The Celtic Diet – Part 4 – Samhain Recipes

In recent times, common Celtic recipes are stews, potato dishes, cereal/oat meals and lots of varieties of bread. Some foods are eaten during celebratory or commemorative days. These are some recipes you might want to try for Samhain: –

Traditional Irish Colcannon


Colcannon was first referenced in Irish history in a 1735 diary entry of William Bulkely, a traveler from Wales who had the dish on Halloween night in Dublin: “Dined at Cos. Wm. Parry, and also supped there upon a shoulder of mutton roasted and what they call there Coel Callen, which is cabbage boiled, potatoes and parsnips, all this mixed together. They eat well enough, and is a Dish always had in this Kingdom on this night.”


  • 500g Starchy, floury potatoes (as opposed to new potato varieties)
  • 150g Parsnips (or spring onions, or leeks)
  • 100g White Cabbage (or Kale)
  • Pinch of salt
  • 10g butter


  1. Prepare your potatoes, by cutting them into small roast potato sizes. Traditionally they are unpeeled with any eyes, etc. removed and washed, but many do peel them (although this takes away a lot of the goodness).
  2. Chop your other vegetables coarsely (modern recipes tend to use spring onions or leeks, but the oldest recipes used parsnips).
  3. Boil a pan of water with a pinch of salt and add the vegetables together. Some boil the potatoes separately, but I feel the tastes blend better when cooked together.
  4. Cover and simmer for 15-20 minutes (test with a fork).
  5. Once cooked add butter and mash.
  6. Optionally some add little trinkets to the dish when served at Samhain.

Irish stew

Irish Stew

Ingredients (for 8 servings)

  • Tablespoon oil
  • 2 or 3 onions, chopped
  • 450g (1 lb) lamb stew meat (traditionally mutton)
  • 225g (1/2 lb) parsnips or carrots, sliced
  • 1.3kg (3 lb) potatoes, sliced
  • 500ml (17 fl oz) stock
  • salt and pepper to taste


  1. Prepare vegetables.
  2. Brown onions and meat in oil. Once browned, add parsnips or carrots (or a mix).
  3. Add remaining ingredients and bring to the boil, then cover, lower heat and simmer for 1 to 1 1/2 hours.
  4. For a modern twist and extra flavour add herbs such as basil and bay leaves

Barmbrack (an Irish fruit cake)



  • 3/4 cups (8.75oz/248g) raisins
  • 3/4 cups (8.75oz/248g) sultanas
  • Zest of lemon, large
  • Zest of orange, large
  • 1/3 cups (8oz/227g) dark brown sugar
  • 2 cups (16floz/500ml) black breakfast tea, hot and strong
  • 3 cups (15oz/426g) all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon mixed spice
  • 2 eggs , beaten


  1. In a medium bowl, combine the raisins, sultanas, zests, and sugar.
  2. Pour the hot tea over and stir to combine. Cover with cling wrap and allow to stand overnight at room temperature.
  3. Pre-heat the oven to 325°F (170°C). Lower the temperature in a fan oven. Grease a deep 9 Inch Cake Pan with butter/oil and line with greaseproof paper.
  4. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and spice.
  5. Stir in the fruit mixture followed by the eggs, alternating between the two. Mix until no dry streaks remain and the batter is well incorporated.
  6. Pour the batter into Cake pan.
  7. Bake for about 80-90 minutes, or until the cake is golden and springs back when pressed. Let the cake cool in the pan on a wire rack for 20 minutes, then turn it out onto the rack to cool completely.
  8. Slice and serve with butter.
  9. Store the Barmbrack at room temperature in an airtight container for up to 4 days.

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