and return to the oven. Continue to simmer for a further 45 minutes or until the lamb is tender and the potatoes are just cooked but still holding their shape. Check the seasoning and serve piping hot.

Paneer and roasted vegetable curry

Serves 4–6

Ingredients

4 tbsp sunflower oil
1 cauliflower, broken into florets
300g sweet potato, cut into 2cm (¾in) dice
225g (8oz) paneer, cut into 2cm (¾in) dice
2 onions, sliced
3cm (1¼in) knob of fresh root ginger, peeled and grated
1 tbsp curry powder
1 tbsp garam masala
¼ tsp ground cloves
2 tbsp plain flour
600ml (1 pint) hot vegetable stock
2 tbsp mango chutney
150ml (5fl oz) double cream
100g (4oz) baby spinach
Juice of 1 lemon
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Method

1 Preheat the oven to 220°C/200°C fan/Gas 7.

2 Drizzle 2 tablespoons of the oil into a large roasting tin. Scatter

the pieces of cauliflower and sweet potato into the tin and toss to coat them with oil. Season with salt and pepper.

3 Roast in the oven for about 15 minutes. Add the paneer at one end of the hot roasting tin and return it to the oven. Cook for 5–10 minutes, turning halfway through, until the cheese is golden on both sides, the cauliflower is golden and the sweet potato is tender. Set aside.

4 Heat the remaining oil in a large deep frying pan. Add the onions and ginger and fry for 5–10 minutes until cooked. Sprinkle in the spices and flour and stir over the heat for a few seconds. Gradually pour in the stock and stir until thickened, then simmer for a few minutes over a high heat.

5 Stir in the mango chutney and cream, then add the roasted cauliflower and sweet potato to the pan. Stir in the spinach until it has heated through and wilted, then add the lemon juice and check the seasoning.

6 Add the paneer at the last moment and serve piping hot. Paneer is a fresh Indian cheese that does not have a strong flavour but stays firm when roasted. It combines beautifully with the vegetables in this delicious curry. Lovely served with some cooked rice.

Brioche frangipane apple pudding

Serves 8

When you feel in need of a comfort pudding this one really fits the bill. It’s perfect for Sunday lunch, served warm with ice cream, custard, cream or crème fraîche.

Ingredients

½ a brioche loaf
175g (6oz) butter, softened, plus extra for greasing
175g (6oz) caster sugar
1 tsp almond extract
175g (6oz) ground almonds
3 eggs, beaten
25g (1oz) plain flour
About 2 red dessert apples, skin on, cored and thinly sliced,
2 tbsp apricot jam
1 tbsp flaked almonds, toasted
Icing sugar, for dusting

Method

1 You will need a large, shallow ovenproof dish, about 28cm (11in) in diameter. Preheat the oven to 200°C/180°C fan/Gas 6 and grease the dish with butter.

2 Slice the brioche into thin slices, about 5mm/¼in, and arrange these over the base of the dish. Make sure you cover the base and fill in all the gaps, but don’t overlap the slices.

3 Measure the butter and sugar into a food processor and whizz until pale and fluffy. Add the almond extract, ground almonds, eggs and flour, then whizz again until the mixture is soft and creamy and there are no lumps. Be careful not to over-process.

4 Spoon the mixture over the brioche base and spread it to the sides. Arrange the sliced apples in a neat overlapping circular pattern over the top. Bake the pudding in the oven for about 40 minutes until lightly golden all over and firm in the centre when lightly pressed.

5 Melt the jam with 2 tablespoons of water in a small pan. Brush over the surface and sprinkle with flaked almonds.

6 Dust the pudding with icing sugar and serve warm.

Mary Berry’s Simple Comforts, is published by BBC Books , €28.99

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