A Drop of Irish Cream

11 Mar 2015

irishcream2

“Come in, make yourself comfortable in the sitting room.” The blood rushed to my cheeks as I said thank you, and nervously sat down on a beautifully upholstered high-backed armchair facing an identical chair positioned in front of a tiny, ornate fireplace burning with hot coals. “Can I get you a drop of sherry or a drop of Baileys?” I quietly breathed a sigh of relief as I chose the Baileys, a very warm and welcomed icebreaker.

It was my first time at the farm. I’d already had the great privilege of meeting Richard’s mother, father, and briefly, his brother, but it was time to meet the matriarch of the family, Mary McDonnell (may she rest in peace), otherwise simply known as “Grandma.” Grandma lived in the little flat attached to the main farmhouse. But, where she slept was only a matter of semantics, she clearly still ruled the roost at Dunmoylan. And deservedly so, in her day she could milk 20 cows by hand in less than an hour before coming in to cook breakfast for her family of 7. Badass.

hen

After I moved to the farm, my chat sessions with Grandma became more frequent. Over drops of Irish cream served in delicate cordial glasses, we swapped stories with one another; she was kind yet opinionated, and as curiously interested in me as I was in her. At a certain stage, Richard told me, “Well you passed the muster with Grandma,” which was no easy feat apparently. I felt welcomed and proud.

I loved listening to Grandma yarn astonishing tales of banshees, gun hiding and squabbles between political parties, which became very colourful because she cheekily favoured the opposite party of her husband and his family. She, like many Irish of a certain generation, believed in a bit of folklore, and recanted the time she found herself on a magic road in County Louth where her car actually rolled uphill in the Cooley Mountains, an anecdote for which I had no idea how to respond. (But look, Andrew McCarthy proves it’s true!)

Grandma had a certain savoir-faire and impeccable style, and, luckily for me, a generous sense of humour. I recall during one of our chinwags, her telling me about a weekend break she had taken to a beautiful, remote island on a lake in the northwestern part of Ireland. She described how breathtaking it was, and that you had to go barefoot and walk on rocks across the water to the Island and only drink a sort of broth with salt and pepper for three days. When I presumed she’d been to a natural spa retreat for some type of intensive 3-day cleansing detox, she thought I was absolutely mad because it was Lough Derg, a world-reknowned religious pilgrimage in Donegal. Again, something I could not fathom, but also could not help but respect.

With Mother’s Day this weekend here in Ireland, I’d like to propose a toast to ‘drops of Irish cream’ and a good old natter with the special ladies in your life. What are some of your favourite Grandmother memories?

Homemade Irish cream is second to none (sorry Bailey’s!) and super straightforward to make from scratch. Bring this tipple out at the end of a long lingering dinner party as a decadent way to end your feast, and the perfect invitation to share some more stories together….

Irish Cream
Makes 24 ounces
1 cup heavy cream
1 tsp. instant coffee powder
½ tsp. cocoa powder
¾ cup Irish whiskey
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 (14-oz.) can sweetened condensed milk
Combine 1 tbsp. cream and the coffee and cocoa powders to make a smooth paste. 2. Slowly add remaining cream, whisking until smooth.
Add whiskey, vanilla extract, and sweetened condensed milk; stir to combine.
Pour into a 24-oz. jar and keep refrigerated until ready to serve, up to 2 weeks.
To serve, pour into a tumbler filled with ice.

Slan Abhaile,
Imen
Photo by Imen McDonnell 2014

wedding

My beloved late mother-in-law, Peggy, and Richard’s grandmother, Mary (RIP)

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Irish Cream Pavlova

20 Feb 2013

I made this for Richard’s birthday about a fortnight ago. He is mad for meringue so I surprised him with a  special pavlova that he could have all to himself. Instead of topping the crunchy-on-the-outside-soft-on-the-inside bowl of sweet and light eggwhite delight with traditional fruit and berries, I decided to go with an Irish Cream whipped topping, and finished later with white chocolate curls scattered over the top before the big celebration. Meringue + Irish Cream + Chocolate. Let’s just say, it works.

I am in the USA at the moment finishing our taster piece for Small Green Fields with a team of very talented friends, most of which have strong Irish ancestory I have recently found…Shanahan? Quigley? McGuire? Is féidir linn! Stay tuned for more.

In the meantime, be extra kind to someone and make them a dreamy Irish Cream Pavlova for dessert or tea sometime soon…here’s the recipe

Perfect Irish Cream Pavlova

150ml egg whites (approximately 4 eggs)

220g/1 cup caster (superfine) sugar

 2 tablespoons cornflour (cornstarch), sifted

 2 teaspoons white vinegar

 250ml/ 1 cup single (pouring) cream

 2 tablespoons Irish Cream (Bailey’s or Coole Swan or use Shaina’s recipe for gorgeous homemade)

½ (or more to taste) bar of white chocolate, grated (shredded or curled) 

Preheat oven to 150°C (300°F). Place the egg whites in the bowl of an electric mixer and whisk until stiff peaks form. Gradually add the sugar, whisking well, until the mixture is stiff and glossy. (really take your time with the sugar, one tablespoon at a time is best)

Add the cornflour and vinegar and whisk until just combined. Shape the mixture into an 18cm round on a baking tray lined with non-stick baking paper. Reduce oven to 120°C (250°F) and bake for 1 hour 20 minutes. Turn the oven off and allow the pavlova to cool completely in the oven. Whisk the cream with the Irish cream until soft peaks form. Spread over the pavlova,  sprinkle white chocolate over the top. Serve immediately. Serves 8–10.

Slan Abhaile,

Imen

Photo and Styling by Imen McDonnell 2013

 

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