The Engaging Ireland Podcast

Providing travel tips, guides to places of interest, interviews and all things Ireland – Hosted by Travis and Kathy Nelson

Ep. 35 – Contemporary Irish Halloween Traditions


During this, the last of our special Halloween-week episodes, we are taking a look at some contemporary ways to observe Samhain/Halloween.

We thought some of you might be interested in trying your hand at making colcannon and/or barmbrack, which is also known as barnbrack (bairín breac), so we’re including a recipe for each here. Enjoy!


Barmbrack Recipe

This bread is the perfect companion to a nice cup of tea. We don’t make it with cherries or dates, but we know people who make theirs this way. If you prefer, you can also add the zest of a lemon or 1⁄4 cup marmalade.

Makes 1 loaf (or round)

  • 1 Cup (125 g) Raisins
  • 3⁄4 Cup (100 g) Sultanas
  • 3⁄4 Cup (100 g) Currants
  • 1 Cup (250ml) Hot black tea
  • 1 Large egg, lightly whisked
  • 1 3⁄4 cups (225 g) Self-raising flour
  • 1 1⁄2 cup (200 g) Brown sugar (light, not dark)
  • 1 tsp Mixed spice*

Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C). Line a 1 lb (450g) loaf tin with parchment paper or grease pan with butter. (Some people make round barmbrack, and that’s fine, too.)

Place the raisins, sultanas, currants, (and, if you’re including them) cherries and/or dates in a bowl, then pour in enough hot tea to cover the fruit. Put a cover on the bowl and soak overnight (or at least an hour, if you’re in a big hurry).

Add the beaten egg, flour, sugar, and mixed spice to the fruit and tea mixture. Stir well until everything is just combined. If you’re planning to put charms in the loaf (a ring, coin, piece of cloth, etc.), wrap them in a piece of parchment paper and insert them in the batter, in such a way that there will be no more than one charm in any slice.

Pour the batter into the prepared loaf tin. Bake for about 90 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean. Leave to cool on a wire rack before slicing. Serve slices with butter. If you have an airtight tin to store in, that is the perfect place for it.

*For those who live an area where it is not readily available, you can make your own mixed spice using the following recipe:

  • 1 tsp cinnamon powder
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • About 3/4 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp ginger powder
  • 1/2 tsp allspice powder
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves

Makes about 4 teaspoons worth of mixed spice.


Colcannon Recipe

As with most recipes, colcannon recipes vary from family to family. This recipe is a general starting point. A popular addition to this recipe is bacon (either the ‘streaky’ bacon bits common in the US or traditional Irish bacon pieces).


  • 2 lbs Potatoes, cut into large chunks
  • 3/4 cup Milk or Half ‘n’ half
  • 3/4 tsp Salt
  • 6 T Butter
  • 1 cup Chopped onion
  • 6 cups Shredded green cabbage (or kale)
  • Freshly ground pepper to taste

(Optional: 4 oz or ~1 cup Shredded cheddar cheese – We prefer sharp cheddar)



Boil potatoes for about 20 minutes or until very tender. Drain well and mash with skins on, adding milk and salt.

While potatoes are cooking, melt butter in a large skillet. Add onion and cook about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally (or until very soft). Add shredded cabbage. Cook and stir for 5 minutes more or until very soft.

Stir cabbage mixture and cheese into hot potatoes and season with pepper. Mound onto serving plates and make a well in the center of each. Pour a little melted butter into each well, if desired.

(We know it’s a bit “English,” but we like to add leeks to our colcannon recipe. Another option we’ve tried is adding one bunch of green onions instead of the leeks.)

Makes 8 servings.

We hope you’ll try out these recipes for yourselves. Let us know how they turned our or what your family recipes are!


Oíche Shamhna Shona Daoibh!

(Pronounced: EE-hyeh HOW-nuh HUN-uh DEE-iv)

Pronounciation guide from Bitesize Irish Gaelic:

Posted 2 years, 6 months ago at 6:48 pm.

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