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Posts Tagged ‘Irish Food Blogs’

Wishes from In an Irish Home to You and Yours

I have so much to be thankful for today and every day: my sweet family {the inlaws and the outlaws!}, wonderful, supportive, friends, and you…the fabulous visitors who call-in to this blog every day!

From the bottom to the top of my Irish heart…THANK YOU!

Thank you for visiting In an Irish Home, for leaving your comments, and for sharing what you like with me and others.
Wishing you and those you love a blessed Thanksgiving Day!

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A bowl of homemade sweet potato casserole, topped with granola and maple syrup

With more than twenty years worth of cooking under my apron, I’m always trying something new in the kitchen…but not when it comes to this sweet potato casserole. This incredibly “more-ish” recipe has been handed down three generations, from mother to daughter, and is perfect just the way it is.

What’s more? This recipe is easy to make, much simpler than Irish mashed potatoes, for example, and it freezes well. This really is the ultimate side dish for your holiday meal. Enjoy!

 

Sweet Potato Casserole

Serves 4

Ingredients

2 lbs sweet potatoes

60g/4 tablespoons butter

2oz/1/2 cup brown sugar

2 teaspoons cinnamon

2 tablespoons heavy whipping cream

Directions

1. Scrub the sweet potatoes well.

2. Place them in a large saucepan and add cold water until the potatoes are covered by 1-inch. Bring to the boil over high heat. Reduce to simmer and cook for 30 minutes or until a knife tip or skewer goes into the sweet potatoes easily.

2. Drain the sweet potatoes into 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}.

3. While you are peeling the potatoes, put the butter into a saucepan and melt.

4. Place the peeled potatoes into a large bowl and mash. Next, add the brown sugar, cream, cinnamon and butter. Stir well. Taste and adjust seasoning as desired.

Additional Notes, Related Articles & Credit:

* To freeze, let the sweet potato cool completely, transfer to a freezer bag, remove any excess air, and store until needed.

** If you want to add a little crunch and saltiness to this dish, top it with my homemade granola {sans raisins}. And maybe add a little maple syrup too!

*** Curious to know the difference between a sweet potato and a yam? Here’s the answer from epicurious.com.

 

 

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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}

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.

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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!

 

 

 

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A loaf of Irish porridge bread on a wooden cutting board.February is not Irish heart month {September is*}, but with the visual cue of hearts literally everywhere we go, it seems the perfect month to reassess how best to care for the hearts of my sweet family.

Up first…exercising more. The Irish Heart Foundation recommends thirty minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity fives times a week. In our Irish home even that miniscule amount of exercise can be hard to achieve, which is why I’ve started making physical activity a part of our family “talk-time”. Whether it’s my husband and me, one of us with one of our daughters, or the whole family together, we’re walking, biking, hiking and even dancing to the Wii while we are talking…laughing…and sometimes arguing and crying.  The upside of combining talking and exercise is obvious…we’re hardly aware that we’re being physical.

Next…stressing less. As my husband and I have moved into parenting teens, our lives have become more stress filled. What’s worse, as our kids have moved into their teen years…their lives have become more stressful too. Multiple studies have shown that extreme emotional distress is bad for the heart, no matter what your age. Stress triggers the “flight or flight” response, which in turn causes a surge of adrenaline in the body and makes your heart pump faster and harder. Not good…unless of course you’re running away from a man-eating tiger! To counteract stress we’re all doing some simple heart healthy activities, including sharing worries and woes with friends, journaling, listening to music, and allowing time to do absolutely nothing.

Finally…eating better. Over the past ten years, we’ve steadily reduced our intake of trans fats, saturated fats, sugar, salt and alcohol and increased our uptake of water, fruits, vegetables, healthy oils, and whole grains. Some of our perennial favourites include water with mint, 70% dark chocolate (Aine Irish hand made chocolate is the bomb), omega rich salmon, roasted broccoli, and porridge.

Porridge, also known as oatmeal, is not just for breakfast any more. Last September my friend Marguerite invited me over for an afternoon cuppa and a catch up at her beautiful home in Donnybrook. Instead of the usual side of biscuits {cookies}, Marguerite served Irish Porridge Bread. I’d never had porridge bread before and was delighted to give it a try. Truth be told, it was really good.

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Oats are high in beta-glucans**, a soluble fibre, which can lower cholesterol by soaking it up before it gets absorbed into the bloodstream. Oats are also a rich source of magnesium, which is important in preventing heart attacks and strokes by relaxing blood vessels and regulating blood pressure. What’s more, for someone like my brother-in-law who lives with coeliac disease, porridge is, for the most part, considered a safe, gluten free, food***.

From our Irish home to yours, we wish you a happy heart month. What are you doing in February to take care of your heart?

Irish Porridge Bread

Makes One Large Loaf

Ingredients:

500ml/16oz/2cups natural yogurt

1 beaten egg

1 tbsp. treacle or maple syrup

300g/11oz/3cups porridge oats, plus 2 tbsp. more for topping

2 tsp. bread soda/baking soda

1/2 tsp. Salt

Method:

1 Place yogurt, beaten egg and treacle/maple syrup in a mixing bowl and stir well.

2. Mix the oats, bread soda, and salt in a separate bowl, add to the yogurt mixture and stir well.

3. Place in a greased or parchment lined 2lb. loaf tin, sprinkle with extra oats and bake at 180°C/350°F for 30 minutes.

4. Lower the oven temperature to 150°C/300°F and cook for another 30 minutes.

5. Lift bread out of loaf tin and allow to cool on a wire rack.

Additional Notes, Related Articles & Credits:

* Irish heart month coincides with the World Heart Federation’s World Heart Day, which is held in September.

** Journal of Nutrition and Metabolism

*** Anyone suffering with coeliac disease should proceed with caution when eating oats. Research suggests that for many coeliacs, oats are fine but for individuals who are particularly sensitive, they may be toxic.

**** For more research on the health benefits of eating porridge please see these articles (1, 2, and 3) from Harvard Medical School.

 

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When life gives you lemons…you make lemonade, right? But what about when life gives you elderberries?

Such was my thought a few weeks ago, as I stood staring up at the enormous elderberry shrub in our back garden. In the summertime I make a delicious elderflower cordial from the tiny fragrant flowers our elder gives us: from the cordial we enjoy homemade spritzers, sweet curd, popsicles…even pavlovas…for months on end. But as I eyed the tiny black berries that had grown from the unused summer blossoms, I wondered what to do.

Irish chefs and scratch cooks have been using elderberries for many years to make wine, jam, chutneys, tinctures, sauces, tarts, and fizzy drinks. One of Ireland’s most famous chefs, Richard Corrigan, uses them to make Elderberry Jelly. Imen McDonnell, blogger and cookbook author, throws a handful of elderberries into her autumn-inspired Irish Hedgerow Martini. And Michelan-star chef J.P. McMahon uses elderberries to make vinegar and sauces for his wild game dishes.

But what could I do?

As I stood there thinking about the possibilities, I remembered that my good friend Susan once suggested our family take a daily spoonful of elderberry syrup to boost our immune systems. Susan was giving Sambucol, a black elderberry extract, to her family and was finding that they were coming down with fewer colds and healing faster when they did catch something. So, a bottle of Sambucol was bought for our home and we took a spoonful every morning from autumn to spring as an ounce of prevention for a number of years.

I don’t know when we stopped taking Sambucol or why. Perhaps I got lazy…maybe just forgetful? Last winter, however, when I was knocked for six with a cough that lasted weeks, it sure would have been helpful {not to mention “healthful”} to have some on hand.

Beautiful elderberry syrup in five glass bottles

As I stood there looking up at the clusters of tiny black berries hanging heavy on our elder shrub, that’s when it struck me. I could make my own elderberry syrup with very little effort and use it as a winter tonic for our Irish family.

Recipes for homemade elderberry syrup are readily found on Pinterest. Darina Allen has one in her Forgotten Skills of Cooking cookbook. Biddy White Lennon and Evan Doyle have a whole chapter dedicated to elderberries in their Wild Food book, too. Being my first time to make elderberry syrup, I followed Darina’s recipe and, within a few hours of picking the berries in my back garden, I had my very own seasonal elderberry syrup bottled and ready to be used.

From our Irish home to yours, I wish you good cooking and very good health!

Elderberry Syrup

Makes about 600ml

Ingredients

1 lb. elderberries

1 lb./450g sugar to every 600ml (1 pint) of juice

1 organic lemon

Directions

1. Strip the fruit from the stems, put into a stainless steel saucepan, and cover with cold water.

2. Using a swivel-top peeler, remove thin strips of zest from the lemon and add {to the saucepan}.

3. Bring to the boil and simmer for 20-30 minutes or until the elderberries are soft.

4. Strain through a jelly bag or a piece of muslin.

5. Measure the juice and put it back in the saucepan. Add 450g/1 lb. sugar for each 600ml of juice and the juice of the lemon {previously zested}.

6. Bring back to the boil for about 10 minutes, allow to cool before pouring into sterilised bottles. Seal with a screw cap and store in a cool, dry place.

Additional Notes, Related Articles & Credits:

* Scientifically there is evidence to suggest that elderberries may reduce swelling in mucous membranes, help relieve nasal congestion, lower cholesterol, improve vision and improve heart health. Elderberries contain Vitamins A, B and C with large quantities of vitamin C, dietary fiber, carotenoids, flavonoids including quercetin and anthocyanins, organic pigments, tannins, amino acids, viburnic acids, minerals like potassium among others. All these make elderberry a powerful antioxidant. In addition to anti-oxidation properties, elderberries have anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory and anti-viral properties. They also have mild diuretic, laxative and diaphoretic properties. For more information, read studies from University of Maryland, U.S. National Library of Medicine, Department of Virology, Hebrew University-Hadassah Medical School, Jerusalem, Israel, and one from Yale University.

** The elder is native to Ireland. In Irish folklore, the Elder is thought of as an unlucky plant; often connected with the fairy folk and their mischievous tricks. It was once said that to make a child’s cradle from the wood of the elder was to invite the fairies to steal away a child. According to an old Irish saying there are three signs of a cursed place: the elder, the nettle and the lonesome calling corncrake.

***Read J.P. McMahon’s article on elderberry in the Irish Times here.

****Some fun recipes for elderberries from around the web are Elderberry Ice Cream over at Hunter Angler Gardener Cook, Elderberry/Blackberry/Crab Apple Jam over at The Irish Catholic, Mulled Elderberry Gin over at Wild Irish Foragers, Elderberry Tea at Fresh Bites Daily blog, and the most beautiful Gluten-free Elderberry, Pear, Hazelnut Cake at Our Food Stories.

***** Some elderberries are poisonous and the leaves of all elderberries, especially, should never be eaten. For more information, Cornell University’s Department of Horticulture has guidelines, noting the fruits are used in “…pies, jellies and jams.” If you’re unsure if your elderberries are edible, please consult your local plant professionals/experts before consuming.

And two more articles on the benefits of elderberries may be found at the Irish Examiner and The Irish Times.

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Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake at I Can Has Cook?

For anyone who has never lived in Ireland, it is hard to imagine the wonder of Irish food. Fresh, wholesome, delicious and as varied as the people who inhabit the 32 counties making up the country, there is nothing boring or bland about it. Sure, long ago, when money was tight and people didn’t travel so easily there may have been a repetitiveness to Irish food but, truthfully, even then, people were creatively whipping up simple dishes and desserts that would knock your socks off. I only have to think of my lovely mother-in-law who, while raising twelve children and running a B&B, used to make rhubarb compotes, wild berry jams, savory and sweet crepes (especially for Pancake Tuesday), loin of bacon with spring cabbage that was incredibly more-ish, brown and white soda bread, delicate meringues, ratatouille, grilled mackerel…the list was deliciously endless.

It’s a wonder then that when you Google the term “Irish Food”, you mostly find horrid-looking pictures of stews of boiled meat and potatoes and recipes for corned beef and cabbage or dishes made with Guinness. Yuk! That’s not real Irish food. That’s kitsch Irish food.

Brunch Frittata at An American in Ireland

When people visit In an Irish Home they often ask, “What is Irish Food?” In my experience, real Irish food follows the seasons and celebrates the holidays. It’s sensible and healthy. It’s mostly made from scratch, despite the fact that chain supermarkets are desperately trying to force-feed buyers preprepared meals. It is uncomplicated. It’s influenced by international cuisine. It has many artisan producers. And now, thanks to the advent of blogs, it has many outlets.

So, in answer to the question I get asked the most at In an Irish Home, “What is Irish Food?” I offer you four Irish blogs and one website to whet your appetite. In the coming weeks and months, I will continue to share with you the ever-growing list of Irish food-experts whom I like to consult. I’ll also be adding a “My Library” tab to the top of In an Irish Home so you can see what books make up my cookbook collection. For now, however, enjoy your exploration of Ireland’s amazing food landscape. I think you’ll be surprised at just how wonderful it is. Please be sure to let me know if you have your own favourite Irish food sites you like to visit.

I Can Has Cook? – Aoife started writing in 2009 as a way of becoming (in her own words) a better cook. Her journey in the past month has taken her and us from deep-fried cauliflower to chocolate peanut butter cake and everything in between, including beetroot hummus, lamb flatbreads and homemade gyoza. At I Can Has Cook?, Aoife offers an excellent list of some of her favourite Dublin food haunts under the tab “Visiting Dublin?” – well worth a review if you’re visiting Dublin any time soon.

Donal Skehan’s new book “Kitchen Hero”

Donal Skehan – Without a doubt, Donal Skehan is Ireland’s food pop star! Young, handsome and talented, he was approached by Mercier Press after only six months of blogging his food adventures and recipes. A self-taught “home-cook” (I love that term…isn’t it what we all are?) and photographer, Donal has been blogging since 2007. This year he appeared in America on NBC’s Today Show with ideas for Saint Patrick’s Day. His recipes are simple, healthy and interesting. Most recently he’s written about wild garlic pesto, rustic rhubarb tarts, ham spring rolls with ginger dipping sauce and chocolate chip, oat and raisin cookies.

An American In Ireland – This blog has me hooked. Part “personal journal”, part “food blog”, Clare writes about her experiences of moving from America to Ireland and the experiences and foods that move her. Hmmm, sounds like me in reverse! This month Clare is writing about missing America, her wedding plans, chocolate beetroot cake, buttermilk cornmeal pancakes with blueberry sauce, cheesecake tart with fresh berries and stuffed Portobello mushrooms.

Photo courtesy of Elizabeth Maybury at www.elizabethmaybury.com

BiabeagBiabeag is Irish for “small food”. Keith Bohanna writes in celebration of entrepreneurs and businesses who are passionate producers of Irish artisan food. From local brews to food festivals, Biabeag has everything covered except recipes – there are none. If you want to know about specialty packaged and branded food products in Ireland, this is the best place on the web.

Dinner Du Jour– Kelly and Kristin are friends who live thousands of miles apart: Kelly lives in Milwaukee and Kristin lives in Ireland. As

Chicken Soup at Dinner du Jour

friends do, they’ve been swapping recipes for years. Finally, their food exchange of complete menus (think mains & sides) are available to all, with ingredient conversions (cups to grams) for foodies in both countries. The meals are tasty and easy to follow – a God-send for anyone who has to whip up a meal on a busy day! The “Browse by Category”, down along the left-hand side of the blog, is really helpful as is the “Family Favorites” tab at the top of the blog.

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