I know, it’s a strange one; what on Earth took me to decide to make Eccles Cakes? I have never been to Manchester, I actually never went to England either, one of these “too close yet too far” thing, it just never happened. I remember selling them in a cheese shop I used to work in, the owner was from London I think, very, very British if you don’t mind me saying and if that even makes sense… Something “very French” probably suggests a certain “je ne sais quoi”, a cliché, some guy on a bicycle with onions hanging out and a Mariner’s top… Hang on! Isn’t this the description of an “Onion Johnny” from Brittany? Well that’s just great! Something “very Irish” tends to be a bit pejorative, an unpleasant trait and thankfully only used and identified by the locals… So, very British uh? By Jove, I am not sure… All I know is that you don’t need to go too far to experience the echoes of the old empire around here, so when niece Tara visited last week, I suggested a little stroll on the grounds and garden of Tullynally Castle, three hundred and fifty years in the making… I don’t know if you’ve heard of the Irish mythology “The Children of Lir”? Oidheadh Chloinne Lir, tale of a jealous step mother who turns her King of a husband’s children into Swans… Well, that is pretty much there, over looking Lough Derravaragh in Westmeath…
After lunch and a stroll in the gardens, I met my friend Morag, my favourite Scot who lives in the area. I didn’t realise that she does tours of the property and that Sunday, the program was about the basement and the Servants’ quarters, the laundry room, the kitchen, their sleeping quarters, even a room to mourn a lost one. It was fascinating, eerie, ghostly even, the lives of the privileged and the working men and women together in one space, yet segregated…
Yes, it was like travelling back in time for sure, what an experience! As I was taking a few shots, my mind started dwelling and rambling, how could I tie up a recipe to this blast from the past! It started to germinate, that idea, reading the menu in the kitchen, fourteen or eighteen courses, something must have caught my eye and frankly, I started to get a little creeped out…
That very morning, I explained Tara what Sea Buckthorn and Aronia were; a friend of mine from Castlepollard where the Castle is, gave me some a few short years ago and the small trees were now full of berries. I like to leave this part of the field for wildlife, I just take a little bit and leave the rest for the little creatures, birds and insects who had already devoured my cherries and blackcurrants. I had to act quickly…
For the Flaky Pastry:
- 200 g of organic pasta flour
- 90 g of salted butter
- 70 g of organic untreated cane sugar
- few tbsp of ice cold water
In a large bowl, place the flour and sugar and mix. Coarse grate the butter ( a good idea is to place the butter in the freezer for a bit). With a fork, mix the flour and sugar gently in order to coat all the butter. Add one by one the tbsp of iced cold water and then use your hand. Rest for a few hours in the fridge.
For the stuffing
Wash the berries well, and melt 100 g of butter with 100 g of unrefined organic sugar. Let the berries to stew until reduced and remove excess fat if necessary. You don’t want the mix to me too liquid.
I did the dough and the stew the day before, it kind of helps with cooling time. Put some flour on your kitchen top and roll the pastry, but not too thinly as you want a bit of texture there. With a pastry ring, cut a few discs, place the berries stuffing in the middle.
Wet with a pastry brush the edges and fold like a little pouch. Roll gently into a ball shape. Preheat the oven at 200 c, egg wash each small cakes, sprinkle with a little sugar and bake until golden which is between 20 to 25 minutes. Enjoy warm with a nice cup of coffee, even if in this case it will probably have to be tea, won’t it?
Keep Well and Eat Happy