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Hi.

It’s been awhile.

Lately I feel like my blog is taking a backseat to the easiness of Instagram where I have been documenting much of where our crazy country life circuitously takes us. (For those that aren’t on Instagram, I apologise, but do have a look and not just at my profile, it’s a proverbial rabbit hole of lifestyle and food inspo)

But, as I sit here looking out onto our front garden of verdant green, bearing no sounds other than the call of the wind rustling through the trees, and the singing of cows snacking in our pasture to the right, it sure feels good to be writing.

Something.

Anything.

I have to be honest, writing isn’t coming as easy these days as it used to….perhaps it’s that life has been, well, brimming with life and business, or perhaps that I’ve spent so much time writing my book over the last year and a half, that sometimes the words are just literally not there…they seem to have been used up, putting on a disappearing act, playing a cruel joke on me…..or maybe (gasp) my writing brain is not the lavish bouquet I thought it was? Let’s hope my words have just been on a bit of a hiatus. Taking a beach break in Ibiza. Going on safari. Crossing the Great Wall of China. Going on a long, long Forest Gump-style run?

Gulp.

I know, it’ll be grand*. Before you know it, I’ll be back on a blogging binge. But, I might take the time to ask, what would you prefer? I often feel that subscribing to blogposts + recipes that arrive in my inbox every day or even every week is overload with so much other information that we are taking in….what are your thoughts? How often should a blogger post? Or more specifically, how often do you think I should post?

It’s been a lively few weeks here: we are making some exciting positive changes on the farm which I will share with you soon, our vegetable beds are growing in full force (weeds included, I might add!), I traveled to my old stomping ground of Brooklyn, NY last month for the Saveur Blog Awards as a finalist in the Best Writing Category (irony?). I didn’t win, Molly Wizenberg rightfully took the honour, but I got to meet some of my most favourite + inspiring food bloggers/journalists/photographers who were happily just as amazing in person as they are online: Nik Sharma, Molly Yeh, Phyllis Grant, Marian Bull, Kenzi Wilbur, Yossi Arefi, Linda Xiao, Ted Lee and more. The following day, I hopped around to some of my favourite spots in Manhattan, and then the last night was spent visiting friends Susan Spungen and Steve Kasher over a long, lingering meal at their beautiful Amagansett home.

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New York was utterly brilliant, but I was admittedly quite delighted to be back to the bastian of bucolic society. To a greater extent, I am more and more comfortable on this side of reality. The energy of the city seems to suit better me in teaspoons rather than the heaping cups that used to serve its purpose.

When I returned to the farm, it was straight to work. My first task was to help bring cows to some grazing land a few kilometers away from the main farm. This group of 25 cows will stay on these particular pastures until next December. It will be my job to make sure they have enough grass and water, count them each day, and move them to the next paddock of grass when needed (about every 3 days.)

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My next assignment was a wee bit more enchanting, although I still got to wear my wellies. I was contacted by Nathalie Marquez-Courtney, the young, intrepid editor from Image Interiors and Living, who rang up to see if I would be interesting in working on an Irish artisan picnic piece for the magazine. After quietly letting out a little happy squeal, followed by some soothing pranamaya breathing, I eagerly agreed as this is just the most exquisite Irish magazine, I never miss an issue.

My job was to create a menu, prepare, style, shoot, and write up an editorial for their summer issue (on newstands now, grab a copy for some fun picnic recipes!) From the minute she said picnic, I immediately knew that I wanted to photograph it in the wood down by the river where we have our honeybees and where I do a lot of foraging for wild foods. I pictured a woodland picnic with plenty of ivy and moss featuring some of my favourite small Irish food producers along with a charming High Nelly bicycle for good measure.

Here are a few outtakes from the shoot and a recipe for one of my favourite summer strawberry pies, I hope you enjoy.

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Will be back soon with more words, a recap of the Kinfolk Gathering that I recently worked on with Cliodhna and Joi, and an exciting announcement for our next Lens & Larder retreat happening in November.

Strawberry-Rhubarb-Wild Irish Rose Glazed Tart

Each summer, I bake up a gaggle of strawberry-rhubarb tarts. I can’t resist because Irish strawberries are so ridiculously sweet and juicy, and you can’t beat the yields of homegrown rhubarb we have here in the garden. Inspired by Galway’s wild elixir guru, Claire Davey, I made my own wild rose water and wild rose simple syrup which I used to the glaze this pie. The flavour combination is really divine, this wild Irish rose, or rosa rugosa (bottom photo above) is not perfumey, it has a rather delicate and sweet taste and fragrance which, to me, is a perfect pairing with the vibrant strawberry and tart rhubarb, of course all encased in a flaky shortcust pastry.

400g/ 14 oz strawberries, stemmed and sliced
600g/ 20 oz rhubarb stalks cut into 1/2 inch pieces (Trim away and discard the leaves which are toxic; trim ends.)
125g/ 4 oz caster sugar
1/8 teaspoon of salt
2 teaspoons of orange zest

For the glaze
100g/ 3.5 oz caster sugar
2 tbsp cornflour
180ml/ 6 oz rosewater or homemade Wild Irish or conventional rosewater (see recipe below)

23cm/ 9 inch double crust pie pastry

Preheat oven to 200°C/ 400°F. In a large bowl, gently combine the rhubarb and the strawberries with the sugar, salt, and orange zest. Let sit for 10 minutes.

Make the glaze by combining rose water, sugar and cornflour in a saucepan, stirring over low heat just until sugar is completely melted. Remove from heat and set aside.

Roll out your pastry dough and line the bottom of a pie dish with it. Trim to 2.5cm/1/2 inch from the edge. Pour the filling into the pastry lined pie dish. Evenly tip the rosewater glaze over the filling. Roll out the second pastry dough, punch venting holes all over the top and then place pastry over the pie.

Trim the edges to 2.5cm/ 1/2 inch from the edge of the pie dish. Tuck the top crust edges over the bottom crust edges and use your fingers or a fork to crimp the top and bottom edges together. (If you want, for a nice golden crust, use a pastry brush to brush a thin layer of egg white or cream over the top of the pie.)

Place pie on the middle rack of the oven, with a baking sheet on a lower rack to catch any juices that might spill over. Bake for 20 minutes at 200°C/400°F, then reduce heat to 176°C/350°F, and bake an additional 40-50 minutes longer. The pie is done when the crust is nicely browned and the filling (that you can see through the venting holes) thick and bubbly.

Remove from oven and let cool on a rack.

Serve warm or cold. If you do cool to room temperature, the juices will have more time to thicken.

To Make Wild Irish Rosewater

The Wild Irish Rose (Rosa Rugosa) can be found in hedgerows throughout the Irish countryside. To make your own rosewater, find a bush that is not located on a busy road or could be contaminated by pollution. Pick the petals two to three hours after sunrise when the morning dew has evaporated. To make the your rosewater, use only petals, not the stem and leaves.

150g/roughly 6 cups fresh rose petals
1.5 litres/50 oz spring or distilled water
Wash petals thoroughly to remove bugs and dirt particles.
Place the rose petals into large saucepan.
Add just enough spring or distilled water to cover the petals. (Too much water will give you very diluted rose water.)
Cover the pot with a lid and simmer on a low heat. The water should be steaming hot not boiling hot.
Allow the water to steam until the petals have lost their colour and the water has taken on the colour of the rose petals. You will see the rose oil floating on the surface.
Strain the water and collect in a container. Store it in a refrigerator. It will last for 6 months.

*It’ll be grand is Irish for It’ll be okay. And, I probably use this phrase 100 times a week!

Photos and styling by Imen McDonnell 2015 with some props borrowed from Diva Boutique Bakery in West Cork. 

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13 Responses to “Strawberry-Rhubarb-Wild Rose Tart”

  1. Sarah says:

    I am so happy to have found this blog. As the chill in the air reminds you Autumn is indeed here, I have been sadly missing my country days when brambles voraciously engulfed the boreen and September produced constantly purple stained kids as they gorged on blackberries and wild damsons. Orchard apples and jewel bright sloes claimed from the thorny guard of the blackthorn bushes turned into Christmas gifts, I miss it all in my grey box and concrete pavements that are now home. Your writing is thoughtful and evocative and I look forward to reading more. A weekly post would be wonderful, seeing as you asked!

  2. […] There’s no better way to end a dinner outside than with a Strawberry-Rhubarb tart like this one from […]

  3. I was so happy to finally meet you in person and hope we can some day again! Your writing, photos and work is truly a reflection of the wonderful person you are.

  4. Krista says:

    I’m always so happy when you write here. 🙂 I love hearing your thoughts and stories and adventures. I can’t take in posts every single day. They all blur together and I miss out on the good things. I like reading 1-2 posts a week, and to really linger over them, look at the pictures instead of flicking through them, think about the words instead of glossing over them. But whatever suits you will be great. 🙂 LOVE the picnic outtakes. Absolutely wonderful. 🙂

  5. Linda says:

    Hello,

    I do love your posts, the news, the pictures and the recipes. I would hope that the blog is a pleasure rather than feeling like a bit of a chore, and that you blog when the spirit moves you to do so. I do love to hear about the farm and the links to other Irish happenings and food items. When will your book be out?

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  7. Cynthia says:

    I enjoy your blog and follow it in my reader. Thinking only about myself – not about what might be right foryou – I miss you when it goes more than a month. I do not feel inundated by weekly posts. I follow a lot of blogs but the ones I really enjoy (yours being one of them) I like to see something one to four times a month so I stay connected to the flow.

    I love the light in your pictures, by the way. And the recipes are fun.

  8. kate says:

    It will indeed be grand. So glad you have come back to writing, Imen, and quite excited that there will be another Lens & Larder in November. I will be just across the border that month!

  9. Sarah says:

    If a blogger posts everyday it better be full of photos! I find myself scrolling through and barely skimming any text. However, if the blogger only posts once every two weeks, or once a month, I usually read their entire post. I figure it ends up being equal time per month to each blog. I like that yours is a bit more spaced out. I get excited when I do see a new post from you and take the time to read every word. Since you’re in my blog reader even if it’s months apart I don’t forget about you 🙂 Although I wouldn’t mind something once a week! Those are my thoughts, but you find what’s right for you.

  10. Rene Foust says:

    Such Beauty!

  11. Miranda says:

    I feel you with the writer’s block, been dealing with it too. As for the posting, I will say what I think: I don’t follow a lot of blogs. It doesn’t happen too often that I visit a blog and feel that I need to follow that blog and read it through, to the point I end up craving for posts from that blogger. Yours, though a recent discovery, is one of them. I like regular posts, once a week, twice a week? because I like food and lifestyle blogs that don’t just give me recipes. I always tend to go for blogs where the authors lead a life that is compeltely different from my own, with different routines and experiences from which I can learn and get something out of that will feed me – not just in a nutritional sense. I love reading from other people, their thoughts, their ideas, their experiences, their lives. And I think that people who really like to get to know others, they will crave for at least a post once a week. Even if there’s not a single recipe in it, even if the photos are just of ordinary daily life, I mean, it is bound to – at least to me – give me something, bring something MORE into my own life, my own world, thus making me a wider soul. I dunno if I’m explaining myself properly, english is not my mother tongue and sometimes I struggle with these abstract notions even in my mother tongue, let alone in english!!
    http://bloglairdutemps.blogspot.pt/

    • Sara says:

      I agree with Miranda, there are blogs I follow because I love what the writer has to say about their life more than I follow because of the recipes. I know that with my own blog, that being consistent with writing keeps me consistent.
      I follow your blog because I love your story. I don’t Instagram because it doesn’t send it to my email and I rarely remember to go look. Besides, why do I need another thing to distract me from my own work.
      I would love it if you shared a few times a week. Even just pictures with a little blurb of what’s going on.

  12. Caitríona says:

    Ah the writing. It’s not exactly writer’s block it’s more a pressure. I had a long discussion with a pal in production about this only yesterday! It’s a combination of feeling the pressure to produce something awesome, not wanting to produce something that is less than perfect, and being tied up in other projects.

    What my production friend said – and he was very right – is that in production you have a deadline. You work up to the deadline and have to produce something that is good enough on time. If you want to blog more (you may not want to), then to get past this hurdle, you might like to set a regular immovable deadline of once a fortnight, then let go of the need to produce perfection. The combination of both will move you forward.

    I’ve embraced this concept and am feeling more accomplished. It might help! xxx

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