I don't feel homesick for Canada very often, but on the rare occasions I do, I make these cookies.

They were kept in a glass jar - a really big one - with a twist top. They sat on the kitchen counter at my Aunt Joan's house.

Aunt Joan lived just down the road from me. She is my father's eldest sibling. She married a beef farmer - my uncle Allistair - and they farmed together, sold their meat to the local community and had four kids. But they also had me!

When I go home for visits, I tend to treat aunt Joan's like my second house. This is because she would look after me when I was little.

As I got older, I would often get the school bus to stop at her house. I would do my homework there, watch TV and have dinner with aunt Joan and uncle Allistair.

When I was little, aunt Joan's mother-in-law, Annie (who lived with them), taught me how to play cards and knit. We would go picking wild blueberries in the summer and I spent lots of time looking for farm kittens in their big, wooden barn.

Aunt Joan is an amazing cook and baker. Before she got married and settled into farm life, she cooked in hotels. If I stayed at her house overnight, she would make me a delicious breakfast before school.

Her dinners were always good and hearty meat and potato style. These cookies would always be on her counter, and, especially as a kid, I loved them.

They are simple and effective. They don't require a lot of time - you don't have to chill the dough or roll it out with a rolling pin - you just mix it up, divide it into little balls and gently press the tops down with a fork. I like to make a criss-cross pattern with the fork. You can keep these cookies plain and they are perfect as is.

You could also play around with flavouring - add orange rind and drizzle, once baked, in dark chocolate. Add cinnamon and nutmeg to the dough before baking for a bit of spice.

Or, as I like to do, just add a bit of lemon rind to the dough. It adds a bit of flavour, but the star of the show remains the brown sugar and butter - and in Ireland, why would we ever try to hide the flavour of our butter?

This recipe can be doubled or tripled and the cookies can be kept in the freezer for up to two months. They'll keep in an airtight container for well over a week (but they're always eaten well before that!).

Aunt Joan's farm-style brown sugar cookies

Lemon rind is a great way to add subtle flavour while still celebrating the butter and brown sugar. / Janine Kennedy

Makes 24


235g butter, softened

215g brown sugar

1 tsp vanilla

zest of one lemon, finely chopped

1 egg

200g plain flour

1 tsp baking soda

1/4 tsp salt


1 Preheat the oven to 180°C and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Set aside.

2 In a large mixing bowl, cream the softened butter into the brown sugar for three to five minutes, until light and fluffy.

3 Add the egg, lemon zest and vanilla. Mix for another two to three minutes.

4 In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt.

5 Add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture all at once. Using your hands, a large wooden spoon or the paddle attachment on your stand mixer, bring the flour and butter mixtures together until a pliable dough has been formed.

6 Using heaping tablespoon’s full of dough, form into little balls and place, spaced well apart, on the lined baking tray.

7 Flatten the dough balls lightly with a fork.

8 Bake for 10-15 minutes (check after 10). They should be golden brown, but still quite moist.

9 Let cool completely on a wire rack, then store in an airtight container. Enjoy!

Read more

These boureka-inspired pinwheels are the perfect soup-dippers

Every culture has their favourite savoury pie