Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Traditional Irish Food’

Screen Shot 2017-11-13 at 7.06.27 PM

The holidays are right around the corner: Thanksgiving is less than two weeks away and Christmas is just six weeks later. As is the case for so many homemakers everywhere, my holiday countdown has begun!

First up on my To Do list is make candied mix peel. Mixed peel is a staple of Irish holiday baking: it is added to Christmas Cake, Plum Pudding, and is often given as a beautiful homemade gift.

If you have ever tasted store bought mix peel, I want you to forget everything you thought you ever knew about this holiday ingredient. Mixed peel from a plastic tub is bland and unappealing. It’s also loaded with horrid ingredients. Homemade candied mix peel, on the other hand, is brightly coloured, sparkling in sugar crystals, and tastes wonderfully citrusy.

 

Another bonus of making your own mixed peel is that it’s something you can involve your kids or grandkids in. And, don’t we all want to share time with the young people in our lives? Little-littles and teens can be involved in every stage: selecting the fruit, washing it, juicing and peeling it, cutting it {with your help}, boiling it and, finally, sugaring it.

Wishing you well as you begin your own holiday countdown! And, in all the hassle and bustle, do remember…this is the perfect season for memory making and reviving family rituals. Enjoy!

Citrus Mixed Peel

Makes 4 cups

Ingredients

2 grapefruits, preferably organic

3 oranges, preferably organic

4 lemons, preferably organic

8oz/2 cups sugar

8oz/250ml/1 cup sugar

Directions

1 Cut each citrus in half and juice. Reserve the juice for another purpose and do not use a squeeze juicer as it will damage the peel.

2. Cut each citrus into quarters and, using a paring knife, carefully pull out the inside pith and membrane.

3. Slice the citrus quarters into 1/4-inch-wide strips.

4. Put the citrus strips into a heavy saucepan and add enough water to cover them. Bring to a boil over high heat and blanch for 5 minutes.

5. Drain and repeat Step 4 two more times.

6. While the citrus peels are draining the third time, put the sugar and water into the heavy saucepan and bring to a boil, stir to dissolve the sugar.

7. When the sugar is dissolved, add the citrus peel and boil gently for 30 minutes. Stir occasionally to ensure the peels do not burn.

8. Remove the peel with a slotted spoon and leave to cool for about 30 minutes. Reserve the syrup for another use, perhaps a flavouring for ice tea. Set a rack over a parchment-lined rimmed baking sheet.

9. Put the peel into a clean bowl and pour over 1 cup sugar and mix well. Spread the sugared peel on the wire rack and leave to dry.  The drying process can take 2, maybe even 3, days.

10. Once fully dry, store candied mix peel in an airtight container in a cool, dry place for up to 1 month.

Additional Notes, Related Articles & Credit:

* Since most pesticide residue is found in the skin, its important to use organic fruit when making candied peel.

** Click here for my favourite homemade mince pie recipe.

*** And if you’re looking for homemade Irish recipes for giving at Christmas, please see my post here.

 

SaveSaveSaveSave

SaveSave

Read Full Post »

Fresh Apple Cake in a loaf pan with a pot of Irish Whiskey Caramel Sauce

Oíche shamhna, Dear Readers! A very happy Halloween to you indeed. We’re feeling festive in our Irish home tonight. The fire is lit, the kids are passing out candy, and we’ve just tucked into the most spooktacular fresh apple cake, topped with Irish whiskey caramel sauce. And, oh my goodness…this is so much better than a chocolate bar or sweet could ever be! The mixed spice and walnuts in the cake give it a gorgeous flavour…but, truth be told, I think the caramel whiskey sauce stole the show!

A jar of homemade Irish Whiskey Caramel Sauce with a bottle of Jameson Irish Whiskey behind it

Did you know Halloween originated with the ancient Celts? ‘Tis true! It is an Irish tradition predating St. Patrick by more than 300 years. It arose from the Celtic fire festival called Samhain (pronounced “sow-in”); marking the end of the harvest period and the beginning of winter.

The Celts believed that on the eve of Samhain, the veil separating the living from the dead opened briefly allowing for mischief and anarchy. Huge bonfires were lit to keep evil spirits at bay and costumes were worn to protect people from being carried off into the “other world”. The friendly spirits of loved ones were welcomed home at this time of year and nuts and apples were offered as enticement.

And it was the thought of Halloween+nuts+apples that led me to make tonight’s pudding (dessert). This fresh apple cake incorporates four apples and nearly 4oz of chopped walnuts. And while it may be too late to make it in your home this evening, print the recipe or save it for another autumn celebration {Thanksgiving is right around the corner!}: I think you’re going to love this!

Fresh Apple Cake

Makes 2 Loaves or 1 Bundt Cake

Ingredients

338g/12oz/3 cups all-purpose flour

454g/16oz/2 cups sugar

3 large eggs

350ml/12oz/1-½ cup vegetable oil

125ml/4oz/ ½ cup apple juice

1 teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon mixed spice {pumpkin spice}

1 vanilla bean, split open and seeds scraped out

102g/36oz/3/4 cup walnuts, finely chopped

4 apples, cored, peeled and finely diced

Directions

1. Preheat the oven to 170ºC/325ºF. Grease and line two 900g/2lb loaf tins with parchment paper or grease a 10-inch Bundt pan and lightly flour it too.

2. Using an electric mixer, mix the sugar, eggs, seeds of the vanilla bean, and oil until, smooth. Stir in the apple juice and mix well.

3. Sift together the flour, salt, baking soda, and mixed spice. Add the flour mixture to the sugar mixture and stir well.

4. Stir in the walnuts and apples. Pour the batter into the prepared pans.

5. Bake for 90 minutes. Remove the cake from the oven, let it cool in the pan for 5 minutes, then carefully remove it from the loaf tins/Bundt pan and allow to cool on a wire rack.

 

The above photos were taken while I was making the whiskey caramel sauce. It’s a very easy process that only takes minutes to make: the results are out of this world good!

Irish Whiskey Caramel Sauce

Makes 6oz

Ingredients

114g/4oz/1 cup sugar

50ml/2oz/ ¼ cup water

118ml/4oz/1/2 cup double cream {heavy whipping cream}

30g/1oz/2 tablespoons butter

¼ teaspoon salt

50ml/2oz/ ¼ cup Irish whiskey

Directions

1. Bring the sugar and water to boil in a large heavy bottom saucepan over medium-high heat. Using a wooden spoon, stir until sugar is dissolved.  Boil, without stirring, until mixture turns a golden/amber color.

2. WHILE the sugar water is cooking, into a separate saucepan add the cream, butter and salt. Cook over medium heat until the butter is melted.

3. When the sugar water has turned amber color remove the saucepan from the heat and CAREFULLY add the cream mixture to it.  The combined mixture will bubble up and the caramel will harden.

4. Return the saucepan to a low heat and simmer, stirring constantly, until the caramel is dissolved and the sauce is smooth.

5. Once combined, add the whiskey and stir well. Set aside to cool and use as desired.

Additional Notes, Related Articles & Credit:
For more information and recipes about Halloween+Ireland, please click on Quick Barm Brack, Halloween & Irish Barm Brack {this is my Barm Brac yeast bread recipe}, Halloween & the Irish offers up lots of lore, Making Candle Pumpkins is a fun craft for this time of year, so too is Halloween Marshmallow Pops, Ireland+Halloween+Apple Cake  features Darina Allen’s Apple Cake recipe+information about the famous Snap Apple Night painting by Cork-born Daniel Maclise, Haunted Ireland is where you’ll find information about haunted Irish castles and homes, and, last but not least, over at Colcannon you’ll find my recipe for this traditional Irish Halloween potato and cabbage dish.

 

 

Read Full Post »

Irish Barmbrack loaf on parchment paper with trick or treat sign

Irish Barm Brack, or báirín breac, is a traditional, sweet, Irish Halloween bread that’s speckled with dried fruit and flavoured with Irish whiskey and strong tea. Hidden inside, as every good Irish person knows, are a clutch of small tokens that foretell one’s future: a ring for marriage, a coin for wealth, a soup-pea for poverty and a thimble for a life of spinsterhood or bachelorhood.

Not so long ago, it was the pride of every Irish homemaker to have a loaf, made from scratch, sitting on her kitchen counter at this time of year. Unfortunately, the world has changed, and with prices ranging from .89¢ to €2.99 for a loaf, hardly anyone makes it at home any more.

I hope this Quick Barm Brack might change a few minds. There’s no yeast in this recipe, so there’s no rising time. You can have a loaf mixed up and in your oven before you can recite a verse of Oiche Shamhna! 

Quick Irish Barm Back

Serves 10-12 slices

Ingredients

50ml/2oz/1/4 cup Irish whiskey

250ml/8oz/1 cup cold Irish tea

150g/5oz/1 cup raisins

150g/5oz/1 cup sultanas

50g/1.8oz/1/3 cup mixed peel

225g/8oz/2 cups self-raising flour

125g/4oz/scant 1 cup brown sugar

1 egg, beaten

1/2 teaspoon mixed spice (pumpkin spice works too)

Directions

1. Place the raisins, sultanas and mixed peel in a bowl. Pour over the whiskey and cold tea. Leave overnight to soak up the liquid.

2. Preheat the oven to 170˚C/325°F. Grease and line a 900g/2lb loaf tin or a 20cm/8″ round cake tin with parchment paper.

3. Combine the flour, sugar, egg, and mixed spice in a bowl. Stir well.

4. Strain the fruit from the liquid and add to the flour. Stir well. Slowly, a little at a time, add the fruit-liquid to the flour until the dough looks wet.  You may not use up all the liquid.

5. Add in a ring, a coin, a soup-pea, and a thimble, wrapped in parchment paper, and stir through.

6. Transfer to the lined loaf tin. Use an off set spatula to smooth the top. Place in the oven on the middle shelf. Bake for 1 hour or until fully cooked.

7. Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly before removing from the loaf tin. Cool on a wire rack.

8. Wrap in cling film (plastic wrap) and tin foil. Keep for 2 days before cutting. Serve sliced with heaps of butter and a good cup of tea.

Additional Notes, Related Articles & Credit:

* To see my traditional Irish Barm Brack yeast recipe, please click: Traditional Irish Barm Black.

** For other Halloween-inspired recipes from our Irish home, please click: ColcannonApple Cake, and Halloween Marshmallow Pops, And to learn more about how the Irish invented Halloween, click here: Halloween and The Irish. And click Irish Halloween Folklore for a short history lesson from Irish Archeology about Halloween in Irish Folklore.

*** A recipe for Brioche Barmbrack may be found over at Gastrogays…and here’s Bibliocook’s recipe for Chocolate Bread and Butter Pudding – yum!

**** Oíche Shamhna – A Witch in Armagh on Halloween Night – this video is really well done and is in Irish with English subtitles. I think the wee ones in your home might enjoy it!

 

 

 

Read Full Post »

A loaf of Irish porridge bread on a wooden cutting board.February 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.

Screen Shot 2017-02-08 at 11.00.59 AM.png

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.

 

Read Full Post »

screen-shot-2016-10-08-at-4-36-22-pm

When life gives you lemons…you make lemonade, right? But what about when life gives you elderberries?

Such was my thought a few weeks ago, as I stood staring up at the enormous elderberry shrub in our back garden. In the summertime I make a delicious elderflower cordial from the tiny fragrant flowers our elder gives us: from the cordial we enjoy homemade spritzers, sweet curd, popsicles…even pavlovas…for months on end. But as I eyed the tiny black berries that had grown from the unused summer blossoms, I wondered what to do.

Irish chefs and scratch cooks have been using elderberries for many years to make wine, jam, chutneys, tinctures, sauces, tarts, and fizzy drinks. One of Ireland’s most famous chefs, Richard Corrigan, uses them to make Elderberry Jelly. Imen McDonnell, blogger and cookbook author, throws a handful of elderberries into her autumn-inspired Irish Hedgerow Martini. And Michelan-star chef J.P. McMahon uses elderberries to make vinegar and sauces for his wild game dishes.

But what could I do?

As I stood there thinking about the possibilities, I remembered that my good friend Susan once suggested our family take a daily spoonful of elderberry syrup to boost our immune systems. Susan was giving Sambucol, a black elderberry extract, to her family and was finding that they were coming down with fewer colds and healing faster when they did catch something. So, a bottle of Sambucol was bought for our home and we took a spoonful every morning from autumn to spring as an ounce of prevention for a number of years.

I don’t know when we stopped taking Sambucol or why. Perhaps I got lazy…maybe just forgetful? Last winter, however, when I was knocked for six with a cough that lasted weeks, it sure would have been helpful {not to mention “healthful”} to have some on hand.

Beautiful elderberry syrup in five glass bottles

As I stood there looking up at the clusters of tiny black berries hanging heavy on our elder shrub, that’s when it struck me. I could make my own elderberry syrup with very little effort and use it as a winter tonic for our Irish family.

Recipes for homemade elderberry syrup are readily found on Pinterest. Darina Allen has one in her Forgotten Skills of Cooking cookbook. Biddy White Lennon and Evan Doyle have a whole chapter dedicated to elderberries in their Wild Food book, too. Being my first time to make elderberry syrup, I followed Darina’s recipe and, within a few hours of picking the berries in my back garden, I had my very own seasonal elderberry syrup bottled and ready to be used.

From our Irish home to yours, I wish you good cooking and very good health!

Elderberry Syrup

Makes about 600ml

Ingredients

1 lb. elderberries

1 lb./450g sugar to every 600ml (1 pint) of juice

1 organic lemon

Directions

1. Strip the fruit from the stems, put into a stainless steel saucepan, and cover with cold water.

2. Using a swivel-top peeler, remove thin strips of zest from the lemon and add {to the saucepan}.

3. Bring to the boil and simmer for 20-30 minutes or until the elderberries are soft.

4. Strain through a jelly bag or a piece of muslin.

5. Measure the juice and put it back in the saucepan. Add 450g/1 lb. sugar for each 600ml of juice and the juice of the lemon {previously zested}.

6. Bring back to the boil for about 10 minutes, allow to cool before pouring into sterilised bottles. Seal with a screw cap and store in a cool, dry place.

Additional Notes, Related Articles & Credits:

* Scientifically there is evidence to suggest that elderberries may reduce swelling in mucous membranes, help relieve nasal congestion, lower cholesterol, improve vision and improve heart health. Elderberries contain Vitamins A, B and C with large quantities of vitamin C, dietary fiber, carotenoids, flavonoids including quercetin and anthocyanins, organic pigments, tannins, amino acids, viburnic acids, minerals like potassium among others. All these make elderberry a powerful antioxidant. In addition to anti-oxidation properties, elderberries have anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory and anti-viral properties. They also have mild diuretic, laxative and diaphoretic properties. For more information, read studies from University of Maryland, U.S. National Library of Medicine, Department of Virology, Hebrew University-Hadassah Medical School, Jerusalem, Israel, and one from Yale University.

** The elder is native to Ireland. In Irish folklore, the Elder is thought of as an unlucky plant; often connected with the fairy folk and their mischievous tricks. It was once said that to make a child’s cradle from the wood of the elder was to invite the fairies to steal away a child. According to an old Irish saying there are three signs of a cursed place: the elder, the nettle and the lonesome calling corncrake.

***Read J.P. McMahon’s article on elderberry in the Irish Times here.

****Some fun recipes for elderberries from around the web are Elderberry Ice Cream over at Hunter Angler Gardener Cook, Elderberry/Blackberry/Crab Apple Jam over at The Irish Catholic, Mulled Elderberry Gin over at Wild Irish Foragers, Elderberry Tea at Fresh Bites Daily blog, and the most beautiful Gluten-free Elderberry, Pear, Hazelnut Cake at Our Food Stories.

***** Some elderberries are poisonous and the leaves of all elderberries, especially, should never be eaten. For more information, Cornell University’s Department of Horticulture has guidelines, noting the fruits are used in “…pies, jellies and jams.” If you’re unsure if your elderberries are edible, please consult your local plant professionals/experts before consuming.

And two more articles on the benefits of elderberries may be found at the Irish Examiner and The Irish Times.

Read Full Post »

 

Brown and white Irish button mushrooms on a tea towel.

Myrtle Allen's mushroom soup in a white bowl.

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.

 

 

Read Full Post »

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, another Father Ted video showing the strong and very funny culture of tea in Ireland:

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: