Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Irish Food’

There’s so much going on in my Irish home this week that I haven’t got time to whip up another favourite recipe, photograph it, and write about it in time for St. Patrick’s Day ~ oh how I wish I did!

Thankfully, there are many wonderful Irish writers, bloggers, and foodies to turn to in a pinch and it is my pleasure to direct you to some of their websites so you can find something special to serve your family this Thursday (Saint Patrick’s Day of course!).

That said, if you’re new to In An Irish Home, be sure to check out the Recipes section for my favourite “go-to” Irish recipes for breakfast, lunch, dinner, pudding (dessert) and drinks. You won’t be disappointed.

Slán!

Screen Shot 2016-03-15 at 12.11.26 AM

Shepherd’s Pie with Champ Mash from Donal Skehan

Screen Shot 2016-03-15 at 12.12.54 AM

Irish Bacon and Cabbage from Imen McDonnell

Screen Shot 2016-03-15 at 12.57.48 AM

Naked Cake with Meringue Buttercream Icing from Forkful

Screen Shot 2016-03-15 at 1.20.18 AM

Parsnip & Apple Soup from Mairead at Irish American Mom

Screen Shot 2016-03-15 at 12.18.30 AM

Chocolate Carrageen from Myrtle Allen

Irish Coffee (7)

Irish Coffee from inanirishhome.com

 

 

 

 

 

Read Full Post »

DSC02922

After staying up late last night to watch the Oscars (by the way…didn’t Saoirse Ronan look stunning in her emerald green Calvin Klein gown?), I’ve been really dragging and wanting to eat up every sweet (biscuits/candy) in the house!

Around lunchtime, I decided to make these No Bake Energy Bites and snack on them instead. Made of peanut butter, oats, chocolate, and a few other simple ingredients, they are very tasty.

My two daughters sometimes whip up a batch when they have friends over. They’re simple to make and it gives them something to do other than looking at their mobile phones (which in my book is always a good thing). Best of all, I like that my kitchen isn’t declared a disaster zone when they’re done and invariably walk away leaving me to do the tidying up. One bowl, a few measuring utensils, and a big spoon…that’s it…couldn’t be simpler.

So, the next time you feel yourself lagging or your kids need something quick and easy to make…give these energy packed treats a try.

No Bake Energy Bites

Makes about 3 Dozen

Ingredients

4oz/1 cup porridge flakes (oatmeal)

2oz/ 1/2 cup ground flax seed

5oz/ 1/2 cup smooth peanut butter

3oz/ 1/2 cup chocolate chips

3oz/ 1/3 cup honey

1 tablespoon chia seeds

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions

1 Stir all ingredients together in a medium size mixing bowl until thoroughly blended.

2. Cover with cling film (plastic wrap) and let chill in the refrigerator for thirty minutes.

3. Once chilled, roll into balls of whatever size you like (mine are about 1” in diameter).

4. Store in an airtight container and keep in the refrigerator for up to one week or freeze and eat straight from the freezer.

 

 

Read Full Post »

DSC_0271

I am always on the lookout for Master Recipes. And when I say,  “Master Recipes”, I do not mean “Fundamental Recipes”.

Fundamental Recipes are good building block recipes: think grilled cheese sambos (sandwiches), American-style pancakes, thick-n-hearty Irish soup. You learn to make them by following a series of step-by-step detailed instructions. And, then, once you’ve perfected the basic recipe, you create endless versions of the original recipe. Cookbooks and the internet are chock-full of these dishes.

Master Recipes, on the other hand, are rare and wonderful. Once you find one, you realise it stands out from all the rest. It is exemplar and you wouldn’t dream of changing a thing about it. A Master Recipe becomes a dish you cook for the rest of your life. And, if you are lucky, you hand a collection of Master Recipes down from one generation to the next. They are what Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs, the founders of Food52, call “Genius Recipes”.

My whole life (and I have been cooking since the age of twelve!), I have been collecting Master Recipes. For me they are the recipes that tick the following boxes:

1) They are easy to make.

2) They taste great.

3) They look impressive and can be served to family, friends, and dinner party guests or taken to a special event.

4) Once tasted they almost always elicit a response like “Oh…my…that is delicious! Can I have the recipe?”

DSC_0269

A few weeks ago, I found and made my first chocolate cake Master Recipe. I think I may have danced a little jig across the kitchen after taking the first bite of this delicious cake.

The ingredients include pepper, whiskey and cloves…these really play up the chocolate flavour of this cake. It is incredibly decadent but, surprisingly, not heavy. I like that. And, oh is it moist! (That word cracks my kids up…”moist”.) So many homemade cakes are dry and need cream, ice cream, or icing to make them palatable…not so with this cake. Truly, a dusting of powdered sugar is all that is needed: though, if you really wanted to go all out, some Irish Whiskey caramel sauce might be nice or some sugared red berries.

In the weeks that have passed since I found this recipe, I have made the cake for family, friends, and even taken it to a board meeting. Everyone has loved it. So…get out your springform pan and your Magimix (food processor)…and get baking! I’m sure after trying it, you’ll add this recipe to your collection of Master Recipes too.

Chocolate Whiskey Cake

Serves Eight to Ten

Ingredients

174g/12 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch pieces, more for pan

85 grams/about 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder

12oz/1 ½ cups brewed strong coffee

4 oz/½ cup Irish whiskey

200 grams/about 1 cup granulated sugar

156 grams/about 1 cup light brown sugar

240 grams/about 2 cups all-purpose flour

8 grams/2 level teaspoons baking soda

3 grams/about 3/4 teaspoon fine sea salt

¼ teaspoon black pepper

⅛ teaspoon ground cloves

3 large eggs

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

172g/1 cup mini semisweet chocolate chips or chopped chocolate

Powdered sugar, for serving (optional)

Directions

1. Pre-heat oven to 180°C/325°F. Butter a 10-inch spring form pan. Dust with 2 tablespoons cocoa powder.

2. In a medium saucepan over low heat, warm coffee, Irish Whiskey, 12 tablespoons butter and remaining cocoa powder, whiskey occasionally, until butter is melted. Whisk in sugars until dissolved. Remove from heat and cool completely.

3. In a bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, salt, pepper and cloves. In another bowl, whisk together eggs and vanilla. Slowly whisk egg mixture into chocolate mixture. Add dry ingredients and whisk to combine. Fold in chocolate chips.

4. Pour batter into prepared pan. Transfer to oven and bake until a toothpick inserted in the center emerges clean, 55 to 65 minutes. Let cool on a wire rack, then remove sides of pan. Dust with powdered sugar before serving, if you like. 

Additional Notes, Related Articles & Credits:

* The New York Times is my go-to place when I’m looking for really great recipes to try. Here is a list of 30 Fundamental recipes, courtesy of The New York Times, everyone should have in their recipe folder.

** I found today’s recipe (where else?) over at the New York Times. They got it from Marti Buckley Kilpatrick, who adapted it from Dol Miles, the pastry chef at Frank Stitt’s Bottega restaurant in Birmingham, Ala.

Read Full Post »

We are smack in the middle of apple season in Ireland…

Screen Shot 2015-10-22 at 9.14.32 AM

And Halloween is just a few days away…

DSC_0038

In our Irish home that can mean only one thing…it’s Apple Cake time! 

Screen Shot 2015-10-22 at 8.46.08 AM

Oh yes…Ireland+Halloween+Apples = Apple Cake in our Irish home and today’s gorgeous recipe comes from the Allen family…Rachel+Darina+Myrtle Allen. This recipe has been in their family for generations and it is delicious to the very core! (Sorry…I could’t help myself!)

For a change, I deconstructed the Allen recipe and turned it into these adorable single-servings for our brekkie this morning. They would be absolutely lovely served, hot out of the oven, with a scoop of vanilla ice cream immediately following dinner.

Screen Shot 2015-10-22 at 9.22.07 PM

While I prepped and baked this morning, I couldn’t help but wonder how many Irish people remember that Ireland+Halloween+Apples have been closely linked for centuries. Probably not too many anymore.

Screen Shot 2015-10-22 at 10.06.53 PM

In my mother-and-father-in-law’s time, everyone knew: they hadn’t yet succumbed to the ways of other places. In our time, however, we have been snookered into looking at the world globally and taking on board the commercialism of our celebrations…this means Halloween-a-la-America in many places around the world.

But I digress…

A few years ago, while researching my second book, Irish love & Wedding Customs, I came across a collection of handwritten manuscripts from the last century at the U.C.D. Folklore Library. On the pages were story after story about how apples were used on Halloween in celebratory games and for marriage divination.

Weeks later, I came across a painting called Snap Apple Night. It was painted by Cork-born artist Daniel Maclise in 1832. It is said Maclise was inspired to create the painting after attending a Halloween barn party in Blarney, County Cork.

Screen Shot 2015-10-22 at 8.03.27 PM

Look closely at the painting…do you see the young couple sitting on the floor in front of the fire? The young man has his arm possessively around the dark-haired girl’s waist and just near her left hand is a bright green apple. To the right of the two love birds are a group of young men and women bobbing for apples. And, to the left of dead-centre, a man is trying to take a bite of an apple hanging from a string…he’s playing Snap Apple.

The people in the painting are “trick or treating” in an incredibly voluptuous way…a uniquely Irish way…a way we’ve lost sight of. (Sigh.) Can’t you just feel the tension of the lust and love and happiness between the people in Maclise’s painting? Fantastic…don’t you think?

Another Ireland+Halloween+Apples tradition from long ago, one not shown in Snap Apple Night, is a game of marriage divination whereby a person would peel an apple carefully in order to get one long piece of the skin. Then they would throw the skin over their shoulder and check to see what letter it formed on the ground. The letter was meant to signify the first initial of a future spouse.

I adore the old Irish ways and it is such fun to share the traditions and memories of long ago with my children. Much like the Allen girls handing down of a favourite family recipe, I hope that through my cooking and writing, I am handing down something from the past to the current and, one day, the future generations of our family. From our Irish home to you and yours wherever you call home…we wish you Oíche Shamhna Shona Daoibh (Happy Halloween)!

Irish Apple Cake

Serves 6

Ingredients

22g white flour

½ teaspoon baking powder

110g butter

125g caster sugar

1 (organic) egg, lightly beaten

about 50-125ml milk

1-2 cooking apples, peeled, cored and chopped into bit sized pieces (Note: I suggest using 3-4 apples)

2-3 cloves, optional (Note: if serving in ramekins you will need 1 clove per ramekin)

egg wash

Directions

1. Preheat the oven t0 180C/350F.

2. Sieve the flour and baking powder into a bowl.

3. Rub in the butter with your fingertips until it resembles the texture of breadcrumbs.

4. Add 75g of the caster sugar.

5. Make a well in the centre and add the egg and enough milk to form a soft dough.

6. Divide dough in two. Put one half into an ovenproof plate and press it out with floured fingers to cover the base.

7.  Add the apples and the cloves.

8. Sprinkle over some or all over the remaining sugar, depending on the sweetness of the apples.

9. Roll out the remaining dough and put on top of the apples – easier said than done as this “pastry dough” is more like scone dough. (Note: my dough was too sticky to roll out so I just flattened it with my hands and then put it on top of the apples in the ramekins.)

10. Press the sides together, cut a slit through the lid, egg wash and bake for about 40 minutes or until cooked through and nicely browned on top.

11. Dredge with caster sugar and serve warm with Barbados sugar and softly whipped cream.

* From Living Library blog: “Lady Wilde, in her book Ancient Legends, Mystic Charms & Superstitions of Ireland wrote: “It is said by time-wise women and fairy doctors that the roots of the elder tree, and the roots of an apple tree that bears red apples, if boiled together and drunk fasting, will expel any evil living thing or spirit that may have taken up abode in the body of a man.”

* From The Order of Bards, Ovates & Druids: “In a Medieval Irish story Connla the Fair, an Irish prince, fell in love with a beautiful Faerie woman, who arrived on the Irish shore in a crystal boat. She offered him an apple from the world of Faerie; he took the fatal bite, and was hers forever. They set sail for her magical island where the trees bore both fruit and blossom, and winter never came. There they ate an ever replenishing stock of apples, which kept them young forever. An Otherworldly apple tree magically makes music which can dispel ‘all want or woe or weariness of the soul’. In Irish lore, the God Óengus offered three miraculous apple trees from the magical woods, Bruig na Bóinde (New Grange), as a wedding gift for one of the Milesians. One was full in bloom, one shedding its blossoms, and one in fruit. The deliberate felling of an apple tree was punishable by death in ancient law).

* The old Irish tree list here and a brief history by Irish forester, Fergus Kelly, speaks directly to the history of old Irish trees, including the apple tree.

* The secret steamy history of Halloween apples over at NPR.og.

Read Full Post »

Screen Shot 2015-10-15 at 10.54.04 AM

Autumn has arrived. The leaves on our trees are just starting to turn and fall. The days are obviously shorter: the nights longer. And, because there’s a distinct chill in the air, the central heating is back on.

As Mother Nature moves us gently from summer to winter, I find that I am making fewer foods that are light and healthy and more that are luxurious and hearty.

Traditional Irish foods…stewed apples, Barm Brack, thick and creamy soups, roasts and, of course, Colcannon…are what we’re eating more of now.

Colcannon, in particular, is as traditional as traditional Irish food gets. Known as Cál Ceannann in Irish, which literally means white-headed cabbage, it’s the stuff songs and poems are written about here. No kidding!: “Did you ever eat Colcannon, made from lovely pickled cream? With the greens and scallions mingled like a picture in a dream.~ lyrics from a song sung by Mary Black

Screen Shot 2015-10-19 at 6.43.05 PM

Irish Americans sometimes serve Colcannon on St. Patrick’s Day, but it is customary to eat it on 31st October in Ireland. There are, in fact, quite a few Irish traditions having to do with Colcannon and Halloween. For example, a very long time ago, bowls of Colcannon were left on the front doorsteps of Irish homes for wandering spirits in search of their earthly abode. It was also used for games of marriage divination, whereby charms (namely a ring for marriage and a thimble for spinsterhood) were hidden inside the fluffy mixture and bowls were then served to the young women living at home to foretell their future. And finally, Irish colleens sometimes hung socks, partially filled with Colcannon, on their front door on Halloween night in the belief that the first man through the door would be their future husband.

To be sure, such shenanigans do not (never have/never will) happen in our Irish home. Between the arguing over the ring and the unsightly mess of a potato-filled sock hanging from the front door…I’ll be having none of it. For us, Colcannon is simply a comforting side dish we enjoy year round…but most especially at this time of year.

Colcannon

Serves 6

Ingredients

900g/2 ½ lbs potatoes, scrubbed and peeled

110g/8 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more for serving

1 small green cabbage, outer leaves removed, cored, washed and thinly shredded

8oz/1 cup milk (plus a little more if the potatoes are very dry)

4 scallions, green parts only, finely chopped

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Directions

1. Place potatoes in a saucepan and cover with cold water by 1”. Bring to a boil over high heat and cook until slightly tender, about 15 minutes. Drain off about two-thirds of the water. Put a lid on the saucepan, place the saucepan back on the hob (stove) and put on a gentle heat, allowing the potatoes to steam until they are fully cooked. (Keep a watchful eye on the potatoes at this point as you do not want them to burn.) When fully cooked, drain excess water and put softened potatoes in a large mixing bowl. Rice or mash potatoes. Set aside.

2. Return saucepan to hob over medium-high heat. Add butter. When melted, add cabbage and cook, stirring, until wilted, about 5 minutes.

3. To the cabbage, add the milk and scallions, and bring to a boil. Remove from heat.

4. Add hot milk mixture to warm mashed potatoes and stir until smooth. (You may use a food mixer, but use the spade paddle for the mixing).

5. Season with salt and pepper, and transfer to a warm bowl. Serve immediately with a large pat of butter melting in the centre.

Additional Notes, Related Articles & Credits:

* Colcannon may be made ahead and reheated in a moderate oven.

* Leftover Colcannon may be made into potato cakes and fried in bacon fat until browned on both sides.

* Colcannon would be lovely served with Guinness Beef Stew!

* To hear Mary Black sing Colcannon click here.

* Irish Halloween Traditions & Customs here, here and here.

* For a fascinating look at the history of Irish food click here.

Read Full Post »

Screen Shot 2015-09-26 at 10.41.04 AM

A few weeks ago, my dad telephoned from America to ask if I had a favourite scone recipe I could share.

You see, where he lives, a scone is a plate-size, golden-fried roll served with honey-butter, syrup, or powdered sugar.

Tis true.

In his neck of the woods, a scone is like a beignet..a sopapilla…a doughnut even. In Ireland they’re nothing of the sort. An Irish scone is a light, moist, baked pastry that falls somewhere between a cake and a well-made muffin.

Screen Shot 2015-09-26 at 10.33.00 AM

The differences don’t stop there, however. Irish scones have far less butter and sugar in them. Though, with the salty Irish butter and the sweet raspberry jam we load them up with, this may be a moot point! Also, Irish scones rarely have fancy add-ins: Craisins, chocolate chips, crystallised ginger, for example, just don’t make the cut here. Currants or raisins are about as “crazy” as scones get in Ireland…and even then some people feel those muck up a perfectly plain scone. And finally, Irish scones are never fried or shaped into fussy triangles. What is it about triangle-shaped scones my fellow countrymen/countrywomen like?!

Screen Shot 2015-09-26 at 10.06.58 AM

But don’t start thinking there is only one way to make scones in Ireland! There are many, many different ways to make them. For example, in a basic Irish Master Recipe, some bakers will use vegetable oil, others prefer lard, but most use butter. When using butter, there is a debate as to which is better: chilled or room temperature. Milk is nearly always used in making scones, but there are people who swear buttermilk is the only way to go, and there are others still who use cream. And where flour is concerned there are at least three options to choose: self-raising flour (self-rising if you are Stateside); cream flour (All Purpose); and cake flour.

Screen Shot 2015-09-26 at 10.52.06 AM

Ok…I have digressed…let me circle back to the beginning…my dad asked me for a scone recipe. Today I am offering him the one below. It is my favourite recipe which makes up the loveliest mixed berry scones. This recipe calls for self-raising flour, milk and chilled butter…in case you’re wondering. It works well if you omit the berries (or substitute them with raisins/currants). And, I suppose, you could change them out for something else…cherries perhaps or lemon rosemary…but why bother? Real Irish scones are simply delicious.

Irish Mixed Berry Scones

Makes about 18-20

Ingredients

For the Scones

900g/2lb/7 1/4 cups self-rising flour

50g/2oz/1/3 cup caster sugar

3 heaped teaspoons baking powder

175g/6oz/12.5 tablespoons butter, chopped & chilled

3 room temperature eggs

450ml/15fl oz/2 cups milk

2 handfuls raspberries, 2 handfuls blueberries or 4 oz raisins or currants

For Glaze

1 egg white, whisked with a fork

2 teaspoons water

granulated sugar for sprinkling

Directions

1. Adjust oven rack to the middle of the oven and preheat oven to 230ºC/450ºF.

2. Mix the 1 egg white and 2 teaspoons water together to make an egg wash.

3. Sieve all the dry ingredients together in a large bowl.

4. Whisk the 3 eggs, add to the milk, and set aside.

5. Rub butter into the flour until it’s well incorporated and the mixture resembles bread crumbs.

6. Add the mixed berries (or raisins/currants) and mix lightly.

7. Make a well in the centre of the flour mixture and add the milk and eggs. Mix quickly into a soft dough: do not over mix.

8. Turn dough out onto a floured surface. Knead just enough to shape the dough into a circle about 2cm (1 inch) thick.

9. Using a scone cutter (a tall cookie cutter will do), stamp the dough into round scones. Place scones onto an ungreased baking sheet. Brush tops with the egg wash and sprinkle on some sugar.

10. Bake in the oven for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown on top.

11. Cool on a wire rack.

12. Gather up the remaining dough into another circle and stamp out more round scones until you’ve used up all the dough. Finish as directed above.

Additional Notes, Related Articles & Credits:

* http://bakerette.com/homemade-utah-scones

* Scones do not keep well for more than a day, but for best results place in an airtight container.

* Read Sarah Kate Gillingham’s article over at thekitchn.com about a trip she took to Ireland where she learned, first-hand, how to make Real Irish Scones.

Read Full Post »

 

IMG_8248Each spring I make strawberry rhubarb compote from the fruit grown in our kitchen garden. Some of it we use straight away, the rest we put into the deep freeze for later in the year (like now).

DSC_0133

Compote, which is really just a stewed fruit, is easy to make and can be served up in many ways. I like to layer it with yogurt and Nadia’s Muesli for my breakfast, but it is equally delicious over ice cream, slathered on Pavlova, whipped into a Fool, mixed into an alcoholic beverage, or stirred into a bowl of hot porridge.

IMG_8242

On its own, rhubarb is quite tart. Sugar makes it more palatable, but pairing it with ripe strawberries means you can use less sugar. I know of people who add honey for sweetness. If you like honey…I say, “Go for it!” The honey might add a nice flavour note. Ginger, cinnamon or mint are other possibilities. As for me…I like it plain and simple…truly old fashioned.

Strawberry Rhubarb Compote

Makes about five cups

Ingredients

450g/4 ½ cups red rhubarb

450g/2 ½ cup strawberries

500ml/2 cups water

125g/ ½ cup sugar

Directions

1. Remove and discard the rhubarb leaves, wash stalks well, and cut into 1″ pieces.

2. Hull the strawberries, wash well, and slice lengthwise (and once again if very large).

3. Put the rhubarb, sugar and water in a nonreactive (stainless steel) saucepan and bring to the boil, stirring constantly until the sugar dissolves and the rhubarb is soft.

4. Reduce to a simmer and add the strawberries and continue to cook until the strawberries are soft, but not mushy.

5. Cool, pour into a clean jar, cover with a lid and keep in the fridge or pour into freezer bags and freeze until needed.

 

 

 

 

 

Read Full Post »

Dandelion Pesto

I’m an organic gardener…have been for over 20 years. And in my culinary garden, we never use chemicals.

So, when a plant recently popped up somewhere I didn’t want it to grow…a prodigious plant to boot…I wasn’t very happy.

I am, of course, referring to the tenacious Dandelion.

Dandelions are perennials that grow from a thick, unbranching tap root. We know them well because they produce bright yellow flowers that, after a few days, become fluffy white seed heads. Those lovely looking seed heads, the ones we used to blow into the air when we were kids, produce even more weeds bright yellow flowers. Oh, the blissful ignorance of our youth!

As I stood looking at the lone Dandelion growing amongst a bed of beautiful Lavender, I started thinking about how it might be useful. Then I remembered…Dandelion leaves were for sale in an exclusive grocer in our local village.

A few minutes later, research on the internet provided a plethora of recipes. Clearly one plant wasn’t going to be enough but it was a start. I hopped on my bike, quickly cycled down to the village, bought more greens, and came home to make the recipe I found over at The Kitchn for Dandelion Pumpkin Seed Pesto. David Lebovitz’s Dandelion Pesto recipe was equally interesting, but I wanted to use some leftover pumpkin seeds that were in my larder.

And that was that. On a fine summer evening, I served my family Whole Wheat Linguine Pasta topped with Dandelion Pesto. I didn’t tell them what they were eating until after they devoured their dinner…just in case the main ingredient put them off.

Fortunately, they loved it. What’s more, I enjoyed turning a would-be-weed into a wonderful meal. Hope you find ways to do the same.

Dandelion Pumpkin Seed Pesto 

Makes about 1 cup

Ingredients

130gm/3/4 cup unsalted hulled (green) pumpkin seeds
3 garlic gloves, minced
25gm/1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan
1 bunch dandelion greens (about 2 cups, loosely packed)
1 tablespoon lemon juice
4oz/1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
Black pepper, to tasted

Directions

1. Preheat the oven to 180ºC/350°F.

2. Pour the pumpkin seeds onto a shallow-rimmed baking sheet and roast until just fragrant, about 5 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.

3. Pulse the garlic and pumpkin seeds together in the bowl of a food processor until very finely chopped.

4. Add parmesan cheese, dandelion greens, and lemon juice and process continuously until combined. Stop the processor every now and again to scrape down the sides of the bowl. The pesto will be very thick and difficult to process after awhile — that’s ok.

5. With the blade running, slowly pour in the olive oil and process until the pesto is smooth. Add salt and pepper to taste.

 

Additional Notes and Credits:

* More about the Biology of Dandelions can be found here and their herbal uses may be found here.

* For some Irish Dandelion folklore see this post for Wildflower Folklore at Wildflowers of Ireland.

* Here’s a Dandelion Flower Fritter recipe from Darina Allen, as well as a radio interview of Darina at NPR.

* I am intrigued by this Dandelion Honey Recipe that appeared in the Irish Examiner for Dandelion Honey…which is more like a marmalade!

* Here’s another interesting recipe to try…Dandelion Colcannon from The New York Times.

* The Daily Spud has gotten in on the act too…with recipes for Dandelion Tea and Dandelion Fritters.

* Canada’s National Post did a wonderful article on Irish cheeses and ended it with several recipes, including this one for Salad of Lambs Lettuce and Dandelion Greens by Nuala Cullen

 

 

 

 

 

 

Read Full Post »

IMG_0061

For weeks I’ve been playing a game of “Watch and Wait” with mother nature. Whether on a walk in the countryside or a drive into town, I have been watching and waiting patiently for the blackberries ripening in the hedgerows near our home to be ready for picking.

Blackberries

While the berries have morphed in colour from green to red to a deep black-purple, I’ve been daydreaming about the many things I might make: scones, jam, cobbler, sorbet, ice cream, flavoured vinegar, even a blackberry whiskey concoction. It seems the list of things to do with blackberries is endless!

Finally, last weekend, I could wait no more. Truth be told…I nearly crashed my car last Thursday for looking at the berries ripening in the summer sun. I invited my friend Susan and her daughter Ellen to join my younger daughter and me for a morning of picking wild blackberries. It may not be true, but I have in my mind that it’s best to pick fruit and vegetables in the morning, when the energy of the earth is surging through a plant. So, with our bowls in hand, we four girls headed down the road to a hedgerow that was bursting with berries. When we’d picked it clean, we spotted more in a nearby field and, with the farmer’s permission, we hopped the gate and picked until our hearts’ were content. (My daughter did keep saying, “Mom we have to leave some for the birds!”)

Blackberries 2

Wild blackberries have been eaten in Ireland since Neolithic times. They come in many forms, possibly even several hundreds of micro species. Some are small and mean-looking, others fat and plump. None resemble the large, mostly tasteless, perfect triangle-shaped berries found in the supermarket. Packed with fibre and antioxidants, blackberries are a rich source of vitamin C and, best of all, when picked at their peak of ripeness, wild Irish blackberries are gorgeously delicious.

In no time at all, we girls were scraped and prickled by the thorny bushes and our fingers were stained red-pink from the sweet berry juice. We didn’t mind, however, as we were happy to have our bowls filled to the brim with nature’s bounty and countless ideas for what to do with them running through our heads.

Picking blackberries is a rite of passage in Ireland and I’m so glad to be able to share in this tradition with my daughters and our friends. I hope you and yours find time to enjoy a blackberry picking expedition of your own this year too!

IMG_9883

Classic Irish Blackberry Jam

Makes 4 x 250ml jars

Ingredients

1kg/2 lbs Sugar
1kg/2 lbs Blackberries
Juice and zest of one lemon

Directions

1. Place a salad plate in your freezer. This will be used to test whether or not your jam is ready later.

2. Place sugar, blackberries and juice and zest of one lemon in a large pot.

3. Bring the mixture to the boil, stirring until all the sugar dissolves.

4. If you like whole berries in your jam, stir occasionally and cook for approximately 15 minutes. If you like your jam with the berries crushed, use a potato masher to crush the berries and continue cooking as previously directed.

5. While the berries are cooking, put clean glass jars and lids into a large pot and cover with water. Bring to the boil, then turn the heat down and simmer the jars and lids to sterilize.

5. When the 15 minutes are up, take the plate out of your freezer and drop a dollop of hot jam onto it. Let the jam cool for a few minutes on the plate and then, with your finger, push a bit of the jam up towards the middle to see if it “crinkles”. If it does, the jam has set and you are ready to bottle it. If not, continue to boil for another 5 minutes, then test again.

6. Remove from the heat and carefully transfer to hot, dry, sterilized jars. Fill them as near to the top as possible. Cover each with a disc of wax paper and seal tightly with a lid. Keep in a cool dark place for up to 12 months.

Notes:

* If the jam doesn’t set after cooling and potting, tip it all back into the pan and boil again, adding the juice of a small lemon.

* If mould develops on the surface of the jam in a jar, remove it with a spoon, along with about half an inch (1 cm) of the jam underneath…rest assured, the rest of the jam will not be affected…and place a waxed disc dipped in brandy on top.

Additional Reading:

Irish Blackberry Ripple Ice Cream over at Irish Food Guide blog.

If you’re musically inclined, visit 8Notes.com to hear The Blackberry Blossom song, an Irish folk song.

The golden rules for picking blackberries can be found here at Good Food Ireland’s website.

For a wee bit of folklore regarding Irish blackberries visit the Irish Cultures & Customs website.

Seamus Heaney, Irish poet, playwright, lecturer, and recipient of the 1995 Nobel Prize in Literature, wrote a poignant poem about blackberries…you can read it here.

It may be called “English’s Fruit Nursery Ltd“, but you can buy blackberry plants from this company in Enniscorthy, Co. Wexford!

Check-out these gorgeous looking Blackberry and Custard Doughnuts over at Donal Skeehan’s website…I may just have to try these and report back!!

Visit here for a video on how to test jam from BBC Good Food.

Read Full Post »

Two moms talk about teen anxiety over a cup of tea and a side of caramels.
Recently my friend Niamh and I spent a few hours catching up over a cuppa and some homemade caramel. As you do, we talked about life: our homes and gardens, the people we know, and our children. It’s when we were talking about our children that Niamh said…

“You know…they need to kill-us-off in order to grow up.” 

And for about an hour we talked about what she meant. She’s no stranger to teens, my friend Niamh. She has three and she is surviving. I, on the other hand, have only one at the moment and, some days, am barely hanging in there.

Don’t get me wrong, we have our moments of greatness. But for the past year-and-a-half, those are becoming “occasions” and not “the norm”. What happened to my sweet girl with the great belly laugh, who used to say, “thank you” and “I love you” and “look what I made for you Mama!”?

I miss that girl.

Sometimes I secretly wonder if she’s been abducted by aliens in the middle of the night and replaced with a girl who looks like ours but is often surly, angry, insensitive, self-centered, and entitled.

In the past year I have thought “is it us?”…have we done something to change her? Are we too controlling? Have we become her bully…always passing judgement on the way she looks, how much time she spends on social media or how she never seems to buckle down and just get her flippin’ homework done at night?

Screen Shot 2015-01-19 at 8.40.44 AMThanks to Niamh, I am starting to look at our teen angst differently: they need to kill-us-off in order to grow up. Clearly we’re not talking about grab the kitchen knife and stab us in the heart kind of “killing”. We’re talking about the “separate themselves from us” kind. Either way, it is slow and painful for us. And, in reality, it’s not fun for them either. In pushing us away…our teens oscillate between wanting their independence from us and wanting to depend on us, which makes for an intensely confusing time.

Case in point…the other day our daughter was complaining about 1) not being able to find her gloves; 2) having to get up at 6am for school; 3) sharing a bathroom with her younger sister; and 4) being forced to eat a hot home-cooked breakfast before going to school…all this grief before 7am. Then, in the car, she says to me, “Mom, I wish I could go back to being young again so I didn’t have so much responsibility.”

I didn’t know whether to laugh or to throw my arms around her and give her a cuddle. She’s up before the sun, faces a tough day at school, plays sport, comes home after dark, and then has at least two to three hours of homework. On the weekend, she’s got more sport and more homework. Thanks to peer pressure and social media…she’s also got to stay up-to-date with Instagram, Tumblr, Snapchat and Vine. My husband and I think she’s relaxing when she’s looking at her computer but, in reality, she’s scanning those pages much the same way we scan The Irish Times, The Sunday Business Post, The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal. It’s fun but it’s also work.

Screen Shot 2015-01-19 at 8.34.37 AMKilling us in order to grow up…that’s what our teens are doing. If we want to keep our teens close in the years ahead, we’re going to have to pick our battles. I don’t mind telling you that I sought out some professional help on this one. My recent visit to a therapist taught me that we need to decide what we want in the long run. Do we want our kids leaving home one day “thankful to be gone” or “looking forward to calling in”? The other piece of advice I was left with is this: let them fail…let them make mistakes. Sounds simple but it bloody well isn’t!

Our daughter goes to a fee paying school and I can tell you that when she chooses to blather away an hour rather than study for an important test…I see red! When she doesn’t turn in a homework assignment or paper she’s completed because she’s forgotten to put it in the right place and she can’t put her hand on it…I feel frustrated by her disorganization!! When she’s roaring and shouting at me because she can’t find something in her room in the morning (because it looks like a nuclear bomb went off)…I want to shout back…”THEN CLEAN YOUR ROOM WHEN YOU GET HOME!!!” None of these reactions are helpful to her or me.

My friend Moe recently said to me…”When my son gets frustrated and starts shouting, I imagine that we’re at the train station, walking along the platform. His destination is Crazy Town and I don’t have to get on the train with him. I can let him climb aboard and wave to him from the safety of the platform.” I like this imagery. Now, when our daughter starts getting puffed up and cross, I try to remember what Moe said…she’s headed to Crazy Town and I don’t have to go.

Screen Shot 2015-01-19 at 9.00.10 AMRaising a teen…be it a son or a daughter…is not easy. I think it’s helpful to realise these years are not easy for them either. In the heat of the moment, let’s remember why they are killing us off (hint: they have to grow up)…and be sure to pick our battles carefully (so what if his/her room is a mess)…and stay focused on what we want our relationships with them in the future to be like (positive and loving)…and let them fail (failure leads to success)…and, finally, remember the phrase “Next stop Crazy Town” (you don’t have to get on board too!). Then and only then will we all survive in one piece. Lastly, be thankful for dear friends who remind us that, though it may kill us, our kids will grow up. Now…where are those caramels?

Vanilla Caramels

Ingredients

225g (8oz) salted butter

225g (8oz) granulated sugar

4 tablespoons treacle or golden syrup (light corn syrup)

1 teaspoon vanilla

400g (14oz) tin of condensed milk

8x12in baking sheet, lined with parchment paper

Directions

1. Line baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.

2. Melt the butter is a heavy-bottomed saucepan (about 8″ wide) over a medium-low heat.

3. Add the sugar and then add the treacle or golden syrup.

4. Add the vanilla and stir until well mixed.

5. Add the condensed milk and stir constantly until the caramel is a rich golden brown colour. To know if the caramel is done cooking, use a candy thermometer. When the temperature reaches 118ºC/245ºF, you’re done. To confirm, fill a small glass with ice cold water and drop a tiny amount of the hot caramel syrup into the water. Pull the cool caramel from the water and check the consistency. The caramel should be firm but pliable.

6. Carefully pour the hot caramel syrup onto the baking sheet. Using an off-set spatula, quickly spread the caramel syrup to desired thickness. Let cool completely.

7. When caramels are cool, lift them off the baking sheet and onto a cutting board. Cut the caramels into candies with a sharp knife. If the caramels stick to your knife, spray your knife with nonstick cooking spray.

8. Wrap the caramels in wax paper a little longer than the caramels, twisting the ends to close. Caramels will keep at room temperature for about two weeks.

Additional Notes, Related Articles & Credit:

1. 15 Sites and Apps Kids are Heading to Beyond Facebook from Common Sense Media.

2. Teen drama overload article at NPR.org.

3. Irish Whiskey Salted Caramel Recipe at Cheese and Chocolate

4. This New York Times article that came out on October 11, 2017 is brilliant: though, having been in the trenches as long as I have, it could have gone into even more depth. It’s well worth your time to read it, however.

5. Have Smartphones Destroyed a Generation is another recent article, from The Atlantic, that is worth reading. And, this continuing conversation over at NPR.org with the author of The Atlantic article, Jean Twenge, is good too.

 

 

 

 

 

Read Full Post »

« Newer Posts - Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: