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Posts Tagged ‘Irish’

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

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

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

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

No Bake Energy Bites

Makes about 3 Dozen

Ingredients

4oz/1 cup porridge flakes (oatmeal)

2oz/ 1/2 cup ground flax seed

5oz/ 1/2 cup smooth peanut butter

3oz/ 1/2 cup chocolate chips

3oz/ 1/3 cup honey

1 tablespoon chia seeds

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions

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

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

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

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

 

 

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It’s been an exciting year for Ireland and its film industry and the proof is in the pudding…or maybe I should say “the Oscars” because, for the first time ever, Ireland has several Oscar entries in several categories. And this year it is very possible that an Irish co-produced film or an Irish actor/actress/director will take home an all important gold statue.

Here is the breakdown of the Irish at Oscars 2016:

Best Picture: Brooklyn and Room.

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Best Actor in a Leading Role: Michael Fassbender in Steve Jobs. Though Michael was born in Heidelberg, Germany, and his father is German, his mother is Irish. His family moved to Killarney when he was a toddler.

Best Actress in a Leading Role: Saoirse Ronan in Brooklyn and Brie Larson in Room. Saoirse was born in New York to Irish parents. When she was three the family moved back to Ireland and Saoirse grew up in County Carlow. Brie Larson is a native of San Francisco, California. And while she’s not Irish, she is being recognized for her role in an Irish film that was directed by Irishman Lenny Abrahamson, who is from Dublin.

Best Director: Lenny Abrahamson for Room. Lenny was born in Dublin. He studied physics and philosophy at Trinity College, where he also directed short videos with the Trinity Video Society, which he co-founded with Ed Guiney. He graduated in 1991 with first class honours (gold medal). Previously he directed Adam & Paul, Garage, What Richard Did, Frank, and, for television, Prosperity.

Best Short Film (Live Action): Benjamin Cleary for Stutterer. Benjamin is an Irish writer/director from Dublin. He completed a Screenwriting MA at the London Film School. Stutterer is his first short film, which he wrote, directed, and edited.

Best Writing (Adapted Screenplay): Room, Screenplay by Nick Hornby and Brooklyn, Screenplay by Emma Donoghue. Emma was born in Dublin in 1969. She is an award-winning writer, living in Canada. Her first feature film is Room, which she adapted from her novel by the same name. Her novel was shortlisted for the Man Booker and Orange Prizes and has sold over two million copies. Her latest novel is Frog Music, a mystery inspired by a murder in San Francisco, 1876. She is adapting it into a feature film for Monumental Pictures.

How to Watch The Oscars from Ireland:

The 88th Academy Awards takes place tonight in the Dolby Theatre, Hollywood and it will be an all night affair for anyone watching it from Ireland. The famous red-carpet-walk kicks off at midnight Irish time and the ceremony itself starts at about 1.30am. The whole celebration will finish around 5am.

If you have Sky, you will have a few ways in which to watch the glitz and glamour. The E! channel will run its broadcast from 10.30pm-4.30am. Sky Living will start its live broadcast at 11.30pm. And, I believe, Sky will have a dedicated Oscars channel: Sky 331/Virgin Media 307. Alex Zane and Zoe Ball will host the previews until Chris Rock takes over at 1.30am.

Also, The Irish Times will have a live blog of the red carpet pre-event and the ceremony itself.

If you can’t be bothered to stay up all night (and who can blame you…personally I’m only interested in the Irish nominees!), it will be possible to catch up on highlights on Monday evening at 9pm on RTÉ2, when the event will be condensed into a (thank goodness) two-hour package.

Irish Oscar Win Odds:

What are our chances of the Irish bringing home the gold? Well, Laurence Mackin of The Irish Times predicts, “Don’t expect a haul. Brie Larson is 1/33 to pick up an Academy Award of Merit (the Oscar’s official name) for her stunning turn in Room. Variety recently threw its weight behind Benjamin Cleary’s chance in the best live action short category (Stutterer is at 3/1). The others though remain outside bets. Room and Lenny Abrahamson are at 66/1 and Brooklyn is at 200/1.”

I’m going to remain positive, however, and cheer the Irish on into the wee hour of the night. Here’s hoping Ireland wins big.

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Photo Credit: Courtesy of Sundance Institute

 

“The secret magic of (Sundance) film festivals is that they offer audiences direct communication with the artist,” so says Sundance Film Festival Director of Programming Trevor Groth. And, oh how right he is.

I have been going to Sundance Film Festivals for 15 years. Some years are good, some years are even better, but what are always great are the Q & A sessions with people directly involved in a film immediately following a screening.

Unfortunately these Q & A sessions are rarely made public. So, if you can’t make it to Park City for ten days in January, you probably won’t get the inside scoop or see “the secret magic”.

And that got me to thinking…what if I could publish the Q & A’s? I’ve got an iPhone. I’ve been recording the Q & A’s for years. What if I published them at In an Irish Home? And so, for two weeks that’s what I’ve been trying to do! At first, I tried to upload them directly to my WordPress blog but, for whatever reason, it just wouldn’t work. Then, I set up a YouTube channel and gave that a go. It took several tries…but at long last…it’s done.

 

For the record, Q & A’s are sometimes serious, sometimes funny…above all, they are always informative. Their format is as follows: after the credits, a Sundance Programmer comes to the stage and introduces the director, producer, actors, cinematographer, etc. of the film just viewed. The Programmer asks one or two questions and then turns the questioning over to the audience.

In all, a Q & A last about 15-20 minutes. It seems a really short time, but, those 15-20 minutes can make the difference between an audience leaving a screening with a good feeling (which can elevate a film’s impact in the wider public) or a bad one (which will have the exact opposite effect).

I was fortunate to attend five or six films this year that were followed by Q & A’s, including one for the Irish-Cuban film Viva. Director Paddy Breathnach and Irish producer Rob Walpole answered questions candidly. It was fascinating to learn things like 1) how many years it took to make Viva; 2) what it was like to direct actors who spoke a different language; 3) how hard it was to find financial backers to support the project; and 4) how the wonderful music in the film almost did not make it into the movie.

So, for the first time ever, I’m delighted to bring you behind the scenes at Sundance 2016 with the Q & A from Viva!

Additional Notes, Related Articles & Credits:

* Viva nominated for an Oscar in 2016.

** How to do a film festival Q & A.

*** Watch the Viva trailer here.

**** Viva is the closing gala event at this year’s Dublin Film Festival (Feb 28th). To buy tickets visit here.

 

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

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

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

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

1) They are easy to make.

2) They taste great.

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

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

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

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

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

Chocolate Whiskey Cake

Serves Eight to Ten

Ingredients

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

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

12oz/1 ½ cups brewed strong coffee

4 oz/½ cup Irish whiskey

200 grams/about 1 cup granulated sugar

156 grams/about 1 cup light brown sugar

240 grams/about 2 cups all-purpose flour

8 grams/2 level teaspoons baking soda

3 grams/about 3/4 teaspoon fine sea salt

¼ teaspoon black pepper

⅛ teaspoon ground cloves

3 large eggs

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

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

Powdered sugar, for serving (optional)

Directions

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

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

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

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

Additional Notes, Related Articles & Credits:

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

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

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

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

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

Strawberry Rhubarb Compote

Makes about five cups

Ingredients

450g/4 ½ cups red rhubarb

450g/2 ½ cup strawberries

500ml/2 cups water

125g/ ½ cup sugar

Directions

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

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This morning, while enjoying a healthy and yummy breakfast of Strawberry Rhubarb Compote layered with organic yogurt and Nadia’s Muesli, I poured over the photographs of Irish clothing designer Peter O’Brien’s latest collection for Arnotts. O’Brien wowed a packed audience with his Autumn/Winter 2015 showcase the night before last…and no wonder…his designs are divine.

Photo Credit: Peter O'Brien Design

Photo Credit: Peter O’Brien Design

His colour palette (mostly black, navy, and cream, with the occasional pop of mustard yellow) is perfect for our Irish weather. His use of flowing fabrics, pleated designs, and silk, velvet and knit fabrics is indicative of a man who knows refined elegance intimately, but still offers it up with a dash of flair.

Photo Credit: Peter O'Brien Design

Photo Credit: Peter O’Brien Design

Culottes are there for those choosing to follow the trend, but so too are the timeless wardrobe staples: military coats, triangular-shaped skirts and dresses, hats that evoke a different era, and boxy blouses with buttons up the back. I am coveting his Sleeveless Dress in Navy for any luncheons that pop up this year and his Pleated Collar Dress with removable white collar for a look that will go from day to night in a snap!

Photo Credit: Peter O'Brien Design

Photo Credit: Peter O’Brien Design

Going back to the hats…his milliner Amanda Byrne of Highbury Design was a big hit at the show. I’d love to wear one of those gorgeous hats, but am probably not that daring.

Photo Credit: Peter O'Brien Design

Photo Credit: Peter O’Brien Design

In total, there are 46 pieces in the Peter O’Brien A/W 2015 collection at Arnotts with prices ranging from €95 to €495.

Additional Notes & Credits:

* The recipe for Strawberry Rhubarb Compote will be posted tomorrow!

* You can learn more about Peter O’Brien here.

* Click here to follow Peter on Twitter.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Classic Irish Blackberry Jam

Makes 4 x 250ml jars

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Notes:

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

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

Additional Reading:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Patience. Some say it’s a “virtue”, others say it is “a companion of wisdom”. I say, when exercised correctly, patience is an act of love. We practice patience with our children, particularly when they are young, with our spouses when they make us crazy, and sometimes…if we remember…with our parents…especially as they are aging.

My sister-in-law, Rosaleen, is a person with infinite patience. As her mum’s health slowly declined, Rosaleen’s patience exponentially increased. Everyone in our family watched in awe (and with gratitude) as she courageously stepped into the role of caregiving daughter and lived in that space for many years without complaint.

When Mama wanted to go to bed, Rosaleen was there to assist. When Mama asked the same question for the twentieth time, Rosaleen answered with kindness. When many of us thought Mama should enter a nursing home, Rosaleen resolutely disagreed. Taking Mama out of her beloved home was not an option to consider. Instead, Rosaleen got outside help to come to her and together everyone practiced patience in helping my magnificent mother-in-law leave this world.

By the grace of God, Rosaleen was near to Mama when she took her last breath…but she nearly missed the moment. The doctor, having been called to the house, examined my mother-in-law, and asked to see Rosaleen in the hall. For a few tense minutes they whispered about the inevitable and reentered the bedroom where Mama was resting. Not a second later, Rosaleen saw her mum turn to look at the sepia coloured wedding photograph of herself and Dada hanging on the wall. Mama then took one more breath and that was it. She was gone. Someone not practicing patience might have missed it, but not Rosaleen. She was there.

She was there in that moment and she was there for everything that happened in the whirlwind of a week thereafter. She made the arrangements for a celebration of life to honour Mama. She arranged the wake at home, the removal, and the sit-down lunch at the hotel after the burial. She cooked and baked and fed our large family and the many visitors that called in. She made endless cups of tea and opened more bottles of wine than any of us want to remember. Ah, sure, she’d tell us it was nothing with a wave of her hand or she’d say “many hands make light work” or give the credit to someone else. But we know…it was her. And now she quietly and patiently goes through a home filled with a lifetime of memories and cherished objects, passing things on to the next generation or recycling and giving away what she can whenever possible.

So today, on this the Month’s Mind of Mama’s passing, we not only remember the woman we called Mother, Granny, Great-grandma, admired Mother-in-law…we stop to thank the person who practiced the most loving patience we ever witnessed. Dear Rosaleen, we are so very grateful. Thank you.

Additional Reading & Listening:

http://www.rte.ie/radio1/doconone/2011/0715/646810-radio-documentary-house-strictly-private-irish-wake/

http://farmette.ie/2010/03/03/the-irish-country-wake/

http://blog.funeralone.com/grow-your-business/unique-services/irish-funerals-can-teach-us-celebrating-life/

http://www.irishcentral.com/roots/history/Ancient-Irish-funeral-and-wake-customs-recalled-this-Halloween-season.html

https://www.funeralwise.com/customs/irishwake/

http://www.irishcentral.com/opinion/others/it-may-be-a-stereotype-but-the-irish-do-great-funerals-138564194-238119711.html

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