There is quiet efficiency and frugality in traditional Irish food. Today, after a break of a couple of months, I indulged my yearning for food that cherished my sense of belonging, of home, of heritage.
I asked the butcher for a large piece of ham, not too cured. He picked up a lump from the tray and offered to cut it in half, knowing that I like to make the most of the budget. I had something different in mind today and blew almost all of the meat budget for the week as I’ll use the leftover from this evening a number of times. I have a chicken in the freezer so that’s my meals for the week sorted. The ham weighed 2lbs so would take a bit of cooking.
a vat a pot, and fill it with cold water then put the ham inside. I bring the pot to the boil and the salt content in the ham seeps out. The water takes on a slick appearance.with speckles of blue and indigo dancing over the top from the cure. Covered, the ham simmers for 90 minutes and as it simmers white bubbles of froth form and disappear back into the water.
Himself brought home some new potatoes from the allotment, bigger than the last batch, not so “babyish”. I scrubbed them to remove the dirt and felt the starch build up under my nails as I wielded the brush with vigour. The scratches from the coarse hairs left tracks and trails in the potatoes. That’s okay. Flavour is all I ask from the simple spud.
Sometimes when blogging about food it’s easy to forget that appearances aren’t everything. That no matter how it looks on the plate; it has to taste good.
Gently, I slide the potatoes into the bubbling vat with the ham. The water will impart a little seasoning and flavour to the potatoes. 15 minutes passes.
Small carrots are the by-product of thinning the carrot crop. I scrub them too. They’re far more resistant to the brush but my hands take on an orange tinge and the scent of fresh, earthy carrots fill the air. Roughly chopped they wait until the last 10 minutes of cooking. They’ll hold their colour but add a crunch to dinner.
After 10 minutes, I slide the pot across the hob to a cooler spot and replace it with a smaller saucepan. I melt butter, sprinkle in a little flour and cook it off, then bit by bit add a half-and-half mixture of warm milk and decanted cooking liquor from the boiling pot. At this point my mother would add finely chopped parsley. I don’t have enough in the garden quite yet to do it so I sprinkle leaves on the plate of food before serving.
This is the food that my mother cooked, my grandmother cooked and their ancestors before them.
Food of my ancestors.
Food of my family.
Wholesome, nourishing, frugal and high in nutrients.
I serve the meal to my family as my forebears did, with love.
When himself asked me what was for dinner I replied; “Yum, Yum”. He knew instantly what we would be eating.
It’s the old Dublin way of describing the meal of ham cooked with potatoes and vegetables in the same pot: “Yum, yum, pig’s bum, cabbage & potatoes.”