Posts Tagged ‘Kim McGuire’

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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


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


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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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.


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!


Classic Irish Blackberry Jam

Makes 4 x 250ml jars


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


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.


* 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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The Meeting on the Turret Stairs by Frederic William Burton

The Meeting on the Turret Stairs by Frederic William Burton

One of my favourite paintings in The National Gallery of Ireland is Hellelil and Hildebrand, The Meeting on the Turret Stairs by Frederic William Burton.

This richly coloured watercolour painting depicts the ill-fated lovers Hellelil and Hildebrand, meeting on the stone stairway of a medieval tower. The princess and her bodyguard had fallen in love but her father regarded the young soldier as an unsuitable match for his daughter and ordered his sons to kill him.

The painting captures the couple’s poignant final embrace. Burton’s inspiration for the painting was the story of the ill-fated lovers as told in an old Danish ballad.

It seems I am not the only one smitten by this exquisite painting. Back in 2012, RTE ran a competition to find the country’s favourite piece of artwork and The Meeting on the Turret Stairs was the winner.

In 1864, Burton sold the painting to a dealer, Edward Fox White. Interestingly, in the contract they signed, Burton retained the copyright. The painting changed hands a number of times over the following 30 years but in 1898 it was bought by Miss Margaret McNair Stokes (sister of Whitley Stokes).

An article by Jeanette Stokes in the Irish Arts Review, (Vol.26, no.3, 2009) refers to the fact that there are tantalising hints in some of Margaret Stokes’s letters to her family that her interest in Burton was something more than friendship. Margaret Stokes was writing a biography of Burton when she died in 1900, in her will she bequeathed the painting, along with a number of other works by Burton, to the National Gallery of Ireland.

Sadly, the painting is only available to view at limited times each week, due to its medium and sensitivity to light. The National Gallery’s website states: “The Meeting on the Turret Stairs will be back on limited display from 2 March 2015. Viewing Times from 2nd March: Mondays and Wednesdays: 11.30am to 12.30pm. Admission is free, but a timed-ticketing system will be in operation. No advance booking. Tickets are limited and available on the day, from the Information Desk in the Millennium Wing, on a first-come, first-served basis.”

If you’re in Dublin, stop by The National Gallery of Ireland…and, if you’re lucky, you too will catch a glimpse of this exceptional Irish love painting.



Additional Reading:








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Two moms talk about teen anxiety over a cup of tea and a side of caramels.
Recently my friend Niamh and I spent a few hours catching up over a cuppa and some homemade caramel. As you do, we talked about life: our homes and gardens, the people we know, and our children. It’s when we were talking about our children that Niamh said…

“You know…they need to kill-us-off in order to grow up.” 

And for about an hour we talked about what she meant. She’s no stranger to teens, my friend Niamh. She has three and she is surviving. I, on the other hand, have only one at the moment and, some days, am barely hanging in there.

Don’t get me wrong, we have our moments of greatness. But for the past year-and-a-half, those are becoming “occasions” and not “the norm”. What happened to my sweet girl with the great belly laugh, who used to say, “thank you” and “I love you” and “look what I made for you Mama!”?

I miss that girl.

Sometimes I secretly wonder if she’s been abducted by aliens in the middle of the night and replaced with a girl who looks like ours but is often surly, angry, insensitive, self-centered, and entitled.

In the past year I have thought “is it us?”…have we done something to change her? Are we too controlling? Have we become her bully…always passing judgement on the way she looks, how much time she spends on social media or how she never seems to buckle down and just get her flippin’ homework done at night?

Screen Shot 2015-01-19 at 8.40.44 AMThanks to Niamh, I am starting to look at our teen angst differently: they need to kill-us-off in order to grow up. Clearly we’re not talking about grab the kitchen knife and stab us in the heart kind of “killing”. We’re talking about the “separate themselves from us” kind. Either way, it is slow and painful for us. And, in reality, it’s not fun for them either. In pushing us away…our teens oscillate between wanting their independence from us and wanting to depend on us, which makes for an intensely confusing time.

Case in point…the other day our daughter was complaining about 1) not being able to find her gloves; 2) having to get up at 6am for school; 3) sharing a bathroom with her younger sister; and 4) being forced to eat a hot home-cooked breakfast before going to school…all this grief before 7am. Then, in the car, she says to me, “Mom, I wish I could go back to being young again so I didn’t have so much responsibility.”

I didn’t know whether to laugh or to throw my arms around her and give her a cuddle. She’s up before the sun, faces a tough day at school, plays sport, comes home after dark, and then has at least two to three hours of homework. On the weekend, she’s got more sport and more homework. Thanks to peer pressure and social media…she’s also got to stay up-to-date with Instagram, Tumblr, Snapchat and Vine. My husband and I think she’s relaxing when she’s looking at her computer but, in reality, she’s scanning those pages much the same way we scan The Irish Times, The Sunday Business Post, The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal. It’s fun but it’s also work.

Screen Shot 2015-01-19 at 8.34.37 AMKilling us in order to grow up…that’s what our teens are doing. If we want to keep our teens close in the years ahead, we’re going to have to pick our battles. I don’t mind telling you that I sought out some professional help on this one. My recent visit to a therapist taught me that we need to decide what we want in the long run. Do we want our kids leaving home one day “thankful to be gone” or “looking forward to calling in”? The other piece of advice I was left with is this: let them fail…let them make mistakes. Sounds simple but it bloody well isn’t!

Our daughter goes to a fee paying school and I can tell you that when she chooses to blather away an hour rather than study for an important test…I see red! When she doesn’t turn in a homework assignment or paper she’s completed because she’s forgotten to put it in the right place and she can’t put her hand on it…I feel frustrated by her disorganization!! When she’s roaring and shouting at me because she can’t find something in her room in the morning (because it looks like a nuclear bomb went off)…I want to shout back…”THEN CLEAN YOUR ROOM WHEN YOU GET HOME!!!” None of these reactions are helpful to her or me.

My friend Moe recently said to me…”When my son gets frustrated and starts shouting, I imagine that we’re at the train station, walking along the platform. His destination is Crazy Town and I don’t have to get on the train with him. I can let him climb aboard and wave to him from the safety of the platform.” I like this imagery. Now, when our daughter starts getting puffed up and cross, I try to remember what Moe said…she’s headed to Crazy Town and I don’t have to go.

Screen Shot 2015-01-19 at 9.00.10 AMRaising a teen…be it a son or a daughter…is not easy. I think it’s helpful to realise these years are not easy for them either. In the heat of the moment, let’s remember why they are killing us off (hint: they have to grow up)…and be sure to pick our battles carefully (so what if his/her room is a mess)…and stay focused on what we want our relationships with them in the future to be like (positive and loving)…and let them fail (failure leads to success)…and, finally, remember the phrase “Next stop Crazy Town” (you don’t have to get on board too!). Then and only then will we all survive in one piece. Lastly, be thankful for dear friends who remind us that, though it may kill us, our kids will grow up. Now…where are those caramels?

Vanilla Caramels


225g (8oz) salted butter

225g (8oz) granulated sugar

4 tablespoons treacle or golden syrup (light corn syrup)

1 teaspoon vanilla

400g (14oz) tin of condensed milk

8x12in baking sheet, lined with parchment paper


1. Line baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.

2. Melt the butter is a heavy-bottomed saucepan (about 8″ wide) over a medium-low heat.

3. Add the sugar and then add the treacle or golden syrup.

4. Add the vanilla and stir until well mixed.

5. Add the condensed milk and stir constantly until the caramel is a rich golden brown colour. To know if the caramel is done cooking, use a candy thermometer. When the temperature reaches 118ºC/245ºF, you’re done. To confirm, fill a small glass with ice cold water and drop a tiny amount of the hot caramel syrup into the water. Pull the cool caramel from the water and check the consistency. The caramel should be firm but pliable.

6. Carefully pour the hot caramel syrup onto the baking sheet. Using an off-set spatula, quickly spread the caramel syrup to desired thickness. Let cool completely.

7. When caramels are cool, lift them off the baking sheet and onto a cutting board. Cut the caramels into candies with a sharp knife. If the caramels stick to your knife, spray your knife with nonstick cooking spray.

8. Wrap the caramels in wax paper a little longer than the caramels, twisting the ends to close. Caramels will keep at room temperature for about two weeks.

Additional Notes, Related Articles & Credit:

1. 15 Sites and Apps Kids are Heading to Beyond Facebook from Common Sense Media.

2. Teen drama overload article at NPR.org.

3. Irish Whiskey Salted Caramel Recipe at Cheese and Chocolate

4. This New York Times article that came out on October 11, 2017 is brilliant: though, having been in the trenches as long as I have, it could have gone into even more depth. It’s well worth your time to read it, however.

5. Have Smartphones Destroyed a Generation is another recent article, from The Atlantic, that is worth reading. And, this continuing conversation over at NPR.org with the author of The Atlantic article, Jean Twenge, is good too.






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DSC00253In the spring of 2013, I had a real bee in my bonnet about taking the family to Washington, D.C. The driving factors for this all-American holiday were: 1) my husband and I wanted to take the kids on a trip of cultural and historical significance; 2) Barack Obama had just been re-elected to a second term in office and talk of American politics was still raging and; 3) the girls were just the right age to introduce them to a bigger dose of their American heritage.

My parents took my brothers and me to D.C. when we were about 3, 8 and 9 years old…a trip that took our family of five from Los Angeles, CA to Hartford, CT and return in a 1966 Mustang! Those were the days when a family road trip meant long hours spent playing “spot the license plate” and singing John Denver songs. Nevertheless, the city left such a profound mark on me that I would eventually return many times as a college student to work on Capitol Hill. At one time, I even thought I’d have a career in politics.

DSC00076From the beginning, my husband and I agreed we wanted to make the most of the experience and come away with a feeling of having garnered some knowledge. This meant planning the trip with military precision because, surprisingly, a week in Washington really isn’t enough time to see everything. Fortunately, there’s no better woman than yours truly to plan a holiday. Heck, if I can plan a July 4th celebration in Ireland for an American Ambassador and a 500+ people cycling event around Dublin City Centre at midnight for a fundraiser, surely I can figure out how a family of four can take in the sites, sounds and tastes of D.C.! Here’s how the trip went:

Day 1 ~ Travel Day. Get to D.C., check-in at Westin Georgetown Hotel. Unpack bags, walk to dinner at Westend Bistro and walk into Georgetown to stretch our legs and get some fresh air.

IMG_3636Day 2 ~Monument Day. Borrow bikes and helmets from the hotel. Breakfast at Le Pain Quotidien. Cycle to Georgetown University to show the girls an American college and then cycle over to the national monuments. You can take a trolley tour or double-decker bus tour, but riding bikes was great fun and left us in control of our day. Visit Lincoln Memorial, FDR Memorial, Thomas Jefferson Memorial, Martin Luther King Memorial, Korean War Memorial, Reflecting Pool, WWII Memorial, and the Washington Monument. Dinner at Meiwah and walk back to Georgetown for an ice cream at Thomas Sweet.

Day 3 ~ Museum Day. Breakfast at the hotel and a walk to the Air & Space Museum, American History Museum, and the Natural History Museum. Tip: Do a Google search of each museum prior to your trip to find out the exhibits you are interested in. Make a list and immediately upon entering a museum go in search of the things on your list. This way, you’ll see what you want to see and probably have time to wander about at your leisure or go to another museum without wasting time! After a day on our feet, we took a taxi back to the hotel and had dinner at Blue Duck Tavern and DSC00199we walked into Georgetown to have frozen yogurt at Pinkberry.

Day 4 ~ Shopping Day. Back to Le Pain Quotidien for breakfast and then spent the day strolling around Georgetown shopping. The shops range from antiques to wigs, so there’s something for everyone. Pack a spare duffel bag in your luggage, as you’ll find all sorts of wonders to bring home. Here’s a great “Shopping in D.C.” article from the Washingtonian.com. Dinner at Cafe Milano…this isn’t your Cafe Milano as we know it in Ireland. This is better!

Day 5 ~ Capitol Hill Day. Breakfast at the Old Ebbitt Grill, a D.C. institution. Sight-seeing for the day: the Capitol Visitor Center, the Capitol Rotunda, The Senate and House Galleries, Library of Congress, Supreme Court Tour, the White House, and the White DSC00240House Visitor Center. At White House Gifts we had a family photo taken behind a replica of the Presidents’ Resolute Desk and Press Office Podium, which was fun for the kids. If you’re an American citizen, contact your Senator or State Representative to see about joining a tour led by a member of his or her staff and getting a pass to enter the Senate or House Galleries. For tours of the White House check out this site. Dinner was picked up at Chop’t on our way back to the hotel. We ate in our room and watched Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian (a fun way to get the kids to test their memory of the places we visited in D.C.!).

Day 6 ~ Mount Vernon. After breakfast at the hotel, we jumped into a taxi and took a twenty-minute drive to the gorgeous and interesting Mount Vernon. Mount Vernon is the plantation home of America’s first President, George Washington, and his wife DSC00343Martha. A visit there offers a glimpse into 18th-century life through beautiful gardens and grounds, intriguing museum exhibits, and immersive programs honoring the couple’s life and legacy. There is so much to see, we spent a whole day touring around at our leisure. Dinner at Founding Farmers, farm-to-table restaurant. Later we walked from the hotel into Georgetown to get cupcakes at Georgetown Cupcake.

Day 7 ~ Last day…The Spy Museum and brunch at Poste Moderne Brasserie at the Hotel Monaco. We didn’t have much time on this last day as we were flying back home. The kids loved The Spy Museum…my husband and I not so much…it felt very “touristy”. I have no regrets of going, however, as the kids had been so good all week about visiting places of cultural and historical significance.

DSC00362Tips for visiting D.C. with kids:

1. Wear your runners (tennis shoes) or your most comfortable walking shoes. If you are like us, you will be walking everywhere every day.

2. Do not carry backpacks. Many of the museums and destinations require security searches which can mean waiting in long lines. The girls and I carried cross-body bags and in them we each had a reusable plastic rain poncho, an umbrella, a water bottle, iPod/phone, headphones for using iPod/phone, and a map of DC. I also carried a notepad and pen and every day I had my notes for the places we would be seeing.

3. Pack appropriately for the weather. In the summer, DC is hot and humid. In the winter and early spring, it’s very cold. Autumn is a lovely time to visit, but be ready for rain.

IMG_36564. Before you travel, research each place you plan to visit online for special exhibit listings and opening and closing times. For each day you will be in DC have a typed agenda highlighting what you want to see and why you’re going. For example, we had five typed packets: Monument Day, Museum Day, Shopping Day, Capitol Hill Day and Mount Vernon Day. Each packet listed the places we were going, the highlights of each place, when the places opened and closed, and the historical or cultural significance of each. I realise this is a lot of extra work, but it saved us from having to carry a travel guide with us.

5. Pick up a map from the concierge of your hotel. They’re light weight and easy to carry.

Additional Resources:

1. For a resource of things to see and do check out 100 Things to do in Washington, D.C.

2. Excellent responses about what to see in Washington from DC locals at Ree Drummond’s blog.

3. Kid Friendly Museums and Hands On Attractions here.

4. Sight-seeing information from Old Town Trolley Tours here.









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In our Irish home we believe there’s something magical about receiving a gift at Christmas that has been lovingly made by someone you know. Which is why we make edible handmade treats every year to give close friends, neighbours and teachers.


These “Naughty & Nice” sweet treats are sure to make our friends smile this year (clearly the Irish Cream Liqueur is for adults only!). The granola recipe, originally posted here at In an Irish Home, was modified slightly: we added several handfuls of dried red cranberries to give it a real Christmassy-look. The Irish Cream Liqueur recipe, passed down by my father-in-law, Dan McGuire, is amazingly good and may be found at the end of this post.

And who doesn’t love an authentic Irish Shortbread Biscuit? With the addition of some gorgeous crystalised ginger, they’re perfect this time of year with a freshly brewed cup of tea. The recipe may be found here.


Once tasted, I dare anyone to say they don’t love these Irish Mars Bars treats! Not only are they incredibly “moreish”, they are super easy to make. Even better, there’s no baking required. The recipe, posted at In an Irish Home, may be found here.


Guinness Gingerbread is something we can’t get enough of in our Irish home. The ginger, cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg really smell like Christmas. Wrapped simply in some parchment paper and tied with a festive red bow, this is the perfect Irish edible gift.


And finally, these Rocky Road Biscuits, which I first shared with you two years ago, are totally delicious and give off a real Christmas vibe if you grate in a bit of orange zest and top with a drizzle of melted white chocolate. They are an Irish childhood favourite and sure to be enjoyed by whomever you make them for.

Now, with less than a week to go before Christmas day, we wish you and your loved ones some very happy times in the kitchen ~ slan abhaile!

Dan McGuire’s Irish Cream Liqueur


14oz condensed milk

14oz evaporated milk

1 1/2 teaspoon coffee essence (or 1 teaspoon instant espresso)

1 teaspoon glycerine

6oz/3/4 cup Irish whiskey


1. Mix all the above ingredients in a large measuring cup and stir with a small whisk until well blended.

2. Put into clean, sterilised, glass jars, close and store in the fridge.

Related Articles:

Darina Allen’s delicious homemade edible gift ideas here.

Donal Skehan’s blog post on edible Christmas gives may be read here.

This Irish Times article on edible gifts from 2011 is still very useful.

An Edible Ireland blogpost on Chocolate Bark with Almonds & Candied Bacon was reviewed at I Can Has Cook? These are two great Irish food blogs!

Ireland’s Catherine Fulvio, of Ballyknocken House, offers this Almond Liqueur recipe and delicious brownie recipe to her readers this year.

Check out those free, downloadable, gifts tags here and here and here to use with your homemade edible gifts.



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Mincemeat pies. If there’s anything that says Christmas in our Irish home it is these buttery-rich, sweet, MEAT-less wonders. Yes…it is somewhat confusing…meat is right there in the name…but these lovely treats are absolutely, positively, meat free. I know this because I’ve eaten my fair share! How could I not? Bite-sized deliciousness served on a plate with a dollop of boozy cream…who could resist?

A quick Google search on the history of mincemeat pies shows that they were once, a long time ago, an entirely different dish. Around since the 11th century, mince pies first became popular in British kitchens in the 1700s. Back then there was chopped beef or mutton in them, along with dried fruit and warm spices like cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves. Rich and savoury, they were a main course dish and not an after dinner pudding or tea time treat.

It wasn’t until the 18th century, when “cheap sugar arrived from slave plantations in the West Indies”, that the mince pie we know and love today was created. Sweet trumped meat and now the only animal protein you’ll find in a modern mince pie is beef suet, a raw fat found around the kidneys and joints of a cow or mutton ~ though increasingly even it is being left out by bakers who are sensitive to animal products in their diet.

Irish Mincemeat


In Ireland, mince pies make their appearance in shops, bakeries, and holiday markets in early November. Truth be told, my favourite store-bought pies come from Avoca HandweaversButler’s Pantry and Cavistons in Glasthule, though Lidl, Aldi and Dunnes make nice ones too. Very few of my Irish friends go to the trouble of making them. Even my lovely sister-in-law, Rosie, spends her pre-Christmas time in the kitchen making her family-famous Christmas pudding, rather than making mincemeat pies.

But for those die-hard Christmas types like myself, it’s really a straight-forward, and dare I say “fun”, process. The only two things you really must do to ensure the end result is worth the effort is: 1) make your own candied peel (easy-peasy); and 2) make the mincemeat far enough in advance (two to six weeks is about right) to allow the alcohol, fruit, and sugar mixture to fully mature.

Mincemeat pies are best served out-of-the-oven-warm, with a generous spoon of freshly whipped, and dare I say “whiskey-laced”, cream, but they are also very good at room temperature a day or two later too. On its own, mincemeat is wonderful mixed into vanilla ice cream, may be added to home-baked apple or pear tarts, served over yoghurt, or tossed into a fresh fruit salad. And, finally…if you’re looking to give homemade Irish Christmas gifts this year…a beribboned jar of handmade mincemeat (or candied peel for that matter) would be positively lovely.

Happy Christmas!


(makes 10 cups)


8oz/300gm/2 cups sultanas

8oz/300gm/2 cups currants

4oz/150gm/1 cups raisins

6oz/200gm/1 1/2 cup candied peel

600gm/3 cups muscavado or dark brown sugar

2 cooking apples (or green apples), peeled, cored and coarsely grated

zest and juice of 2 organic lemons

6oz/3/4 cup of Irish whiskey

1lb/450gm beef (or vegetable) suet*

1 teaspoon of pre-mixed cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves (also known as mixed spice)

a pinch of salt


1. Combine all the ingredients into a large bowl and mix well.

2. Put the ingredients into sterilised jars, cover and leave two to six weeks to mature, stirring once a week.

3. Use what you need and keep the rest in a cool, dark place for up to a year.

* If you’re making mincemeat to give as gifts to be used on muesli or ice cream, leave out the beef suet.

Ballymaloe Mince Pies 

(Makes 20-24 Mince Pies)


225g (8oz) plain flour

175g (6oz) butter, chilled and cut into cubes

1 dessertspoon icing sugar, sieved

a pinch of salt

a little beaten egg or egg yolk and water to bind

1lb mincemeat (to see Darina’s mincemeat recipe, please see link below)

egg wash

1. Sieve the flour into a bowl.

2. Toss the butter into the flour and rub it in with your fingertips.

3. Add the icing sugar and a pinch of salt.

4. Mix with a fork as you gradually add in the beaten egg (do this bit by bit because you may not need all of the egg), then use your hand to bring the pastry together into a ball. It should not be wet or sticky.

5. Wrap in cling film and refrigerate for 1 hour.

6. Preheat the oven to 180c/350f/gas mark 4

7. Roll out the pastry until it’s quite thin – about 3mm (1/8 inch) Stamp into rounds 7.5 (3 inch) in diameter and line shallow bun tins with the discs.

8. Put a good teaspoonful of mincemeat into each tin, dampen the edges with water and put another round on top.

9. Brush with egg wash and decorate with pastry leaves or stars.

10. Bake the pies in the preheated oven for 20 minutes approx.

11. Allow them to cool slightly, then dredge with icing or caster sugar. Serve with Irish whiskey cream (or brandy butter.)


Notes, Related Articles & Credits:

A fun article about six Northern Irish brothers who make 20,000 mincemeat pies a day at this time of year.

Here’s a brief history of mincemeat pies.

Looking for some other Irish Christmas fun facts? Check out this blog post.

Irish Central always views Ireland from a slightly more cynical/humorous lens, but I like it. Check out their Christmas post for 2014 here.

In 2004, Darina Allen posted recipes for a nostalgic Irish Christmas meal. You can find it here but, be warned, it’s not for the faint of heart. The list of dishes is incredibly long.

The beautiful photo at the start of this posting is from Getty Images. It was taken by David Cordner. I would have used my own photo, except I haven’t made my mince pies yet because the mince is still marinating and Mr. Cordner’s photograph is incredibly beautiful!

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Irish Elderflower Cordial

At this time of year the hedgerows around Ireland are full of pink and yellow and white blossoms that are so very fragrant. It’s an absolute pleasure to walk around small country roads just to take in their lovely sweetness.

One flower in particular, the Elderflower, has me captivated. Growing like lace caps on a bushy green {and sometimes very tall} shrub, these gorgeous little flowers can be brewed with the simplest of ingredients to make a cordial (flavoured syrup) that is refreshingly delicious.

You may think it takes ages to make Elderflower cordial but it doesn’t. Five minutes or less picking the blooms and another five in the kitchen doing a bit of work, plus an overnight sitting under the canopy of a clean tea towel, and you’re done. Easy-peasy.

Elderflower cordial is a summer time staple in our Irish home. I am sure it will be the same in your home once you give it a try.

Wild Irish Elderflower Cordial


10-15 elderflower sprays, pick on a dry day and stay clear of plants close to the ground or in high trafficked areas

1 litre cold water

2lbs caster sugar

1 lemon sliced, skin scrubbed clean first

2oz citric acid (available at a chemist (pharmacy/drugstore)


1. After picking the elderflower sprays, turn upside down and give them a good sturdy shake to remove any bugs. Next, pick off any leaves, cut down the stems, and bring into the kitchen.

2. Put the water into a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Add the sugar and stir with a spoon until completely dissolved. Allow to cool to room temperature.

3.  Pour the sugar water into a large bowl. Add the elderflower sprays. Zest the lemon and add to the bowl. Slice the lemon and add to the bowl. Push the flowers and lemon slices under the sugar water and stir. Cover the bowl with a clean tea towel and leave for 24 hours.

4. Strain the mixture through a clean muslin cloth. At this point you may add the optional citric acid. Pour into a clean bottle, seal, and keep in the fridge until ready to use. We prefer a 1:6 ratio of elderflower cordial to sparkling water but you can serve it at whatever strength you prefer.

Notes: This cordial would be lovely added to a tall glass of crisp Prosecco, sparkling wine, gin or vodka.

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Not every day is a good day In an Irish Home. Some days are average, some days are not so great, and some days are dreadful enough that we need a bit of heavenly help to make it through the hours.

Yesterday was one such day: a close family member was in hospital having surgery and, well, you know yourself, no operation is without its possible complications so there was a good deal of worry going round. While the clock ticked away quietly in the background and we waited for word from the Professor (surgeon), I did what any good Irish woman does in these situations…I started to pray.

Now don’t get me wrong…I am no Holy woman, or even a good Catholic for that matter, but I do have a strong sense of faith and I pray regularly. For the most part, my prayers are of a conversational nature…”Hello God…it’s me…again!” or “Thank you, Lord, for the parking space near the shop door!” Other times, however, I need the comfort of a traditional prayer or set of prayers to calm my heart and mind and, in those moments, I turn to the old Catholic standby…the Rosary.

To those unfamiliar with the Catholic Rosary, it is an instrument of prayer and mediation. It’s real purpose is to allow a person to mediate on the mysteries of Christ’s life. I, however, like to use the Rosary to centre my mind and bring myself and/or my problems closer to God.

A Rosary consists of four Mysteries (the Joyful, the Sorrowful, the Glorious, and the Luminous), and each of these Mysteries is broken into five “Decades”, representing an event in the life of Jesus. Each Mystery is assigned to a different day of the week. For example: the Joyful Mysteries are prayed  Monday and Saturday; the Sorrowful Mysteries on Tuesday and Friday; The Glorious Mysteries on Wednesday and Sunday; and the Luminous (also known as the Mysteries of Light) on Thursday. Also, as you can see from the diagram below, a Rosary is broken up into various prayers:.

Diagram for saying the Rosary

Diagram for saying the Rosary

To begin praying the Rosary, one starts by making the Sign of the Cross (saying “In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.”) and then reciting the Apostles’ Creed. Next, one prays the Our Father, three Hail Marys, and a Glory Be to the Father on the beads connecting the crucifix (cross) to the rest of the beads. Then begin the Mysteries: start by announcing the Mystery, followed by announcing the first Decade of the Mystery. Pray one Our Father, ten Hail Mary’s, and one Glory Be to the Father and follow this with the Fatima prayer. Announce the next Decade and recite the same thirteen prayers (one Our Father, ten Hail Mary’s, one Glory be to the Father, one Fatima prayer again and then do it three more times (for a total of five times). Finally, there is one last Our Father, Hail Mary and  Glory Be, and a concluding prayer of the Hail Holy Queen prayer and the Sign of the Cross.

For anyone interested in praying the Rosary, below I’ve written out the four Mysteries and their Decades, the Fatima prayer, the Hail Holy Queen prayer and an extra prayer to the Hail Holy Queen that my mother-in-law always says when she says the Rosary. And, just to finish off this post, the surgery went well and the patient should be home tomorrow mid-day…thank God!

Prayers of the Rosary

Sign of the Cross: In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Apostles’ Creed (your version may be different depending on when you learned it and where you’re from): I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth; and in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord: Who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary; suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and was buried. He descended into hell; the third day He rose again from the dead; He ascended into heaven, is seated at the right hand of God the Father Almighty; from thence He shall come to judge the living and the dead. I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Holy Catholic Church, the communion of Saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting. Amen.

Our Father: Our Father, Who art in Heaven, hallowed be Thy name; Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven. Give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. Amen.

Hail Mary: Hail Mary full of Grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed are thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb Jesus. Holy Mary Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death Amen.

Glory Be to the Father: Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.

Fatima Prayer: O My Jesus, forgive us our sins, save us from the fires of Hell and lead all souls to Heaven, especially those who are in most need of Thy mercy.

Hail Holy Queen: Hail, holy Queen, Mother of mercy, hail, our life, our sweetness and our hope. To thee do we cry, poor banished children of Eve: to thee do we send up our sighs, mourning and weeping in this vale of tears. Turn then, most gracious Advocate, thine eyes of mercy toward us, and after this our exile, show unto us the blessed fruit of thy womb, Jesus. O clement, O loving, O sweet Virgin Mary! Amen.

Pray for us, O holy Mother of God. That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

Let us pray.

O God, whose only-begotten Son, by his life death and resurrection, has purchased for us the rewards of eternal life; grant we beseech you, that meditating on these Mysteries of the most holy Rosary of the Blessed Virgin Mary, we may both imitate what they contain, and obtain what they promise, through the same Christ our Lord. Amen.

The Four Mysteries and Their Decades

The Joyful Mysteries & Its Five Decades

1. The Annunciation – Mary is visited by the Angel Gabriel and asks her if she will be the Mother of the Saviour.

2. The Visitation – Mary visits her cousin Elizabeth who says, “Hail Mary, full of Grace, the Lord is with thee.”

3. The Nativity – Jesus is born.

4. The Presentation – Mary and Joseph present Jesus at the Temple after his birth to present him.

5. The Finding in the Temple – Mary and Joseph find Jesus in the Temple discussing his faith with the Elders.

The Sorrowful Mysteries & Its Five Decades

1. The Agony in the Garden – The thought of our sins and His coming suffering causes the agonizing Savior to sweat blood.

2. The Scourging at the Pillar –  Jesus is stripped and scourged until His body is one mass of bloody wounds.

3. The Crowning with Thorns – Jesus’s claim to kingship is ridiculed by putting a crown of thorns on His head and a reed in His hand.

4. The Carrying of the Cross – Jesus shoulders His own cross and carries it to the place of crucifixion while Mary follows Him sorrowing.

5. The Crucifixion – Jesus is nailed to the cross and dies after three hours of agony witnessed by His Mother.

The Glorious Mysteries & Its Five Decades

1. The Resurrection –  Jesus rises from the dead on Easter Sunday, glorious and immortal, as He has predicted.

2. The Ascension – Jesus ascends into Heaven forty days after His resurrection to sit at the right hand of God the Father.

3. The Descent of the Holy Spirit – Jesus sends the Holy Spirit in the form of fiery tongues on His Apostles and disciples.

4. The Assumption – Mary, having completed the course of her earthly life, is assumed body and soul into heavenly glory.

5. The Crowning of Mary – Mary is crowned as Queen of heaven and earth, Queen of angels and saints.

The Luminous (also known as the Mysteries of Light) & Its Five Decades

1. Baptism in the Jordan – God proclaims that Jesus is his beloved Son.

2. Self-manifestation at the wedding of Cana – At Mary’s request, Jesus performs his first miracle.

3. Proclamation of the Kingdom of God, with His call to conversion – Jesus calls all to conversion and service to the Kingdom.

4. The Transfiguration – Jesus is revealed in glory to Peter, James, and John.

5. Jesus’ institution of the Eucharist – Jesus offers his Body and Blood at the Last Supper.


Related Articles: 

To hear the Rosary said in Irish, please go to Coróin Mhuire

The Rosary in Irish (Gaelic) over at Catholic Online

Rosary ideas for kids on Pinterest here

The Rosary as a Tool for Mediation at Loyola Press

How to Say the Rosary at EWTN

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Screen Shot 2014-03-16 at 2.21.02 PMMy 20-something niece posted this photo on her Facebook page with the saying…

“If you’re lucky enough to be Irish, you’re lucky enough!”

I couldn’t agree with her more! Happy St. Patrick’s Day to everyone!

Related Articles & Articles of Interest:

Tourism Ireland Announces “Global Greening” Lineup for St. Patrick’s Day 2014 at: http://www.tourismireland.com/Home!/About-Us/Press-Releases/2014/Tourism-Ireland-Announces-‘Global-Greening’-Lineup.aspx

A traditional Irish Saint Patrick’s Day here: https://inanirishhome.com/2012/03/14/a-traditional-irish-st-patricks-day/

Irish Coffee and Saint Patrick’s Day here: https://inanirishhome.com/2013/03/27/irish-coffee-and-saint-patricks-day/

St. Patrick’s Day Party Ideas here: https://inanirishhome.com/2012/03/16/st-patricks-day-party-ideas/

What it Really Means to be Irish here: https://inanirishhome.com/2012/03/15/what-it-means-to-really-be-irish/

Shepherd’s Pie Recipe for St. Patrick’s Day here: https://inanirishhome.com/2014/03/16/shepherds-pie-for-st-patricks-day/

Guinness Caramel Sauce for St. Patrick’s Day here: https://inanirishhome.com/2014/03/16/guinness-caramel-sauce/

Guinness Gingerbread Recipe for St. Patrick’s Day here: https://inanirishhome.com/2014/01/04/alicia-keys-writing-some-guinness-gingerbread/

Traditional Irish Porridge Recipe for St. Patrick’s Day here: https://inanirishhome.com/2013/04/22/traditional-irish-porridge/

Irish Hot Whiskey Recipe here: https://inanirishhome.com/2014/01/11/ginger-hot-toddy-irish-hot-whiskey-2/

Brown Soda Bread Recipes here: https://inanirishhome.wordpress.com/wp-admin/post.php?post=32&action=edit&message=1

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