Sugar and Spice and All Things Nice

Like most kids, I was always excited about my birthday, but unlike most kids I was also excited about the rest of the family’s birthdays because Nana would not only send down a present for the person celebrating the birthday, but would also include a poke of sweets (a bag) for each of the other members of the family.  Nana used to go to Mr McDonald’s shop, and I remember visiting it.  There were glass jars upon glass jars of different sweets waiting to be weighed out (usually in 1/4 lbs) and I could never decide what I wanted.  Sadly Mr McDonald moved on a long time ago, and the shop is now a launderette.  Times change, as do tastes.

When we discovered Annie’s Sweet Shop in Letchworth, I was delighted.  There were so many sweets from my childhood and I was that child in a candy shop.  I used to enjoy taking you in there partly because of the memories that seeing those sweets evoked, but the tastes didn’t seem the same.  I tried several of my childhood favourites – sherbet lemons, iced caramels (Grandma’s favourites too), sugar bon bons (classic, lemon and strawberry), dolly mixtures, midget gems – and all fell short of my memories.  The iced caramels were a particular disappointment – I really didn’t remember them as being so sweet.  I persevered though.  I still enjoyed looking at the jars, and each time I hoped that the taste would be as good as I remembered, but it never was.  Until one day when Annie had Scottish tablet on sale.  Tablet, that hard hard Scottish fudge, was never easily available in England, and so whenever I went to Scotland I would buy a bar.  Maybe I never lost the taste for it.  Even when it set my adult fillings on edge, it still tasted of heaven to me.  Annie’s tablet was perfect.

Annie had never heard of my other Scottish favourite – the macaroon bar.  Again it was never easy to find south of the border and so it remained a holiday treat.  I was surprised when Auntie Aileen told me that they were made with mashed potato.  In fact, I didn’t believe her – I thought it was a plot to spoil my enjoyment somehow.  Years later with the advent of the internet, I found out that there was no plot, macaroon bars are in fact made with mashed potato.  Luckily this didn’t spoil my enjoyment of them!  Commercially made macaroon bars aren’t made with potato, by the way, because the shelf life would be too short.

Earlier this year, I heard about Irish Potatos, a Philadelphia sweet made, unsurprisingly, to celebrate St Patrick’s Day.  I learned that they too are based on mashed potato, and I was eager to taste them.  I was thrilled when Jimmy from Philly’s wife, Lisa, made some for us and brought them to NYC.  They were really scrumptious, and Lisa made some more for me this week.  This time I took a photograph before I inhaled them, so that I could share Lisa’s recipe and keep my promise to George of including photographic evidence.  I am told that they are really easy to make – I know that they taste good – so here is Lisa’s recipe for

Irish Potatoes


  • 1 medium potato, peeled
  • 1 tsp butter
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla essence
  • 1 lb / 450 g icing sugar
  • 3 cups / 280 g shredded coconut
  • Ground cinnamon as needed



Cook potato, drain and mash.  Measure 1/2 cup (105 g) into a bowl.  Stir in butter and vanilla essence.  Gradually add in icing sugar.  Mix until smooth and stir in coconut.  Roll into walnut-sized balls, and roll in cinnamon.