Holiday 2016

22 Nov 2016

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Given the state of things, I’ve decided to make a fist of it and dive straight right into holiday mode. Can you hear those jingle bells a-jangling? Me either, but we are going to get there people! For the first time ever, I am going to offer one of those clever little gift guides that I say I am going to do every year and never get around to actually putting together….nothing too elaborate, just a few of my favourite things from Ireland and abroad that might make terrific holiday pressies and put smiles on the faces of those you love. Because we could all do with some smiley faces, right? So, fix yourself a cup of tea (or, something a little stronger) and have a lovely little browse. I will have an exciting update on our #ShePlantedASeed project on my next post.

Of course, at the top of the list is a personalised & signed copy of my book, The Farmette Cookbook, Recipes and Adventures from My Life on an Irish Farm, I mean I have to take this opportunity for a bit of shameless self-promotion, right? But, I have SO many other goodies to share, none of which are sponsored (but, there is nothing wrong with sponsoring a brand that you love!) and all of which are honest suggestions that I have tried myself and highly recommend. For those that know me, I can get a wee bit carried away about new products and bits that I cherish, but it always comes from the heart, promise!

So without further ado,

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The Farmette Cookbook Recipes and Adventures from my Life on an Irish Farm. Signed by yours truly. Add on a fabulous Modern Farmette Butter-Making Kit or DIY Cheesemaking Kit if you fancy, for a total 50 euros + shipping. Email me: imenmcdonnell@gmail.com for ordering details.

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What a few amazing ladies had to say about my book (Well, I’ll be!)…..

“A joyful celebration of life on an Irish farm.  A super, chic book written with the appreciative eye of an outsider who reminds us of the sheer pleasure of living on a dairy farm. Rearing a few table fowl, planting a vegetable garden and an orchard, rediscovering the satisfaction of using home-grown Irish produce to make truly delicious and creative food for family and friends.”—Darina Allen

“Imen takes traditional Irish cooking to the next level with her American curiosity and ingenuity. She weaves big city cravings, like potstickers, tacos, banh mi, harissa, pizza, and more, with traditional comfort food made from scratch. Imen’s brave leap of faith and love is a boon for the rest of us: we now have this charming book full of stories and recipes I can’t wait to make.”—Susan Spungen, founding food editor of Martha Stewart Living

“There is magic in Imen McDonnell’s new book, and in her story. Her dedication to uncovering Ireland’s rich food culture and cultivating her own shines through. You’ll want to dive right in, start cooking, and build your own fairy tale.”—Sarah Copeland, author of Feast and former Food Director, Real Simple Magazine

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Reclaimed Iron Cooking Tripod.

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Reclaimed Iron Cooking Tripod crafted here at the farm. 4 ft – 6ft (adjustable) sizes. Ireland delivery only. 100 euros. Email imenmcdonnell@gmail.com for ordering details. (photo credit: Doreen Kilfeather)

  • Sturdy three leg design for stability
  • “S” hook with chain for adjustable height. 
  • Heavy duty reclaimed iron construction
  • Holds Dutch ovens, coffee pots, tea pots, etc
  • Works well to hang lanterns, water Jugs etc too
  • Perfect for hanging Dutch ovens, tea pots, coffee pots ect. over a cooking fire

 

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Honestly ladies, these are like the UGGS of Wellie boots. The AIGLE Juliette. Super hard wearing and immensely comfortable. I could seriously wear these all day, in the house and on the farm, they literally feel like slippers! For ages my friend Ella McSweeney of Ear To The Ground urged me to buy AIGLE boots, and I just finally took the plunge before our last Lens & Larder event at Ballyfin. They also have tall boots and loads of other styles to choose from, so I am kitting out the boys with AIGLES for Christmas too!

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Orwell & Browne Donegal Tweed Dickie Bows and Notebooks. I got hooked on this brand a couple of years ago, and now I have everyone who comes within a two mile radius of the farm adorned with tweed bow ties. Exceptional quality and super lovely folks behind the brand. Also, apparently they ship free everywhere in the world!

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America Village Apothecary. Don’t let the name fool you, this brand is 100% Irish. My friend and frequent collaborator, Claire Davey, lives in a place called America Village, County Galway, Ireland. She makes unique syrups, tinctures and bitters for creating craft beverages or for use with food using unique locally foraged flavours, carefully sourced ingredients, paying attention to every last detail. I recently tried Claire’s tonic syrup, must admit that adding another step to my gin and tonic seemed rather inconvenient in theory, but after stirring up this elixir, I will never go back to store-bought tonics! Wow, what a flavour sensation and just pure, true beauty in a bottle. (and, you can pair it with some of my other gift guide suggestions below)

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holiday-9Bertha’s Revenge Gin. A gin distilled with milk whey named after Ireland’s oldest Kerry cow. Say no more. (other than the fact that the lads who started this brand are absolutely the salt of the earth, gorgeous souls inside and out) The gin is extremely botanical, and not in the usual juniper/pine sense, totally refreshing and completely festive.

 

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Pippa Holt Kaftans. I met the gorgeous Pippa Holt (Roche) last month, a fellow blow-in–from Australia–with a personality as sunny as the South Pacific and an absolute heart of gold. She’s created a line of crazy beautiful kaftans with more to be launched in NYC in spring 2017. Keep your eye on this inspiring woman and her stunning summery pieces!

 

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Some of my favourite food books this year…..

 

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Row 1: The Short Stack Cookbook by Nick Fauchald, Kaitlyn Goolen, and the Short Stack Editions Contributors. French Country Cooking by Mimi Thorisson. Fruit on the Table by Theresa Storey. Row 2: Molly on the Range by Molly Yeh. Recipes From My Mother by Rachel Allen. Small Victories by Julia Turshen. Row 3: EAT. LIVE. GO. by Donal Skehan. Treyf by Elissa Altman. Fishwives by Goatsbridge. Row 4: The Vanilla Bean Baking Book by Sarah Keiffer. The New Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day by Zoe Francois and Jeff Hertzberg . My French Family Table by Beatrice Peltre.

 

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Arran Street East. Simple, functional and beautiful design for your home. Made by hand in the heart of Dublin. In that sea of ceramics on the scene, these pieces are speaking to me the most.  Check out their story and their stunning wares here.

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Seedlip.

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This might be THEE most exciting thing to happen to spirits in my lifetime! I can’t tell you enough how much I adore this incredibly innovative brand which is single-handedly solving the forever dilemma: “what do drink when you’re not drinking.” Seedlip is the world’s first alcohol free distilled spirit. Whoopee! Seriously, the flavour profile is so unique and enticing. My favourite is the Wood-Spice-Citrus which is all earthy and aromatic with notes of allspice, cardamon, grapefruit, oak and lemon. Seedlip is sugar free, sweetener free, has no calories or artificial flavours. Do you need anymore convincing? Wowsers.

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Easy & Oskey DIY Naked Bitters. Bitters in their birthday suit. Let inspiration be your guide as you create your very own flavor masterpiece. Fig, apricot, hops, toasted sesame, allspice, bacon, or any combination your palate longs for…there is simply no limit. I got to collaborate with Erik Eastman one half of Easy & Oskey for one of my book launch events over the summer, totally lovely fella who crafted some downright incredible cocktails using these bitters.

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Created + Found

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My friend Jette Virdi’s exciting new adventure. Jette, a Ballymaloe trained chef and food stylist, has launched a new  online boutique stocked with gorgeous kitchen goods and sundries all hand-crafted in Ireland. Have a look!  Wheeeeee!

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Hedley & Bennett

I don’t think I have ever come across someone with as much enthusiasm and verve for her brand as Ellen Bennett. Ellen, who has been known to fly through the air to announce the arrival of a new apron design, is such a peach in this business of food. Not only does her personality want to make you buy aprons for days, but all of the chef gear is beautiful, well-made and durable, just ask some of America’s top chefs. Whoop whoop Hedley & Bennett!!!

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Heritage Cured Irish Ham

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James Whelan Butchers signature heritage cure Irish ham is truly delicious. Cured on the bone, it has a distinctive flavour with a hint of smoky hickory undertones. This ham is ideal for carving and brings ham to a whole new level. Particularly low in salt, with the bone bringing a certain sweetness to the meat. My longtime friend Pat Whelan is the man behind this award-winning butcher shop which offers online ordering and delivery throughout Ireland and if we are not rearing our own meat for the holidays, he is our go-to supplier.

And, last, but not least…..

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EXPERIENCES.
I want to share some of my favourite things to do in Ireland at the moment, whether it be a place to stay,  shop, eat, an event, workshop, an outdoor pursuit or even a place of worship….as I have always said, there is so much more to Ireland than a pint of Guinness!

Litfest.

Food On The Edge.

Lens & Larder.

The Glucksman for I Went Into the Woods or Gut Instinct.

Cliff of Moher Retreat.

Ballyhoura Trail Riding.

Dzogchen Beara Zen Buddhist Centre.

Glenstal Abbey Conventional Mass. (complete with massive incense & Gregorian chants sung by a choir of monks)

The new and improved 7* Adare Manor (I got a sneak peak and WHOAAAAA! re-opening spring 2017)

Ballyfin Demesne (just named the best hotel in the world by Condé Nast, and just an incredibly warm, private, beautiful place to stay, I recently produced an event there which I will share about soon)

For another taste of Ireland, my friends at Perennial Plate are releasing a series of stunning short films on Irish food and the people and places behind it.

Só Collective.

Forest & Marcy

Heron & Grey

La Cucina Centro (Henry Street, Limerick)

The Mews (closed until spring 2017)

Two Boys Brew

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For Irish New Yorkers, stay tuned for the next Fare Plate spring 2017

There are so many more bits and bobs that I would like to mention, and I may continue in a future post (also, if you feel I have missed something, please do share in the comments below), but for now I hope you enjoyed this little slice of gift giving ideas!

Hope & peace to all.

Slan Abhaile,

Imen xx

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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She Planted A Seed

15 Nov 2016

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She planted a seed.

And, it will grow.

If you are like me, you may have spent the last week trying to make sense of how America elected someone like Donald Trump to its highest office. He was not elected to mayor, not appointed to be an aide or a local ombudsman (no offense to any those positions). He was elected to the presidency of the United States of America, arguably the most powerful country in the free world.

This was a candidate with a reality show resumé and a mouth as raunchy as a 1980’s high school locker room after football practice on a Tuesday night. This is a grown man who mocked a disabled person at a campaign event. And, this is now a president who has the KKK staging rallies of celebration for his triumph. We are living in scary times people. Batten down the hatches.

Even if you didn’t care for Hillary, the truth is, she has spent her entire adult life fighting for human rights, and was the most qualified person for the job on that ballot. She should have won. Yes, she was victorious with the popular vote, and I’m not gonna downplay how much solace I take in this. (to the tractor drivers on the our country roads: No, that bumper sticker is not coming off anytime soon!), but unless something changes, I don’t have the Madame President I was hoping for, and whom we were led to believe by the media would be shattering that glass ceiling in New York’s Javits Center last Tuesday night.

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But, back to trying to make sense of things. Trying to assess feelings. I’ve been on a rollercoaster of emotions, frankly. Worse than any hormone jag I’ve ever experienced. Firstly, this really does bite. Like when someone you love dies and there is nothing you can do about it except accept it as fact, grieve your loss, and gradually go on with your life. I am grieving. I can’t cook or bake and have no appetite, which, as I try to squeeze into my denims from last winter, would customarily be welcomed. My son and my Irish family and friends want answers that I do not have. They are absolutely stunned too. For Ireland, as with many countries in the world, America symbolises greatness and garners a great deal of respect–in large part due to its cultural diversity. It is a country that is stronger together. Even though I do not currently live in the USA, I am a proud dual citizen of America and Ireland. I have voted in every US election since moving to Ireland, and we still spend a fair bit of time in the states. Our son also has dual citizenship. I love my home country. And, I am heartbroken over the outcome of the election.

I’ve been trying to distract myself with everything from taking more time to work the fields of the farm, to going completely mad and trying out extreme sports  (hilarious, but highly recommended!)

Despite my anguish, I still feel uplifted by Hillary’s hard-fought, very significant campaign. It was not for nothing! I also feel strengthened and inspired to #liveuptomygodgivenpotential, and spurred on by the powerful words of her concession speech,

“Because, you know, I believe we are stronger together and we will go forward together. And you should never, ever regret fighting for that. You know, scripture tells us, let us not grow weary of doing good, for in good season we shall reap. My friends, let us have faith in each other, let us not grow weary and lose heart, for there are more seasons to come and there is more work to do.”

There IS more work to do. We must pick ourselves up. Which is why I have decided today, that I will plant a massive victory garden* in Hillary’s honour. Growing food gives me tremendous pleasure, beats any anti-anxiety remedy by a longshot, and takes me out of my head. I’m not a master like my friend Dermot, but I do have a bit of a green finger. The best bit is that when you sow a seed, watch it grow, and then harvest your abundance, it is an act of compassion that never fails to provide hope, joy, and wellness in your life.

So, together with my family we are breaking ground on a ½ acre allotment on the farm and planting seeds this week. I’m calling it my Hillary Garden. Never mind that it’s not the season for planting, there are plenty of overwintering vegetables with our name on them (along with a few flower bulbs too). We’ve got work to do and we will build on what we already have, and grow more and more.

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Will you join me and #growitforward by planting your own seeds (even sprout or herb seeds on your window sill!)? Or, by leaving your name below and we will plant a seed for you in Ireland? (you are welcome to come visit anytime and do some weeding  too!) As the weeks, months and seasons go on, I will be documenting and sharing our progress on this blog and on social media, and hope you will too. If we all use the hashtag #sheplantedaseed #growitforward #hillarygardenwe can see and support eachother’s growth.

She planted a seed.

And, we will harvest it.

Because when they go low,

We GROW.

*Victory gardens were vegetable, fruit, and herb gardens planted at private residences and public parks in the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and Germany during World War I and World War II. Besides indirectly aiding the war effort, these gardens were also considered a civilmorale booster” in that gardeners could feel empowered by their contribution of labor and rewarded by the produce grown.

Slan Abhaile,

Imen

 

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Orchard Jam Doughnuts

03 Sep 2016

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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,

Imen

Photos & Styling by Imen McDonnell 2016

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Smoke | Fire | Feast

03 Aug 2016

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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.

FOR MORE INFORMATION AND TO REGISTER, PLEASE EMAIL: LENSANDLARDER@GMAIL.COM

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,
Imen
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Lamb & Lentil Salad

18 Jul 2016

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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,

Imen

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.

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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.

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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.

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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,

Imen

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

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kneecaps
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.

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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.

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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!!!

 

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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,

Imen

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