Donal Skehan

Homemade butter & retro hotel food…

Muckross Traditional Farms TV_37

Who, you might wonder are those three lovely ladies in the photo above?  Well if you’ve been watching my new series Rediscovering The Irish Kitchen on RTE One, you might have spotted them teaching me traditional Irish cooking skills at Muckross Traditional Farms in Killarney. The ladies are a wonderful source of information when it comes to older cooking methods and in this weeks episode I’m learning how to make butter.  It’s a method which is now trendy to do at home and I can understand why, after making it for the first time under the watchful eyes of the Muckross Bean An Tí’s, I’ve seen just how incredibly easy it is.  I put the butter to good use to make wholewheat scones sweetened with Irish honey and cooked in a pot over an open fire.

Muckross Traditional Farms TV_53

I also had the opportunity to meet Seamus Healy, a chef who worked in Killarney for over 45 years, many of them spent working at The Maltron Hotel, formerly The Great Southern Hotel.  Killarney’s rich history of hospitality and tourism began in 1854 when a direct train line from Dublin was opened by the Great Southern and Western Railway company, making it easier for tourists to discover some of Ireland’s most stunning scenery.  Seamus shared with me some of his hand written menus and recipes from meals he cooked in the late 1960’s, 70’s and 80’s.  I also cook Mutton or Dingle Pies, a hand pie made with lamb, traditionally made for the Puck Fair in Killorglin, and a brilliantly retro Treacle Sponge served with hot custard.  Make sure to tune in Tuesday’s 8.30pm on RTE One.

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Maple Bacon Buttermilk Scones

I love the combination here of sweet and savoury, and it makes for an extremely delicious breakfast treat.

Makes 16 scones
1 tablespoon of rapeseed oil
250g of smoked streaky bacon, cut into 2cm pieces
450g flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
A generous pinch of salt
225g cold butter, cut into 1cm cubes
180ml maple syrup, plus a little extra for glazing
180ml of buttermilk
1 egg
Sea salt to sprinkle

Place a large frying pan over a medium high heat and fry the bacon in a little oil until crisp and sizzling. Transfer to a plate lined with kitchen paper and set aside to cool completely.

In a large mixing bowl combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Using a fork or pastry cutter press the butter into the dry ingredients until you have a mixture with resembles rough breadcrumbs. Don’t worry too much if there are still some rogue lumps of butter.

Combine the maple syrup and buttermilk in a pyrex jug and pour this into the butter mixture along with the cool bacon.

Using a fork bring the dough together making sure not to over mix it.

When the dough has come together, turn it out on to a clean work surface sprinkled with flour.

Roll the dough out to about 6cm in thickness and cut out 5cm diameter circles. You may have to roll the dough out again to use it all up.

Place the scones on two baking sheets lined with parchment paper or silicone baking mats and then place in the fridge to rest for about 10 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 180˚C. Whisk the egg in a bowl and set aside.

Before the scones go into the oven, brush a little beaten egg and sprinkle a little sea salt on each one, and then bake for 25 minutes.

Remove the scones from the oven and brush over a little maple syrup on each one. Place back in the oven for another 3 minutes and then remove to a wire cooling wrack.

Serve the scones straight away or parcel up in paper bags for a savoury breakfast snack!

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