Irish Music Weekend

Kirkby Lonsdale is hosting the 2019 All-British Traditional Irish Music Festival over the weekend of 28th to 30th of June. An event not to be missed.

However – 25 years ago Ireland hosted the best ever Eurovision Sing Song Test.

There was nothing particularly memorable about the competition. What was memorable was the interval performance of River Dance by Jean Butler and Michael Flatley and superb supporting cast.

To this day it still brings a lump to my throat. But for anyone who has never seen the performance it’s worth putting a few moments aside and doing so now:

River Dance

John Keegan

Cottage Pie

Cottage Pie


  • 250g beef mince
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onions, finely chopped
  • 1 carrots, chopped
  • 1 celery sticks, chopped
  • 1 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp plain flour
  • 1 tbsp tomato puree
  • 1 large glass red wine
  • 200ml beef stock
  • 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • few thyme stalks
  • 1 bay leaf

Ingredients for the Mash

  • 360g potatoes, chopped
  • 45ml milk
  • 5g butter
  • 40g strong cheddar grated
  • freshly grated nutmeg


  1. Heat 1 tbsp olive oil in a large saucepan and fry 250g kg beef mince until browned. Set aside as it browns.
  2. Put the other tbsp olive oil into the pan, add a finely chopped onion, 1 chopped carrot and 1 chopped celery stick and cook on a gentle heat until soft, about 20 mins.
  3. Add the finely chopped garlic clove, 1 tbsp plain flour and 1 tbsp tomato puree, increase the heat and cook for a few mins, then return the beef to the pan.
  4. Pour over a large glass of red wine, if using, and boil to reduce it slightly before adding the 200ml beef stock, 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce, a few thyme sprigs and a bay leaf.
  5. Bring to a simmer and cook, uncovered, for 45 mins.
  6. By this time the gravy should be thick and coating the meat. Check after about 30 mins – if a lot of liquid remains, increase the heat slightly to reduce the gravy a little. Season well, then discard the bay leaf and thyme stalks.
  7. Meanwhile, make the mash. In a large saucepan, cover the 360g potatoes which you’ve peeled and chopped, in salted cold water, bring to the boil and simmer until tender.
  8. Drain well, then allow to steam-dry for a few mins.
  9. Mash well with the 45ml milk, 5g butter, and three- quarters of the 40g strong cheddar cheese, then season with freshly grated nutmeg and some salt and pepper.
  10. Spoon the meat into an ovenproof dish. Pipe or spoon on the mash to cover. Sprinkle on the remaining cheese.
  11. If eating straight away, heat oven to 220C/200C fan/gas 7 and cook for 25-30 mins, or until the topping is golden.

Recipe Tip

To stop the mash sinking into the filling, allow the meat to cool before topping with the mashed potato.

Freeze in an ovenproof dish for an easy meal for two.

For a really crisp, golden topping, flash under the grill for a few mins before serving.

John Keegan