Hedgehog Baked in Mud, Irish Famine & Great Depression Recipe

Boxty, Apple Bread and Pickled Lambs Tongue Recipes

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Hedgehog Baked in Mud, Irish Famine & Great Depression Recipe

A chara,

I hope you are all well. I have lots of news to share with you. This week, the Irish Independent caught wind of Old Irish Recipes and published it on page 3 of their newspaper and on their mobile app. As radio presenters across Ireland began to read out the mornings news headlines and features they started talking about Old Irish Recipes and people started calling in. This has led to three radio interviews over two days and many, many messages from friends and family who have heard about different radio stations speaking about Old Irish Recipes. I will link all the interviews on the website shortly along with some other little features I am working on.

Thank you to everyone for helping bring about this success and I’m genuinely so happy to be sharing this experience with you.

In today’s newsletter there is…

  • Pickled Lamb’s Tongue with Onion Sauce

  • Boxty – Pan & Stanley Stove Top version

  • Apple Bread - Arán úll

  • Hedgehog Baked in Mud Story

  • Bealtaine Eve Tradition

  • Old Irish Letters Latest

Pickled Lamb’s Tongue with Onion Sauce

Honestly this is meant to be really, really good. My butcher at Clonmore Meats in Killeshin, who always encouraged Old Irish Recipes, told me that beef cheek, once long forgotten about, is high on his restaurant orders list as a delicacy today. Perhaps it will be back on your local tapas restaurant menu in the future. Would you try it?

  • 8 lambs’ tongues

  • 4 tablespoons of salt

  • Pinch of saltpetre

  • 2 pints of cold water

  • 4-6 whole cloves

  • 1 bay leaf

  • 1 sprig or rosemary

Dissolve the four tablespoons of salt in the water. Add a pinch of saltpetre and the lambs’ tongues and leave in the fridge for two days. After two days, remove the tongues and add them to a clean cooking pot and cover with cold water. Add the cloves, peppercorns, bay leaf and rosemary. Bring to the boil, then cover and simmer for one hour. Once done, drain out the water and discard the herbs and spices. Serve hot with potatoes and onion sauce.

Boxty – Pan & Stanley Stove Top Version

This recipe is a dropping batter that is cooked on a hot griddle or frying pan but you can also drop it directly on top of a hot Stanley stove in the kitchen if you’re lucky enough to have one. Yum.

  • ½ pound of raw potato

  • ½ pound of leftover mashed potato

  • ½ pound of plain flour

  • A splash of milk

  • 1 egg

  • Salt and pepper

Grate the raw potatoes and mix them in a bowl with the leftover cooked mashed potatoes. Add the salt, pepper and flour to the bowl. Beat the egg and add it to the mixture with enough milk to make a dropping batter. Drop the batter with a tablespoon onto a hot griddle or frying pan. Cook over a moderate heat for 3-4 minutes on each side.

Apple Bread - Arán úll

I just love how simple this old traditional recipe is and it’s not one that I have come across too often. No cinnamon, no vanilla and no bread tin, just a great recipe that involves a rolling pin and getting your hands floured up.

  • 1 quantity of basic soda bread dough

  • 1 pound of stewed apples, cooked with sugar until they the mixture tastes good

Roll out half the soda bread dough until it is in a circle shape and half an inch thick. Place the cooked and sweetened apples into the centre to within one inch of the edge of the dough. Moisten the edges with milk. Roll out the remaining dough to the same size and thickness and place over the apples, pressing the edges well to seal. Cook gently on a griddle pan or on a heavy-based, floured frying pan for 10-15 minutes until a light skin begins to form on the top. Once this happens, turn upside down and cook the opposite side for a further 10-15 minutes. Alternatively, this can be baked in a moderate oven for 40-45 minutes.

The Hedgehog Baked in Mud Story

The below family story was kindly donated to me very recently by Maggie who reads this newsletter. Thank you Maggie. This story has been shared all over Ireland now through radio interviews and everyone absolutely loved it. I have been looking for this recipe for a long time. Last year another Kilkenny man who runs a campsite told me that hedgehog was eaten a lot during the Irish famine but I didn’t have a recipe to match it.

“I am loving your stories and recipes. My Dad was born in Kilkenny in 1914. He was one of 11 children, brought up in a two room cottage. I know they had chickens because I have a lovely photo of Granny Doyle in the yard feeding them. I remember my Dad saying that they used to eat hedgehogs. Rolled with the spines in mud or clay then baked in an open fire, pushed into the embers of the fire. When cooked the skin and spines were pulled away to expose the small amount of meat on the body. It was a regular meal for him and his family. If I remember right, they used to cook the hedgehogs on a wood fire in the house. Dad said they never had turf fires. No idea how long they were cooked for. I remember Dad said it was a real treat as we would consider a roast dinner. They ate it with boiled spuds and turnips.” Maggie

My mum used to eat mud cakes as a child and my granny brought her to the doctor because she wouldn't stop despite having a good diet. The doctor told her to let her be and said that many people ate mud to make up for lost minerals during the famine and that perhaps there was something in it that she needed. While Maggie’s father ate this growing up in the 1920’s in Ireland, this was a little known Irish famine recipe and previous to that, a favourite at the kings table in Old Ireland.

Update 01/05/2024 - I have been contacted by another Kilkenny man who told me this:

“I was born and grew up in Kilkenny. As a child in the 40’s & 50’s I often heard that travelers baked hedgehogs rolled in a ball of clay although I never saw it.” Tom

Special Disclaimer; I know its obvious but lets say it anyway, do not eat hedgehogs today. They have experienced a drastic decline due to habitat loss, changes in agriculture, spread of towns and loss of hedgerows. It appears now that the Irish famine and extreme poverty up until the Great Depression in the 1930’s may also have led to their diminishing numbers. I am passing on this information on to the National Biodiversity Data Centre in Ireland. A really special thank you to Maggie, Tom and anonymous Kilkenny man for passing on such valuable information.

Bealtaine Eve Tradition

In the last three newsletters we have chatted about preparing for Bealtaine and now it has arrived. While in the past there were many bonfires that you could attend, and there are still some if you look for them, you can enjoy this old Irish tradition with your friends and family by simply lighting the fire tonight. This would be the last fire lighting in the hearth until the cold weather returns, signaling the beginning of summer and the turn of the year. If you don’t have a fireplace, you can simply light a candle to acknowledge this tradition.

Old Irish Letters Latest

Coming up in tomorrow’s Old Irish Letters, the 1845 potato blight has just arrived in Ireland, with the first alarming reports pouring in. Upgrade for €5 per month to receive a weekly Thursday newsletter based on real events, people and timelines.


The Old Irish Recipes Project is a project to collect and record all old Irish recipes in Ireland. The historical recipes and remedies provided herein are for informational purposes only. While they may offer insights into traditional practices, it is important to note that they have not been tested for efficacy or safety in modern contexts. Always consult with a qualified healthcare professional or physician before attempting any old remedies, particularly if you have underlying health conditions or concerns.

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• Readers are always encouraged to send in family stories for sharing if they wish and I will always try to provide further context around these and match recipes to them where possible.

• Readers are also encouraged to submit old family recipes if known to the collection. There is no obligation or expectation to do this.


• Thank you to our sponsor the Hungryroot who is sponsoring this weeks post.

• If you are interested in sponsoring future newsletters you can contact Róisín at [email protected]

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Slán go fóill,

Róisín Hynes

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