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Posts Tagged ‘Irish Traditions’

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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Photo Credit: The Nook Restaurant

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

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

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

Homemade Trail Mix

Ingredients

2 handful raisins

2 handful cranberries

2 handful chocolate chips

2 handful white chocolate chips

2 handful goji berries

2 handful mulberries

3 handful chopped walnuts, oven toasted

3 handful pistachios, shelled and oven roasted

3 handful pumpkin seeds, oven toasted

3 handful almonds, oven roasted

Directions

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

 

Additional Notes, Related Articles & Credits:

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

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

 

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Today I’m trying something new here at In An Irish Home.  I am going to participate in the #weekendcoffeeshare on WordPress. These are going to be special posts going along with the theme shared by the Daily Post prompt– “Each weekend, bloggers publish posts about what they’d say to their readers if they were sitting down together over a cup of coffee. Some bloggers do it every weekend, while others dip in and out.” I’m not sure if I’ll do it more than this one time, but if feels like a good way to bring authenticity to my writing today. So…here goes…

If we were having coffee we would probably be sitting at your kitchen table or mine, as one does in Ireland {unless, of course, we’re in Avoca Handweavers looking out over a gray or possibly changing soft day!}. We’d be having tea…because that’s what most people do in Ireland. Our tea would be served from a tea pot, not in a plastic cup like you get at Starbucks. And we’d be having something wickedly sweet like a slice of lemon cake or a Mars Bar biscuit…ok, maybe I’d be having something sweet and you’d be having a healthy scone!

We’d probably talk about the simple things first and get them over quickly…just so we could delve into the nitty gritty details of our lives. You’d tell me about your kids, your job, your husband/your ex or how your dating life is going, your stresses. I’d tell you the same. I’d tell you how, just two days ago, I felt like packing it all in and running away to some beautiful beach {maybe Hawaii}…only to settle down after a good night sleep and realise how very much I love my beautiful, sometimes-make-me-crazy family, and how very much I miss my mother, grandmother, mother-in-law and home (America when I’m in Ireland and Ireland when I’m in America). We’d laugh until we talked about your divorce or your ailing parent and then we’d get serious for a little while. We’d talk about our kids and how they’re coping in this crazy world…and making us crazy too. And we’d talk about how short life is and how much we’d like to slow down and spend it with the ones who really matter.

Politics would only come up if we were talking about the ridiculous American presidential candidates. Faith would only come up because we’d talk about how I saw your parents in church last week or how things are going with the plans for your son’s upcoming Confirmation. We don’t really talk politics or religion in Ireland otherwise.

We’d start talking about other friends…but in a way that is supportive…not gossipy. We’d fill each other in on what we don’t already know and we’d encourage each other to get in touch with someone we’ve let slip out of our hands. And, then, before we call it a “cuppa” we’d talk about and make plans for our next girls night out or girls weekend away. We’d whip out our mobile phones and send our other gal-pals a quick text to say, “Let’s meet up!”

And, with the world’s problems solved for another day, we’d hug each other and say our goodbyes. I’d close my hall door or walk out to my car…incredibly thankful for your friendship.

That’s what I imagine would happen if we were having coffee, what do you imagine?

Additional Notes, Related Articles & Credits:

* Here’s where If We Were Having Coffee… all started: Part-Time Monster

** Here’s where I learned about it.

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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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“Lá Fhéile Pádraig sona daoibh!” …or Happy St. Patrick’s Day to you! What a wonderful day to be Irish…here or wherever you call home.

This day two years ago, Dublin Airport posted a message on Facebook about St. Patrick’s Day which was absolutely hilarious…so much so it was carried around the world. Last night, just to be sure everyone remembered it…they re-posted it as a video:

 

St. Patrick’s Day as we know it…is not really an Irish celebration at-all. But, to be sure, we’re not about to be outdone…hence Ireland has caught the St. Paddy’s Day bandwagon by its hoop-de-doo wheels and turned it into an event that brings more 370,000 people to our tiny island and a good few hundred million euro to our coffers.

There’s a lot about St. Patrick and St. Patrick’s Day the world-at-large does not know (some Irish citizens aren’t aware either!). Here are just a few of the facts:

* The 17th March celebration is actually the death date of St. Patrick. He is thought to have died on March 17, 461 and is said to be buried in Down Cathedral, Downpatrick.

* The good saint himself was, according to legend, born Maewyn Succat. It is said Maewyn changed his name to Patricius (or Patrick), which derives from the Latin term for “father figure,” after he became a priest.

* Blue, not green was originally the colour associated with St. Patrick. Some say it was the Irish Rebellion that officially tied Ireland to the colour green…other’s say it evolved over time and is linked to our “many shades of green” landscape.

* Originally drinking was not legally allowed in Ireland on St. Patrick’s Day, due to the fact that the day falls during Lent and Ireland is (was, and probably always will be) a very Catholic country. The law was repealed in 1961.

* In 1762, the first St. Patrick’s Day Parade, was held in New York City…not Dublin, Ireland.

* Ireland didn’t officially start celebrating St. Patrick’s Day as something other than a religious holiday until 1903, when Irish politician James O’Mara introduced a bill in Westminster that made it an official public holiday in Ireland.

The first ever St Patrick’s Day parade in Ireland was held in Waterford in 1903. The first official, state-sponsored St Patrick’s Day parade in Dublin took place in 1931.The first St. Patrick’s Festival was held in Dublin over one day, and night, on March 17th 1996. It has since grown to a 4-5 day celebration.

At that brings us to today’s St. Patrick’s celebration in Dublin. There’s so much going on this year…here are just a few of the highlights:

In the Footsteps of St. Patrick Walking Tour – Over two hours, take a very special walk in celebration of Ireland’s national patron saint. Led by  renowned Dublin historian and author” Pat Liddy, walkers will see the places most tourists and many Dubliners miss. Discover the fascinating truth behind the legend of St. Patrick and the Dublin of his time. The tour starts at the corner of Suffolk & Andrew streets, beside the Molly Malone statue, and finishes at St Patrick’s Cathedral.

Funfairs: City at Play – This is an event my family has always enjoyed! From waltzers to family attractions to the carousel, there is something for everyone at the Funfairs.

St. Patrick’s Festival Parade – There are St. Patrick’s Day parades far older than the one held in Dublin…but our event is swiftly becoming the best of them all! This year’s theme, “Imagine If“, is the final stage of three years of parades highlighting Ireland’s past, present and future. Inspired by the imagination of the young people of Ireland…the parade will be a young person’s vision of Ireland over the next 100 years.

Big Day Out – At Merrion Square from 12-6pm, this free event will be bursting with energy, colour and whimsy. Children can enter The Book of Learning inside a Georgian House where UNESCO City of Literature opens up a world of magic, craft, creative writing and pet rats!  Just around the corner, SFI Science Zone gives budding scientists a chance to experiment with the enchanting world of science through amazing workshops, explosive shows and enthralling exhibitions.  Kids of all ages will enjoy getting their hands dirty at the Keelings Love to Grow Children’s Garden, where the first Irish strawberry of 2016 will be revealed. This and so much more make The Big Day Out event a true family affair.

Additional Notes, Related Articles & Credits:

 

* For more information about Dublin’s St. Patrick’s Day, please click here.

** When did Ireland go from being blue to being green? Learn more here.

*** For more information about St. Patrick and his life, visit Catholic.org.

 

 

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There is a very old prayer attributed to Saint Patrick called “Patrick’s Hymn” or “The Lorica”. In Ireland we know it more commonly as “St. Patrick’s Breastplate” and “The Deer’s Cry”.

For centuries it was believed Saint Patrick wrote the hymn and sang it on the occasion when he and and a group of companions were on their way to the Hill of Tara to convert a great Irish king to Christianity. More recently, scholars suggest it was written by an anonymous author in the late 7th or early 8th century.

Whatever the case, it is a prayer/poem/hymn that reflects the spirit of the patron saint of Ireland. So, on this the feast day of Saint Patrick, I offer you his cherished prayer. God bless and Happy Saint Patrick’s Day!

Saint Patrick’s Hymn

I arise to-day

Through a mighty strength

With the invocation of the Trinity,

Through belief in the Threeness

Thorough confession of the Oneness

In the society of the Creator.

 

I arise to-day

Through the strength of Christ with His baptism,

Through the strength of His crucifixion with His burial,

Through the strength of His resurrection with his ascension,

Through the strength of His descent for the Judgment of Doom.

 

I arise to-day

Through the strength of the rank of Cherubim,

In obedience of angels,

In the service of the archangels,

In hope of resurrection to meet with reward,

In prays of Patriarchs,

In preachings of Apostles,

In faiths of Confessors,

In innocence of holy Virgins,

In deeds of righteous men.

 

I arise to-day

Through the strength of heaven:

Light of sun,

Radiance of moon,

Splendour of fire,

Speed of lightening,

Swiftness of wind,

Depth of sea

Stability of earth,

Firmness of rock.

 

I arise to-day

Through God’s strength to pilot me:

God’s might to uphold me,

God’s wisdom to guide me,

God’s eye to look before me,

God’s ear to hear me,

God’s word to speak for me,

God’s hand to guard me,

God’s way to lie before me,

God’s shield to protect me,

God’s host to save me

From snares of devils,

From temptation of vices,

From everyone who wishes me ill

Afar and anear

Alone and in a multitude.

 

I summon to-day all these powers between me and those evils:

Against every cruel merciless power that may oppose my body and soul;

Against incantations of false prophets

Against black laws of Pagandom,

Against false laws of heretics,

Against craft of idolatry,

Against spells of women and smiths and wizards,

Against every knowledge that corrupts man’s body and soul.

 

Christ to shield me to-day

Against poison, against burning,

Against drowning, against wounding,

So that there may come to me abundance of reward.

Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me,

Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me,

Christ on my right hand, Christ on my left,

Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down, Christ when I arise,

Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,

Christ in every mouth of everyone who speaks of me,

Christ in every eye that sees me,

Christ in every ear that hears me.

 

I arise to-day

Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity;

Through belief in the Threeness,

Through confession of the Oneness

Of the Creator of Creation.

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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!

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Shepherd’s Pie with Champ Mash from Donal Skehan

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Irish Bacon and Cabbage from Imen McDonnell

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Naked Cake with Meringue Buttercream Icing from Forkful

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Parsnip & Apple Soup from Mairead at Irish American Mom

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Chocolate Carrageen from Myrtle Allen

Irish Coffee (7)

Irish Coffee from inanirishhome.com

 

 

 

 

 

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

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And Halloween is just a few days away…

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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?!

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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.

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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.

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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

 

 

 

 

 

 

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