I always drift back to Monica Sheridan at Christmas. Ireland’s first TV chef, she lives in the memory for those of us who grew up at the dawning of the television age in Ireland. Her Christmas Cake recipe is a classic and because it is nowhere on the internet, I decided, way back in 2013, to put the whole recipe in a blog post. This actually led me down a rabbit hole because the three posts I have written about Monica Sheridan were published so long ago that they no longer display properly, so I have spent the day updating them. Here is the first post I wrote about her – it was called Monica’s Kitchen and was all about her first cook book.
And here is the Christmas Cake post. She described it thus: unorthodox, unhygienic, almost improper – but it does work. She’s right – I have made it and it is delicious.
Another of her books, The Art of Irish Cooking, was written specifically for the American Market. It’s an Americanised version of the 1965 book, My Irish Cook Book, that I brought with me to Canada when I emigrated in 1974. This was the book I used when I was writing about Plum Pudding, although I didn’t use her recipe, just her pyrotechnics. It would be hard to exaggerate how unappetising the cover of the American version is.
Many of the recipes are the same, but there are significant differences between the Irish and American books. Amusingly, the chapter on ‘Drink’ is re-labelled ‘Beverages.’ All the same colloquial come-here-till-I-tell you chat is here and there’s an introduction by Bob Briscoe, the popular Lord Mayor of Dublin, who can’t resist the Irish-American tropes, saying, Our traditional Irish fare proved itself a boundless source of rugged health and stamina. . . it built the muscles that helped to push the great railroads across the American continent, and the Irish intellects that have adorned the world’s literature. For some reason, the American edition required menus, as if the publisher had said – ‘Yes, but what do the Irish actually eat at a meal?’ Here’s the Christmas dinner menu (with a bonus Expense Account menu delivered with her trademark sense of fun).
I have no idea what creamed potatoes are (mashed with cream?) or why she serves celery twice, the second time ‘curled.’ But this American edition is the only one where she gives a recipe for Mince Pies, so I am including her recipe for Mincemeat, in case there are those of you out there who like to make their own. Other recipes I have consulted call for shredded suet, but Monica keeps it fairly simple, although she does assume you have a mincer. It’s not such a standard piece of kitchen equipment as it used to be, so if you’re not sure what it is, here’s a link. I love her comment on the puddings too!
I’ve never made mince pies myself, but if I was to do it, I think I’d go with this one, from Jusrol ready-made pastry.
All our mothers and grandmothers cooked from Monica Sheridan and Maura Laverty‘s cookbooks. Together, these two women dragged Irish cuisine into the 20th century. Oh – yes, there was Theodora FitzGibbon too – well deserving of a future post. That’s my copy of her A Taste of Ireland in the lead photograph. I have several other cookbooks devoted to Irish cooking, from the 60’s to the 90’s. Fillet Sole St Brigid, anyone? Or a nice dish of Sloke?
Posts about Monica Sheridan
Monica Sheridan’s Christmas Cake