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Posts Tagged ‘Easter’

 

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Easter is a big deal in Ireland…not like St. Patrick’s Day or Christmas…but special all the same. As you would expect, there are many religious customs associated with the holiday but, did you know, there are also a good few customs that are uniquely Irish? Waking at dawn to watch the sunrise on Easter morning, cake dances, clúdóg, mock herring funerals, and evening bonfires are amongst the truly old Irish Easter traditions.

In our Irish home, because we are a family that is both Irish and American, we borrow from the customs of our two home countries when celebrating Easter. This is how we make it work for us:

* Everyone will get a large chocolate egg, filled with smaller wrapped chocolates {as is done in Ireland}.

* The chocolate egg and a dozen hard-boiled, colourfully dyed, eggs will be hidden in the garden {assuming the weather cooperates} or in the house {if it doesn’t} by the Easter Bunny {as is done in America} and a family egg hunt will take place before we go the church.

* A basket, beribboned and filled with colourful tissue paper, will be left at the end of each person’s bed by the Easter Bunny {as is done in America}.

* All of us will get a new Easter outfit {as is done in both countries}.

* And, finally, after mass we will host or be a guest at a festive meal, where lamb or ham…or maybe both…will be the main course {as is done in both countries, for the most part..but most certainly in Ireland!}.

Lamb, in particular Irish Spring Lamb, is synonymous with Easter in Ireland. It is highly prized for its delicate flavour. I am convinced, based on the wee little guys we see frolicking in the fields near our home, that it is a diet of wild clover, grass and herbs that make it truly special. Unfortunately, Irish Spring Lamb expensive, But, if you’re only enjoying it every now and again, it’s well worth the splurge.

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The recipe I’m sharing with you today comes from the book Cooking at Home by Julia Child and Jacques Pepin. It is incredibly easy to prepare and the meat requires almost no attention once in the oven. In our Irish home we serve roast lamb with either a homemade mint sauce or a simple gravy made from the pan juices of the roast and roasted spuds and peas for side dishes. For dessert, a lovely light pavlova with fresh fruit and lots of cream, is perfect after such a big meal.

From everyone in our Irish home to you and yours, we wish you a very happy Easter!

Jacques’s Roast Leg of Lamb

Serves 8-10

Ingredients

1 whole untrimmed leg of lamb, weighing about 6 pounds with shank and pelvic bone (trimmed of pelvic bone and most fat, about 4 3/4 pounds).

4 garlic cloves, peeled

salt

2 tablespoons fresh rosemary leaves, stripped off the stem

freshly ground black pepper

1 1/2 cups lamb stock, chicken stock, or white wine or a mixture of wine and stock

Directions

1.Prepare the lamb leg, removing the hipbone, trimming all fat, and scraping the shank bone.

2. For the herb seasoning, chop the garlic cloves coarsely. Pour a teaspoon of salt on top of the garlic and mash to a paste with the flat of the knife, then chop together with the rosemary leaves until they are finely minced

3. Thrust the tip of a sharp, thin-bladed knife into the thick top of the leg, about 1″ deep. Push about a 1/2 teaspoon of the seasoning paste into the slit with your finger. Make a dozen or more such incisions in the meaty parts of the leg, both top and underside, and fill with the seasoning. Rub any remaining paste over the boneless sirloin end of the leg. The leg may be roasted at this point or refrigerated for several hours or overnight, to allow the seasoning to permit the meat.

4. Prepheat the oven to 400ºF, arrange a rack in lower third of oven.

5. Just before roasting, sprinkle 3/4 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper over both sides of the leg. Set it on the roasting pan topside up.

6. Rost the leg for about 30 minutes, then turn the roast over, grasping it by the shank bone (with a thick towel or pot holder to protect your hands). Continue roasting for another 30 minutes or so (one to one-and-one-quarter hours total), depending on the size of the leg – until the internal temperature of the meat is about 125º to 130ºF when measured at the thickest part.

7. Remove the leg to a carving board or platter and rest – topside up – for about 20 minutes, allowing the meat to relax and reabsorb the natural juices.

8. Meanwhile, deglaze the roasting pan to make a simple sauce. Tilt the pan and pour off as much of the fat as possible. Place it over medium heat, pour in the stock and/or wine, and bring to a simmer, stirring and scraping up the browned glaze in the bottom of the pan. Strain the sauce into a bowl and add any juices released by the resting meat.

Additional Notes, Related Articles & Credits:

For more about Irish sheep and three recipes for cooking Irish lamb, see the New York Times Article: Erin Go Baa.

Is the Easter Bunny a Thing in Ireland? Check out the answer here at office mum.ie.

Random Irish Easter Traditions and the whole religious kit-and-caboodle may be read here at Claddaghdesign.com

More on Irish cake dances from Overland Monthly 1907 edition.

 

 

 

 

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There’s a book I own that sits on the nightstand near my bed…one my mother gave to me when I was a child. The binding is tattered and the corners are torn, but I never mind that…the book means the world to me.

Hot Cross Buns Image 1

Behind the faded cover is a collection of poems known as Mother Goose Rhymes and one of my favourites is called Hot Cross Buns. Of course you know the poem:

Hot cross buns, hot cross buns.

One a penny, two a penny, hot cross buns.

If you have no daughters, give them to your sons.

One a penny, two a penny, hot cross buns.

In my youth and innocence, I had no idea what a hot cross bun was: I’d never seen one, let alone tasted one. Looking back, I’m not even sure I knew what a “bun” was. In America a bun is an updo-hairstyle worn by a ballerina.

What I knew for sure was the woman in the illustration looked happy and the image of the village and the pretty children was very romantic and that appealed to my young heart. It wasn’t until many years later when I was living in Ireland that I finally saw and ate my first hot cross bun.

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Soft, light, sweet and delicious when served warm from the oven with a pad of butter, they are perfect with a cup of tea. In the weeks between St. Patrick’s Day and Good Friday, hot cross buns are readily available. Some are better than others however, so buyer beware. To make them from scratch is easy enough…it’s just the rising time that makes them a bit of a bother.

Hot Cross Buns are very much a part of the Irish Easter tradition: specifically Good Friday, when they were once served to commemorate Christ’s suffering on the cross (hence the cross marking on the bun). Today they are common place and most young ones wouldn’t know anything about the religious or secular traditions they are steeped in.

One of those traditions, from my mother-in-law’s day, is that you would break a Good Friday Black Fast (drinking only water or tea during the day) with a hot cross bun. Two others I know are: if you hung a bun from the kitchen ceiling you could ward off evil spirits; and gratings from a preserved bun, mixed with water, would cure a common cold. Oh, if only it were only that easy!

In our Irish home, hot cross buns are a Good Friday treat. We’re enjoying them today just as much as we’re enjoying the lovely sunshine that we’ve been blessed with. We’re off to do the Stations of the Cross Passion in a few hours time and then finishing the day with a bowl of velvety leek and potato soup and some homemade brown bread. In some ways you could say we’re a bit old-fashioned but then that’s just the way it is for us. I wonder what it’s like for you?

Lent is coming to an end, finally. I hope you’ve enjoyed the recipes I’ve been posting these past six weeks and, likewise, I hope you’ve made it through your Lenten promise without having to hit the reset button too often. I slipped up a few times myself, but overall am quite pleased with my staying power!

I wish you and yours a very happy Easter and, if by chance you’re partaking in a hot cross bun today, I offer you the following poem of friendship: “half for you and half for me…between us two…good luck shall be!”

All the best.

 

Odlum’s Hot Cross Buns

Makes One Full Baking Tray

Ingredients for the Buns

625g/ 1lb 4 oz Odlums Strong White Flour (plus extra for dusting)

1 tsp salt

2 tsp ground mixed spice

50g/2oz butter, cut into cubes, plus extra for greasing

75g/3oz sugar

Rind of 1 lemon

1 sachet fast-action yeast (7g)

1 egg

275ml/10fl oz tepid milk

125g/4oz Shamrock Fruit Mix (or raisins)

Ingredients for the Topping

2 tbsp Odlums Cream Plain Flour

Vegetable Oil (for greasing)

1 tbsp golden syrup, gently heated, for glazing

Directions

For the buns, sieve the flour, salt and ground mixed spice into a large mixing bowl, then rub in the butter using your fingertips. Make a well in the centre of the mixture then add the sugar and lemon zest and yeast.

Beat the egg and add to the flour with the tepid milk. Mix together to a form a soft, pliable dough.

Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured work surface. Carefully work the mixed dried fruit into the dough until well combined. Knead lightly for 5 minutes, or until smooth and elastic.

Grease a large, warm mixing bowl with butter. Shape the dough into a ball and place it into the prepared bowl, then cover with a clean tea towel and set aside in a warm place for one hour to prove.

Turn out the proved dough onto a lightly floured work surface and knock back the dough. Shape it into a ball again and return it to the bowl, then cover again with the tea towel and set aside for a further 30 minutes to rise.

Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and divide it into 12 equal pieces. Roll each piece into a ball, then flatten slightly into a bun shape using the palms of your hands. Cover the buns again with the tea towel and set aside to rest for 5-10 minutes.

Grease a baking tray with butter and transfer the buns to the tray. Wrap the tray with the buns on it loosely in greaseproof paper, then place inside a large polythene bag. Tie the end of the bag tightly so that no air can get in and set aside in a warm place for a further 40 minutes to rise.

Preheat the oven to 240C/475F/Gas 8.

Meanwhile, for the topping, mix the plain flour to a smooth paste with 2 tablespoons of cold water.

When the buns have risen, remove the polythene bag and the greaseproof paper. Spoon the flour mixture into a piping bag and pipe a cross on each bun.

Transfer the buns to the oven and bake for 8-12 minutes, or until pale golden-brown. As soon as you remove the buns from the oven, brush them with the hot golden syrup, then set aside to cool on a wire rack.

 

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I can hardly believe Valentine’s Day is behind us and we are barreling full-speed towards Lent, St. Patrick’s Day, and Easter.

DSC01314Lent, as you probably know, is just four days away and in our house there is a lot of talk about what each of us is giving up for the next forty days. My husband is going with the Irish “usual”: he is giving up drink. The kids and I have agreed on sugar. By that I mean to say we are giving up minerals (soft drinks), chocolate, ice cream, and all sweets. Furthermore, from Ash Wednesday (5th March) to Good Friday (18th April), I promise to not make any puddings (deserts), biscuits (cookies), cupcakes, cakes or other tasty treats that have sugar…white or brown…as an added ingredient. The exception for all of us, of course, is Saint Patrick’s Day, which is when we Irish get a chance to break the fast of Lent for one day.

There is another form of abstinence that our little family will participate in during Lent and that is giving up meat on Fridays.  According to Catholic Canon Law, a person between the ages of 14 and 59 should abstain from eating meat on Fridays {every Friday throughout the year} in honour of the Passion of Jesus on Good Friday. While most Catholics ignore this rule, many take it up during the season of Lent. In keeping with strict Catholic tradition, we will also not eat meat on Ash Wednesday. To keep us on track, I am putting together a collection of meat-free recipes and will post them as Lenten Challenges: Meat-Free Friday posts for you to enjoy.

Speaking of Ash Wednesday…it’s the 5th of March, which is this Wednesday. It’s the day you see Catholics everywhere walking around with the sign of the cross, made from ashes, on their foreheads. The ashes have had different meanings at different times throughout history. Today is symbolises our baptismal promise to reject sin and profess our faith.

Ash Wednesday is preceded by Shrove Tuesday, which is on the 4th of March this year. “Shrove” comes from the word “shrive”, which means to confess and receive absolution. Shrove Tuesday is, therefore, a day that many Catholics will go to confession at their local church to ask forgiveness for and be absolved of their sins. According to the Dublin Diocese’s education website, “This tradition is very old. Over 1,000 years ago a monk wrote in the Anglo-Saxon Ecclesiastical Institutes: In the week immediately before Lent everyone shall go to his confessor and confess his deeds and the confessor shall so shrive him. ~ Anglo-Saxon Ecclesiastical Institutes”. 

Shrove Tuesday is also known in Ireland as Pancake Tuesday. The significance of the “pancake” is tied up in the religious custom of abstaining from meat, butter, eggs, and dairy during Lent. So that no food would be wasted, Irish families would feast on Shrove Tuesday and use up all the foods that would not keep for forty days. Pancakes use up many of the items Catholics were not allowed to eat during Lent in past times, hence its association with Shrove Tuesday and the start of Lent. Last year, I posted a traditional Irish pancake recipe on this blog: you will find it here.

Trocaire 2014 Lenten Box

Trocaire 2014 Lenten Box

There are so many traditions surrounding Lent, as you can see from above, one of the more modern ones you may not know about if you live outside of Ireland is the Trócaire box. If you don’t know it, the Trócaire box is a small cardboard box used for collecting change. It is given to school age children across the country, who then take it home and fill it over Lent. The money raised goes directly to Trócaire, the official overseas development agency set up by the Catholic Church in Ireland that aids some of the world’s poorest people. The competition amongst school children to have the heaviest box is fierce. Up until recently, we always had to have two boxes in our house to keep the peace. This year’s campaign focuses on the global water crisis and explores water as a social justice issue.

Another modern custom, this one involving technology, is the Irish Jesuit’s online spiritual Retreat for Lent. It is part of the Irish Jesuit’s hugely popular website called Sacred Space. Sacred Space serves five million people annually, from all around the world, by guiding them through ten-minute segments of daily prayer via the computer. While it might seem odd to pray in front of a computer or mobile device, it makes prayer on “the go” or prayer for busy people {isn’t that all of us?} possible.  The theme of this year’s “Retreat for Lent” program is Called to be Saints. It draws inspiration from Saint Paul’s letter to the Romans. There is a pocket-size book, Sacred Space for Lent 2014, to compliment the website. If you are interested, it is available from Amazon and all good bookstores around the world.

DSC_0387And, finally, to round out today’s post on Lenten traditions, there’s one more custom we keep in our home during Lent and that is the baking and eating of Hot Cross Buns on Good Friday. Why they are associated with Good Friday, specifically, is really unknown but some say an Anglican monk placed the sign of the cross on the buns to honour Christ’s suffering on the cross on Good Friday. Nearly everyone is familiar with the old nursery rhyme, “One a penny, two a penny hot cross buns…if you have no daughter’s give them to your sons…One a penny, two a penny, hot cross buns”…but there is also a sweet rhyme for friendship that goes, “Half for you and half for me, between us two good luck shall be”.

I will post my favourite hot cross bun another day for you to try. In the meantime, good luck to you as you begin your season of Lent. God bless.

Related Articles:

Pope Francis’ Message for Lent 2014 at http://www.catholicbishops.ie/2014/02/04/pope-francis-message-lent-2014/

Reflecting on the Lent Season from Loyola Press at: http://www.loyolapress.com/reflecting-on-the-lent-season.htm

Baileys Irish Cream Pancakes with Whiskey Maple Syrup at http://www.college-cooking.com/2013/03/10/baileys-irish-cream-crepes-and-baileys-irish-cream-pancakes-with-whisky-maple-syrup/

Chocolate Stout Crepes with Irish Cream Whip at http://www.countrycleaver.com/2012/03/chocolate-stout-crepes-and-irish-cream-whip.html

Hot Apple and Apricot Crepe recipe from The Wineport  Restaurant in Glasson, Co. Westmeath at http://www.irishheart.ie/iopen24/apple-apricot-crepe-t-7_22_91_186.html

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Hoodoos in Bryce

Last month, for Easter-break, our family packed up our small-house-of-a-car and drove to southern Utah. Why southern Utah? Two reasons really: 1) we’d heard the landscape was like none other and 2) I wanted to visit a restaurant called Hell’s Backbone Grill (you knew food was going to be involved!).

The route we chose to explore was Highway 12. Nicknamed Scenic Byway 12, it was designated “All American Road” in 2002 and is considered one of America’s most beautiful drives. From its northern point to its western, it passes through Capitol Reef National Park, Anasazi State Park, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument and Bryce Canyon National Park. It includes a white-knuckle drive through Hogsback, a section of road much like those found in the west of Ireland, a gently meandering journey through Fruita, a tiny village with its still-operating Mormon fruit orchards dating back to 1880, and breathtaking red sandstone vistas.

126-Foot Waterfall at Calf Creek Falls

For every day we drove, we hiked. Our favourite places included Hickman Bridge in Capitol Reef, Calf Creek Falls in Escalante, and Navajo Loop Trail in Bryce Canyon. All three were just the right length for the children to walk comfortably and ranged from 1 1/2 hours to 4 hours in length. Most importantly, the surroundings were superbly unique. We were never bored. The highlights included fantastic sky-high hoodoos, a cascading waterfall and natural pool, and remnants of what was once an active Fremont Indian community. All three were ideal family hikes and I promise to write about each one, in-depth and with photos, in the coming weeks. For now however, I’d like to switch gears and talk about the other driving desire for our road trip…Hell’s Backbone Grill.

I stumbled across Hell’s Backbone Grill not long after coming to America. I was sitting in the hairdressers, flipping through the latest fashion rags, when With a Measure of Grace: The Story and Recipes of a Small Town Restaurant  surfaced from the heap.

I was captivated by the cover’s photos: a barefoot girl walking on a split rail fence, Tibetan prayer flags blowing in the wind, a basket of farm-fresh eggs and a lemon chiffon cake. These sweet, serene, images are in strong contrast to the name of the restaurant and I was curious to see how they fit together. As it turns out, they do so quite well but only because of the philosophy of the co-owners, Blake Spalding and Jen Castle, and the courage of the townspeople of Boulder, a quiet Mormon community of less than 200 people.

With a Measure of Grace

Their story, the photos and the recipes literally beckoned me. I had to see the place for myself. I was so captivated that I didn’t want to buy the book on Amazon. I wanted to touch Hell’s. I wanted to meet Blake and Jen. I wanted to experience it for myself. I, so desperately, wanted to have this experience that I called the restaurant as soon as I got home from the hairdressers. Be warned, Hell’s closes for the winter! I left a message to please call back when they reopened in the spring and I waited. Before they could call, my husband suggested a trip to Utah over Easter-break and I quickly bargained for a hiking/food holiday. Done!

Boulder, Utah is at the base of the Aquarius Plateau. When you see the “Welcome to Boulder” sign you can’t help but wonder “is this it?” There are no street lights, no buildings…just open land with clusters of sagebrush and some tall trees on rolling hills, dotted by what appears to be small farmsteads. It is a quiet place, just the way the locals like it. As we arrived, I felt panicked that we were in the wrong place but my lovely husband took a turn here and another turn there and then, suddenly, it was right in front of us…like an oasis in the desert.

Hell’s Backbone Grill

Hell’s Backbone Grill is a four-hour drive from Salt Lake City so the fact Jen and Blake can run a restaurant in such an incredibly isolated location is a wonder. They do so by relying on locally produced food, grown mostly on a nearby six-acre farm. The girls also avail of local ranchers, for their naturally raised meats and poultry, and orchards, for their heirloom fruits. They tend their own bees.

You’d think with all the work these two ladies do, there’d be precious little time for them to socialize. Luckily for me, that is not the case. I met Blake Spalding (and her fiancé) the night we arrived for dinner and again the next morning at breakfast. She was down-to-earth, quick with a smile, and very gracious. She allowed me to take pictures – lots of them.

The lovely Blake Spalding

She signed the book I bought, posed for a photo, and listened actively as I talked about gardening, cooking, moving from Ireland and blogging. She was even good enough to suggest I post a few recipes from With a Measure of Grace on In an Irish Home (please see tomorrow’s post on Lemon Chiffon Cake).

With the welcoming hug I got from Blake after breakfast the next morning, our trip to southern Utah was complete. Satiated, and with a packed lunch from Hell’s in the cooler, we drove back to our home on the edge of the Rockies. Our little family was well exercised, well fed, and, well, happy! I look forward to visiting Utah’s southern lands again and dining at Hell’s Backbone Grill. I hope you will too.

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