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Fresh Apple Cake in a loaf pan with a pot of Irish Whiskey Caramel Sauce

Oíche shamhna, Dear Readers! A very happy Halloween to you indeed. We’re feeling festive in our Irish home tonight. The fire is lit, the kids are passing out candy, and we’ve just tucked into the most spooktacular fresh apple cake, topped with Irish whiskey caramel sauce. And, oh my goodness…this is so much better than a chocolate bar or sweet could ever be! The mixed spice and walnuts in the cake give it a gorgeous flavour…but, truth be told, I think the caramel whiskey sauce stole the show!

A jar of homemade Irish Whiskey Caramel Sauce with a bottle of Jameson Irish Whiskey behind it

Did you know Halloween originated with the ancient Celts? ‘Tis true! It is an Irish tradition predating St. Patrick by more than 300 years. It arose from the Celtic fire festival called Samhain (pronounced “sow-in”); marking the end of the harvest period and the beginning of winter.

The Celts believed that on the eve of Samhain, the veil separating the living from the dead opened briefly allowing for mischief and anarchy. Huge bonfires were lit to keep evil spirits at bay and costumes were worn to protect people from being carried off into the “other world”. The friendly spirits of loved ones were welcomed home at this time of year and nuts and apples were offered as enticement.

And it was the thought of Halloween+nuts+apples that led me to make tonight’s pudding (dessert). This fresh apple cake incorporates four apples and nearly 4oz of chopped walnuts. And while it may be too late to make it in your home this evening, print the recipe or save it for another autumn celebration {Thanksgiving is right around the corner!}: I think you’re going to love this!

Fresh Apple Cake

Makes 2 Loaves or 1 Bundt Cake

Ingredients

338g/12oz/3 cups all-purpose flour

454g/16oz/2 cups sugar

3 large eggs

350ml/12oz/1-½ cup vegetable oil

125ml/4oz/ ½ cup apple juice

1 teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon mixed spice {pumpkin spice}

1 vanilla bean, split open and seeds scraped out

102g/36oz/3/4 cup walnuts, finely chopped

4 apples, cored, peeled and finely diced

Directions

1. Preheat the oven to 170ºC/325ºF. Grease and line two 900g/2lb loaf tins with parchment paper or grease a 10-inch Bundt pan and lightly flour it too.

2. Using an electric mixer, mix the sugar, eggs, seeds of the vanilla bean, and oil until, smooth. Stir in the apple juice and mix well.

3. Sift together the flour, salt, baking soda, and mixed spice. Add the flour mixture to the sugar mixture and stir well.

4. Stir in the walnuts and apples. Pour the batter into the prepared pans.

5. Bake for 90 minutes. Remove the cake from the oven, let it cool in the pan for 5 minutes, then carefully remove it from the loaf tins/Bundt pan and allow to cool on a wire rack.

 

The above photos were taken while I was making the whiskey caramel sauce. It’s a very easy process that only takes minutes to make: the results are out of this world good!

Irish Whiskey Caramel Sauce

Makes 6oz

Ingredients

114g/4oz/1 cup sugar

50ml/2oz/ ¼ cup water

118ml/4oz/1/2 cup double cream {heavy whipping cream}

30g/1oz/2 tablespoons butter

¼ teaspoon salt

50ml/2oz/ ¼ cup Irish whiskey

Directions

1. Bring the sugar and water to boil in a large heavy bottom saucepan over medium-high heat. Using a wooden spoon, stir until sugar is dissolved.  Boil, without stirring, until mixture turns a golden/amber color.

2. WHILE the sugar water is cooking, into a separate saucepan add the cream, butter and salt. Cook over medium heat until the butter is melted.

3. When the sugar water has turned amber color remove the saucepan from the heat and CAREFULLY add the cream mixture to it.  The combined mixture will bubble up and the caramel will harden.

4. Return the saucepan to a low heat and simmer, stirring constantly, until the caramel is dissolved and the sauce is smooth.

5. Once combined, add the whiskey and stir well. Set aside to cool and use as desired.

Additional Notes, Related Articles & Credit:
For more information and recipes about Halloween+Ireland, please click on Quick Barm Brack, Halloween & Irish Barm Brack {this is my Barm Brac yeast bread recipe}, Halloween & the Irish offers up lots of lore, Making Candle Pumpkins is a fun craft for this time of year, so too is Halloween Marshmallow Pops, Ireland+Halloween+Apple Cake  features Darina Allen’s Apple Cake recipe+information about the famous Snap Apple Night painting by Cork-born Daniel Maclise, Haunted Ireland is where you’ll find information about haunted Irish castles and homes, and, last but not least, over at Colcannon you’ll find my recipe for this traditional Irish Halloween potato and cabbage dish.

 

 

 

Three candles in pumpkins with autumnal leaves

With two daughters in our Irish home, there is always a craft project in the works. And, happily, these sweet little pumpkin luminaries are a doddle to make. In fact, we a had a few odd shaped and left-over candles on hand, so I didn’t even have to buy wax for this activity. Wicks are readily available, as are tiny pumpkins…so there’s no excuse not to try making these pumpkin candles in your home. Enjoy!

Candle Pumpkins

Materials & Equipment

Small pumpkins

Wax flakes or left over candles

Wicks {if you have odd-shaped or old candles you are repurposing, you may also be able to repurpose the wicks}

Aluminium

Cutting board

Knife or store-bought serrated carver {the later worked well for us}

Spoon

Paperclip

Wooden skewer

Old pot

Tape

Instructions

1. Line your countertop or work surface with aluminum. Set out all your supplies.

2. Carefully, cut out the top of the pumpkin with your knife or store-bought serrated carver. This is the trickiest part, especially for little hands. Discard the top.

3. Hollow out the pumpkin with the spoon. Scrape out all the seeds and strings. You can save the pumpkin seeds for roasting later, if you like.

4. Tie one end of the wick to a paperclip and place in the hollowed out pumpkin. If you buy wicks with the metal ring already attached, press the base of the wick into the hollowed out pumpkin.

5. If repurposing old candles, chop them into small pieces on the cutting board…again, taking care not to cut yourself.

6. Put wax into your pot and melt over very low heat on the hob {stove}. It will be clear and totally liquid when ready.

7. Pour the wax, carefully, into the pumpkin. Only fill about half-way. Hold the wick upright as you pour.

8. Tape the top part of the wick to the skewer to hold it in place.

9. Pour the rest of the wax into the pumpkin until it is completely filled.

10. Reposition the wick, if necessary, and leave to cool for at least 6-8 hours or overnight.

11. When the candle is fully set, remove the tape and the skewer. Trim the wick to about 1/2-inch in length above the wax surface.

Additional Notes, Related Articles & Credit:

* While it is still warm, wipe clean the pot you used to melt your wax with kitchen roll {paper towels}. Do not pour hot wax down your sink and do not pour it into your kitchen bin {trash can}.

** For a warm, autumnal smell, add crushed  cinnamon sticks to the wax and stir well before pouring into the hollowed-out pumpkins.

Irish Barmbrack loaf on parchment paper with trick or treat sign

Irish Barm Brack, or báirín breac, is a traditional, sweet, Irish Halloween bread that’s speckled with dried fruit and flavoured with Irish whiskey and strong tea. Hidden inside, as every good Irish person knows, are a clutch of small tokens that foretell one’s future: a ring for marriage, a coin for wealth, a soup-pea for poverty and a thimble for a life of spinsterhood or bachelorhood.

Not so long ago, it was the pride of every Irish homemaker to have a loaf, made from scratch, sitting on her kitchen counter at this time of year. Unfortunately, the world has changed, and with prices ranging from .89¢ to €2.99 for a loaf, hardly anyone makes it at home any more.

I hope this Quick Barm Brack might change a few minds. There’s no yeast in this recipe, so there’s no rising time. You can have a loaf mixed up and in your oven before you can recite a verse of Oiche Shamhna! 

Quick Irish Barm Back

Serves 10-12 slices

Ingredients

50ml/2oz/1/4 cup Irish whiskey

250ml/8oz/1 cup cold Irish tea

150g/5oz/1 cup raisins

150g/5oz/1 cup sultanas

50g/1.8oz/1/3 cup mixed peel

225g/8oz/2 cups self-raising flour

125g/4oz/scant 1 cup brown sugar

1 egg, beaten

1/2 teaspoon mixed spice (pumpkin spice works too)

Directions

1. Place the raisins, sultanas and mixed peel in a bowl. Pour over the whiskey and cold tea. Leave overnight to soak up the liquid.

2. Preheat the oven to 170˚C/325°F. Grease and line a 900g/2lb loaf tin or a 20cm/8″ round cake tin with parchment paper.

3. Combine the flour, sugar, egg, and mixed spice in a bowl. Stir well.

4. Strain the fruit from the liquid and add to the flour. Stir well. Slowly, a little at a time, add the fruit-liquid to the flour until the dough looks wet.  You may not use up all the liquid.

5. Add in a ring, a coin, a soup-pea, and a thimble, wrapped in parchment paper, and stir through.

6. Transfer to the lined loaf tin. Use an off set spatula to smooth the top. Place in the oven on the middle shelf. Bake for 1 hour or until fully cooked.

7. Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly before removing from the loaf tin. Cool on a wire rack.

8. Wrap in cling film (plastic wrap) and tin foil. Keep for 2 days before cutting. Serve sliced with heaps of butter and a good cup of tea.

Additional Notes, Related Articles & Credit:

* To see my traditional Irish Barm Brack yeast recipe, please click: Traditional Irish Barm Black.

** For other Halloween-inspired recipes from our Irish home, please click: ColcannonApple Cake, and Halloween Marshmallow Pops, And to learn more about how the Irish invented Halloween, click here: Halloween and The Irish. And click Irish Halloween Folklore for a short history lesson from Irish Archeology about Halloween in Irish Folklore.

*** A recipe for Brioche Barmbrack may be found over at Gastrogays…and here’s Bibliocook’s recipe for Chocolate Bread and Butter Pudding – yum!

**** Oíche Shamhna – A Witch in Armagh on Halloween Night – this video is really well done and is in Irish with English subtitles. I think the wee ones in your home might enjoy it!

 

 

 

Marshmallows dipped in chocolate and covered with sprinkles

We have two scary teens in our Irish home who are gravely-deep in study mode. When they’re not murdering the books, however, they’re frequently staring zombie-like at a phone or a computer screen. Damn Snapchat, Youtube and Instagram to hell!

Thankfully, with Halloween terrifyingly near, I have a few crafty distractions up my unearthly sleeve for study break times that don’t involve being tethered to an electronic device.

These adorable Halloween Marshmallow Pops, for example, are the perfect, devilish, quick craft: they take less than 20 minutes to make!

Two halloween marshmallow pops on a plate

What’s more, if you still have little-monsters in your home, these Halloween Marshmallow Pops will be very popular with ghosts and goblins at school, and they make for a howling good project for a playdate. Trick-or-treat!

Chocolate dipped Halloween marshmallow pops

Halloween Marshmallow Pops

Ingredients

Large marshmallows

chocolate buttons, chips, or melts

assorted sprinkles

colourful paper straws

coloured decorating gel {I use Wilton}

Directions

1. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking sheet.

2. Melt chocolate in a microwaveable bowl in 30 second increments, stirring in between, until all the pieces are completely melted {may take up to 2 minutes}.

2. Insert a straw into the middle of a marshmallow. Set aside on the baking sheet.

3. Dip each marshmallow into the melted chocolate to the depth of your preference. Tap the straw, gently, on the side of the bowl to remove excess chocolate.

4. Coat marshmallow with sprinkles and place on the baking sheet until the chocolate is set. You may speed up the process by putting the marshmallows in the fridge.

5. Repeat with remaining marshmallows.

6. Using decorative gel, draw faces, lines, or whatever you like on each marshmallow.

Additional Notes, Related Articles & Credit:

* I buy most of my craft supplies when I’m in American, but you can buy Wilton Decorating Gel and sprinkles in Ireland at Homestore & More and you can frequently buy American marshmallows at Avoca Handweavers.

** If you’re visiting America in the next few months, call into Target and Michaels for fun craft items and decor: these are two of my favourite go-to places.

*** How many Halloween vocabulary words did you spot in this post? Thanks to enchanted learning.com for the inspiration!

**** There are more how-to ideas for making adorable marshmallow pops over at justtaste.com, multiplesandmore.com, and momalwaysfindsout.com.

***** For more fun kid-friendly recipes check out the following blog posts at In an Irish Home: A S’Mores Cake, Irish Caramels, Ginger Biscuits, Irish Shortbread Biscuits, and Irish Rice Krispie Buns.

 

 

 

Puy lentil salad with grilled vegetables and a white plate.

Strictly speaking, we are not vegetarian in our Irish home. I am, however, a big believer in plant based+healthy+simple eating, so I serve a lot of meals with beans, lentils and/or vegetables as the main ingredient.

Over the years, this Puy Lentil Salad with Grilled Vegetables has become one of my go-to recipes. It’s easy to make, my family like it a lot, and it’s gorgeous enough to serve at a casual dinner party.

What’s more, if I double up the entire recipe, I can freeze half the lentils for another meal and keep half the veggies in the fridge for salads and sandwiches during the week!

Puy lentils with grilled vegetables on a white platter

If you’re not up for grilling outdoors, a cast iron grill pan on the hob {stove} works well too. And, don’t be frightened by the long list of ingredients: they don’t make for much work in the kitchen. Enjoy!

Puy Lentil Salad with Grilled Vegetables

Serves 6

Ingredients

1 x aubergine (eggplant), rinsed and cut into strips

1 x courgette (zucchini), washed and cut into rounds or strips

1 x red pepper, rinsed and cut into strips

a handful of green beans, rinsed

1 x yellow onion, cut into strips

1 x yellow onion, chopped (for cooking with the lentils)

350g/1-1/3 cup Puy lentils, washed but not soaked

1 bay leaf

1 whole clove

1 carrot, diced

few sprigs of thyme

2 garlic cloves, peeled

600ml/2 cups chicken stock

1 teaspoon sugar

lettuce leaves (preferably something deep green or purple), rinsed

olive oil for drizzling

250ml/8oz/1 cup olive oil (for dressing)

125ml/4oz/½ cup balsamic vinegar (for dressing)

salt and pepper to taste

Parmesan cheese shavings, as desired

Directions for Lentils

1. Place lentils in a saucepan and cover with cold water. Bring to the boil, drain and rinse under cold water.

2. Return lentils to the saucepan and add chopped onion, bay leaf, clove, carrot, thyme, garlic, chicken stock and sugar. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat, cover the pan, and simmer until the lentils are tender but not mushy, about 20 minutes, adding water if necessary.

3. Drain lentils, if necessary. Discard bay leaf, clove, thyme and garlic. Season with black pepper and keep warm until ready to serve.

Directions for Vegetables

1. Drizzle vegetables in olive oil and season with salt and pepper to taste.

2. Heat up the grill. Cook vegetables over medium heat to your preferred doneness.

3. When done, turn off the heat and keep vegetables warm until ready to serve.

Directions for Dressing

1. In a jar with a tight fitting lid, mix the olive oil with balsamic vinegar, add salt and pepper to taste. Adjust, if necessary, to your own preference.

Salad Assembly

1. Put a few large leaves of lettuce on a platter.

2. Spoon lentils onto the lettuce, leaving a decorative edge on display.

3. Place the grilled vegetables over top of the lentils.

4. Dress with olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

5. Top with shaved Parmesan cheese.

Additional Notes, Related Articles & Credit:

* If you want to add meat, grilled, sliced steak is wonderful with this salad. Or if you’d like to try another Irish lentil dish, check-out this Avoca Handweaver Sweet Potato and Lentil Stew recipe.

** I use Ikea’s Förtrolig clear glass food containers for freezing extra lentils and storing extra grilled veggies in the fridge.

*** Are lentils a superfood? Martha Stewart says “Yes”!

**** Here’s an article saying why we should eat more lentils…from US News & World Report

***** And, finally, here’s everything you ever wanted to know about lentils from tasteinsight.com

 

 

 

Yesterday was quite the day. Hurricane Ophelia battered the Irish countryside with wind gusts up to 170 km/h and heavy rain. Hundreds were left without water and power, many roads were blocked by debris, and three people lost their lives. Today a massive clean-up operation is under way.  Thankfully no harm came to those in our Irish home…and I hope the same is true for you and yours.

RTE Radio One and Met Éireann were fantastic company while the storm raged: entertaining and informing us all day long. Repeatedly we heard things like, “stay off the roads”, “secure your wheelie bins/trampolines”, “stay indoors {and watch The Lion King?!}”, “avoid coastal areas”, and “don’t swim in the sea”. Yes, there were some, dare I say “eejits”, out there swimming and kite surfing in the middle of the hurricane!

Overall, the news reporting was good, old-fashioned, practical. I love that about the Irish: as a whole, they rarely get hysterical and they mostly see the funny side of things.

Case in point…a woman called Joe Duffy’s Liveline yesterday to report “it’s windy here, Joe, good for the drying!”. Only an Irish mammy can be cute {smart} enough to turn a hurricane into a laundry drying exercise. My phone buzzed all afternoon with images sent by friends…thanks to Instagram’s #Ophelia.

Screen Shot 2017-10-16 at 4.41.44 PM

Between the fits of giggles and quick messages back and forth, I did manage to eek out a dinner of roast carrot and cumin soup, with a side of bread rolls made from leftover pizza dough {many thanks to thekitchn.com}.

Two white bowls filled with roast carrot and cumin soup

Cumin and roast carrots go beautifully together. In this soup, the cumin provides warmth and fragrant notes, while the roasted carrot adds a hint of sweetness and smokiness. This was and is the perfect stormy-weather meal.

Roasted Carrot and Cumin Soup

Serves 6

Ingredients

600g/1¼lb carrots, chopped

2 tablespoons olive oil

110g/3/4 cup onion, chopped

150g/1 cup potato, skin left on and chopped

30g/2 tablespoons butter

1 teaspoon cumin

1.2 litres/4 cups chicken stock

pinch of sugar

salt & pepper to taste

yogurt, crème fraîche or cream to garnish, optional

toasted almonds to garnish, optional

sprig of parsley to garnish, optional

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 200°C/400°F.

2. Place carrots in a large bowl, drizzle with olive oil, and season well with salt and pepper.

3. Spread carrots in a single layer on a baking sheet. Roast, uncovered, in the oven for 20 minutes or until fully cooked and starting to caramalise. Watch carefully, a little color makes the carrots sweet…too much color and they will taste bitter. Stir occasionally. Remove from the oven and set aside.

4. In a saucepan, melt the butter. When it foams, add the onion, potato, cumin and sugar. Cover with a piece of parchment paper and a tight fitting lid. Leave to sweat gently on low heat for about 10 minutes.

5. Remove the lid. Discard the parchment paper. Add the roasted carrots and stock. Bring to the boil for 5 minutes.

6. Pour everything into a liquidizer (blender) and purée until smooth. Taste and adjust seasoning.

7. Serve with a garnish of cream, crème fraîche or yogurt, parsley and toasted nuts.

Additional Notes, Related Articles & Credit:

* Fun carrot facts can be found here, here, and here.

** Growing carrots is easy. Learn how to grow them in your home… here.

***Gorgeous carrot photos (carrot porn!) can be seen over at Pinterest.

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Looking for a delicious recipe for a busy mid-week supper? This Oven-Roasted Salmon may be your answer. It’s so easy to prepare, a child can do it. In fact, both my daughters learned to make this dish over the summer.

Screen Shot 2017-10-04 at 9.47.37 AM

A quick wash of the salmon, a squeeze of lemon, a pad of butter, a dash of salt and pepper, pop it into the oven for 15 minutes and you’re done. If you have the time or energy to jazz it up, play with the herb and fat combinations: sometimes I replace the butter with olive oil {or use both!} or I sprinkle some parsley, dill, tarragon, or lemon zest on top.

Oven roasted salmon, boiled potatoes, and a green salad on a white plate.

If you need another reason to make this recipe, consider this: salmon is a superfood. In our busy Irish home, I’ll take every opportunity to get good nutrition into my family. Salmon contains significant amounts of omega-3 fatty acids {which support heart and eye healthy}, and it is an excellent source of vitamin B-12, vitamin D and Selenium.

Oven-Roasted Salmon

Serves 4

Ingredients

4 x 3oz salmon fillets

1/2 lemon

4 pads of butter

salt and pepper to taste

Directions

1. Pre-heat oven to 220°C/425°F/gas mark 7. Place oven rack in the middle of the oven. Line a baking tray with aluminium and top with a sheet of parchment paper.

2. Rinse the salmon, pat dry with kitchen roll (paper towel), and, if needed, remove any bones.

3. Put the salmon fillets on the parchment paper, skin-side down, and squeeze lemon juice over them.

4. Top each with a small pad of butter.

5. Salt and pepper, as desired.

6. Roast in the oven for approximately 15 minutes or until the salmon is cooked all the way through. Roasting times will vary depending on your oven and the thickness of the salmon.

Additional Notes, Related Articles & Credit:

* Most nights, we serve boiled potatoes and a simple green salad with our salmon dinners.

** Wild or Farmed Salmon? See what the Time.com experts say here.

*** If you’re interested, here’s an article on how Norway avoids antibiotics in fish farming from the World Health Organization.

**** Invasive pink salmon are found on Irish shores recently. Learn more in this Irish Times article.

***** Two more salmon recipes from In an Irish Home: Salmon Fillets with Pesto & Pecorino and Salmon Pesto Pasta.

 

 

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