Posts Tagged ‘Irish Food Blogger’


A large bowl of Irish mashed potatoes for Thanksgiving and Christmas

Today we’re making mashed potatoes in our Irish home. And not just any mash either. We’re making velvety, creamy, delicious mashed potatoes. The kind with just the right amount of butter and milk {or cream} and salt added in. The kind that makes you go back to the table for seconds, even when you’re full.

As well as being a seriously homey comfort food, this Master Recipe, forms the base of other well known Irish potato dishes like Colcannon and Champ. It can also be turned into tasty potato cakes with the addition of some grated cheese, herbs, and rashers {bacon}. When topped with smoked salmon or a poached egg, potato cakes make an ideal brunch or light supper.

This recipe freezes well too. Which means you can double batch it for Thanksgiving and reheat it for Christmas {which is exactly what we’re doing today}. To freeze, let the mashed potato cool completely, transfer to a freezer bag, and store until needed. Easy-peasy. If you prefer individual servings, you can scoop out tea-cup-portions of the cooled mashed potatoes onto a Silpat-lined baking sheet and place in the freezer overnight or until the potatoes are completely frozen. Then put the individual servings into a freezer bag and store in the freezer.

To re-heat frozen mashed potatoes, simple chose the method that works best for you: microwave, stove top, oven or slow cooker.

Velvety Irish Mashed Potatoes

Serves 4


1 kilogram/2lbs unpeeled potatoes, preferably Golden Wonders or Kerr’s Pinks in Ireland or Russet or Yukon Gold in America

250ml/8oz/1 cup milk and/or cream {or mix half-and-half}

112g/8 tablespoons butter

salt and pepper


1. Scrub the potatoes well.

2. Place them in a large saucepan and add cold water until the potatoes are covered by 1-inch. Add a big pinch of salt to the water and bring to the boil over high heat.

3. Boil for 15 minutes, reduce the heat to medium-low, pour off about half the water, add a lid to the saucepan, and let the potatoes steam for another 20-30 minutes or until a knife tip or skewer goes into the potatoes easily.

4. Drain the potatoes in a colander and peel immediately with a pairing knife while they are still hot {use a clean tea towel to protect your fingers, if necessary}.

5. While you are peeling the potatoes, put the milk and butter into a saucepan and bring to a gentle boil.

5. Place the peeled potatoes into a large bowl and mash by hand or use a potato ricer for quicker results.

6. Pour half the hot milk and butter into the potatoes and stir well. Add more milk and butter until you get the smooth potato consistency you prefer. {You may not need all that you have prepared or you might need a little more, depending on how dry the potatoes are}.

7. Season with salt and pepper. Taste. Correct the season as you like and serve.

Additional Notes, Related Articles & Credit:

* You may, of course, peel the potatoes before you boil them, but leaving the skins on during the boiling process gives the mashed potato an lovely flavour.

** Using a potato ricer or food mill will give your mashed potatoes a smoother, creamier, texture than mashing with a potato masher. Darina and Rachel Allen, of Ballymaloe, recommend placing them in an electric food mixer using the paddle attachment to mash them.

*** Never use a blender or food processor to whip your potatoes: you’ll be left with a gluey mess if you do.

**** If you have a composter, throw the peeled potato skins into it to help feed next year’s garden bounty.


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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}


Cutting board

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



Wooden skewer

Old pot



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.

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In our Irish home there are three of us who love frittatas and quiches…and one who does not.

The one who “does not” is the one we’ve always called “littlest”…even though she is now as tall as myself!. She is also the one in our family who is known as the “pickiest”! So…as long as she doesn’t like frittatas and quiches…I don’t make them and we don’t eat them.

Tired of waiting for my baby girl to change her mind, I decided last week to take a new approach: instead of a frittata or quiche…I baked a savoury tart!

I found a recipe for Yotam Ottolenghi’s Tomato and Almond Tart this summer over at theguardian.com. It looked so yummy that I knew it would eventually appear on our Irish dinner table. I was just hoping we wouldn’t have to wait until “littlest” went to college and her tastebuds grew up.


As it turned out…my sweet girl LOVED it! And, how could she not? The almond paste soaks up the juice of the tomato and creates the most luscious layer of rich, nutty sweetness…ohhh, so good! It’s the ideal savoury take on “the classic French fruit and frangipane tart”.

The best part, aside from the fact that I can now serve a frittata/quiche/tart-like main with a huge side salad for dinner, is this recipe is easy to make. Healthy, tasty, and easy-to-make (and looks good enough to serve at a dinner party)…this recipe ticks all the right boxes in our Irish home. Give it a try! I think even your “pickiest” child (or adult) will love it too.

Tomato & Almond Tart

Serves 8


140g unsalted butter*, at room temperature

2 large eggs (each 60g net weight), beaten

65g fresh breadcrumbs

80g ground almonds

2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed

15g picked thyme leaves

100g ricotta

20g parmesan, finely grated

Malden sea salt* and black pepper

320g puff pastry*

sunflower oil*, for greasing

1kg medium tomatoes, cut into 1cm-tick slices (about 10 tomatoes)

12 anchovies in oil, roughly torn (optional)

2 tbsp olive oil


1. Heat the oven to 220ºC/425ºF/gas mark 7.

2. With an electric mixer, beat the butter until light and aerated. With the machine running on medium speed, slowly incorporate the eggs. If the mix splits, add some breadcrumbs to bring it back together, then carry on adding the remaining eggs.

3. Stop the machine, and work in the breadcrumbs, almonds, and garlic just until everything is combined. Remove from the mixer and, using your hands, gently fold in half the thyme, the ricotta, parmesan and half a teaspoon of sea salt. Set aside.

4. Roll the pastry into two 20cm x 30cm rectangular sheets about 2mm thick. Grease two baking trays with a little sunflower oil and lay the pastry rectangles on top. Spread the almond mixture evenly over the pastries with a palette knife, leaving a 2cm boarder around the edge.

5. Lay the tomato slices on top of each sheet in three long rows, with a fair amount of overlap between the rows (tomatoes shrink a fair bit when exposed to heat).

6. Sprinkle over the anchovies, if using, and remaining thyme. Drizzle the tomatoes with half the olive oil and season with some sea salt and a generous grind of black pepper.

7. Bake the tarts for 15 minutes, reduce the temperature to 180ºC/350ºF/gas mark 4 and carry on cooking for another 10 minutes, until the base is nice and brown. Remove from the oven, leave to cool slightly, then dribble over the remaining olive oil and serve.

Additional Notes & Credits:

* This recipe appeared in The Guardian online on 10 August 2012.

** I used salted butter for this recipe, only one roll of puff pastry, and olive oil because that’s what was in my larder. This recipe still worked beautifully.

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Photo Credit: Wikimedia.org

Photo Credit: Wikimedia.org

Guinness: rich, gorgeous, creamy, the national drink of Ireland, available in over 100 countries, dark ruby-red (not black), better served in Ireland than anywhere else in the world…oh, how I’ve tried to like Guinness. Sadly, it’s just never happened. In twenty-plus years of living in Ireland, I have never enjoyed a pint or a glass of The Black Stuff.

But before you break out the tiny violins and tell me to stop whinging (whining), there is one exception to this no Guinness life. Hand me a slice of dark, rich, sweet Guinness bread and I’ll ask you for seconds before you’ve had a chance to slice off a piece for yourself and say, “Cheers!”

Mmmmm…Guinness Bread. It’s dense and packed with flavour and from the very first time I tasted it I was hooked.

DSC_0376And here’s the good news for you, my Dear Reader: you don’t have to live in Ireland to get a bit of this traditional Irish treat for yourself. And, what’s even better, is you don’t have to spend a day in the kitchen making it. Guinness bread is a “quick bread”, which means there’s no rising time. Just like soda bread or brown bread, Guinness bread can be mixed and baked in one hour.

It’s the perfect side to a hearty stew, a thick homemade vegetable soup or a toasted cheese and tomato sambo (sandwich). Sure, it’s even a great elevenses (morning snack) when served with a slathering of {Kerrygold} butter and a cup of tea.

The recipe I use comes from The Guinness Storehouse. Enjoy!

Guinness Bread

Makes One Loaf


4 cups/600g wholemeal flour

1 cup/150g self-raising flour

1/2 cup/75g porridge oats (rolled oats)

2 1/2 teaspoons bread soda (baking soda)

1 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons brown sugar (optional)

16oz/500ml buttermilk

6oz/200ml treacle (black strap molasses, if outside Ireland)

1 cup/1/2 pint Guinness


1. Pre-heat oven to 170°C/325°F. Lightly oil a bread pan and line with parchment paper.

2. Mix flours together with the oats, bread soda, salt and brown sugar. Be sure to smooth out any lumps with your fingers.

3. Make a well in the centre and add buttermilk, treacle and Guinness.

4. Mix together until all flour is incorporated: the consistency will be sloppy without being too wet.

5. Bake for 45 minutes or until done. Remove from bread pan, tap the bottom to check for doneness. If it sounds hollow, the bread is fully cooked. If not, place back in the oven and bake for another 10 minutes or so.

Related Articles:

Irish Beer Guide at http://www.today.com/id/23612523/ns/today-food/t/stout-ale-or-porter-essential-irish-beer-guide/

Guinness Cocktails at: http://blogs.browardpalmbeach.com/cleanplatecharlie/2013/03/guinness_cocktails_beginners_guide.php

Grilled Ham & Cheese Sandwich at http://www.theblackpeppercorn.com/2012/04/grilled-ham-and-cheese-on-guinness-bread/

Frequently Asked Guinness Questions at: http://www.guinness.com/en-row/faqs.html

Frothy Facts About Guinness at: http://www.curiousread.com/2010/03/10-frothy-facts-about-guinness-st.html

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Darina Allen by Koster Photography.jpgI don’t know how I missed it!

Every now and again for the past year, I’ve been googling “Darina Allen” looking for a blog. Surely Ireland’s most celebrated cookery writer and founder of the Ballymaloe Cookery School would have one. Then, last month, I noticed a comment about Darina Allen and her relatively new blog whilst looking at the Irish Food Bloggers Association website.

It seems Darina started blogging on 14th June last year. In her own words, “it was a rough start initially” but in the last eight months she’s really taken off…literally. Darina’s blog reads more like a journal of food travels than recipes. To date she’s taken us to such places as Cambodia, New York, Sri Lanka, Mexico and, of course, all around Ireland in search of discovering food trends.

For those who don’t know her, Darina is to Ireland what Alice Waters is to America. She is credited with starting up the first Irish farmers market a decade ago. There are now over 150 of them across Ireland. Three years ago, she and Waters put forward an idea that lead to the Slow Movement’s Annual Grandmother’s Day, with the hope that grandmother’s Forgotten Skillscould help end child obesity by teaching their grandchildren to plant and cook dishes made with fresh local ingredients. She is author of 16 books, including Forgotten Skills of Ireland, Ballymaloe Cookery Course and, an old standby, Simply Delicious.

I had the good fortune of meeting Darina while attending the Ballymaloe Cookery School in Shangarry, County Cork many years ago. She’s a quick wit, a wonderful teacher, and a food activist in Ireland and beyond. Ballymaloe is one of the only cooking schools in the world located on an entirely organic farm. In fact, it was my time spent at Ballymaloe which led to me developing organic kitchen gardens at our home in Ireland and in America.

If you visit Ireland and have an interest in cooking, consider a trip to Ballymaloe…there is a 12 week certificate course, over 60 shorter courses, and many afternoon classes to enjoy. And, if you’re just a fan and want to know what Darina’s getting up to, check out her blog.

And, if by chance you’re visiting the Cork area this weekend, Darina is hosting the first ever Ballymaloe Literary Festival of Food and Wine at the Grain Store, Ballymaloe House and Ballymaloe Cookery School.

BallymaloeLitFestFoodWine250[1]There will be an incredible line-up of over 40 speakers including: Alice Waters, Madhur Jaffery, Claudia Roden, Bill Yosses (The American White House Pastry Chef) Stephanie Alexander (from Australia), Claus Meyer, Camilla Plus, Rowley Leigh, and David Thompson. Jancis Robinson MW and her husband Nick Lander are coming over from the U.K., as are Joanna Blythman, and some of the new young voices in food: Thomasina Miers, Stevie Parle, Alys Flowler, and Claire Ptak. And, that’s just the beginning. This international cast will be matched by a strong Irish presence. You’ll have to look at the Litfest.ie website to get the whole picture. It’s quite a tempting line-up!

Happy reading and cooking.

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