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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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I’m sure every family has its own version of this classic Italian dish…but I promise you, you’ll want to give this recipe a try sometime.

In our Irish home, we table-tested many lasagna recipes over the years before realising we are truly, deeply, and madly in love with this Irish version dreamed up by my sister-in-law Ann. Thanks Ann!

What makes this recipe the clear winner for us is the absolute deliciousness of the dish. It’s comforting, without being too heavy, and it has lots of flavour. When paired with a side salad and a slice (or two) of homemade garlic bread, everyone leaves the table happy and satisfied. What’s more, my girls and sweet husband will take a slice in their lunch the next day. Don’t you just love it when a supper can become an easy-to-make lunch too?

Another reason Ann’s Weeknight Lasagna is a favourite in our home…it’s just so easy to make. Unlike traditional lasagna, there’s no béchamel sauce (also known as “white sauce” in Ireland) in this recipe. Instead, whole milk ricotta is added directly to the meat sauce, saving time but not scrimping on flavour. And, this recipe calls for precooked noodles, so there’s no hassle and time commitment there either. This recipe is just a win-win-win all around.

Ann’s Weeknight Lasagna can be assembled up to a day in advance and baked right before dinner (great for exam week or anytime everyone is helter skelter). It is great as a family meal, but it is also impressive enough to serve guests. Add a bottle (or two!) of vino, light some pillar candles, turn on some Italian music, and you’ve got the makings of a fun dinner party. And, you know I hate to be a Delia-Downer but I am ever-practical, if you’re looking for a meal to deliver to someone-in-need, this is the perfect, delicious, easy-to-make dish.

Oh, this weeknight lasagna, Irish-style, is good for so many reasons. It may not be your mum’s recipe, but all I can say is “try it…you’re gonna like it!”

Weeknight Lasagna à la Ann

Serves 8

Ingredients

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 onion, diced

450g/1 pound lean minced beef (hamburger meat)

1 pinch of dried basil, oregano and rosemary

2 x 680gram/48 ounces spaghetti sauce

8 oz whole milk ricotta

227g/80z chopped mushrooms

box of oven ready lasagne pasta

16oz shredded mozzarella cheese

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 180°C/350°F degrees.

2. Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan over moderate heat. Add the onion and sauté until translucent.

3. Add mince, being sure to break it up into small pieces. Add oregano and rosemary to taste. When the mince is cooked thoroughly, drain off any excess fat, then add the spaghetti sauce, mushrooms and the whole milk ricotta. Mix well and remove from heat.

4. Into a 9 x 13 x2 inch-baking dish, spoon a thin layer of mince sauce. Top with a layer of lasagne noodles, do not let the noodles touch each other or the sides of the baking dish. Next add a layer of shredded mozzarella. Then top with lasagna noodles, and another layer of sauce. Repeat layers as before, until your top layer of sauce is just about even with your baking dish. Sprinkle with the last of the shredded mozzarella.

5. Cover dish with aluminum (tin foil) and bake in the oven for 30 minutes until bubbling and golden brown. (Alternatively, refrigerate until ready to use).

6. Remove the foil and bake for another 10 to 15 minutes or until hot and bubbly.

7. Remove from the oven, top with some finely grated Parmesan, if desired. Let sit for five minutes before cutting.

 

 

 

 

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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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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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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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Are ye getting tired of me yet? If so, tá brón orm (I’m sorry)! 

It’s quiet in our Irish home at the moment…which has given me time to read the many St. Patrick’s Day messages that have been popping into my in-box, Twitter feed, and Facebook account all day from people around the world.

It’s truly amazing the effect this tiny island has had on the world!

So…I’m making this post short and sweet…here are the “Best of the Best” video messages others shared with me today.  I hope they make you smile too!

1. A Chinese man walks into a pub in Dublin…no, it’s not the start of a joke:

 

 

2. What a warm welcome from our national airline, Aer Lingus:

3. Sure it’s Tourism Ireland…but still…we’re like no place on earth:

4. Ireland…the country that inspires:

5. Dublin’s Parade from 1951…75,000 people turned out even back then:

6. Making Shepherd’s Pie with Donal Skehan on The Today Show in NYC:

6. A Guinness ad from my friends in Australia:

 

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