This soup is a great favourite in the spring when the nettles are young. Nettles are full of minerals and vitamins which purify the blood. In the country, nettle tea was also drunk, made by pouring boiling water over chopped nettles, boiling for about 15 minutes, then straining and adding milk and sugar. This was often given to children who had measles. It is said to have been a favourite of St Columcille. Nettle soup is still served in some hotels in Ireland; this recipe is from Declan Ryan, who was chef-proprietor of the much-starred Arbutus Lodge, Cork - sadly no longer in existence. Use gloves and a scissors when cutting the nettles. Do not gather them from sprayed verges or after the end of May as they will be too tough.
I have a special place in my heart for ham hocks. Certainly, not the most attractive ingredient to hold a fondness for, but I put it down to my inner cheapskate. I love the idea that for very little money you can produce something delicious. This ham hock recipe doesn't use gelatin, but if you prefer a firmer setting you could add a leaf of gelatin to the cooking liquid once the ham hocks are cooked. You can also make the terrine in individual Kilner jars to serve.
Batter pudding is the Irish version of Yorkshire pudding. Many Irish like their meat quite well cooked, which rather spoils a good joint of beef in my opinion. A largish piece of beef cooked in this way will have the best flavour, as small joints are disappointing.
This is a very colourful dish from India, which is not at all hot but extremely full of flavour. It should marinate in its topping for about an hour before cooking and should not be cooked ahead of time. This can also be made with chicken joints and the marinade equally divided. It is best to buy either breast or thigh joints for this method, but keep cooking time to 90 minutes.