Orchard Jam Doughnuts

03 Sep 2016


During the summer of 2012, Geoffrey and I decided to open our own farm stand. We made jam doughnuts in the morning and sold them with ice cold, cream-topped raw milk at the farm gate on the days that we knew the sun was going to make an appearance. We used Peggy’s gooseberry jam recipe to fill the doughnuts and they were a great success, though our best customer was a generous chap named “Daddy.”

doughnutFor many years, if we wanted a doughnut in Ireland, the best I could do was grab something jam-filled from a gas station, a fact that led to many artisan doughnut binges on summer visits stateside that involved old-fashioned cake style or yeasted and raised ring doughnuts, glazed with everything from cherry bark to bacon grease. Not recommended as a happy medium, I must admit! In the past year a few proper doughnut shops have opened up in Ireland which are worthy of a visit: Offbeat Donuts, Krust Bakery, Rolling Donut, Dublin Doughnut Co, Aungier Danger & Funky Donut Co.  (Feel free to share more in the comments section!)

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Geoffrey’s Orchard Jam Doughnuts 
Over time, I’ve come to revere the joys of the classic jam doughnut. Especially those which are prepared in your very own kitchen. Since it’s autumn and our orchard is bursting with juicy, sweet plums we’ve filled the doughnuts with plum preserves, but you can choose any conserves you may have in your pantry, including marmalade! 

2 (7 g each) packets of fast-acting dried yeast
1/4 cup or 60ml warm water
1 cup or 250ml warm milk
1/4 cup or 60g caster/superfine sugar
60g or 3 tbsp butter, melted
2 eggs, lightly beaten
3 3/4  cups or 165g  plain flour
1/2 cup or 75g plum jam (or any flavor)
4 cups of vegetable oil for deep frying
icing/confectioner’s sugar for dusting

Combine yeast, water milk and sugar in small bowl.
Cover, stand in warm place about 10 minutes or until mixture is frothy.
Stir butter and eggs into yeast mixture.
In a separate bowl, sift flour and stir in yeast mixture, mix to a soft dough.
Cover, stand in warm place about 45 minutes or until dough has doubled in size.
Turn dough onto lightly floured surface, knead dough about 5 minutes or until smooth. Roll dough until about 2cm (about 1 inch) thick, cut into 5cm (about 2.5 inch) rounds.
Loosely cover rounds with oiled plastic wrap, stand in warm place about 10 minutes, or until almost doubled in size.
Deep-fry doughnuts in batches in hot oil until well browned, turning once.
Drain on kitchen paper, toss doughnuts immediately in icing sugar
Let cool slightly and fill a pastry bag, fitted with a 1/2-inch round tip with jam.
Insert the tip into the end of each doughnut and pipe approximately 1 to 2 teaspoons of jam into them and serve.

Orchard Plum Jam
Plum jam is such a treat, we love picking our plums in late summer and preparing jams and preserves. You can also freeze whole plums for later use if you have an abundance. Plums are naturally high in pectin so no added pectin is needed for this recipe.

Makes 10 8.5 ounce jars
2lbs/1kg plums, washed, but not peeled or stoned.
juice of ½ lemon
2lbs/1kg granulated sugar
Follow basic sterilization process.

Put the whole plums, lemon juice in a large wide pan. Bring to the boil then simmer for 15 minutes until the fruit is very soft and pulpy. Remove stones at this stage. Put 2 or 3 small plates in the freezer (these will be used to test the setting later on).
Add the sugar and stir over a gentle heat for another 10 minutes until the sugar is completely dissolved. You don’t want it to boil at this point as the sugar could crystallize. Once you can’t feel or see any grains of sugar bring to the boil and boil hard for 10 minutes, skimming the surface as you go and stirring now and again.
Spoon a little jam onto the chilled saucer, leave to cool then run your finger through it. If it’s ready it will wrinkle up. If this doesn’t happen boil for another 5 minutes then keep testing and boiling until it does.
Do a final skim on the finished jam then pour into the sterilised jars and seal, following the instructions on page xx. Store in a cool dark place – the jam will be good for up to 6 months. Keep in the fridge once opened.

Scullery Notes: To freeze whole plums, remove stem and wash well. Do not stone the plums, you will lose precious flavour. Place in freezer bags and lay flat in freezer. 

Slan Abhaile,


Photos & Styling by Imen McDonnell 2016

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Smoke | Fire | Feast

03 Aug 2016


I am pleased as punch to announce our September Lens & Larder retreat. Join Gentl & Hyers in creating a convivial visual narrative through indigenous Irish ingredients and local makers while staying at the very charming 400 year-old Cloughjordan House in bucolic County Tipperary, Ireland.

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This retreat will have a strong focus on elements of fire, smoke, and the preservation of traditional skills, including a lesson in wood-fired sourdough baking, and a visit to an award-winning local farmhouse cheesemaker. We will learn to cook with fire and smoke using produce from the walled garden on the estate and meat provisions from the abattoir of a renowned Tipperary master craft butcher.

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Each student will have one-on-one opportunities to explore the topics they’re interested in, whether that is learning to use a camera, post-processing, styling, visual storytelling, social media, career building, or simply finding your own creative voice. Lens & Larder retreats are meant to foster a sensitive creative learning environment in which we can respond to each of our guests individual needs.

Included:  3 nights accommodation, 1 welcome drinks reception with dinner, 3 full Irish breakfasts; 2 lunches; 2 evening meals including wine and cocktails; all food with a focus on locally sourced, artisan ingredients (vegetarian options will be catered for).

Excluded: Travel to Ireland and transportation to Cloughjordan House; Travel insurance; Extras

Cost: EUR €2200 per person.  An 80% non-refundable deposit will be required to secure your spot. Final 20% Payment will be due upon arrival at Cloughjordan House.

Due to timing logistics, there will be absolutely no refunds for this workshop. Please make sure you can attend before securing a space for the retreat. We strongly recommend that you to take travel insurance. Owning an SLR camera is preferable.


Andrea Gentl and Martin Hyers are renowned freelance photographers living and working in New York City and Delaware County, New York. They have collaborated for over twenty years as the photo team of Gentl and Hyers, shooting still life, travel, food, lifestyle and interiors. They are regular contributors to Bon Appétit, Martha Stewart Living, Real Simple, InStyle Magazine, Condé Nast Traveler and more. They also work with cookbook authors, recently photographing  Buvette: The Pleasure of Good Food by Jody Williams and the Julia Turshen’s forthcoming, The Small Victories Cookbook, Chronicle 2016.  They are on a constant quest to reexamine their personal style and to embrace change through personal experience. They are most inspired by travel. They build on the experiences they gain through that form of photography. A few years ago, Andrea started the blog, Hungry Ghost Food and Travel, to expand on those experiences and to focus on personal projects and collaborations. Through her blog she has gained a following in the photography and food community. She and Martin have traveled extensively around the world and they are delighted to once again bring their combined experience to our workshop to Ireland.

What some of our participants have to say about Lens & Larder retreats….

“Lens and Larder is a cut above all the rest and sets the bar for how to properly look after a group of eager creatives. Starting with their breathtaking surroundings, they know how to let nature do most of the inspiring. Then there is their deep knowledge and appreciation of the culinary world which is half the foundation of food styling and photography. The other half is professional experience and they bring in the best people in the business to share their secrets and inspire you first hand. I would take this workshop again and again and again (as many people do!).” – Claire Ptak, Violet Bakery, London, and author + stylist of the award-winning cookery book, The Violet Bakery Cookbook. @violetcakes

“Always held at truly unique and inspiring locations, Imen and Cliodhna, host with such warmth and attention to detail, creative learning retreats with incredible teachers from all over the world. Having both been a teacher at one retreat, and attended one as a participant, I wouldn’t hesitate to do both all over again. On both occasions, I left not only with new knowledge gained, but felt completely rejuvenated, inspired to the brim. What they have been able to create in Lens and Larder is truly unique, and in a sea of current creative retreats, theirs stand out as one of a kind powerhouse of learning and creativity, with a generous amount of heart and soul.” -Marte Marie Forsberg @marte_marie_forsberg

“I attended a Lens & Larder’s workshop last November, taught by Gentl & Hyers, and had an incredible experience. Cliodhna & Imen were fabulous, generous hosts who went above and beyond to ensure we all had a great time. I learned a lot and came home with not only pictures I love but a group of awesome friends. I hope to attend another one of their workshops soon!” -Joann Pai @sliceofpai

Slan Abhaile,
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Lamb & Lentil Salad

18 Jul 2016


Nothing says summer more than lunch al fresco under the canopy of one of our massive ash trees on the farm with plenty of salads, warm soda bread out of the oven, and my fresh butter on the table.

Bord Bia (the Irish Food Board) recently asked me to be a part of their “Lamb. Tasty, Easy, Funcampaign and I couldn’t refuse as lamb is a firm favourite on the farm. Lamb is possibly more special to me as it was not as readily available in the USA when I was growing up, and definitely falls under the special meals category. Here, we eat lamb quite frequently as there are so many cuts to choose from, and all of them are delicious. I particularly enjoy my visiting my friend Suzanna Crampton’s Zwartbles farm and if we are lucky she sends us off with a parcel of meat from her herd.

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Greek Salad with Lentils & Lamb
This super simple Greek-style lamb salad, is packed with flavor and nutrients and is perfect for an easy + light summer supper; you can double or triple the recipe if you are entertaining friends. The recipe calls for fillet of lamb (ask the butcher) or lamb steaks. I hadn’t used either of those cuts before and I must say, the fillet was incredibly tasty and tender. Let me know if you give it a go! You can find more fantastic Irish lamb recipes here.

Prep time: 20 minutes (+30 minutes resting time)
Cooking times 4-10 minutes
600g lamb fillet or lamb steaks
224g tin of cooked green lentils (or you can prepare your own)
Juice of one lemon
Salt and pepper
5 tbsp olive oil
250g cherry tomatoes
200g feta style cheese
½ cucumber, deseeded
½ red onion
6 springs flat leaf parsley
6 sprigs mint
12 pitted black olives
Place the lentils in the fine sieve and rinse with plenty of cold water, then leave to drain.
Mix the lemon juice with a little salt and peper in a large mixing bowl. Add 4 tbsp olive oil, then whisk.
Cut the cherry tomatoes in half. Chop the cheese and cucumber into small pieces. Finely slice the red onion and chop the herbs. Place everything into the mixing bowl with the lentils and olives. Mix, cover and leave to rest in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.
Take the lamb out of the fridge and allow to come to room temperature. This will take approximately 30 minutes. Pre-heat the barbeque or frying pan on high heat. Brush the lamb fillets/steaks with olive oil, season with salt and pepper and place on the bbq or in the pan. Cook for 2 minutes on each side, then reduce the heat and continue to cook depending on your preference and the thickness of the cut. Remove from bbq or pan and leave to rest for 2 minutes.
Cut into strips and serve with lentil salad and bread.
Scullery notes: Be sure to not oversalt the vinaigrette as the feta and olives are already quite salty.

Keep an eye on my media/events page, I will be travelling to Chicago, Wisconsin & Mpls this summer and have a few fun book events planned!

Slan Abhaile,

Imen xx

Photos and styling by Imen McDonnell 2016.


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Father’s Day is a week away and I have been feeling nostalgic. Growing up, I was a total daddy’s girl, a tomboy who preferred to spend a day putting earthworms on a hook and fishing with my father to painting my fingernails or playing dress up with the neighbourhood girls. I have fond memories of sipping Shirley Temples, (or, as my dad would refer to them, “kiddie cocktails”) layered with loads of extra maraschino cherries. They were my refreshing clubhouse reward for caddying 9 or 18 holes of golf with him after work from spring until the links closed each winter, well into my teens.

When Geoffrey was about seven, I recall him pointing at a pretty Pimm’s Cup and requesting his own glass “just like Daddy’s” at an afternoon garden party I was hosting at the farm. It was then that I decided to sort out a fancy long drink that would be sweet and sophisticated, yet alcohol-free, making it suitable for both smallies and grown-ups alike. In other words, the newly crowned kiddie cocktail of our crazy Irish country life. Dad would be proud.

Blooms of elderflower and honeysuckle paint the hedges that line our fields with splashes of soft ivory and vibrant pink from about the end of May through to July here, and it’s always good fun to spend an hour on a bright day collecting the delicate flowers from the trees to make cordial or other sweet treats. This Elderflower-Honeysuckle (Mock)tail is one of our favourites.


Before I get to the recipe, I have loads of brilliant Sunday Bits of news to share! I feel like it’s been ages since we last caught up here, so grab a cup of jo or a glass of vino (or, perhaps a kiddie cocktail?) and read on……

First of all, my Chi-town Girl (now LA Girl) Meredith Sinclair, has released her first book and it is SO MUCH FUN!!!! I implore you to seek out a copy of Well Played, The Ultimate Guide to Awakening Your Family’s Playful Spirit filled with games, projects and adventures for the whole family. We’ve been experimenting here and I must say, it is keeping us more entertained than we’ve been in years, so thank you Meredith! It would certainly make a fabulous Father’s Day gift too.

y450-293Secondly, The Farmette Cookbook has received 2 amazing recommendations this month: one in the New York Times and one in Martha Stewart Living! I’m having a heart attack! SO much gratitude for these wee mentions, you give so much of yourself putting a book out into the world and hope and pray that it is well-received. I do not take any press for granted, I am very grateful.


Myself and Cliodhna Prendergast have teamed up with Aoife Carrigy, Kildare Village and Só Collective to produce a series of From the Isle pop-dinners and Lens & Larder: Village Life food and styling workshops in the retail village. Our next dinners will be June 24th and 25th. Transport to and from Dublin is included in the 45 euro price for 5-course menu complete with a DIY Irish coffee tutorial as a send-off! We are working with the incredible talents of Grace Campbell of Grace & Saviour and Mark Grehan, The Garden on designing and dressing the dinner location, completely transforming a breezeway into a rustic green space with Sean Scully-inspired walls of linen.  Please book in, it will be like coming to a lovely little dinner party hosted by Cliodhna and I.  For more details and to reserve a place at our table, click here.


Elderflower & Honeysuckle (Mock)tails

Refreshing and fruity, this blossoming combination of musky elderflower-honeysuckle nectar and sparkling water is the perfect thirst quencher for a long summer day, and it doubles as a dazzling drink for farm dinners al fresco.

5 lbs (2.5 kg) granulated or superfine sugar
51⁄2 cups (1.5 l) water
2 unwaxed lemons
1 orange
20 fresh elderflower heads, stalks trimmed
10 honeysuckle flower heads, freshly picked
Ice, to serve
Club soda or 7-up, to serve

Put the sugar and water into the largest saucepan you have. Heat without boiling over low heat, stirring occasionally, until the sugar has dissolved.
Pare the zest from the lemons using a vegetable peeler, then slice the lemons into rounds. Repeat with the orange.
Once the sugar has dissolved, bring the pan of syrup to a boil, then turn off the heat. Fill a large mixing bowl with cold water. Add all the flower heads, and swish them gently to loosen any dirt or bugs. Lift the flowers out one at a time, gently shake off excess water, and transfer to the syrup along with the lemon and orange zest and slices; stir well. Cover the pan and leave to infuse for 24 hours.
Sterilize glass bottles
Line a colander with a clean tea towel, and set it over a large bowl or pan. Ladle in the syrup, letting it drip through slowly. Discard the bits left in the towel. Use a funnel and a ladle to fill the sterilized bottles. The cocktail is ready to drink right away and will keep in the fridge for up to six weeks. Or you can freeze it in plastic containers or ice cube trays and defrost as needed. It keeps in the freezer for up to a year.
To make the cocktail, fill a tall glass with ice cubes, pour in 3 tablespoons elderflower-honeysuckle cordial, top with soda, stir, and serve. You may garnish the glass with elderflower and honeysuckle blossoms, if you desire.

Slan Abhaile,

Imen xx

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Mad May Eve

30 Apr 2016


May Eve is the evening before May Day (April 30). Legend has it that on this night a certain type of sorcery transpires in which female evildoers called pishogues (pronounced “pish- ohh-g”) come round and do their best to make people’s lives miserable in the Irish countryside. A pishogue would do things such as surreptitiously place eggs, bread, meats, and other foods on someone’s land, and doing so would somehow take the riches from that farm and transfer them to the pishogue’s estate.

Now, these pishogues were real people—neighbors, churchgoers—and everyone knew who they were. Real people were known to be sort of possessed and forced into doing dreadful acts. This pishoguery put the fear of God into people, and villagers began sprinkling holy water on their homes, livestock, farmyards, and machinery to ward off this evil on May Eve.

No May Eve would be complete without a story involving the ubiquitous “love potion.” Yes, coaxioriums were popular on this evening as well. Allegedly, if a woman made an advance on a man and was rejected, she would slip him a potion and he’d come around.

My absolute favorite bits of holiday folklore are stories of women who had the power to turn into hares. They would morph into wild hares and get into all kinds of mischief, then return home and have a cup of tea as if nothing had happened. Often, someone would come across a lady’s dress and shoes lying near a hedge, and they would take no notice, assuming that she had likely changed into a hare and was just out gallivanting in the field.

While this all seems far-fetched, many of these accounts have credible witnesses and are steeped in traditions that have withstood the test of time. Here in our village of Kilcolman, we sprinkle holy water to be safe and all I can say is, what’s good for the gander . . .

Each May Eve, I plan a special little tea party in the garden for whoever will come. These easy-to-make tea cakes are a fun take on traditional chocolate-covered marshmallow tea cakes. If you are short on time, you can substitute any packaged round tea biscuit or cookie for the base.

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Mad May Eve Teacakes
Makes about 30 teacakes
For the Biscuit Base
1 cup (100 g) whole-wheat flour
½ cup (50 g) all-purpose flour
Pinch of salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
¼ cup (50 g) golden superfine sugar
4 tablespoons (50 g) unsalted butter, cold
2 to 3 tablespoons whole milk
For the Marshmallow
3 large free-range egg whites
¾ cup (150 g) golden superfine sugar
6 teaspoons golden syrup (or light corn syrup)
Pinch of salt
Seeds from ½ vanilla bean
½ cup raspberry or blackberry jam (or marmalade)
For the Chocolate Coating
1 cup (150 g) milk chocolate, chopped (or chips)
⅓ cup (75 g) dark chocolate, chopped (or chips)
2 teaspoons vegetable oil (or coconut oil, if you prefer)
Make the Biscuit Base
Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C).
In a large mixing bowl, sift together the flours, salt, baking powder, and sugar. Rub in the butter with your fingers until the mixture resembles coarse bread crumbs. Add the milk, and stir everything together to form a smooth ball. You may need a little more or less milk—the dough should be smooth and pliable but not sticky.
Pat the dough into a flat oval then dust the work surface with flour. Roll the dough to approximately ⅛ inch thick. Using a 2½-inch round cookie cutter, cut out small rounds. Place on parchment paper, and chill in the fridge for 10 minutes; this should stop them from shrinking when baking.
Bake the biscuits for 15 minutes or until crisp. You don’t want a soft texture; a crisp base is needed for the teacake.
Make the Marshmallow Filling
Place the egg whites, sugar, golden syrup, salt, and vanilla seeds in a large, heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water (make sure the bottom of the bowl doesn’t touch the water). While it is heating, beat the mixture with an electric hand mixer for 6 to 8 minutes until it is smooth, silky, and double in volume. The trick is to have a good, stiff marshmallow texture so that it holds when piped, without overcooking. A thick whipped cream consistency is ideal.
Spoon the marshmallow into a piping bag.
Spread each biscuit with ¼ to ½ teaspoon jam, then pipe a 1-inch dollop of marshmallow on top. Leave the biscuits to set at room temperature for 2 hours.
Make the Chocolate Coating
When ready to assemble, line a couple of trays with a silicone mat or parchment paper. Melt the chocolates and oil in a heatproof bowl over a pan of simmering water. Set aside to cool slightly.
To coat the cookies, dip each one in the chocolate, then hold upside down to allow the excess to drip off. Very quickly turn right-side up and place on the prepared trays. Leave all the teacakes to set at room temperature about 1 hour.
Serve with glasses of milk or cups of hot tea.
Scullery Notes: These teacakes keep best at room temperature in an airtight container for one week. If you put them in the refrigerator, the chocolate will discolor.

Slan Abhaile,


Photos by Imen McDonnell. Styling by Sonia Chaverri Mulford.


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I am delighted to present Saveur Magazine’s Best Food Blog Photographer 2015, Renée Kemps, as the host of our next Lens & Larder workshop which will take place at the beguiling Irish country estate, Ballyvolane House, April 26-29th, 2016.


Participants will pay a special visit to Cork’s artisan English Market as well as gather ingredients from the stunning forest and walled garden of Ballyvolane House to craft their own editorial food story and discover an exciting translation of food through the lens.

Over the course of three nights and two days, students will get to learn from Renée as she demonstrates her methods of styling and photography, and gain insight into her overall process and philosophy from working with light, to composition, editing, blogging, and social media while enjoying the relaxed luxury and friendly atmosphere of historic Ballyvolane House.

Here are a few stunning examples of Renée’s work…

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Included in the retreat:  3 nights luxury accommodation at Ballyvolane House, 1 welcome reception and dinner, 3 full Irish breakfasts; 2 lunches; 2 dinners including wine and cocktails; all food with a focus on locally sourced, artisan ingredients (vegetarian options will be catered for).

Excluded: Travel to Ireland and transportation to Ballyvolane House; Travel insurance; Extras

Cost: EUR €1850/$2012USD per person sharing dual occupancy. For private accommodation, please enquire and will be available on a first come, first served basis.  An 80% non-refundable deposit will be required to secure your spot. Final 20% Payment will be due upon arrival at Ballyvolane House.

Due to timing logistics, there will be absolutely no refunds for this workshop. Please make sure you can attend before securing a space for the retreat. We strongly recommend that you to take travel insurance. Owning an SLR camera is preferable.

Please email lensandlarder@gmail.com for more details & registration.


Renée Kemps is the author of “Harvest”, a blog about seasonal ingredients, local produce and sharing food with loved ones. She is the winner of the Saveur Best Food Photography Awards in 2015, has contributed to Food52, Vogue Magazine, and is currently collaborating with Yotam Ottolenghi for Jamie Magazine. Renée grew up in Delft, a small village in The Netherlands, and moved to the countryside when she was 10 years old. Growing up outside, with apple trees in her backyard, strawberries in the garden, and chickens running around made her fall in love with a life where we know where our food comes from, how it grows, and how we can take it into our kitchen to enjoy it together at the table, with good conversations and cozy nights.

Slan Abhaile,

Imen xx


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In the Irish countryside the true spirit of St. Patrick’s Day really lives on. My husband and his family still pick a shamrock clover and pin it on their lapel for the day, and now I am a part of that special tradition as well.

I will never forget my first St. Patrick’s Day experience after moving to Ireland. Everything in the little village nearest to us was closed on the day; the post office, the bank, a good number of shops, about the only place with open doors was the church, and I soon realized that it was not only a national holiday, but a religious one as well—though the name should have given that away.

My mother-in-law invited us to the farmhouse for dinner that day, and I could hardly contain my excitement about having my first authentic Irish corned beef and cabbage!

We sat down at the dinner table while Peggy brought out generous plates of roasted pork loin with mashed potatoes covered in a white creamy parsley sauce accompanied by a bit of boiled cabbage on the side. I was stunned. Where was the corned beef, and why on earth was there so little cabbage?

I felt it was necessary to explain to my new family that in America, most people eat corned beef and cabbage on St. Patrick’s Day. My father-in-law looked at me like I was mad and then calmly reasoned, “We do not eat corned beef, t’wouldn’t be the nicest.” I could tell by the look in his eye that corned beef was not held in the same esteem as the beautiful chunk of pork loin, known as “bacon” here in Ireland. I felt at once utterly surprised and somewhat embarrassed. (I later learned that corned beef in Ireland is akin to Spam, it is a type of chopped gelled beef that comes in a square tin)

The truth is, there really isn’t a special meal in Ireland on St. Patrick’s Day. Parades, yes. Parties filled with libations, yes. Shamrock-wearing, yes. But, food-wise, at least in rural Ireland, we all just sit down to a nice meal, which can be anything from roast pork to a T-bone steak, but never, ever, corned beef.


Over the years, our Paddy’s day celebrations have evolved. We have begun a ritual of going for a long walk on the farm and visiting the fairy fort* (a circular earthen mound-style dwelling from ancient times) for a picnic. I bring all the fixings and we sit under an ivy-covered tree and nibble away, all the time being on the lookout for fairies, and heifers and calves that might be exploring the fort as well.

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Since I always like to try something a little different than roast bacon and cabbage, I found that it is fun to prepare an Asian-style potsticker dumpling with pork, cabbage, and parsley sauce. I borrowed the dumpling wrapper recipe from my friend, Molly Yeh, and went to town with traditional ingredients. A couple of hours later, we walked out the door with a basket of dumplings, dipping sauce, chopsticks and a flask of tea. With a picnic like that, who needs corned beef and cabbage! This recipe is in my chapter entitled New Traditions in The Farmette Cookbook: Recipes and Adventures from my Life on an Irish Farm. 

Paddy’s Day Bacon & Cabbage Potstickers
Makes 20 medium sized dumplings
For the wrappers
2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 cup boiling water
1/2 cup cold water
In a medium bowl, combine flour and salt. Gradually stir in boiling water until the mixture is mealy.
Gradually add the cold water and stir until the mixture turns comes together into a dough.
Knead dough on a floured surface, adding more flour as necessary, until the dough becomes smooth.
Transfer to a clean bowl, cover it with a damp towel, and let the dough rest while you make the filling.
For the Filling:
6 ounces cabbage, roughly chopped
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
1/8 cup minced parsley
1/3 pound shredded smoked ham (or smoked Irish bacon)
1/8 teaspoon ground white pepper (or freshly ground black pepper)
1/2 tablespoon soy sauce
1/2 tablespoon Chinese rice wine (or dry sherry)
1 teaspoon sesame oil
For the slurry
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/2 cup water
For the dipping sauce
2 tbsp sesame oil
¼ cup brown rice vinegar
½ cup scallions (spring onion)
¼ cup soy sauce
Make the wrappers In a medium bowl, combine flour and salt. Gradually stir in the boiling water until the mixture is mealy. Gradually add the cold water, and stir until the mixture comes together into a dough.
Knead dough on a floured surface, adding more flour as necessary, until the dough becomes smooth. Transfer to a clean bowl, cover with a damp towel, and let rest while you make the filling.
Make the filling Put the cabbage in a food processor and pulse until finely minced. Transfer to a large bowl and sprinkle with the salt. Let sit for 10 minutes. Pulse the ginger, parsley, ham, pepper, soy sauce, rice wine, and sesame oil to food processor to mix well. Set aside. Squeeze the water out of the cabbage and into the sink. Place the dry cabbage in a dry bowl and add the ham mixture. Fold together with your hands.
Make the dumplings Roll out the dumpling dough into a circle and cut out wrappers with 4-inch round cookie cutters (or the top of a wineglass or teacup). Set aside. Mix together the cornstarch and water for the slurry in a small bowl. Take one dumpling wrapper, and spoon about 1 tablespoon of the ham mixture into the middle. Dip one finger into the slurry, and paint the edges of the dumpling wrapper. Fold the bottom side of the wrapper over the filling and press into a half-moon shape. Place on a baking sheet, cover loosely with plastic wrap, and repeat with the rest of dumplings. Make sure the dumplings do not touch each other on the sheet.
When all the dumplings are assembled, you can cook immediately or cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to several hours. To cook, half-fill a large pot with water and bring to boil. Gently slide in one-third of the dumplings. When the water returns to a boil, turn the heat down and simmer gently for 6 to 8 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon, and repeat with remaining dumplings.
Coat the bottom of the frying pan with oil and place over medium heat until hot. Fry dumplings until they are golden on each side.
Make the dipping sauce Heat the sesame oil in a saucepan until it smokes. Add the scallions, then the brown rice wine vinegar and soy sauce. Mix well, then take off heat and pour into bowl for dipping.
Scullery Notes: Salting and squeezing the water out of the cabbage is essential. It prevents dumplings from being waterlogged and soggy. 

*The term Faerie is derived from the Gaelic word “Fé erie”, meaning the enchantment of the Fées, while Fé is derived from Fay, which is itself derived from Fatae, or the Fates. The term originally applied to supernatural women who directed the lives of men and attended births. Now it has come to mean any supernatural creature tied to the earth, except monsters and ghosts. In Ireland, the Faeries are called the Aes Sídhe, pronounced eye-shwee) Sídhe are also the name for the earthen mounds and hills that dot the Irish landscape. Irish mythology, legends, and folklore claim the Faeries live under these mounds, so the term sídhe has come to mean Faerie in general, but it more properly refers to the palaces, courts, halls, and residences of the Faeries. However they are known by a wide variety of euphemisms, including “the Fair Folk”, “the Good Neighbors”, “the Little Folk”, “the Little Darlings”, and “the People of Peace”.

Slan Abhaile,


Photos by Imen McDonnell. Styling by Sonia Chaverri Mulford 2015.


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Picture this.

You walk into a 1960’s-style supper club/ballroom in a small midwestern American town. It doesn’t matter that it is the noughties; nothing has changed since the place first opened in 1964. There is the same wooden bar with high vinyl covered stools, the same wall-to-wall carpeted dining room with numbered round tables and upholstered swivel chairs, the same salad bar with spinach and oily hot bacon dressing, German potato salad and green aspic. Broasted chicken and potatoes feature on the menu along with a filet mignon that you could cut with a butter knife. Everything is plush and gold and burgundy and bold shades of emerald. You remember a pint-sized version of yourself holding a maraschino tinted Shirley Temple in hand, your bearded father with an extra bitters brandy old-fashioned, and your Aqua Net scented stepmother sipping a drink called “bacardi” with a small b.

You glance into a smoky side room where there are people dancing. One-two-three, one-two-three, oom-pa-pa, oom-pa-pa, couples shuffle around the room with the odd added back leg kick for good measure. They are happy. The place is abuzz. There is dim light everywhere except for this ballroom which is harshly lit with fluorescents. Everywhere you look, it’s like time stood still.

Back in the dining room there is a long table in a corner covered in white linen, and suddenly you recall a time when dozens of small deep-fried doughnuts topped with fluffy dollops of fresh cream would fill such a table. There are spotlights beaming down on the table as if to showcase whatever greatness will eventually grace its top. You can’t keep your eyes off the table. Someone plays Kenny Rogers on the jukebox in the bar and you hear people hmmm hmmmm hmmmm-ing in the distance. You do not get distracted. That table is the promised land of desserts. There will be other bits on that dessert table, but you know they will pale in comparison to the kneecaps.

Yes, I said kneecaps. Those delicate doughnut cream puffs are called kneecaps. I always presumed that if you closed your eyes and squinted they might look like someone’s kneecap. I do not know, but that’s what they were called.

Kneecaps were in my book and they got cut. It might have been because (little did I know) kneecapping was a form of torture during the Troubles in Ireland.

Or, could be simply because they just plain don’t sound good.

But, I am here to tell you, there isn’t much better in the way of creampuffery (forgive the portmanteau). I would go as far as to dare you to show me a better form of creampuff. (yes, that really is a dare.)

Plus, if you come up with a better name, we can just change it, right?

Find my recipe below.


Now, for some Sunday Bits….

My book is making its way into the world next month, and Image Living & Interiors has provided a very special sneak preview in its March issue, here’s a taste

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Our friends and world-class photographers, Andrea & Martin Hyers, have begun hosting their own intrepid photography retreats. The first one will take place in the Andes Mountains of Peru and I’d give anything to be along for the ride. Check out more details here.

We are welcoming calves night and day on the farm, spring is the season for new life and we are embracing every moment of it!

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Natural Born Feeder’s Rozanna Purcell claims that I was instrumental in getting her to start blogging about food, I don’t know if I can take credit for that, but I will vouch for her stunning book filled with nutritious, tasty recipes. For example, these Virtuous Viscounts that remind me of Girl Scout Thin Mints, minus the sugar! You can order her book here.


I recently stumbled upon a brilliant app called Beditations. Basically you pop it on when you go to bed for an evening meditation and you are awakened with a meditation “alarm” to start your day. I can’t recommend morning meditation enough for the pursuit of daily balance, calm, and well-being. For me, this practice has been life-changing and the Beditation app just makes it easy.

Cliodhna and I are planning our next Lens & Larder retreat with the amazing Renée Kemps, last year’s Saveur Food Blog Best Photography winner. I met Renée when were in Brooklyn for the awards last June, and on top of being an incredible photographer, she is just as sweet as pie. More details on our website soon.

I’ve added a few more bits to the events page, my Limerick book launch taking place at O’Mahony’s in Limerick City at 7pm, 9th March. There will be music, wine, my best brown bread and homemade butter. Come along if you’re free! Also, I’m pairing up with Claire Ptak and her Violet Bakery in London for a special Farmette + Violet Pop-Up on the 22nd of March from 12-4pm. SO excited for that!!!





Dairy Cream Kneecaps
Kneecaps were one of my greatest childhood indulgences. At many large gatherings on my father’s side of the family, there would be a seemingly endless tray of kneecaps on the dessert table where I often found myself hovering around the general vicinity for more time than I probably should have. Kneecaps are essentially tiny cream puffs, only the puff is a very lightly yeasted, raised doughnut with cream simply dabbed into a wee dent in the middle. The pastry to cream ratio is perfectly balanced. These are such a treat, especially with farm fresh sweet cream, and would be a superb addition to afternoon tea or a special celebration.
Makes One Dozen
1/4 cup warm water (105 to 110 degrees F)
2 (.25 ounce) envelopes active dry yeast
1/2 cup vegetable shortening
1/2 cup sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
2 cups milk
6 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
4 cups peanut or vegetable oil for frying
1 cup confectioners’ sugar for dusting
2 cups heavy cream, whipped
Pour warm water into a small bowl, and sprinkle yeast on top; set aside for 5 minutes. Cream together the shortening, sugar, and salt. Add the eggs, one at a time, while continuing to mix. Pour in the milk and the yeast alternating with the flour until smooth. Place dough into a greased bowl, and turn over to grease the top.
Cover with a light towel, and let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, 1 to 1 1/2 hours.
Once the dough has risen, punch down, and roll out on a floured surface to 1/2 inch thick. Cut into rounds with a 2 inch round cookie cutter, cover, and allow to rise another 30 minutes.
Fill deep saucepan with 4 inches of oil. Heat oil to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C).
Use your thumb to make an indent in the center of each kneecap. Fry in the hot oil a few at a time until golden brown, 1 to 2 minutes per side. Remove to drain on a paper towel, and allow to cool to room temperature, about 30 minutes. To serve, dust the kneecaps with confectioners’ sugar, fill the indents with whipped cream.

Slan Abhaile,



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“We must be willing to let go of the life we have planned, 

so as to have the life that is waiting for us.”

-Joseph Campbell

I met this fine-looking farmer when he was visiting the United States one particularly frigid week in February 2004. It was his second visit to the Twin Cities of the American Midwest, where I had been hunkering down in hibernation mode for the winter. He had come to visit a childhood mate who had moved to St. Paul, Minnesota after secondary school. It was only his second time in Minneapolis, the beloved city that I had recently returned to after a production stint an at Emmy award-winning television show in New York City.


Prior to New York, I had spent a chunk of time living the hazy, surreal, set-life of Los Angeles. I loved the buzz of film sets and sound stages and just being a part of the team behind-the-scenes. I grew up an ambitious girl in small-town Wisco, and was always eager to break away to the bright lights of a big city. In Minneapolis, I had found balance working as a creative producer for an influential, (if somewhat Mad Men-esque) advertising agency, while traveling globally to execute broadcast television campaigns for international beauty and food brands. I lived comfortably in the middle of the picturesque city, and if I was going anywhere else, you could hedge your bets that it would be back to Brooklyn.

On the evening we were introduced, I hadn’t fancied going out, but I was persuaded by a colleague who was desperate for a fun night after a long workweek. I wasn’t feeling terrific that day, so I prettied myself up as best as I could and got on with it, as you do when all you really want to do is lounge around in flannel pajamas and sip chamomile tea all evening. Before I knew it, my taxi arrived, and I mustered the energy to run out the door.

We were having a laugh with friends at a newish downtown lounge when a handsome flaxen-haired fella breezed past our group, turned his head and shot us a smile. As he was waiting for his drink at the bar, my friend starting chatting with him. Or was she chatting him up? Either way, I could see that he was very polite and by the lilt in his voice, I noted that he was clearly not from the United States, though I couldn’t quite place his accent.

After a casual introduction, I learned that this striking man with the unusual accent was named Richard McDonnell. And, judging from his fair-skinned, ginger-topped mates sipping pints of Guinness, I put two and two together and wielding some heavy-handed stereotypes guessed that they were all either from Ireland or perhaps the UK.

The evening was becoming far more interesting than I had anticipated.

Later, as the others trailed off in conversation and dance, Richard and I found ourselves at a table alone and began to get to know one another. He revealed that he lived on a farm in the Irish countryside that had been in his family since the 1800’s and that he had a university degree in philosophy. What a fascinating combination, I thought. Kant, Hobbes, Plato had been impossible for me to get my head around in my university studies, and farming….well, I had never stepped foot on a real working farm in my life.  He also shared that his star sign was Aquarius, as is mine. I warmed to him. Though I occasionally found it hard to understand his thick Irish brogue, he had no shortage of charming and funny quips, which kept me in stitches all evening long.

At the end of the night, Richard said he would only be in town for a few more days and asked if I would join him for dinner the following evening. Somewhat reluctantly, I agreed. Despite enjoying our lively conversation, I was still not sure if I really wanted to see him again. I wasn’t keen on romance at the time. But, he said “think about it and choose your favorite restaurant,” and suddenly I was torn between fun visions of the best melt-in–your-mouth butterknife steak at kitsch and campy Murray’s or the only authentic spaghetti and meatballs in town washed down with goblets of Barolo at the quiet little trattoria in my neighborhood. We exchanged phone numbers and went our separate ways.

Early the next morning, he texted me to say he was looking forward to our dinner. I panicked. Happily busy with a creative career that kept me constantly working and traveling, I had convinced myself that I had no time or energy to put into developing a rewarding relationship, or was I just simply nervous and unsure of myself? If I knew one thing, it was that I had no designs on dating a farmer from Ireland! Still, Richard was awfully attractive, intelligent, and quite charismatic, so despite my hang–ups, I agreed on the stipulation that my bubbly Aussie friend and her lovely husband would join us. After all, a girl can never be too careful, right?

We met at a quaint new eatery that had been getting excellent reviews. Built into a historic neighborhood bakery, the space was intimate and filled to the brim with vintage bistro charm and personality. Looking in from the outside on a brisk winter’s evening you could see tables situated behind spacious steamed-up lead glass windows with enchanted looking people dining together in dim candlelight. The quiet sounds of Chet Baker could be heard under the commotion of lively dinner conversation, the atmosphere was romantic and convivial at once, the best sort of combination.

Richard walked in, all refreshed, pressed and dressed, and I must confess, I felt a twinge of excitement in my tummy when our eyes met. I introduced him to my friends, and the conversation, laughter, and Burgundy flowed all night long.

The food was sensational. We both ordered coq au vin, which was so rich and tender that I may have actually been able to eat it with a dessert spoon. For our final course, an unforgettable chocolate fondant with a lavender-laced molten center that took my breath away. I will never forget the perma-grin I was sporting from ear to ear all evening.

At the end of the meal, Richard excused himself and discreetly paid the entire bill. Clearly chivalry was not dead to him, but I insisted on chipping in as well. Later that evening he told me that it was his birthday. I marveled at his level of modesty, as such information would have certainly been divulged during dinner had it been my birthday.

I wondered, could he be for real?

After we said goodnight, I turned the events of the evening in my head over and over. I came to the conclusion that being selfless and humble is absolutely alluring. Not all, but plenty of men that had previously come into my life were far more preoccupied with their own interests and never seemed to cease speaking in a certain style of egoistic banter; a personality trait that Richard McDonnell did not seem to possess.

Richard was planning to return to Ireland on Valentine’s Day and inquired,

“So, tell me, who will be your Valentine this year?”

…to which I demurely replied,

“why, my father, of course”.

When I arrived at my office on the morning of his departure, I was greeted with an enormous basket of beautiful flowers and a card that read,

“Well, you’re my Valentine”.

I was hooked.

That romantic gesture launched over a year of transatlantic dating romance, the requisite meeting of the families, (my father gave his blessing the minute he realized I couldn’t stop “smiling like a Cheshire Cat” whenever we were together), and hopping around to holiday spots together as I traveled on production business overseas. Soon, we knew that we wanted to spend more time together on a permanent basis, which was a glorious notion, except this meant one of us would have to uproot and relocate.

We were two people who had fallen hopelessly in love who had to make a choice, which wasn’t going to be easy. I knew that Richard wasn’t in a position to “relocate” his family farm, and my work was seemingly more flexible, but I couldn’t be sure.

Finally, I decided brazenness could pay off; I took the risk and leaped!



Rich Chocolate Buttermilk Cake
Over the years, I have come to the realisation that a farmer’s affinity for chocolate could quite simply be attributed to energy-craving exhaustion. Nevertheless, it is a family favorite so I decided early on that I would have to perfect a chocolate cake that the whole farm would love. I wanted to create a creamy, mellow, super moist chocolate-y-but-not-overpoweringly-so chocolate layer cake. The test was on. I started with a sour cream chocolate cake, then tried crème fraîche, and even tried cream cheese. While a couple of those tasted very nice, not until I incorporated buttermilk did I discover the ideal formula. This is a rich, dense, somewhat tangy cake with a super-buttery chocolate buttercream icing and creamy deep chocolate ganache. It is well suited for chocolate loving family and friends, yet still a treat for those who claim they aren’t crazy for chocolate. Make this decadent cake for Valentine’s Day, I swear it is totally tastes like love
Makes one 9” layer cake
For the Cake
1¾ cups (218g) all-purpose flour
2 cups (400g) granulated white sugar
¾ cup (90g) unsweetened cocoa powder
1½ tsp baking soda
¾ teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1 cup (237ml) buttermilk
½ cup (113g) butter, melted
1 tbsp vanilla extract
1 cup (237ml) hot coffee (or 2 tsp instant coffee in 1 cup boiling water)
For the chocolate filling:
7 oz (200g) dark chocolate (70 percent cocoa solids or more), chopped
2 sticks + 1 tablespoon (17 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened
4 egg yolks
1 1/4 cups (156g) confectioner’s sugar, sifted
For the chocolate ganache:
5 oz (140g) dark chocolate (about 52 percent cocoa solids), chopped
1 1/4 cups (300ml) heavy cream
To decorate:
Chocolate curls
Unsweetened cocoa powder and confectioner’s sugar, to dust.
Bake the cake:
Preheat oven to 350f/175c degrees. Grease and flour two 9-inch baking pans and line with parchment paper circles. Set aside.
In the large bowl of a standing mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, mix together flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, and salt. Add eggs, buttermilk, melted butter and vanilla extract and beat until smooth (about 3 minutes). Remove bowl from mixer and stir in hot coffee. The batter will be runny.
Divide batter evenly between the two pans and bake on middle rack of oven for about 35 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.
Allow to cool 15 minutes in pans, then run a butter knife around the edges of each cake. Pop out and allow to cool on wire cooling rack.
To make the filling:
Melt the chocolate in a bain marie or a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of hot water. Set aside to cool slightly. In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter in standing mixer for at least 10 minutes at high speed, until pale and fluffy. Add the egg yolks and confectioner’s sugar and beat vigorously for another 5 minutes. Once the butter mixture is thoroughly mixed, remove 2 tablespoons and stir it into the cooled, melted chocolate. Then slowly pour the melted chocolate down the side of the mixing bowl (to prevent egg mixture from scrambling) into the butter mixture and fold it in quickly and gently until fully combined and smooth.
To make the ganache
Once the cakes are cooled, you can start making the chocolate ganache. Put the chocolate in a large bowl. Heat the cream to boiling point, then pour it over the chocolate, and stir until it melts. Set aside to cool. With a hand mixer, beat the cooled chocolate cream until it barely forms soft peaks, making sure not to overbeat it, or it will become too stiff to spread.
To assemble the cake
Split the cakes in half horizontally with a sharp serrated knife. Spread the chocolate filling onto each layer and sandwich the layers together. Frost the cake with the chocolate ganache and decorate with chocolate curls, if you wish.


Slan Abhaile & Happy Valentine’s Day!

Imen x

Cake & farm photos by Imen McDonnell, styling by Sonia Mulford-Chaverri. 


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Banoffee Crepe Cake

09 Feb 2016

I am delighted to announce the five recipients of my upcoming book, The Farmette Cookbook, Recipes and Adventures from My Life on an Irish Farm: Debra Dorn, Jen Kohan, Martha Bernie, Emily Grace & Sally Savage. Thank you all for your lovely comfort food comments, I had so much fun reading them all! I may be doing another giveaway in March, so stay tuned.

I have also updated my events page with some upcoming book & workshop dates, so please do have a look, we hope to see you around. I will be adding Ireland and UK book event dates very soon, promise!

Now, allow me to introduce this decadent Banoffee crepe cake. Absolutely overly indulgent, somewhat time consuming to prepare, and yet, oh SO necessary on Pancake Tuesday, an Irish holiday for which I am eternally grateful. A celebration that never fails to warm my heart and tickle my tastebuds. This recipe makes the perfect pan(cake) to be enjoyed with family and friends gathered around our table. I hope you enjoy it too.

Banoffee Crepe Cake
Serves 10
Makes about 20 crepes (depending on thickness and diameter)
1 cup plain all purpose flour
¼ teaspoon salt
6 eggs
3/4 litre/21 fl ozs milk
Butter for frying
350ml/12 ozs caramel, toffee, or milk jam
1 tablespoons rum (optional)
300ml/10 fl ozs. heavy dairy cream
½ tsp vanilla extract
3 ripe bananas, sliced into coins
For the crepes:
Combine the flour and salt in a large mixing bowl. In a large bowl with a spout whisk the eggs and milk together until combined. Make a well in the center of the flour and salt mixture and gradually whisk the egg and milk mixture into the flour until thoroughly mixed.
Heat a frying pan on low to medium heat and add a little butter to the pan. Pour a ladle full of batter to cover the bottom of the pan. Don’t get anxious if there are holes or your crepes aren’t perfect-they stack on top of each other. When one crepe side is cooked, gently flip it over. Stack the crepes on top of each other. Cover and cool completely.
Whip the cream and vanilla until stiff peaks form and set aside.
Loosen the caramel with the rum or with a little of the cream if it is too stiff until it is a spreadable consistency.
Spread one crepe with the caramel and then place another on top and place banana slices on top, place another crepe on top and spread that with the whipped cream, and keep alternating until you are on your last crepe.
Scullery notes: you can make the crepes up to two days in advance, or you can buy pre-made crepes if you are short on time.

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Slan Abhaile,

Photos and styling by Imen McDonnell 2016. 


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