Irish-ish dishes for March: Domini Kemp’s kale and pastrami hash, shepherd’s pie, and posh spice bag

They won’t win any prizes for authenticity, but these Irish-inspired recipes will keep the family happy

Domini has used pastrami in this potato hash recipe, but you could use corned beef if you prefer. Picture: Dean Carroll

I was reluctant to go all-out Paddy-whackery for this column, but gently persuasive editors told me to try so I did, and guess what? We have a gorgeous shepherd’s pie that reminds me of the delicious one they serve in The Pig’s Ear on Nassau Street in Dublin.

The gur cake filled me with much apprehension in a Battenburg kind of way, so much so that I bought back-up chester cakes in case mine were too ugly to photograph. But like a child coming home with a B+ on their (pass) maths exam, I was vaguely impressed that it wasn’t too disastrous an experiment.

If you like that kind of dessert, you’ll hopefully like the little zing the grated apple and lemon juice bring to the recipe. When making it, I kept thinking how I would be shunned by the low-carb community forever more thanks to pastry, bread, dried fruit, more pastry. In fact, the whole menu was pretty carb-heavy, and spuds were featured in everything but the gur cake. But hey, when in Ireland…

Kale and corned beef hash

To make corned beef, you must start brining and curing a week before, which I completely forgot to do. So if you can’t get your hands on corned beef, use some good-quality pastrami instead.

Ingredients, serves 2

500g potatoes, cooked in boiling water until tender

200g kale

50ml olive oil

Salt and pepper

1 onion, peeled and very finely sliced

50g butter

2 eggs, beaten

1 tbsp flour

3-4 tbsp Worcestershire sauce

90g pastrami, roughly chopped

To garnish

2 eggs, fried in butter

Few squirts Tabasco


1. When the potatoes are cooked, roughly chop them and set aside to cool. Preheat your oven to 180C and put the kale on a roasting tray. Drizzle the kale with half the olive oil and season well with salt and pepper. Roast until the kale is wilting and starting to crisp. You may need to move it around a bit during cooking as the outside leaves will burn more quickly.

2. In the meantime, heat the rest of the oil in a non-stick frying pan and cook the onion for 3-4 mins over medium heat until soft, then add the butter. Mix the egg with the potatoes, flour, more seasoning, Worcestershire sauce and pastrami to form a lumpy batter. Turn up the heat in the pan, spread the potato mix on top of the onions, and press down lightly. Cook it to a nice golden brown shade, before turning over to cook the other side. It was quite “heavy” so I flipped it onto a plate, added a little more butter, and slid it back into the frying pan. If it breaks up, don’t worry; crush it down a bit. Cook the hash for until both sides are nice and brown, a few minutes.

3. When the hash is cooked and the kale is wilted, tasty, and crisp, serve the dish by placing the kale and eggs on top of the hash. Add a few dashes of Tabasco sauce then eat the hash straight out of the pan.

This shepherd’s pie is a comforting treat. Picture: Dean Carroll

Shepherd’s pie

Ingredients, serves 4-6

For the lamb shoulder

1 lamb shoulder

Salt and pepper

5 tbsp Worcestershire sauce


For the potato topping

1kg large baking potatoes

200ml double cream

120g unsalted butter

6 egg yolks

For the filling

Splash olive oil

2 carrots, peeled and diced

2 celery stalks, sliced

2 large onions, peeled and diced

8 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped

Few thyme sprigs

4 tbsp Worcestershire sauce

3 tbsp tomato ketchup

200ml chicken stock

100g frozen peas


1. Preheat your oven to 180C. Place the lamb shoulder in a roasting tin with lots of salt and the Worcestershire sauce, then cover halfway with water. Feel free to add herbs, garlic, and a splash of wine if you like. Cover loosely with foil and cook at 180C for about 2-3 hours, then turn down the heat to about 150C or 160C. Cook for another few hours, topping up the water regularly, until the meat is tender enough to pull apart with a teaspoon. Allow to cool a little - keep some of the cooking liquor - then shred or tear into large chunks and set aside.

2. Increase the oven to 200C and bake the spuds for about an hour or so until tender. When cool enough to handle, scoop out the potato and mash - you can also put this through a potato ricer. Heat up the cream with the butter until melted and then mix this into the potatoes. Season well and then beat in the egg yolks to make the mix glossy and rich. Set aside until ready to top your filling.

3. For the filling, heat the olive oil in a large, heavy-based saucepan and sweat the carrots, celery, and onions with a lid until soft but not coloured. Season really well, then add a few spoonfuls of the lamb “gravy” (the reserved cooking liquid) then add the garlic, thyme, Worcestershire sauce, tomato ketchup, and the torn-up lamb chunks. Add some more of that lamb cooking liquid (taste it to make sure it’s rich and delicious) then add the stock and simmer for 15-20 minutes until it has reduced, but the mixture is moist. Check the seasoning.

4. When ready to assemble, stir in the frozen peas then put the lamb mixture into a casserole dish. Using a spatula, place blobs of the potato mix on top and smooth it out. You can either leave this to cool fully and cook the next day (after bringing it up to room temperature) or else cook straight away in a hot oven at 180C for about 30 minutes until the mixture is piping hot and the topping golden brown.

Domini’s take on a spice bag uses cornflour for a gluten-free dish. Serve with curry sauce for a classic spice bag experience. Picture: Dean Carroll

Posh spice bag

Some of the dried herb companies make “spice bag” seasoning packs which I used in addition to five spice mix.

Ingredients, serves 2

2 chicken breasts, cut into tenders

100ml buttermilk

Salt and pepper

2 tsp five spice

For the coating

4 tbsp cornflour

2 tsp five spice

½ packet spice bag seasoning

Bunch of spring onions, sliced

1 red chili, finely sliced

For the vegetables

Approx. 500g large potatoes

Vegetable oil, for frying

Few splashes olive oil

1 large white onion, peeled and sliced

4 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced

1 red pepper, sliced

1 yellow pepper, sliced


1. Marinate the chicken in the buttermilk, five spice, salt and pepper. Leave this for at least an hour or overnight if you like.

2. Then jump to the vegetables: boil the potatoes whole with the skin on until just tender but still firm enough to slice into wedges. Drain, cool, and cut into wedges. Set aside to cool a bit more, then heat up the vegetable oil in your fryer (or, in my case, a wok). Blanch them for their first fry in the vegetable oil until just starting to colour, then drain and set aside on paper towel until you’re getting closer to completing the dish.

3. In a large frying pan, sweat the onions and peppers in olive oil with plenty of salt and pepper until soft. At this stage, you’re nearly ready to go.

4. Place the cornflour in a bowl and season with salt, pepper and five spice, then toss the chicken in the seasoned cornflour.

5. Heat up the vegetable oil again (you may need to add more oil) and cook the wedges for their second cooking – get good colour on them, then drain and season.

6. Fry the coated chicken in batches until golden brown and cooked through, adding the spring onions and chillies for the final sizzle. Drain the chicken, then toss with the cooked onion and pepper mixture and wedges. Season again and serve.

Serve this gur cake with a dollop of cream. Picture: Dean Carroll

Gur cake

Ingredients, makes 12 squares

100g butter, melted

2 tbsp muscovado sugar

350g sheets shortcrust pastry

8 slices stale bread, crusts removed

200ml strong tea, cold

375g dried fruit

1 apple, grated

1/2 tsp baking powder

2 eggs, beaten

4 tbsp golden syrup

1 lemon

2 tbsp molasses

2 tsp mixed spice


1. Preheat your oven to 180C. I used a 34cm x 24 cm non-stick baking tin for the Gur cake, so I didn’t need to line the tin.

2. Mix the butter and muscovado sugar together, then roll out one sheet of pastry. Line the tine with the pastry and brush with the butter and sugar mix. Bake for about ten minutes until a little dry and crisp – you might need to cook it for 12-15 minutes depending on your oven.

3. Meanwhile, soak the bread in the tea for half an hour. Using a mixer, combine the bread and all the other ingredients until it becomes a sweet sludge. Add in most of the remaining butter and sugar wash, but keep a little for the top of the pastry.

4. Place the mix onto the cooked pastry sheet in the tin, then roll out the other sheet of pastry and place on top. Score the pastry and bake for about 30 minutes; brush lightly with the remaining butter and sugar for the final twenty minutes. Sprinkle the cakes with excess caster sugar and allow to cool fully, then cut into squares and serve. I like them with a little dollop of cream.