Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘In an Irish Home’

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.

 

 

Read Full Post »

 

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.

Read Full Post »

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.

 

 

Read Full Post »

A glass bowl filled with maple vanilla whipped cream

My girls are growing up fast. So fast {sigh}.

In no time at all they’ll be leaving secondary school {high school} and heading to university.

Where they will go to college is anyone’s guess. Being Irish and American, and practically having been born with a suitcase in their hand, they think globally. Ireland…America…the U.K….or even farther afield..are all options.

And, so, with mixed emotions, I am opening my heart, mind, and our hall door to allow them the freedom to chose what feels best for them. Yes, like generations of Irish mothers before me, I am steeling myself for the eventual immigration of my children.

“But why now?”, I hear you ask. The answer is sweet and simple. Not too long ago, while I was making dinner, my eldest daughter walked into our kitchen and said, “Mom, I’ve got to learn how to cook.”

Even today, as I write this blog post, I can see her, plain as day, standing in our kitchen, hands folded across her chest, earnestly running through the list of things she needs to learn to do before she graduates next year. “And, I need to learn how to clean, do laundry, shop, and drive too! Maybe I won’t be ready for college!!”, she said.

In that moment, I realised, she’s a planner…a worrier…and already thinking about leaving.

With regard to food, she was very specific: “I only want to make easy things…not microwaveable ones…I’ll only eat microwaved food sometimes!”. And then just to be sure I was listening, she repeated, “I just want easy food mom”.

So, in the coming year, starting with today, I will be posting recipes that even a sixth-year student {senior in high school} can make while living under our roof, studying for exams, applying to university, making us crazy, and waiting for their lives to begin.

6589B4F3-7206-4975-878D-52FE33461140

First up…Maple Vanilla Whipped Cream. It’s a Cooking 101 recipe. For those of us with more than basic cooking skills, it seems a bit ridiculous to write a blog post about whipping cream. And yet, there is science and creativity to making whipped cream {as anyone who has accidentally turned their cream into butter can attest to}.

And, yes, I know it’s a crime to add anything to Irish whipping cream. Unlike cream in my native country, Irish cream is gorgeous. It has real flavour and needs no embellishment whatsoever. But, since my girls may not end up in Ireland one day {and because, on occasion, we all like to try something new} I’m starting my College Bound Girls blog posts with this incredibly delicious recipe. If you’ve got university bound kids, please share your recipes with us.

And, finally, a side note: the Victoria Sponge pictured above was made by my youngest daughter last week. The recipe will be posted soon!

Maple Vanilla Freshly Whipped Cream

Makes about 2 pints/4 cups

Ingredients

1 pint/2 cups cream

1 tablespoon maple syrup (optional)

1 teaspoon vanilla (optional)

Directions

1. Pour cream into a large mixing bowl.

2. Add maple syrup and vanilla and beat until soft, billowy, peaks form. You may use a balloon whisk, an electric hand mixer, or a stand mixer…whichever you prefer.

3. To test: lift the whisk out of the bowl and turn upside down. If the cream peak holds its shape and falls slightly to one side, you’re done.

Additional Notes, Related Articles & Credits:

* A ballon whisk is very easy to use…and I think the most satisfying. I used a balloon whisk for years, until my sister-in-law, Rosaleen, bought me an electric hand mixer for Christmas. Now I alternate, depending on how much time I have.

**If you use an electric mixer, beat the cream on medium speed, being careful not to over beat. You will recognise over beaten whipped cream instantly by its grainy  texture. To rescue, add a few extra tablespoons of cream from the carton and, using a hand whisk, gently mix it together.

***If you’re out to really have fun, continue beating your cream until it becomes butter!

****You can make whipped cream ahead of time and refrigerate it, covered, for up to four hours before serving.

***** In this video, one Irish dad gets very creative while helping his wife in the kitchen make cream. And, yes, that’s a drill he’s using!

******And, finally, here’s a video of life hacks one of my daughters downloaded to my phone. Just one more example of how they are preparing for adulthood. Be warned this video is addictive.

 

 

 

 

Read Full Post »

 

Brown and white Irish button mushrooms on a tea towel.

Myrtle Allen's mushroom soup in a white bowl.

The lazy days of summer are well and truly over and everyone in our Irish home is moving back into life lived at warp speed.

The kids are busy with school, sports practices/games, clubs, and homework. Our eldest daughter recently added an after school job to her schedule, which brings great opportunities for personal growth and some very welcome pocket money! My husband is traveling a lot again. And, as for me, I’m holding the whole show together.

On those days when I need a meal that’s quick and easy to make, I am thankful to have Irish Mushroom Soup as one of my go-to recipes. This particular recipe, from Myrtle Allen of Ballymaloe House, is delicious and wholesome and takes all of about 20 minutes to make. What’s more, I don’t feel the need to make anything else to call this supper: a loaf of bread and lashings of good Irish butter make it totally complete.

I’ve adjusted Myrtle’s recipe ever so slightly, God forgive me! I use a yellow onion rather than a load of spring onions and I don’t make a roux (I just pop everything into the soup pot and give it a good, stiff, stir). This soup is absolutely no fuss but it tastes like you’ve slaved over a hot hob (stove) all day.

Enjoy!

Myrtle’s Mushroom Soup

Serves 4

Ingredients

4oz/1 cup onions, finely chopped

2 oz/4 tablespoons butter

8oz/2 ½ cups mushrooms, finely chopped, (I use a variety of mushrooms)

salt and pepper

2 tablespoons plain flour

8oz/1 cup milk

80z/1 cup chicken stock

Directions

1. Sweat the onions in the butter until soft (5 minutes approximately).

2. Stir in the mushrooms and seasoning and cook for 1 minute.

3. Add the flour and cook for 2 more minutes, stirring well.

4. Remove from the heat. Blend in the milk and stock. Return to the cooker and bring the mixture to the boil, stirring all the time.

5. Adjust the seasoning (my two cents here: using a hand-held blender, blend until you have a consistency you like) and serve.

Additional Notes, Related Articles & Credits:

* If you have a few minutes, watch this interesting interview over at the Irish Food Channel with Myrtle Allen regarding Irish food production and why Irish food is so delicious.

** Read the Wall Street Journal’s article on how Myrtle Allen helped transform “fine Irish cuisine” into a bona fide culinary movement.

*** Here are some fab mushroom hunts in Ireland: Mushroom hunt with Bill O’Dea at Killruddery House and the Annual Mushroom Hunt & Lunch at Longueville House, Cork.

**** The Northern Ireland Fungus Group has lots of advice on which mushrooms can be eaten and organises annual fungal forays. See http://www.nifg.org.uk for details.

***** For other delicious soup recipes, check-out my Autumn Vegetable Soup, Leak and Potato Soup, Pea & Mint Soup, and, last but not least, my Good Old Fashioned Chicken Soup.

 

 

Read Full Post »

 

Say the phrase “road trip” in our Irish home and you’re likely to hear “hooray” back. I’d love to think it’s because my two sweet girls enjoy spending quality time with my husband and me, but the truth is they actually equate road trips with rubbish…and lots of it. Coca Cola, chocolate, crisps…you name it…if it can be purchased in a petrol station, we’ve probably got it in our car.

Screen Shot 2016-07-09 at 10.36.15 AM

This year, however, our junk food road trips aren’t happening. Instead, I’ve been trading out the rubbish and replacing it with something a little more healthy. As you can imagine, the kids aren’t exactly thrilled with the change, but they’re being good sports and playing along nicely.

On a recent trip from Dublin to Belfast, I stocked the car with two of our favourite Irish treats: Flapjacks and Mars Bars Biscuits. I also made some trail mix.

Homemade trail mix with nuts, raisins, berries and chocolate chips

 

Now, trail mix is a relative newcomer to our snack box. Ehem…yes, we have a “snack box” in our Irish home. It’s a large plastic tub filled with food items the girls know they can dip into any time with no questions asked. It was something I started when they were teeny-tiny and it has worked really well for our family so it’s stuck. But I’ve digressed…

The trail mix I’ve been making is an absolute rip-off of a packet I bought last year while in America. I’d give full credit to the makers, if I still had the wrapper…but it’s long gone, so I can’t. Packed with fruits and nuts and just the right amount of chocolate, it is sweet and salty. I think it’s the perfect road trip food…or the perfect airplane snack for that matter.

Thankfully, everything, except the white and dark chocolate chips, is readily available in our local health food shop, so it’s not difficult to throw together. The chips I tend to pick up at Cavistons in Glasthule.

As for our recent Irish road trip…my youngest daughter, a girlfriend from Germany, my little brother, and I traveled from Dublin to Antrim to finally see Northern Ireland’s spectacular UNESCO World Heritage Sight the Giant’s Causeway. The drive time took just under three hours each way and was incredibly pleasant.

Screen Shot 2016-06-14 at 5.45.02 AM

 

Screen Shot 2016-07-09 at 12.13.17 PM

Screen Shot 2016-07-09 at 12.12.58 PM

Screen Shot 2016-07-09 at 12.16.38 PM

When you get to Giant’s Causeway, there are four walking trails with amazing views from each. When you’re done, there is a restaurant right next to the entrance called The Nook, call in if you’re hungry. We had a really good meal there and, though we probably shouldn’t have, we also had Irish coffees!

Screen Shot 2016-07-09 at 12.48.25 PM

Photo Credit: The Nook Restaurant

Given that we started our road trip late in the day, we didn’t have time to stop at the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge, which is only about 12 miles away along a coastal path. If you have time, stop and see if you’ve got the nerve to cross the bridge. I have no doubt we’ll be back to test our nerves.

And, finally, if you’re interested in a wee bit of Giant Causeway folklore, it is said that Finn MacCool, the great Irish warrior, built it as a bridge to Scotland to challenge his rival, the giant Benandonner. On seeing the enormous Scotsman, Finn scurried back to Antrim, where his quick-witted wife disguised him as a child. Benandonner, hot on his heels, crossed the bridge too and upon seeing the hulking baby, decided: “If that’s the baby, I don’t want to meet the father” and turned tail back to Scotland, ripping up the highway behind him.

Fact or fiction, this wonder of 40,000 hexagonal basalt columns is a road trip worthy destination. Don’t forget to pack up your healthy treats!

Homemade Trail Mix

Ingredients

2 handful raisins

2 handful cranberries

2 handful chocolate chips

2 handful white chocolate chips

2 handful goji berries

2 handful mulberries

3 handful chopped walnuts, oven toasted

3 handful pistachios, shelled and oven roasted

3 handful pumpkin seeds, oven toasted

3 handful almonds, oven roasted

Directions

Easy Peasy: mix everything in a large bowl and you’re done!

 

Additional Notes, Related Articles & Credits:

* Here’s a quick overview of the trip on Google map.

** Looking for help planning your trip? Checkout this website for more information.

 

Read Full Post »

Irish lasagna in a baking dish with a green side salad

I’m sure every family has its own version of this classic Italian dish…but I promise you, you’ll want to give this recipe a try sometime.

In our Irish home, we table-tested many lasagna recipes over the years before realising we are truly, deeply, and madly in love with this Irish version dreamed up by my sister-in-law Ann. Thanks Ann!

What makes this recipe the clear winner for us is the absolute deliciousness of the dish. It’s comforting, without being too heavy, and it has lots of flavour. When paired with a side salad and a slice (or two) of homemade garlic bread, everyone leaves the table happy and satisfied. What’s more, my girls and sweet husband will take a slice in their lunch the next day. Don’t you just love it when a supper can become an easy-to-make lunch too?

Another reason Ann’s Weeknight Lasagna is a favourite in our home…it’s just so easy to make. Unlike traditional lasagna, there’s no béchamel sauce (also known as “white sauce” in Ireland) in this recipe. Instead, whole milk ricotta is added directly to the meat sauce, saving time but not scrimping on flavour. And, this recipe calls for precooked noodles, so there’s no hassle and time commitment there either. This recipe is just a win-win-win all around.

Ann’s Weeknight Lasagna can be assembled up to a day in advance and baked right before dinner (great for exam week or anytime everyone is helter skelter). It is great as a family meal, but it is also impressive enough to serve guests. Add a bottle (or two!) of vino, light some pillar candles, turn on some Italian music, and you’ve got the makings of a fun dinner party. And, you know I hate to be a Delia-Downer but I am ever-practical, if you’re looking for a meal to deliver to someone-in-need, this is the perfect, delicious, easy-to-make dish.

Oh, this weeknight lasagna, Irish-style, is good for so many reasons. It may not be your mum’s recipe, but all I can say is “try it…you’re gonna like it!”

Weeknight Lasagna à la Ann

Serves 8

Ingredients

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 onion, diced

450g/1 pound lean minced beef (hamburger meat)

1 pinch of dried basil, oregano and rosemary

2 x 680gram/48 ounces spaghetti sauce

8 oz whole milk ricotta

227g/80z chopped mushrooms

box of oven ready lasagne pasta

16oz shredded mozzarella cheese

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 180°C/350°F degrees.

2. Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan over moderate heat. Add the onion and sauté until translucent.

3. Add mince, being sure to break it up into small pieces. Add oregano and rosemary to taste. When the mince is cooked thoroughly, drain off any excess fat, then add the spaghetti sauce, mushrooms and the whole milk ricotta. Mix well and remove from heat.

4. Into a 9 x 13 x2 inch-baking dish, spoon a thin layer of mince sauce. Top with a layer of lasagne noodles, do not let the noodles touch each other or the sides of the baking dish. Next add a layer of shredded mozzarella. Then top with lasagna noodles, and another layer of sauce. Repeat layers as before, until your top layer of sauce is just about even with your baking dish. Sprinkle with the last of the shredded mozzarella.

5. Cover dish with aluminum (tin foil) and bake in the oven for 30 minutes until bubbling and golden brown. (Alternatively, refrigerate until ready to use).

6. Remove the foil and bake for another 10 to 15 minutes or until hot and bubbly.

7. Remove from the oven, top with some finely grated Parmesan, if desired. Let sit for five minutes before cutting.

 

 

 

 

Read Full Post »

« Newer Posts - Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: