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Posts Tagged ‘Kim McGuire In an Irish Home’

Screen Shot 2017-02-08 at 11.01.24 AM.pngFebruary is not Irish heart month {September is*}, but with the visual cue of hearts literally everywhere we go, it seems the perfect month to reassess how best to care for the hearts of my sweet family.

Up first…exercising more. The Irish Heart Foundation recommends thirty minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity fives times a week. In our Irish home even that miniscule amount of exercise can be hard to achieve, which is why I’ve started making physical activity a part of our family “talk-time”. Whether it’s my husband and me, one of us with one of our daughters, or the whole family together, we’re walking, biking, hiking and even dancing to the Wii while we are talking…laughing…and sometimes arguing and crying.  The upside of combining talking and exercise is obvious…we’re hardly aware that we’re being physical.

Next…stressing less. As my husband and I have moved into parenting teens, our lives have become more stress filled. What’s worse, as our kids have moved into their teen years…their lives have become more stressful too. Multiple studies have shown that extreme emotional distress is bad for the heart, no matter what your age. Stress triggers the “flight or flight” response, which in turn causes a surge of adrenaline in the body and makes your heart pump faster and harder. Not good…unless of course you’re running away from a man-eating tiger! To counteract stress we’re all doing some simple heart healthy activities, including sharing worries and woes with friends, journaling, listening to music, and allowing time to do absolutely nothing.

Finally…eating better. Over the past ten years, we’ve steadily reduced our intake of trans fats, saturated fats, sugar, salt and alcohol and increased our uptake of water, fruits, vegetables, healthy oils, and whole grains. Some of our perennial favourites include water with mint, 70% dark chocolate (Aine Irish hand made chocolate is the bomb), omega rich salmon, roasted broccoli, and porridge.

Porridge, also known as oatmeal, is not just for breakfast any more. Last September my friend Marguerite invited me over for an afternoon cuppa and a catch up at her beautiful home in Donnybrook. Instead of the usual side of biscuits {cookies}, Marguerite served Irish Porridge Bread. I’d never had porridge bread before and was delighted to give it a try. Truth be told, it was really good.

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Oats are high in beta-glucans**, a soluble fibre, which can lower cholesterol by soaking it up before it gets absorbed into the bloodstream. Oats are also a rich source of magnesium, which is important in preventing heart attacks and strokes by relaxing blood vessels and regulating blood pressure. What’s more, for someone like my brother-in-law who lives with coeliac disease, porridge is, for the most part, considered a safe, gluten free, food***.

From our Irish home to yours, we wish you a happy heart month. What are you doing in February to take care of your heart?

Irish Porridge Bread

Makes One Large Loaf

Ingredients:

500ml/16oz/2cups natural yogurt

1 beaten egg

1 tbsp. treacle or maple syrup

300g/11oz/3cups porridge oats, plus 2 tbsp. more for topping

2 tsp. bread soda/baking soda

1/2 tsp. Salt

Method:

1 Place yogurt, beaten egg and treacle/maple syrup in a mixing bowl and stir well.

2. Mix the oats, bread soda, and salt in a separate bowl, add to the yogurt mixture and stir well.

3. Place in a greased or parchment lined 2lb. loaf tin, sprinkle with extra oats and bake at 180°C/350°F for 30 minutes.

4. Lower the oven temperature to 150°C/300°F and cook for another 30 minutes.

5. Lift bread out of loaf tin and allow to cool on a wire rack.

Additional Notes, Related Articles & Credits:

* Irish heart month coincides with the World Heart Federation’s World Heart Day, which is held in September.

** Journal of Nutrition and Metabolism

*** Anyone suffering with coeliac disease should proceed with caution when eating oats. Research suggests that for many coeliacs, oats are fine but for individuals who are particularly sensitive, they may be toxic.

**** For more research on the health benefits of eating porridge please see these articles (1, 2, and 3) from Harvard Medical School.

 

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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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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.

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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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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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Irish Cup of Tea

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Serving Tea in Ireland

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

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

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

Making Tea

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

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

Additional Notes, Related Articles & Credits:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Information about hospitality and the Brehon Laws is here

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

 

 

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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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