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: http://www.bitesizeirishgaelic.com/blog/oiche-shamhna-halloween-2/

Ep. 33 – The Legend of Stingy Jack

In a previous episode earlier this week, we mentioned the tradition of carving turnips to carry home an ember from the communal Samhain bonfire.  But where do we get the name Jack O’ Lantern? In this episode, we tell the tale of Stingy Jack.


Ep. 32 – Finn Mac Cumhal and the Captaincy of the Fianna

Illustration by Stephen Reid

It is said that Finn Mac Cumhal fought a goblin of the fairy folk on Samhain-eve on the hill of Tara. In this special Halloween-week episode, we tell the story of Finn and how he became the captain of the Fianna of Erinn.

This story is from “The High Deeds of Finn and Other Bardic Romances of Ancient Ireland”, By T.W. Rolleston, Illustrated by Stephen Reid, which can be found on Project Gutenberg at www.gutenberg.org

MiniCast – The State of the Podcast 2014

We’re back! Sorry to have been gone for so long!

In this small episode, we talk about what we’ve been up to and what our plans for new episodes.

We also mention the Thin Places tours led by our friend Mindie Burgoyne. You can check out her website at http://www.thinplacestour.com/

Please follow us on FaceBook!

Comment below to let us know what you want us to talk about in upcoming episodes. What have you always wanted to know about Ireland or Irish travel? Been to Ireland and seen something amazing! Let us know about your experiences so we can share it with others that love Ireland too!