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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.

 

 

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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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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.

 

 

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Irish Cup of Tea

The Irish love their tea. Hot tea, I should add…because in Ireland, even on the warmest day, tea is never served cold.

And, in an Irish home, tea is typically drunk throughout the day: with breakfast, at elevenses (a morning snack, typically served around 11am), at 3pm, after dinner and, of course, any time a friend calls in (stops by).*

If you are invited to an Irish home, you can expect to be offered a cup of tea within a few minutes of crossing the threshold. But there’s a catch…you, the guest, are not allowed to accept…at least not on the first ask.

Confused? Don’t worry…it’s an Irish thing! And, having learned the hard way, I’m happy to offer some friendly advice.

So…here’s the skinny: if you are offered a cup of tea while in someone’s home…it is polite (dare I say “expected”) that you say “no” with the first ask.  Even if you’re dying for a cup of tea…just say “No thanks.” and wait.

I say “wait”  because in an Irish home you will be asked a second time. And, funny enough, “no” is what you should say the second time you are asked. Strange? I know, but it is not polite to say “yes”…yet.

It is only after the third ask, and there usually is a third ask, that you may finally say, “I’d love one thanks.” or “That sounds great.” Then your host/hostess will put on the kettle and you’ll be on to another round of questions about milk, no milk, strong or weak, biscuit or no biscuit. The Irish and their tea…it’s serious business!

The absolute exception to the above happens only in situations where you and your host/hostess are on very friendly terms. This being the case, you may on first ask be completely honest and say “yes” straight away.

Conversely, it is important to remember that when an Irish person comes to your home, they will expect you to offer them a cup of tea…three times! You should anticipate that your guest will say “no” the first time you offer and the second time too.  But the third time, you may finally hear a “yes”, in which case you are off and running. Hmmm…now you need to know that there are many different ways to serve tea in Ireland. But, before I get too far ahead of myself, let me wrap the above up by adding that if your guest says “no” the third time you offer tea, you can drop the matter altogether and know you’ve done your part to be polite.

So now…here’s a quick guide to serving and making the perfect cup of tea in Ireland.

Serving Tea in Ireland

There are many ways to serve tea in Ireland and though it is up to you to decide for yourself what you like best, you must also take into account the preferences of your guests. The things you will need to consider include: tea cups or mugs, jug of milk or tetra pack, pre-warming the tea pot and cups or not. Much of this depends on how well you know the person you are having tea with. For example, a tetra pack of milk on the table is an absolute disgrace, unless you are the best of friends or you are serving a workman doing a job in your home. Did you just do a double take on the last bit of that previous sentence? If so, you read it right. In an Irish home it is not uncommon to offer your painter, electrician or gardener a cup of tea while they are working away. And they may sit at your table and even ask you for a biscuit (a cookie)!

Some guests like the first draw of tea, especially in the evening, while others prefer their tea strong enough to trot a mouse on (meaning it is really black and strong). Some people pour milk into their cup before they add the tea, while others do the reverse, and some take no milk at all. Still others prefer a squeeze of lemon, some sugar, or both. These are questions you should ask your guest as your are serving them. And, while this all sounds like a lot of trouble, it actually happens so fast and naturally that after the first few times you don’t even think about it any more.

And finally, some Irish people really prefer to take their tea in a china cup with a saucer while others prefer a mug. Generally, here is how I do things in my Irish home: guests I want to impress get a china cup and saucer; guest with whom I am very friendly get a big, comfortable, mug (so do my children); my husband gets a china mug; and workmen who come to our home get my special “workman” mugs (yes, I have mugs especially for the men who come to fix things in our home!).

Making Tea

To make the perfect cup of tea, I take my lead from the Master Tea Blenders at Bewley’s Tea.

  • Boil some fresh water then use a little to warm the teapot and also your cup. After a minute or so, strain the water off into the sink.
  • Pop your teabags into the teapot – how many is up to you but one per cup is recommended. (I usually add two tea bags to my 4-6 cup pot)
  • Add freshly boiled water straight away, then let the leaves infuse for 3-5 minutes.
  • Remove the teabag, give the tea a quick stir, offer the first draw to whoever takes their tea light, add some milk, sit back, sip and enjoy!

Additional Notes, Related Articles & Credits:

* Statistically speaking, Irish people are the second biggest consumer of tea per person. Turkey comes first and Great Britain is behind us in third. To see more visit theatlantic.com.

Teaology with Denis Daly, Master Blender at Barry’s Tea at http://youtu.be/H79Rhn7LGY8

An excellent radio documentary on tea in Ireland on Newstalk 106 at http://www.newstalk.ie/player/podcasts/Documentary_on_Newstalk/Newstalk_Documentaries/58458/0/documentary_on_newstalk_tea_please/cp_10

More about the history of tea in Ireland at http://www.netplaces.com/irish-history/family-and-food/a-cup-of-irish-tea.htm

Irish Tea and Biscuits at http://www.irelandfavorites.com/irish-tea-biscuits/.html

The worst mistakes Irish people make when brewing a cup of tea at http://www.dailyedge.ie/barrys-tea-master-tea-brewer-tips-1480207-May2014/

My favourite teapots are sold at Avoca Handweavers, see them here.

Information about hospitality and the Brehon Laws is here

And, lastly, another Father Ted video showing the strong and very funny culture of tea in Ireland:

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Photo Credit: Deliciousmagazine.co.uk

We feasted gloriously on Easter Sunday but, when the last dish was dried and the bits and bobs were put away, I realised we had enough leftover roast leg of spring lamb to make a second meal out of. Which got me to thinking…what to do…what to do?

Lamb Biryani sounded good…so too did Lamb Ragu…but it was good old-fashioned Lamb Shepherd’s Pie that eventually won me over.

Donal Skehan’s Hand Me Down Shepherd’s Pie recipe, posted over at Deliciousmagazine.co.uk, looked so simple and so delicious that I knew in an instant it was the best way to make “no waste” of our Easter Sunday feast.

If you take a quick look at the long list of ingredients, don’t be put off…it’s very likely you already have everything in your presses (cupboards) and fridge. In fact, I had frozen leftover mash potatoes in my freezer (!), so I was able to skip that step in the recipe below.

My family really enjoyed this dish. I’m going to take a guess that you and your family will too.

Enjoy!

Hand Me Down Lamb Shepherd’s Pie

Serves 6

Ingredients

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 large onion, finely chopped

2 carrots, chopped (I added one more)

2 celery sticks, finely chopped (I added one more)

3 garlic cloves, finely chopped

1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves

75ml red wine

500g leftover slow-roast lamb, shredded (I diced mine)

100ml lamb or chicken stock

2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

3 tablespoons tomato ketchup

1 tablespoon tomato purée (paste)

800g floury potatoes, cubed

3 tablespoons butter

2 large free-range egg yolks

25g grated parmesan, plus extra for sprinkling

Directions

1. Heat the oven to 200°C/fan180°C/gas 6.

2. Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan, then gently cook the onion, carrots, celery and garlic for 10-12 minutes until tender.

3. Add the thyme and red wine, then simmer for 2-3 minutes.

4. Add the leftover lamb, stock, Worcestershire sauce, ketchup and tomato purée, then season. Simmer gently for 15 minutes until the mixture has reduced. (I added the leftover peas from Easter Sunday dinner here)

5. Put the potatoes in a large pan of cold salted water, bring to the boil, then simmer for 12 minutes or until tender when pierced with a fork.

6. Drain, return the potatoes to the pan and mash until smooth. Beat in the butter and egg yolks, then stir through the grated parmesan.

7. Spread the lamb mixture in a 1.5 litre ovenproof dish and top with the mash. Sprinkle over a little extra parmesan and bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes until golden on top and bubbling.

Additional Notes, Related Articles & Credits:

* Though the photo shows it, the recipe does not call for peas. I added them anyway and they really brightened the dish up beautifully.

** How to freeze leftover mashed potatoes, from thekitchen.com.

*** Roast Leg of Lamb Recipe from inanirishhome.com.

**** Here’s my traditional Shepherd’s Pie Recipe.

 

 

 

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DSC_0769

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jacques’s Roast Leg of Lamb

Serves 8-10

Ingredients

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

4 garlic cloves, peeled

salt

2 tablespoons fresh rosemary leaves, stripped off the stem

freshly ground black pepper

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

Directions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Additional Notes, Related Articles & Credits:

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

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

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

More on Irish cake dances from Overland Monthly 1907 edition.

 

 

 

 

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When the tag line of your blog is “What Life is Really Like Behind the Hall Door“, you have to take stock of what’s happening in your life, from time to time, and reflect on whether or not you’re being honest with your readers.

And, well, I took stock of my life last week and it wasn’t pretty. To start with {and that’s all I’m going to write about today}, my entire family have been Lenten Slackers this year.

Tis true.

For the first time ever, we have not participated in the season of Lent: a period of 40 days (beginning with Ash Wednesday and ending with Easter Sunday) when members of the Catholic faith follow the three traditional pillars of Lenten observance: prayer, fasting and almsgiving.

When I suddenly realised we had basically forgotten: 1) to give up something; 2) were only occasionally refraining from eating meat on Friday {a total accident, btw}; and 3) weren’t giving alms/putting money in our Lenten collection box…I was shocked.

Don’t get me wrong, we are not amazingly fabulous Catholics…not by any stretch of the imagination…but we have always tried our best to follow the tenets of our religion. And Lent has never been a problem for us before…ever.

So, why did we fall away from the fold this year?

I chalk it up to two things:

  1. We haven’t been great about going to church on Sunday lately.
  2. I was horrendously sick for six weeks, which coincided with the first few weeks of Lent.

The first problem (not going to church) is the “real” problem. If we’d been going to church, or if the family had gone without me when I was sick, we would have been reminded from the altar to stay the course of Lent.

So why have we stopped going to church? I can chalk it up to two things:

  1. We haven’t been inspired by our parish priest for a long time.
  2. Our lives have gotten so busy that we’ve stopped setting aside time for faith.

If I’m honest, this crisis of faith is long in coming. I remember two years ago visiting with the Sisters of our local Carmelite Monastery and asking for guidance. I could feel my family slipping away from attending Sunday service even back then and I went for good counsel. I was told, “Don’t give in to the temptation…consider it your gift to Jesus for giving up his life for you …for all of us.”

I held on to that thought for a long while…even going to church without the rest of my family many times. Then I stopped going when I got sick and didn’t go back when I felt better. It wasn’t until I was looking at blog posts from previous years {mostly the Lenten Challenge posts} that I realised what we were doing…or what we were not doing.

Thankfully, Lent is not over yet. There’s still time for me to get my family back on track. In fact, this week, Holy Week, is the most important week in the Catholic religion….which means, if there was ever a time to hit our reset button now is the perfect time.

Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday are known as the Sacred Triduum in the Catholic Church. It is a time when we consider and celebrate the mysteries of salvation accomplished by Jesus in the last few days of his life on earth.

Holy Thursday is when we commemorate the Last Supper of Jesus and his twelve apostles. It is at the Last Supper that the sacrament of Holy Communion was established.

Good Friday is the day we commemorate the Passion and death of Jesus. It is a somber day. The sale of alcohol is illegal in accordance with The Intoxicating Liquor Act, which was introduced in Ireland in 1927. And Catholics between the ages of 21-60 are meant to fast, eating just one meal in the day and no meat is to be eaten at all.

Holy Saturday is all about quiet, contemplative, anticipation. Outside our Churches a new fire is blessed, signifying our coming out of the dark and entering into the light. New water will be blessed too and sprinkled over us at church as a reminder of the waters of our baptism.

Easter Sunday is a Holy Day of Obligation in the Catholic Church. It is the day we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. It marks the end of Holy Week, the end of Lent, and the beginning of the new liturgical year. In Ireland, Easter morning is a time for going to mass and the rest of the day is spent enjoying a family meal, usually spring lamb or baked ham, and chocolate eggs.

And there you have it Dear Readers…In an Irish Home: What Life is Really Like Behind the Hall Door…warts and all. From us to you, stay strong. There’s only one more fasting day to go. And this time, I am all over it! We’ll be enjoying a spinach salad with dried cranberries. What about you?

Spinach Salad with Dried Cranberries

Serves 4 

Ingredients

1.5oz/1/4 cup raw pumpkin seeds

8 oz baby spinach leaves

1/2 thinly sliced red pepper (and/or 1/2 cup thinly sliced red onion)

3oz/1/2 cup dried cranberries

5 tablespoons balsamic vinaigrette

salt and pepper to taste

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 180°C /350°F. Spread the pumpkin seeds in a single layer on a baking sheet and bake until puffed and brown. Approximately 8-10 minutes.

2. To a large mixing bowl add your favourite balsamic vinaigrette, the red pepper (and/or red onion) slices, cranberries, and spinach leaves. Toss to combine well.

3. Top the salad with the pumpkin seeds and serve immediately.

Additional Notes, Related Articles & Credits:

* Catholic Bishops of Ireland Holy Week and Easter schedule for 2016.

** For a quick and easy explanation of Lent visit here.

*** A delicious and foolproof recipe for Hot Cross Buns may be found here.

**** It’s not particular to Lent or Holy Week, but if you want to know more about the Catholic Rosary visit here.

***** Here’s quite an interesting article about Ireland and Holy Week for the past 50 years.

 

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