risotto

I was fortunate enough to have my very first bowl of velvety, golden risotto one late Milanese night at a classic trattoria hidden on a quiet alley in the Navigli neighborhood of the city. My Barolo tinted memory believes it was called Alzaia, but I could certainly be mistaken. This risotto indoctrination occurred when I was already in the third decade of my life, but better late than never, right? I’d travelled to Italy and Switzerland on production for an international beauty/skincare brand tv shoot, and the local crew arranged all the best places for us to eat/drink/stay…to say it was a remarkable career expedition, would be a gross understatement.

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Fast forward to life in Ireland with risotto. That same sort of lush, saffron-tinged risotto, only now embellished with gorgeous, wild Irish mussels. It might not be Milan, but the combination is equally as spellbinding.

As I mentioned in my previous post, I am partnering with Bord Bia (the Irish Food Board) to celebrate all things mussels for the month of June. The #flexyourmussels campaign is underway to encourage more Irish consumers to cook and enjoy mussels at home and to consider ordering mussels when dining out too. Irish mussels are easy to prepare, high in 
protein and iron, are great value (at roughly 5 euros per kg), and packed full of flavour. You can check out Bord Bia’s “How to Prepare Mussels” video and more recipe inspo here.

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To create the best risotto, it is important to use the correct rice. Carnaroli, Arborio and Risotto Rice are the easiest to source and will all give you a great result.

Risotto with Fresh Mussels
Serves 4
Time: 40 minutes
INGREDIENTS
1kg mussels, scrubbed and de-bearded
100ml white wine
150ml cold water
2 tablesp. extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for serving
1 small fennel bulb, trimmed and finely chopped
1 medium onion, finely chopped
300g carnaroli/Arborio/risotto rice
3 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
A large pinch saffron strands, soaked in 1 tablesp. boiling water
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
25g butter
1 tablesp. dill roughly chopped (reserve a few fronds to garnish)
To serve: A lightly dressed green salad
METHOD
1. Place the wine and 150ml cold water in a large saucepan and bring to the boil. Add the mussels, cover and cook for 4 to 5 minutes, shaking the saucepan a few times until the mussels have opened. Drain the mussels and reserve the cooking liquid. Discard any mussels that have not opened.
2. Remove most of the mussels from their shells, reserving about 20 in their shells for the top of the cooked dish.
3. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a heavy-based saucepan over a medium heat.  Add the fennel and onion and cook for 5 minutes until softened but not browned. Add the rice to the onion and fennel mixture and stir to coat with oil. Add the garlic and saffron and stir well.
4. Measure the reserved cooking liquid and add enough water to bring it up to 900mls.  Start adding the liquid, a little at a time, while stirring all the time. Wait until each addition of liquid has evaporated before adding more.  Keep going until all but a spoonful remains. Season to taste, then turn off the heat. Add the mussels and butter, stir, then cover with a lid for 5 minutes. Add the remaining tablespoon of cooking liquid, leaving any grit behind and fold in the chopped dill.
5. Divide the mussel risotto among 4 warmed bowls and top with the reserved mussels in their shells. Garnish with a few extra fronds of dill. Serve with a green salad.

NUTRITIONAL ANALYSIS PER SERVING:
Energy:             462kcal
Protein:            15g
Fat:                      23g
Iron:                 4.2mg
Carbohydrate:  59g

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Flex Your Mussels

02 Jun 2018

IMG_1700 (1)Truth be told, mussel eating didn’t come all that easy to me. After reading Anthony Bourdain’s excerpt on mussels in restaurant kitchens in his book Kitchen Confidential, I became preposterously paranoid about these wild bivalves and would spend an inordinate amount of time questioning wait staff in restaurants about the freshness and sourcing of their shellfish. Even after deciding to place an order, I still inspected platters of moules-frites like some sort of maniac (less than a satisfying experience indeed!)
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But, I am here to tell you that the mussels of Ireland changed my mind. When I moved from the USA to this craggy isle and discovered that it was possible to literally harvest live mussels from tide pools on the beach just thirty minutes from our farm, the switch flipped. The only thing between me and my harvested wild mussels was a pail, a splash of salt water, and fresh seaweed to transport the precious commodities home. I mean, mussel harvesting = Next LEVEL, right? That alone was exciting enough to get me hooked. Now, I cook with mussels quite frequently and everyone in our family loves them– though I usually go to my local fishmonger to buy them as they are great value and I am usually in a pinch to save time.

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This month I am partnering with Bord Bia (The Irish Food Board) for their #flexyourmussels campaign which is underway to encourage more Irish consumers to cook and enjoy mussels at home and to consider ordering mussels when dining out too. Irish mussels are easy to prepare, high in 
protein and iron, are great value (at roughly 5 euros per kg), and packed full of flavour. You can check out Bord Bia’s “How to Prepare Mussels” video and more recipe inspo here.

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I will be posting a second recipe mid June, but here’s one of my favourites. A bit of a spin on vongole, using mussels instead of clams.

Enjoy!

LINGUINE WITH MUSSELS AND HAKE
A delicious and simple recipe.  If you would like to change it up, try adding some uncooked prawns instead of the hake.
Serves 4
Time: 20 minutes
INGREDIENTS
1kg large mussels, scrubbed and de-bearded
200g hake, skinned and boned
1 shallot, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
120ml white wine
250ml cream
300g linguine
20g fresh parmesan cheese, grated
1 tablesp. capers
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tablesp. fresh parsley, basil or dill
To serve: Tomato and red onion salad
METHOD
Place the shallot, garlic and white wine in a large saucepan and bring to the boil.  Add the mussels, cover and cook for 4 to 5 minutes, shaking the pan a few times until the mussels have opened. Remove the mussels from the saucepan and discard any that have not opened. Reserve the cooking liquid in the saucepan and add in the hake. Cover and cook gently for 3-4 minutes until the hake is just cooked through – don’t allow it to boil. Put a large colander over a bowl and tip the fish into the colander, allowing the liquid to strain into the bowl. Break the hake into chunks.

Meanwhile cook the linguine as per packet instructions. When the pasta is cooked, drain, saving a couple of tablespoons of the cooking liquid. Return the pasta to the saucepan along with the reserved cooking liquid.

Rinse the saucepan the mussels and hake were cooked in, then pour the reserved cooking liquid from the bowl back into the saucepan, leaving any fine grit in the bottom of the bowl. Simmer for a minute or two, then pour in the cream and simmer to reduce a little. Add the cheese, stir and allow it to melt. Add the capers and stir through.  Pour the sauce into the sauce pan with the pasta along with the mussels and chunks of hake and mix gently. Return the saucepan to a low heat for a couple of minutes to heat through. Taste and season with a little salt and black pepper.

Divide between 4 pasta plates and sprinkle over the chopped herbs. Serve with a tomato and red onion salad.

NUTRITIONAL ANALYSIS PER SERVING:

Energy:        643kcal

Protein:        27g

Fat:                33g  (Saturated Fat: 17g)

Iron:              4.25mg

Carbohydrate:  58G

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Hope your 2018 is off to a brilliant start?

We’ve loads going on at the farm, as per usual this time of year. Lots of sweet calves and sleepless nights tending to bovine mothers giving birth each evening. I am trying to double up on self-care to stay healthy and AWAKE during this season.

Geoffrey had some major excitement over the last two months as he was asked to give several auditions for MasterChef Junior in Los Angeles. He nervously applied online last October, promptly put it out of his mind thinking it could never happen, and we got the surprise call in early January. In the end, he didn’t make the final cut, but auditioning and cooking on film was a fantastic learning experience for him. Our little farmer has grown into such a passionate little chef these days, he tells everyone that he wants to become a “farmer chef” when he grows up, so we’ll see about that! He might start some supper clubs here this summer and see how he gets on. We sure are very proud of him.

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We are planning our garden for 2018, and I think I have persuaded my friend Dermot Carey to come over and help us reorganise how we grow things here. And, I will be putting my seed order in soon, my favourite part of March. Any suggestions? Open to all! One thing that I looooved growing last year was Shiso leaf, a most incredible flavourful and versatile herb that will be going in again this spring for sure.

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I am super excited to announce a new Lens & Larder (see tab on the sidebar to find out more about the origins of L&L) workshop in April at neighbouring Glin Castle once again. This time an adaptation of our typical food photography and styling retreats; we are working with two extraordinary cookbook authors, Diana Henry and Elissa Altman for a “Literature and Larder” masterclass retreat. These ladies are FIERCE and I can’t wait to spend the weekend with them. Below are more details, if you are interested in coming or would like to share!

 

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Lens & Larder is thrilled to bring an exciting new adaptation of their very popular food photography and styling workshops to Ireland with Literature & Larder, a creative master class experience with a focus on the art of food writing in all forms.

Join James Beard Award-Winning authors Diana Henry and Elissa Altman at historic Glin Castle, home of Catherine FitzGerald and Dominic West, for an intimate weekend of literature and libations, April 13-16th, 2018.

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Workshop participants will explore food writing with an in-depth look at recipe development, food as memoir/essay, creative writing & food journalism, and touch on podcasting/broadcasting as well.

Each guest will participate in group and one-to-one discussions focused on strengthening food writing skills and exploring individual food writing goals. You’ll also gain insider information on the craft of creative food writing, how to write and pitch freelance food stories, and how to grow your platform as a professional food writer.

Literature & Larder will also cover the business side of food publishing and examine cookbook editorial with a panel featuring New York literary agent Sharon Bowers of MBD Literary representing NYC literary agent, Sharon Bowers of MBG Literary (representing acclaimed vegetarian chef and author Deborah Madison, former Chez Panisse exec chef and NYT Best Seller Cal Peternell, James Beard award-winning Amy Chaplin, health & wellness food blogger Sarah Britton of My New Roots, NOMA co-founder Mads Refslund and more) and “Ireland’s Top Cookbook Editor” Kristin Jensen, moderated by myself and Cliodhna Prendergast.

Included in your tuition:  3 nights luxury accommodation at Glin Castle, and meals: 1 welcome drinks reception, 3 dinners including wine and cocktails, 3 full Irish breakfasts, 2 lunches. All food with a focus on locally sourced, artisan ingredients (vegetarian options will be catered for).

Excluded: Travel to Ireland and transportation to Glin Castle; Travel insurance (highly recommended as there will be no refunds for travel changes); Extras

Cost: EUR €2499 per person.

More details and to book: www.lensandlarder.com or email me at lensandlarder@gmail.com.

 

I’ve been working on the most sensational carrot cake recipe for spring that I will be sharing in my next blog post.

Until then,

Slan Abhaile,

Imen x

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Where does the time go?

So much happening in our world at large and here with our family at the farm in Ireland and in America, it’s been hard for me to keep up with posts, although I do have heaps of updates coming and a special round up of blog recipes for the holidays (is it really that time of year?!) You can also find some recipes from me in the Irish Independent Sunday Mag as well as in the upcoming Irish Times Holiday Weekend Magazine.

Right now, I am in full production mode for our next Lens & Larder retreat, happening just down from us at the stunning Glin Castle where lies 700 years of Irish history. We still have a couple of very special openings on the workshop, so if you are interested please leave a comment or email me on lensandlarder@gmail.com.

Here are the details-

We are delighted to announce our next Lens & Larder retreat, An Irish Country Affair: Glin Castle, October 28-31st, 2017.  Please join us at one of Ireland’s most historic castles on the banks of the River Shannon for an enchanting autumn weekend to celebrate cooking, photography, and country pursuits with a special nod to Samhain, the ancient Celtic tradition of Halloween, which originated in Ireland in the 9th century.

At the helm of Lens & Larder: An Irish Country Affair will be Mimi and Oddur Thorisson, the internationally acclaimed food writing and photography team behind the award-winning food blog, Manger, and best-selling books, A Kitchen in France, A Year of Cooking (2014) and French Country Cooking (2016) published by Clarkson-Potter. Mimi and Oddur live in Médoc, France with their 8 children and 9 dogs. Together they host wildly popular cooking and photography workshops in their home and the surrounding wine country. Both Oddur and Mimi are contributing editors to Condé Nast Traveler, and their work has featured in Vanity FairNew York Times,Vogue MagazineThe Wall Street JournalHouse & Garden, Bon Appetit and more.

Lens & Larder is positively tickled to marry Mimi and Oddur’s classic country house cooking and visual aesthetic with the noble history and sensational style of Glin Castle for an unforgettable weekend of visual learning, cooking lessons, magic and mirth.

Over the course of three nights, student guests will experience cooking and demos with a bounty of indigenous and seasonal Irish ingredients, traditional music, an autumnal garden walk and history talk with renowned landscape architect and daughter of the Knight of Glin,  and welcome cocktails with her husband, actor, Dominic West; an authentic pub dinner at the charming O’Shaughnessy’s of Glin, afternoon tea in the castle, an Irish Harriers Hunt, and will finish with Mimi’s magnificent masquerade Sahmain farewell feast. All the time honing and developing the skills to capture this story in camera as it beautifully unfolds.

Glin Castle is not a hotel, but a magnificent, privately-owned property. Home to the late Knight of Glin and the Fitzgerald Family and located in Glin, County Limerick, one hour from Shannon Airport. Spaces are limited to 14 as we fill the castle and create our own spellbinding weekend in this historical gem in the Southwest of Ireland.

2480 euros per person. Includes: Private Ensuite Room, Cookery and Photography Lessons, Welcome Reception with Champagne and Oysters, Welcome Three-Course Dinner, 3 Irish Breakfasts, 1 Hunter’s Lunch, 1 Afternoon Tea (working lunch with sandwiches), 1 Pub Supper, 1 Masquerade Farewell Feast, Wine and Beverages with Meals, and Heaps of Hospitality!

80% due on booking and 20% upon arrival at Glin Castle.

PLEASE EMAIL: LENSANDLARDER@GMAIL.COM TO REGISTER. 

Mimi Thorisson is the author of Manger, a blog devoted to French cooking that was named “Saveur’s Best Regional Food Blog” in April 2013. Her best-selling cookbooks, ‘A Kitchen in France’, October 2014, and French Country Cooking published by Clarkson-Potter have been translated in many different languages. After a career in television and having lived in Hong Kong, London, Singapore, Reykjavik and Paris, she settled with her photographer husband, Oddur, their 7 children and 10 dogs in the Médoc, South of France. She is the star of Canal+ cooking shows “La Table de Mimi” and “Les desserts de Mimi” in France.

Oddur Thorisson is an Icelandic photographer. He started his career as an art director and worked his way into photography often combining the two. He has worked for countless companies and organisations and been involved in various magazines and publishing projects like Condé Nast Traveler, Elle, Vogue, Bon Appétit, Wall Street Journal, Food and Wine to name a few. He lives with his wife Mimi, 8 children and 9 dogs in the Médoc, South of France.

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Slan Abhaile,

Imen

Photos by Imen McDonnell, Oddur Thorisson and James Merrell.

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I am back with one more succulent and simple lamb recipe, because, well, you can never have too many lamb recipes in your arsenal of home cooking ideas, right?

This is a straightforward (yet smashing!) recipe; the most difficult thing is that you may need to call your butcher ahead of time and order the shanks (make sure they trim them for you too), but otherwise it’s a matter of preparing a trouble-free marinade, quickly slicing the vegetables, popping all the ingredients in a pan and boom! straight into the oven. Set the timer and go do the homework with the children or milk the cows, whatever tickles your fancy, and before you know it, you’ll have a gorgeous, robust lamb entree bursting with the rich flavours of subtly smoked paprika, orange, sherry vinegar, sweet potato, and herbs to serve for supper. You could also pop all the ingredients into a slow cooker in the afternoon and by the time the kids get hungry, it’s ready to go.

These lamb shanks are perfect for the coming autumn weather and even more enjoyable with a group of friends gathered around the table.

Tasty. Easy. Lamb. 

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Give your everyday meals an exciting twist and check out www.tastyeasylamb.ie for more recipe inspiration.

Lamb Shanks with Spanish Paprika & Sweet Potatoes
Preparation time: 15 mins
Cooking time: 1 h 20 mins to 1 hr 30 mins
Ingredients for 4 people

4 lamb shanks
1 tablesp. Spanish paprika
6 tablesp. olive oil
6 tablesp. Xerès (sherry) vinegar
1 heaped tablesp. dried oregano
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
150 ml fresh orange juice
500g sweet potato
500g firm-fleshed potatoesInstructions
Pre-heat the oven to Gas Mark 4, 180°C (350°F).
Combine the paprika with 1 tablespoon oil, then add the rest of the oil, vinegar, oregano,salt, pepper and orange juice.
Method
Wash the sweet potato and potatoes well. Cut the sweet potato into thick rounds and the potatoes in half. Spread them out in a large oven dish and add the lamb shanks. Brush them all with half the marinade.
Cook in the oven for 1 h 20 minutes to 1 h 30 minutes, depending on the size of the shanks. During cooking, turn the shanks several times and brush with the remaining marinade.
Serve hot accompanied by a salad.
Tip: you can intensify the orange flavour by adding 1 level tablespoon of grated zest to the marinade.

Slan Abhaile,
Imen

This post was sponsored by Tasty, Easy, Lamb, but #spon or no #spon I firmly stand behind cooking with lamb, it’s a huge hit in our house!

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It’s the time of year again, when I find myself shouting about the star factor of luscious lamb from thatched cottage rooftops and castle ruins. The good news is that my friends at Lamb – Tasty, Easy, Fun have given me a few lovely lamb recipes to try out like they graciously did last summer as well.

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For me, not much else beats the flavour of lamb. Whether in a traditional stew or combined with exotic spices and flavours, lamb is the perfect hero ingredient for everyday meals, whether you’re flying solo or cooking for family or friends.

Lamb is super quick and simple to prepare and can be easily transformed for a variety of ethnic cuisines. Versatility baby! From Moroccan lamb tangines (umm, helllooo!) to spicy lamb quesadillas from Mexico; Ceylon lamb curry from Sri Lanka (chomptastic) to Japanese style lamb yakitori (drool), and not least forgetting delicious lamb burgers and kebabs perfect for al fresco dining over the summer – there is something to suit all tastes and every meal occasion.

Give your everyday meals an exciting twist and check out Lamb – Tasty, Easy, Fun  www.tastyeasylamb.ie for recipe inspiration.

For the first of two lamb recipes I will be posting this month, I have prepared a simple, but incredibly divine, lamb + avocado crostini. Aka, avocado toast with gorgeous spicy grilled lamb.

Crostini with Spiced Lamb & Avocado
Preparation and cooking time: 20 minutes.
Ingredients for 12 pieces:
150 g lamb stir-fry strips or leg steaks cut into strips
4 tbsp. olive oil
1 level tsp ground cumin
1 level tsp ground coriander
1⁄2 tsp chilli powder
1 ciabatta loaf
1 ripe avocado
1 lime
salt and pepper
fresh chopped coriander
Method
In a medium size bowl mix together 2 tbsp. olive oil, the cumin, ground coriander and chilli powder. Add in the lamb and stir to coat the lamb with the spice mixture. Then cover and leave to rest at room temperature.
Cut the ciabatta into 12 medium diagonal slices. Lightly coat with olive oil on both sides. Toast under the grill or on a grill pan.
Mash the flesh of the avocado with a fork and add the lime juice (quantity depending on your taste) until it reaches a creamy consistency. Season to taste.
Heat a frying pan and add the meat. Brown the meat on a high heat and season to taste.
Spread the avocado cream on the toasted ciabatta, then add the meat on top and finish witha scattering of the chopped coriander.
Serve as a canapé.
Tip: You can grill the bread in advance as it does not need to be hot. However, you should wait to garnish it until the last minute so it remains crisp.

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Slan Abhaile,
Imen

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Blimey. It’s been ages since I last wrote.

Wait a minute, can I even say Blimey?

How about Crikey? Have I been here long enough to warrant the use of such wackadoodle colloquialisms? I realise we are in Ireland, not England (or Australia for that matter), but folks here are constantly uttering the likes of blimey, and crikey and other funny expletives that I never, EVER would have imagined spewing out of my own mouth like I do now. I also say things like GARE-EDGE (Garage) and toilet instead of bathroom (Ewwww) too.

God help me.

Lo and behold, it looks like my last post was a potato post too. Sorry. But, this is Ireland, right? Spuds are a staple. Plus, since it’s time to dig up some new season potatoes, so why not slice them up and make a pizza out of them while you’re at it? I knew you’d agree.

So, Potato.ie and Lovepotatoes.co.uk are doing a fun campaign called Potatoes: More Than A Bit On the Side, and they reached out to ask if I’d want to develop a recipe for it. Clearly, they did not realise that I am essentially the Potato Queen of Kilcolman.

It went like this…

#TastyPotatoes: Hi Imen, want to do a potato recipe for us?

Me: (3 cartwheels and a herkie later) Are you kidding, I’d love to! I love spuds!

#TastyPotatoes: Great, thanks!

Me: I’ll be perfect, I even have a whole chapter in my book dedicated to the art of potatoes, I loooove potato pancakes, lefse, latkes, potato bread……

#TastyPotatoes: Fantastic, thank you!

Me: Did I tell you how much I love potatoes?! (round-off into the splits)

#TastyPotatoes: Okay, we will be back in touch.

Me: Omg wait! potato pizza!!!

#TastyPotatoes: Talk soon.

Me: …..Roasted potatoes………colcannon…..tatties….ahhhhh (back flip, Can-Can)

Here’s what I came up with: a recipe inspired by an unforgettable pizza with a layered potato “crust” we experienced at Blue Hill at Stone Barns in New York last year that Geoffrey has been begging me to try and recreate in our kitchen ever since. We improvised on how to create the crust and you can go crazy with any combination of toppings, we love this little mash-up, and looking forward to our next experiment too.

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I hope you will love it as much as we do!

Potato Crusted Pizza with Gruyère, Carmelised Onion, Rosemary & Thyme
Serves 4-6
The potato crust is the star of this crispy, savoury pizza that is super easy to prepare, gluten-free and delicious.
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Yield: 1 (12-inch) pizza

Ingredients:
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly-cracked black pepper
4 tablespoons cornstarch
1 1/2 pounds waxy, round potatoes (about 4 medium), scrubbed
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
40ml beef, chicken or vegetable broth
250g gruyere cheese, shredded
125g prepared caramelised onions (here’s a great technique)
Sprigs of fresh rosemary and thyme

Method
Preheat oven to 200 degrees C.

In a small bowl, stir together the salt, pepper, and cornstarch; set aside.

Using a food processor or mandoline, slice potatoes very thinly and place them in a large mixing bowl.

Sprinkle half of the cornstarch mixture over the potato slices; toss the potatoes, then sprinkle them with the remaining cornstarch mixture, and toss again.

Brush 1 tablespoon of the olive oil over a 12-inch round pizza pan or pizza stone covered with parchment paper.

Layer the potatoes, overlapping the slices in concentric circles. Sprinkle the potatoes with the broth, brush them with the remaining oil, then press the potatoes down firmly with your clean hands to compact them into a crust.

Move the oven rack to its lowest position, and bake the potato crust for 20 to 30 minutes or until edges are browned and potatoes are tender.

Remove the potato crust from the oven and spread the carmelised onions, gruyere and herbs over the potatoes.  Return the pizza to the oven for another 10 minutes, or until cheese is softened and the pizza is heated through.  Remove from the oven and cut into wedges and devour.

Slan Abhaile,

Imen

 

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Boxty

28 Feb 2017

Boxty

Boxty on the griddle
Boxty in the pan
If you can’t make Boxty
You’ll never get a man

That is a traditional Irish rhyme that would NOT go over well in 2017, but it’s Pancake Tuesday and I’m in the mood for a savoury griddle cake so I guess I’ll let it slide.

Boxty, occasionally spelled “boxdy,” is basically a potato cake, eaten mostly in the north of Ireland, especially in counties Cavan, Fermanagh, Derry, and Tyrone. Boxty vies with champ and colcannon as Ireland’s best-known potato dish. It may have originated in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, when potato harvests began to fail, as a way of using poor-quality potatoes that were deemed useless for boiling. The potato pulp was shaped into cakes and baked on heated flagstones or a griddle.

This potato cake would have been considered an indulgent dish, and here boxty is a bit of a delicacy on the farm simply because it takes some time to prepare. Serve it on a cold winter evening; it’s wonderful with a bit of homemade crème fraîche and preserved apple sauce from the orchard.

Boxty
Serves 4
6 medium potatoes
1⁄4 cup white AP flour
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 tablespoon butter (or sunflower oil)
Fresh herbs, chopped, for garnish

Peel the potatoes. Line a colander with cheesecloth and place over a large mixing bowl. Using a box grater, grate the potatoes into the colander. Gather the corners of the cheesecloth together and squeeze the liquid from the potatoes into the bowl. Put the dry grated potato in another bowl and discard the liquid.

Add the flour and salt to the grated potato and mix gently.

Melt the butter in a heavy iron pan, and pour in the potato mixture to make an even layer, about 3⁄4 to 1 inch thick. Cook over medium heat until nicely brown on one side, about 15 minutes; flip and cook on the other side for another 15 minutes, or until brown. It’s much better to cook the boxty slowly than too fast. It should be crisp and golden on the outside and cooked through on the inside.

Remove from the heat, cut into quarters, and serve.

Scullery Notes: Boxty may be eaten hot or cold and may even be reheated. Top with crème fraîche and applesauce, if you like.

Slan Abhaile,
Imen

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“Food blogging can be a really powerful vehicle for storytelling. And, storytelling is how we make meaning. We can cultivate empathy through story. And, we really need that right now.”

Those are the sage words of Kimberley Hasselbrink from A Year In Food. Kimberley is an incredible cook, author, and photographer whom I have always admired greatly. Now she has created a brilliant advocacy group made up of food bloggers + writers called Food Community Creative Activism in response to the politics currently happening in America, and has now risen to the ranks of sainthood in my book.

Holler.

When Kimberley asked round to see if food bloggers globally would be interested in sharing an immigrant story or a recipe from one of the seven countries listed on the immigration ban recently ordered by President Trump, heaps of us signed up without hesitation.

I realize this is not the sort of topic that I typically share, but I feel it is important as prejudice is something that is very familiar to me, and while I know the safety and security of the USA is crucial, I also think that the decision to put such an order through was done so without thinking about how complex the system is, and how many people and institutions could be affected by such a ban. It now looks like the ban has been lifted by many trial judges in the USA, but it will go to the Supreme Court today for a final decision. Here’s hoping the ruling will be fair and just.

Before I landed in the multicultural cities of Minneapolis, Los Angeles or New York, my life was very different. I was raised in a quiet Midwestern town on the sandy shorelines of Lake Michigan and educated in public schools from elementary through high school in an environment where there was not a whole lot of diversity at the time; the area was largely originally settled by people of eastern/western Europe and Scandinavian descent.

Adopted as an infant, my ancestry is half North African, my birth father being a 1st generation immigrant. My complexion favors this side, which made me one of those people who looked “different” in our locale. I was generally accepted, but also experienced a constant undercurrent of prejudice. These experiences strongly colored my wellbeing growing up, and ever since that period in my life I just can’t bear narrow-mindedness and inequality. And, if there is one thing I know for sure, it is that my heart will always be always filled with empathy for people who are victims of bigotry and bias based on their skin tone or religious beliefs.

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For my #immigrantfoodstories post, I am choosing to share Sharba Libiya. Sharba Libiya or Libyan Soup is Libya’s national dish; equally popular in all regions and in a spoonful sums up all of the absolutely stunning flavours that dominate Libyan cuisine.  This soup is made almost everyday during the fasting month of Ramadan. There are versions that employ chicken or fish, but this is the recipe for classic Sharba Libiya with lamb and dried mint. You can omit the whole spices and still produce a delicious soup, but this is a recipe where more truly is more. I slow-roasted a leg of lamb with a rub of the basic ingredients to use in the stew instead of cooking it in the soup as we have a vegetarian leaning eater in the house, and the soup is sensational without the meat as well.

Sharba Libiya شربة ليبية
Serves 4-6
Ingredients
2 tbsp olive oil
150 grams boneless trimmed lamb
1 onion finely chopped
1 tomato
½ bunch parsley
¼ bunch coriander
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp paprika
½ tsp allspice
Salt and black pepper
A few whole cardamoms, 2 bay leaves and a stick of cinnamon
½ cup orzo
3 tbsps tomato paste
2 tbsps dried mint
6 cups water
lemon slices
Method
Peel and chop tomato finely, chop parsley and coriander finely.
Sauté onion, meat, spices and whole spices (cardamom, bay leaves, cinnamon) in oil for a 3-5 minutes. (the fragrance is beguiling!)
Add tomato and half the amount of fresh herbs and season with salt and pepper, cook covered till tomato is pulpy.
Add tomato paste and a cup of water and cook till meat is tender.
Add remaining water, fresh herbs and orzo and cook till orzo is done. Adjust seasoning.
Add dried mint and serve with slices of lemon.

Scullery Notes: I added an extra 450g tin of chopped tomatoes. It added a bit more zest and made it more stew-like, but it is not necessary and not traditional! Some recipes call for chickpeas, which I have tried and love as well. I topped the soup with fresh mint and lemon zest this time and it was fantastic, but again not traditional! Also, I will often add chopped kale to the soup after the first day of serving (gotta get those greens in!) Start with the basic recipe and have fun from there. 

Here are links to some other blogger friends who posted #immigrantfoodstories

Eat this Poem- Warm Potato Salad with Yogurt Vinaigrette and Lots of Herbs

Honestly Yum- Lu Dan (soy eggs)

Kale & Caramel- Fatteh with Cumin Chickpeas and Tahini Yoghurt

The Year in Food- Winter Squash Fritters

Full-filled- Lahanodolmades- Greel Cabbage Rolls with Avgolemono Sauce

Floating Kitchen- Eetch/Mock Kheyma (Armenian Bulgur, Parsley and Tomato Salad)

Brooklyn Supper- Spelt Crust Apple Pandowdy

Crepes of Wrath- Szarlotka (Polish apple pie)

Slan Abhaile,

Imen McDonnell

 

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Fine Fettle Farm

06 Jan 2017

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January 12, 2017

These last few weeks, I have found myself looking back on my time in Ireland, life on the farm, my relationships with family, friends and food over the years. I’ve always said that I came to this country too early; that I wasn’t ready for full-time Irish farm living, but who would be? By now I’ve probably warn out my welcome, but, hey, I’m not going anywhere.

It was a circuitous road that led me to life in the Irish countryside, but as the years go on, it seems clear that I was perhaps always meant to live with my feet a little closer to the ground, more connected to the land, to grow and nurture and harvest and forage the fruits of the earth like I would a baby, to simply be more present and mindful because that is what truly makes me feel alive.

Don’t get me wrong. City life replete with the convenience of an endless array of drinking holes and restaurants, the seminal scullery of Whole Foods Markets, theatre, music, museums, and body contorting yoga classes on every corner will always be a craving, but I’ve never appreciated all those things more than I do now when it is an occasional occurrence, a half a world away.  #That’s how to feel gratitude. 

Rural living can be very isolating, and as well meaning and loving as my husband is, the growth of the family farm has forced him to not be as present here as he wished he could be over the years. Especially when we first moved into our country home. This blog and all that it has manifested was born out of that solitude. Out of all the changes and adjustments to my life in Ireland, I gotta say that the bits that have been most challenging have been becoming a mother in a foreign country and creating a new vision of my “life’s work” without a social element; without family and friends from America nearby to show me the ropes, provide pep talks and high-fives. (Waaaahhhhh, but thank goodness for social media!) While Richard wholeheartedly supports all of my ideas, it’s been up to me to navigate, put myself out there, carve out a niche for myself, and just get things done. Thank goodness necessity is the mother of invention.  #That’s how to feel pride.

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So, here I am working on an exciting new beginning again. Starting another evolution in farm life from scratch. #That’s how to feel scared and invigorated (and crazy) at once.

Now that Geoffrey is older, he and I can both spend more time on the home farm working. But, we will also start working the land for other projects, and we have an extra special new endeavour to embark upon which needs us. And, it also needs more people than us. And, since we are both people persons, this project means we get to invite people over to play. Whooopppppeeeee! #That’s how to feel JOY.

If you’ve been following along with this blog, you may remember a post awhile back where I described a charming little farmstead which is a part of our farm. It was purchased primarily for the land a few years ago and is a listed period property that includes a thatched cottage and a few small stone outbuildings. To others, she is NOT pretty at the moment. But, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and I think she is just divine. Her thatched roof has caved in and the buildings are crumbling, but there is so much soul in this farm.  The townland is called Graigoor, which translates to “the hamlet” in English. Which perfectly suits because it feels like a sweet little settlement when you walk through the gate to see the cottage with a Shamrock over the door, tiny stone sheds, and small parcels of land strung together in the back. #This is reverence

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I’m calling her #Fine Fettle Farm, because being there makes me feel good. (To understand the meaning of the term “fine fettle” read this story) Sure, this is not a totally new concept for me, but, now is the EXACT right time that I should be doing it. It will be a HUGE undertaking. But, I just can’t let it go. It’s calling me. This work is all about feeling alive and connected. Growing food has become one of the most unexpectedly rewarding experiences of my life. I feel completely exhilarated and in my element while sowing, weeding, harvesting, cooking, sharing the bounty, and just plain getting dirty. It is truly a gift.

I’ve always had a soft spot for Graigoor and have been looking into restoration ever since the very first time I first stepped foot in those lovely lush fields crowded by trees dripping in strands of ivy.  After my dear mother-in-law passed away, I got notice that I had been approved for a small amount of funding to begin the restoration process. But, it just wasn’t the right time to dive into such an undertaking when there were so many other changes afoot on the home farm. Now the time is nigh, and I am working with the local Rural Development Programme to hopefully secure more substantial assistance to get my idea off into the ground. Either way (with or without financial assistance) I am taking it forward. #This is how to feel determined 

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The restoration of the cottage and buildings is just a portion of the main objective, which is to develop a thriving CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) programme that will serve those who cannot grow their own and want to partner with a farmer for fresh weekly produce. In addition to growing vegetables, fruits, and herbs, we will offer subscriptions for honey, raw milk, cheese, yoghurt, and foraged edibles such as wild garlic, mushrooms, sloes, blackberries, elderberries, rosehips and whatever else the season and our hedgerows bring. Fine Fettle Farm will operate with the generous help of volunteers and part of the proceeds from each CSA box will go to a revolving charity.

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A secondary goal of Fine Fettle Farm is that it will be a place to maintain physical and mental health while focusing on eating clean, seasonal foods grown and harvested on the farm. All who come to volunteer will be fed nourishing meals and accommodations will be provided if necessary. My hope is that city dwellers from here and abroad will come to lend a hand and experience a bit of bucolic rejuvenation as well. Eventually I’d love to offer workshops and events around food and wellness, but that will be after the buildings have been restored to their former glory and we’re up and running strong.

Wish us luck.

And, please message me if you’d like to get on the volunteer roster. We can’t do this alone!

In Gratitude,

Imen & Geoffrey McDonnell

 

 

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