Winifred Horan's soda bread

Winifred Horan soda bread

In the Kitchen with Winifred Horan

Imagine if you will the sounds of the fiddle and the beat of the bodhran, the laughing faces illuminated by the glow of firelight, and the smell of warm bread swirling in the air with a hint of pine – while outside the wind whines and Christmas Day knocks at the door.

If there’s anyone I’ve ever met who personifies the whole experience of a Christmas home party, it’s Winifred Horan. She is the close friend greeting you with unbridled excitement after years apart, even if you are meeting her for the first time. She is the fire in the hearth and she is undoubtedly the music. Until recently however, I didn’t realize that she is also the sweet bread cooking next door.

It was for that very reason I met up with Winifred at a friend’s home in Maine. She joined me to share her mother’s sweet Irish soda bread recipe. We threw together the cake, as easy to make as it was delicious, and while it baked, she filled me in on life around the Horan household growing up, including holidays, food, and family.

For those who might not know, Winifred is a virtuoso fiddler, teacher, and award winning Irish step dancer, as well as an original member of the traditional Irish band, Solas. Her most recent endeavor is a radio show on Bluegrass Country described as a “new cutting edge Celtic music program [that] will bring the beautiful, soulful and technical components of Celtic music from around the world to your ears. Win’s passion for and knowledge of Celtic music is a major asset as she will dig deep into the culture and present classic cuts from the Irish tradition and also introduce listeners to newly composed, fresh and astounding new music from talented young musicians and bands from across the Celtic world.” She is also currently a guest lecturer for the Irish studies program at the National University in Galway.

The day we met to discuss cooking together, our conversation flowed freely, and I was swept away into the world of Rockaway Beach, New York and rural Ireland. As a first generation daughter of Irish immigrants, Winifred has a notable perspective on the marriage of Irish traditions with other food.

“... Because we grew up in an immigrant community of Irish and many Italian families, [my mother] learned how to make Italian dishes like meatballs, chicken and eggplant Parmesan. Something she would only ever have learned from her neighbors in the melting pot that is New York City and its surrounding boroughs”.

In a way, the kitchen was a place where Winifred learned about the larger world she would later explore as one of its most popular Irish musicians. And her mother’s love for cooking became the roots that still feed Winifred’s longing for home.

Her Christmas memories sound like a children’s book. Her father, a master carpenter and boat builder, made the children wooden toys, while the smells of her favorite meal filled every corner of the home. Her mother’s turkey, ham, homemade applesauce, mashed turnips, parsnips, and sweet potatoes always bring Win back to the pleasure of a lingering family meal. The day, filled with toys and plentiful food, was often capped with a drive around the neighborhood to see all the Christmas lights.

Of course, Ireland has had a strong pull on her during her life, since both of her parents are Irish immigrants. Along with devoting her professional life to Irish music, she lived in the Emerald Isle as an adult for a couple of years and travels there often. And when she speaks of her mother’s life in Ireland, her expressive dark eyes light up even more.

“My mom grew up in a little town called Johnstown, outside of Arklow, Co. Wicklow in Ireland. She learned all of her cooking and recipes from my grandmother, who basically operated a small organic farm”.

Her mother’s childhood speaks of another time, but is recreated for Win in the kitchen and through her family stories. She paints a delightful picture of a childhood in rural Ireland.

“They had a cow, a goat, chickens and a fresh vegetable garden. Everything they cooked was from their garden or animals. They would ride a horse and cart into town once a week to buy flour, oats and visit their local butcher for the freshest cuts of meat. My grandmother made her own butter, bread, honey, jams and taught it all to my mom, who in turn passed the recipes on to me and my siblings”, she says.

For centuries, women have played an important role in handing down cooking and music traditions on the home front. In the Horan household, women certainly led the charge for music and recipes. As Win says so eloquently, “Most folk tradition is passed on orally and by real experience. Whether it be recipes, story telling, music and songs, mothers teach their children by example. This is how I was raised. My grandmother baked, sang, played the melodeon, and danced. My mother baked, played, sang, and danced. I bake, play, sing, and dance. This is how tradition stays alive. Constantly changing, constantly evolving... a thread to keep us all connected”.

Winifred Horan baking

Mom’s Sweet Irish Soda Bread

One of Win’s fondest food memories was dessert in the form of sweet Irish soda bread loaded with butter, jam, or honey. Her grandmother, in rural Ireland, made this cake in a cast iron pot over the open-hearth fire in the living room. She covered the pot and then lay coals on top, making, as Win calls it, a sort of convection oven. The cake is still served at all major family and community events from funerals to weddings to holiday meals.

After cooking, we slathered on fresh creamy Irish butter and as Winifred says, drank “an endless pot of tea”. The cake is a perfect representation of the Irish food aesthetic: simple, rich, warming, and delicious, with a slightly sweet taste and moist texture.

3 cups of flour
2 eggs
2/3 cup of sugar
1 ½ cups of buttermilk
1 stick of melted butter
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon of salt
1 cup of raisins or currants

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a nine-inch spring form pan. Combine all of the ingredients in a large bowl and mix by hand. Pour into the spring form pan. To make the cake more rustic, mix until just combined — do not over mix.

Cooking time is 50-55 minutes, depending on your oven. Check to make sure it is golden brown on top and fully cooked in the middle before removing. Allow the cake to cool for 10 minutes. Lightly dust with powdered sugar and serve slices with butter, honey, or jam.

Her radio show, The Celtic Cut with Winifred Horan, streams every Saturday at 7pm EST.

Bluegrass Country Radio website: Live streaming link:

Libby Page is the founder of, a website devoted to Irish food in all its forms, featuring spotlights on food artisans, a glossary of Irish culinary terms, and new recipes. If you have recipes, eatery suggestions, stories to share, or need ideas for food places to visit in Ireland, please contact her:

"Coole" Cream


We first tasted Coole Swan Irish Liqueur last year when we attended Fare Plate in New York City. It is a beautiful creamy white with a slightly lighter taste than Bailey’s. While I still love Bailey’s, try out a bottle of Coole Swan for a change up.

Our new ice cream maker has been an inspiration: I have made peppermint chip, “healthy” avocado dark chocolate, and now my own Coole Swan Ice Cream. This ice cream goes fast in our house, so be warned: it is highly addictive stuff!

Note: recipe is formulated for a 1 ½ quart ice cream maker. We bought the inexpensive Cuisinart ICE-21, which we are pleased with so far.

• 1 cup of whole milk
• 2/3 cup of granulated sugar
• A scant 2 cups of heavy cream
• ½ cup chilled Irish cream liqueur (preferably Coole Swan)

Whisk the milk and sugar together in a medium sized bowl until the sugar dissolves. Add in the heavy cream and whisk gently (you do not want to thicken the cream at all). Cover and chill in the fridge for 2 hours or more.

After at least 2 hours, set up and turn on the ice cream maker (look at your ice cream maker instructions/ ours must be running before pouring in the mixture).

Gently pour in the milk, sugar, heavy cream mixture. Run the maker for 15-20 minutes. Add in the chilled Coole Swan during the last two minutes. Alcohol impedes the freezing process, so you need to add it towards the end. My ice cream was fairly soft and some of the liqueur did not mix in, so I poured it into a chilled glass container, stirred it and popped it quickly into the freezer for a few more hours. It was perfect!

Easy to eat on its own or try in one of the recipes below!


Swan Sundae

• 2 scoops of Coole Swan Ice cream
• A dollop of hot fudge sauce
• A dollop of whipped cream (Using a handheld mixer, I whipped up the leftover heavy cream from the recipe and it worked great.)
• Sprinkle of chopped pistachio nuts

Arrange all of the ingredients in a bowl and serve immediately.


Coole Swan Affogato

• Strong ice coffee (I made espresso, added cold filtered water and then chilled it. Cold brew would also work well)
• A scoop of Coole Swan Ice cream
• A dollop of whipped cream
• Generous sprinkle of cinnamon (delicious with the Coole Swan- amazing together!)

Scoop the ice cream into a glass and pour the coffee over it (works with hot espresso too). Put the whip cream on and sprinkle the cinnamon over it.


Ploughman's lunch

Ploughman's lunch

Seeking an easy, filling lunch without sparking up the stove on a warm summer day—maybe a perfect option for a picnic? Look no further than the Ploughman’s. There’s a reason the classics stick around. Hearty, simple and delicious, the Ploughman’s lunch was just a formalization of a meal enjoyed by working folks and a marketing ploy by the Cheese Bureau to push their product in the UK during the 1950s. Essentially the Cheese Board took the tradition of scavenging around the home for whatever bits a farmer could throw together for sustenance, gave it a name and ensured cheese was in the definition (after the World War’s rationing of the delectable stuff). And it stuck.

There are arguments back and forth about what exactly is entailed in a traditional Ploughman’s, but the basics often include cheese, rustic crusty bread, pickles and an apple. At Irish Food Revolution, we figure it doesn’t matter all that much. After all, our focus is on the changing culinary landscape in Ireland. So we like to play loose with this meal, with no apologies to the few stubborn traditionalists. We figure, if you like it, throw it on the plate and if you don’t, leave it off.

For our sample, we’ve combined a lot of the traditional Ploughman’s offerings, but feel free to toss in whatever you have lying around. One of the reasons this meal works so well is that there’s sweet, salty and sour. Plus, items like pickles, fruit, greens and berries cleanse the palate after a bite of the fatty offerings. (It also helps to clear out the fridge.)

Some people will insist that you eat the meal with your hands, that the only cutlery needed is a knife for the cheese and condiments, but if you want a fork, have at it.

Included in our pictured sample:

  • Thick cut ham
  • Boiled eggs (cover uncooked eggs in cold water, bring to a boil, remove from heat and cover for 12 minutes, then soak in cold water to stop the cooking)
  • Buttered brown soda bread
  • Pickles
  • Pea shoots
  • Bleu cheese
  • Cheddar
  • Dijon mustard
  • Chutney (pictured is cranberry apple)
  • Gooseberries (also called Golden Berries)
  • Perhaps most importantly, a pint of ale or stout

Other possibilities? Try any combination of an apple, pickled onions, cold sausages, just about any type of greens, olives, prosciutto, turkey or chicken, pork pie, hard cider instead of beer, cole slaw, tomato, beet root, any type of berry, celery, carrots or cucumber. And if you’re a teetotaler, by all means substitute tea for the alcohol. It’s all about making a quick meal you’ll really appreciate.

Summer Strawberry Salad

Summer Strawberry Salad

When I think of summer, my mind immediately turns to thoughts of fresh vegetables and fruit, farmer’s markets in full swing and hazy humid weather where all you want is something light and refreshing to eat. And who wants to cook in the kitchen when that time could be so much better spent outside enjoying the sun? Enter our Summer Strawberry Salad: quick, easy, nutritious and delicious. Plus there’s something about these classic salad ingredients that play so well together.


  • Spring mix
  • Strawberries
  • Feta cheese
  • Cashews
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Balsamic vinegar

Okay, so there’s not really a recipe to follow here… throw the first four ingredients on a plate and top with the olive oil and vinegar. Did we mention that it was easy?

IngredientsSummer Strawberry Salad sans dressing

Stone Wall

The ingredients you'll need

With spring well underway, we thought it was appropriate to celebrate with a refreshing, easily-made cocktail. This is a slightly different version than the classic Stone Fence, a colonial-era drink noted for being a favorite of Ethan Allen. Word has it that he and “the Green Mountain Boys” filled up on a mix of rum and hard cider the night before attacking the British-controlled Fort Ticonderoga.

We’ve added some orange bitters and a nice helping of cinnamon sugar around the rim of the glass, which makes it a sweet and tart treat. We also changed the name to Stone Wall in recognition of a song that Conor’s Uncle Jack used to sing, “the Old Stone Wall.”


  • Good quality rum
  • Hard cider
  • Orange bitters
  • Cinnamon sugar


Rim a rocks glass with cinnamon sugar by wetting the rim with water and dipping the glass rim into the cinnamon sugar. Drop in a few cubes of ice.

The ratio of cider to rum is 3-1. For a single glass, for example, use 2 ounces of rum and 6 ounces of cider. Add one or two dashes of orange bitters, stir and enjoy.

A Stone Wall cocktail