Holiday 2016

22 Nov 2016

holiday-2

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,

holiday-5

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.

IMG_6341

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

holiday-4

Reclaimed Iron Cooking Tripod.

dkilfeather_hermes_191

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

 

holiday-5

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!

aigle_mrs_juliette_black

holiday-7

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!

bow-ties-2

 

holiday-8

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)

americavillagejuly2016-4

 

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.

 

photo-080-1-w480

holiday-10

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!

 

10272882-b_1 pipph3a

holiday-11

Some of my favourite food books this year…..

 

picmonkey-collage-4

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.

 

holiday-5

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.

arran-st-east-mugs

 

holiday-7

Seedlip.

seedlip-main-img_1

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.

holiday-8

ffb70fd2-5ce9-4ae7-b9fc-76998d3b3d85-2013-1113_easy-and-oskey_make-your-own-bitters-kit_family-038

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.

holiday-9

Created + Found

lr-spoons

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!

holiday-5

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!!!

hedley-bennett-aprons

holiday-7

Heritage Cured Irish Ham

cvz9qyuwuaae70r

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…..

holiday-8

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

1826 Adare

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Share

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

· · · ◊ ◊ ◊ · · ·

gingerbreadsponge
Geoffrey pulled the winning name for the Irish Taste Club flavour box, and the winner is: Brenda Smith. Congratulations Brenda! And, thank you to everyone else who left a comment to be in the draw, you are also winning as Irish Taste Club is offering a 10% discount on all orders, just plug in the code FARMETTE10 when you are checking out!

I was planning a long wordy post, mostly to warble on about how crazy things always are around here at this time of year; inspired by the fact that we were recently asked by a journalist to chat about how we work straight through the holidays (animals need to be taken care of 24/7 which puts a damper on any designated holiday time off) and yet still manage to prepare and sit down to enjoy a feast or two of celebration. By and by, there’s no question that it takes nimble planning and a bit of Irish luck…..

……however,

this week I received a timely passage from a dear friend stateside who always reminds me to see things in the best light, and that you can find balance even when you are in a #panickedtiredholidayfarming state of mind.

So, I shall leave you with her simple, earnest, words and a festive recipe for my smashing holiday Gingerbread layer cake with champagne marmalade and juniper-infused fresh dairy cream.

“the holidays are best if you have a spirit of gratitude for what you have….”

 hen

We all have so much to be grateful for….I am certainly grateful to you all! Thank you for following along with my recipes and adventures. Happy holidays!

ginger3 marmaladedetail gingerbreadoverhead gingerbreaddetail ginger4 ginger2

Gratitude Gingerbread Layer Cake with Champagne Marmalade & Juniper Cream
This cake is a bit of a show stopper so if you have an event coming up, there will be plenty of oohs and ahhhs when this smashing beauty arrives on the dessert table. Having said that, the cake is easy to make and assembly with a little bit of time and planning. I bake the cakes and infuse the cream the day before so just need whip cream and put it together the following day.

Serves 8-10
For the cake (2 layers):
220g/1 cup butter
300g/ 1 1/4 cup light muscovado sugar (brown sugar)
6tbsp black treacle (molasses)
6tbsp golden syrup (sub more brown sugar)
2 tsp finely grated fresh ginger
6 medium eggs
240ml/1 cup milk
700g/ heapng 5 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3tsp baking soda
Pinch of salt
8tsp ground ginger
3tsp ground cinnamon
2 tsp ground allspice
1 tsp cardamom
215g/2/3 cup of medium cut marmalade (I used Fortnum & Mason’s champagne marmalade because they sent me some and totally merry! You can order Christmas Hampers here)
250g/1 1/2 cups heavy whipped cream
¼ cup juniper berries
Edible Gold spray (optional)

1. To be done a day ahead: Place juniper berries into a container, add heavy cream. Cover and place back into fridge until the next day. Strain cream and then whip cream until firm.
2. Preheat the oven 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4 and grease and line 2x 20cm round cake tins with greaseproof paper.
3. Gently heat the butter, brown sugar, golden syrup, treacle and grated ginger in a saucepan on a low heat stirring often.
4. Measure and combine the dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Sift the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, allspice, ground ginger, allspice, cardamom and pinch of salt and stir until well combined. Leave to one side.
5. Once the sugar has dissolved in the saucepan take off the heat and set aside to cool down. Gradually add in the eggs, continuously stirring. Next, add in the milk. You can use a whisk at this point or just continue to beat with a wooden spoon. (or use a stand mixer)
6. Pour the wet mixture in with the dry ingredients and stir/fold until the wet and dry ingredients are thoroughly combined.
7. Separate the mixture into even portions in the 2 x 20cm cake tins and bake in oven for 45-50 minutes until baked through and a knife comes out clean . Turn out onto a wire rack and leave to cool.
8.To assemble your cake, spoon a little of the marmalade onto your cake plate and pop on the base layer, the marmalade will help to hold the cake in place like icing would. Cover the base layer in a heavy spread of the marmalade using a palette knife or spatula. Next, dollop the juniper-infused cream onto top of the marmalade. Add second ginger cake layer.
9. For the top of the cake, top with sugar-glazed clementine, lime, or lemon slices. Decorate by studding with juniper berries and shimmer with gold spray.
10. Best served on the same day, or store in the refrigerator covered in plastic wrap. It should keep in the  for up to 3 days.
Scullery Notes: This type of cake is loosely based on the classic Victoria Sponge. In keeping with tradition, serve small slices and eat with your hands like a sandwich!

Slan Abhaile,

With Gratitude,

Imen xx

Photos and styling by Imen McDonnell 2015

Share

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

· · · ◊ ◊ ◊ · · ·

IMG_9591

Mince pies. Those lovely little devils. If only they had been called mince pies when I was a child. There seems to be a bit more mystery to a mince pie than a minceMEAT pie. Meat was not something I desired in a pie when I was 10 and sitting at my grandmother’s Thanksgiving Day table waiting patiently for dessert. No matter if such a pie had been lovingly prepared, nestled up in a tea towel, and kept cosy on top of a warm tumble dryer alongside his sweet, fragrant friends, pumpkin and apple.

“No mincemeat pie for me,” I would say year after year, which was always followed by the obligatory “one day you’ll know what you’re missing.” (which, by the by, has now been inducted (inherited?) into my ridiculous lexicon of parental vernacular, alongside “were you born in a barn?” (close!) and “hold your horses!” (goes without saying)

Ironically, and most happily surprising, I really didn’t know what I was missing when I declined Grandma Johnson’s mincemeat pie. Turns out this mincing of meat is really pretty terrific. When it doesn’t have meat in it, that is. (Although, having learned that mincemeat pie actually originated in the Middle East, I wouldn’t turn my nose up at a savoury/sweet Ottolenghi-fied twist on the classic…but I digress…)

In my humble mincemeat research, I found a North American filling recipe that was published in 1854 which included chopped neat’s (beef) tongue, beef suet, blood raisins (yikes!), currants, mace, cloves, nutmeg, brown sugar, apples, lemons, brandy and orange peel. It was said that this mincemeat could be preserved for up to ten years. Then, on one special Monday at the turn of the 20th century, meatless mincemeat was introduced and the world was a better place. Now that I have sampled a host of variations, I am proud to point out that I am particularly partial to a cranberry-walnut blended mincemeat filling.

hen

I mention all of this because mince pies are the cornerstone of Irish holiday baking. They are what hot cross buns are to Easter. Quotidian. They are always the first smattering of Christmas spirit to hit the bakeries and markets across this fair country and the last to leave. When you see the mince pies, you know that elaborate Christmas cakes are not far behind. Their debut tips you off to the perfect storm of puddings that lies ahead. From that day forward, you are granted the perfect excuse to whip up a boozy brandy butter, and sip copious amounts of mulled wine with friends and family… or, not with friends and family.

This weekend, we had our 2nd annual DIY holiday wreath-making party. The first thing I did was bake up a batch of Ballymaloe mince pies along with a few fun variations. Afterward, Geoffrey and I headed down to the wood to collect holly and ivy, evergreens and laurel leaves. We snipped branches from the olive tree and rosemary in our garden. Then, we made our traditional rosemary-mint cake, this time with chocolate instead of a snowy white sponge. My sister-in-law and her three children came over on Sunday afternoon and we gathered round the table to craft three wreaths. One for each of our homes, and another to place on Peggy’s grave with a prayer. We sipped mulled wine and nibbled on warm pies slathered up in zesty orange brandy butter and planned the big Christmas Day meal. Then, when everyone went home and Geoffrey was off to the farm to feed the calves, I cleaned up our workstations, sat down, and savoured every last morsel of the lone mince pie left on the platter.

Grandma would be proud.

IMG_9635intothewoodsIMG_9705wreathmakingbrandybutterIMG_9789

Miniature Mince Pies

Ingredients
225g (8oz) plain flour
175g (6oz) butter, chilled and cut into cubes
1 dessertspoon icing sugar, sieved
a pinch of salt
a little beaten egg or egg yolk and water to bind
1lb mincemeat (see recipe below)
egg wash
Method
Sieve the flour into a bowl. Toss the butter into the flour and rub it in with your fingertips. Add the icing sugar and a pinch of salt. Mix with a fork as you gradually add in the beaten egg (do this bit by bit because you may not need all of the egg), then use your hand to bring the pastry together into a ball. It should not be wet or sticky. Wrap in cling film and refrigerate for 1 hour.
Preheat the oven to 180c/350f/gas mark 4
Roll out the pastry until it’s quite thin – about 3mm (1/8 inch) Stamp into rounds 7.5 (3 inch) in diameter and line shallow bun tins with the discs. Put a good teaspoonful of mincemeat into each tin, dampen the edges with water and put another round on top. Brush with egg wash and decorate with pastry leaves or stars.
Bake the pies in the preheated oven for 20 minutes approx. Allow them to cool slightly, then dredge with icing or caster sugar. Serve with Irish whiskey cream (or brandy butter.)

Homemade Mincemeat
Makes 3.2kg (7lb) approx 8-9 pots
Ingredients
2 cooking apples
2 organic lemons
900g (2lbs) Barbados sugar (soft, dark brown sugar)
450g (1lb) beef suet
450 (1lb) sultanas
224 (8oz) currants
110g (4oz) candied citrus peel
70ml (2.5fl oz) Irish whiskey
2 tbsp Seville orange marmalade
pinch of salt
Method
Preheat the oven to 180c/350f/gas mark 4
Core and bake whole apples in the preheated oven for 30 minutes approx. Allow to cool. When they are soft, remove the skin and pips and mash the flesh into a pulp.
Grate the rind from the lemons on the finest part of the stainless steel grater, squeeze out the juice and stir into the pulp
Grate the rind from the lemons on the finest part of a stainless steel grater, squeeze out the juice and stir into the pulp. Add the other ingredients one by one, and as they are added, mix everything thoroughly. Put into sterilized jars, cover and leave to mature for two weeks before using. This mincemeat will keep for two to three years in a cool, airy place.

The winner of Rochelle Bilow’s signed book, The Call of the Farm is YVONNE CORNELL. Many, many thanks to everyone for their heartfelt turkey comments, you have helped me in ways you’ll never know!

Slan Abhaile,

Imen

Photos and styling by Imen McDonnell 2014

Share

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

· · · ◊ ◊ ◊ · · ·

IMG_1935

Last week, I hosted our first freshly-foraged DIY wreath workshop at the farm.  I served up winter salads with freshly baked soda bread, spiced mulled wine, and my best snowy white cake all covered in rosemary-mint icing, garnished with herb sprigs from the forest of rosemary growing in front of our house.

….Merry memories were made.

The evening before the gathering, I wandered down to the wood to collect branches of laurel, holly, pine & cedar for the occasion….

IMG_1798

IMG_1800

DIYTABLE

 ….and,  set up a wabi-sabi DIY Wreath Bar in my wee little workshop space

DIYWREATHABOVE

The girls arrived, and we played for hours….

IMG_1959

One friend decided to make holiday dinner name cards which nestle right into little pine cones…so sweet.

hen

It was a wonderful afternoon which will hopefully be the first of many freshly-foraged workshops on the farm. I was also able to experiment with some of Sony’s new portable lenses for smartphones on the day. The image of the wreath bar was shot using the amazing Sony QX-10 lens which easily attaches to your iPhone or Android and takes endlessly lush images that rival those shot on my big girl camera. In the spirit of gifting, Sony sent me an extra Sony QX-10 lens to give away as a holiday present to a reader of this blog. Simply leave a comment below to be in the draw. I will announce the winner on Christmas Day.  THE WINNER OF THE SONY QX-10 LENS IS CLAIRE KENNEDY, Congratulations! I will email you for your shipping details. 

Snowy White Cake with Rosemary-Peppermint Icing

Ingredients
2 1/4 cups/280g cake or cream flour
1 cup/250ml milk
6 large egg whites
2 tsp almond extract
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 3/4 cups/350g granulated sugar
4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp table salt
1 1/2 sticks/170g unsalted butter, softened but still cool

Method
1. Heat oven to 350f/176c. Prepare two 8-inch cake pans.
2. Pour milk , egg whites, and extracts into medium bowl and mix with fork until
3. Mix flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in bowl of electric mixer at slow speed.
4. Add butter (cut into cubes) and continue beating on low for about 1-2 minutes.
5. Add milk mixture to flour mixture and beat at medium speed for 1 1/2 minutes.
6. Pour batter evenly between two prepared cake pans.
7. Bake until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 27 to 30 minutes.
8. Allow cake to cool to room temperature, and then ice with rosemary-peppermint icing.

Rosemary-Peppermint Icing

Ingredients
1 cup/227g unsalted butter room temperature
3-4 cups/375-500g confectioners (powdered) sugar, SIFTED
¼ teaspoon table salt
1/2 tablespoon peppermint extract
¼ tbsp vanilla extract
2 Tbsp rosemary simple syrup
2 Tbsp milk or heavy cream

Method
1. Beat butter for a few minutes with a mixer with the paddle attachment on medium speed.
2. Add 3 cups of powdered sugar and turn your mixer on the lowest speed until the sugar has been incorporated
with the butter.
3. Increase mixer speed to medium and add peppermint and vanilla extract, rosemary simple syrup, salt, and 2
tablespoons of milk/cream and beat for 3 minutes. You can add more milk or cream as needed.

HAPPY HOLIDAYS!

Slan Abhaile,

Imen

Photos by Imen McDonnell 2013. 

Share

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

· · · ◊ ◊ ◊ · · ·

Plum Pudding

21 Dec 2012

I had never plunged into a Christmas pudding until I moved across the Atlantic. Since then, I have quickly come to learn that Christmas is simply not Christmas without a pudding at Christmas dinner. While the mere idea of steaming or boiling a cake seemed a very unusual notion, it is now a challenge that I have decided to bravely take on in my own kitchen.

In November we got a head start by preparing our first plum pudding on “stir-up Sunday” which apparently always falls on the Sunday before the first day of Advent (this year it was the 25th November). I put all of the ingredients together and allowed Geoffrey to flip a coin into the mix, give it a good stir and make a wish. We left the pudding to mature in a cool place overnight, and the next day, steamed the pudding. I was informed that puddings improve with age and alcohol, so we have it stowed away in a dark place, and each week we have been feeding it a drop cup or two of brandy. All going well on the big day, we will flambé the pudding and sit gazing in awe before fanning the flames and digging in.

I will churn some homemade butter for a spiced brandy or rum butter. But, I also know that there are fans of rum raisin ice cream in the family, so I have been testing ice cream recipes {I know, tough job}. I’ve chosen a custard-style, which reminds me of the classic Haagen-Dazs version and seems like a divine pairing for our Christmas pudding. See recipe below..it’s perfect!

*Bits of Bacchanalia*

Our family recipe for Plum Pudding was featured in this month’s Foodie Crush Holiday Magazine, along with loads of AMAZING holiday tips and stories by other bloggers, writers and photographers. Many thanks to Melissa Coleman, who so kindly asked me to be a part of it, and who also has such a fabulous food blog, talent!

On a recent shopping trip to Dublin, I listened to my new favourite foodish podcast: KCRW Good Food with Evan Kleinman, the latest episode is superb,  featuring their picks for 2012’s best cookbooks; including excellent interviews with Yotam Ottelenghi + Sami Tamimi for their book, Jerusalem, and Magnus Nilsson, of Fäviken, and his Fäviken cookbook among others.

Venture down to Ardkeen Quality Food Store in Waterford and support local Irish artisan producers. Ardkeen supplies great food direct from a fantastic community of some of my favorite Irish producers, growers and farmers.

These ladies have captured the Christmas magic so beautifully here and here 

You must have a look at Cliodhna Prendergast’s Breaking Eggs, beautifully produced food films, shot at her home in the West of Ireland with her children. Cliodhna says that “Home and family cooking is a life skill. We believe in practical, simple food for kids with lots of variety and the odd indulgence!” I must agree! Best of luck on your next shoot Cliodhna!

John and Sally McKenna have released their acclaimed McKenna’s Guides Megabites Awards, a running list of ‘Who’s Who in Irish Food’ compiled in the best taste, of course. 

Happiest Holiday Wishes To All!

Slan Abhaile,

Imen

Photo by Imen McDonnell 2012

Rum Raisin Ice Cream

MAKES ABOUT 2.5 Pints

180g raisins

250ml dark rum

160g sugar

6 egg yolks

480ml milk

480ml cream

1 tbsp. vanilla extract

 Place raisins and rum in a bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let sit until raisins soften and absorb rum, 8 hours or overnight. Drain, reserving 2 tbsp. rum, and set aside.

 Place sugar and yolks in a saucepan, and whisk until pale yellow and lightened slightly, about 2 minutes. Add milk, and stir until smooth. Place over medium heat, and cook, stirring often, until mixture thickens and coats the back of a spoon, about 10 minutes. Pour through a fine strainer into a large bowl. Whisk in drained raisins along with reserved rum, cream, and vanilla; cover custard with plastic wrap, and refrigerate until completely chilled.

Pour custard into an ice cream maker, and process according to manufacturer’s instructions until thick. Transfer to an airtight container, and seal. Freeze until set before serving, at least 4 hours.

 

Share

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

· · · ◊ ◊ ◊ · · ·

Smoky Irish Eggnog

14 Dec 2012

For the second year in a row we journeyed down to the wood and selected a tree to cut down for Christmas. Last year, it took some persuading as I had a certain urban Amerian-ised vision of what choosing your tree should look like, and it was admittedly a bit less rustic than the cut-your-own version. I have such fond memories of Christmas markets with old-fashioned C7 lights strewn along city blocks lined with beautiful Blue Spruces, long-needled Scots Pines, and families of fantastic Firs; all propped up and waiting patiently to be chosen and taken home to be delicately dressed in decoration.

I have learned my lesson. It is beyond special to cut down your own tree, from your family forest, that was planted (with caring foresight) by your father-in-law years ago. I believe the trees in the wood are Firs. But, it wouldn’t matter if it they were Birch or Yew, it’s all about the wonderful little snapshot of time spent together as a family during the holidays. Our last two trees have to be the best trees I’ve ever had at Christmas.  We will be planting a few more rows in the Springtime to keep the tradition alive.

I decided to make eggnog instead of mulled wine to sip on while trimming the tree this year. Eggnog is a classic holiday tipple that is enjoyed by many in the USA during the holidays. It is essentially a sweetened dairy-based beverage traditionally made with milk or cream, sugar, and whipped eggs (which gives it a frothy texture). It can be made with or without liquor so it is perfect for both little ones and adults alike. I recall seeing it in a supermarket here in Ireland when I first arrived, but it hasn’t been back on the shelves since.

Luckily {like everything} eggnog is better homemade. And, using fresh milk + cream from the farm to prepare it can’t be beat. For the grown up version, I went with an Irish variation and added a jigger of the super smoky and spectacular Connemara peated single malt whiskey instead of using American bourbon and rum. I also used a drop of Bittercube Bolivar Bitters, (optional) which are very herbal with beautiful cassia and dried fruit notes. The result is the smokiest, most velvety smooth, fruitcake-y festive eggnog.

I decided it would be prudent to include a special recipe for the splendid Snowball cocktail here as well. I was introduced to the Snowball when my lovely friend from Britain brought Advocaat to a dinner party a few years ago and insisted it was eggnog. While it is not the eggnog we are accustomed to in America, it does contain eggs and is very popular holiday spirit in the UK.   The Snowball is a bit like a dreamsicle in flavour; delicious and fun to serve at a holiday cocktail party. Both Advocaat & Connemara Irish Whiskey are available at fine liquor stores in the USA.

Cheers!

Smoky Irish Eggnog

Serves 4-6.

INGREDIENTS

4 egg yolks

1/2 cup sugar (you can use less if preferred, it will still taste lovely)

2 cups milk

2 whole cloves

Pinch of cinnamon

1 cup cream

1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 drops of Bittercube Bolivar Bitters {or similar woodsy, fruity, herbal bitters} (optional)

2-3 Tbsp of Connemara Irish Whiskey {or similar Peat smoked Whiskey or Scotch} (omit for kid-friendly eggnog)

METHOD

In a large bowl, use a whisk or an electric mixer to beat egg yolks until they become lighter in color. Slowly add the sugar, beating after each addition, whisking until fluffy.

Combine the milk, cloves, and cinnamon in a thick-bottomed saucepan. Slowly heat on medium heat until the milk mixture is steamy hot, but not boiling.

Temper the eggs by slowly adding half of the hot milk mixture into the eggs, whisking constantly while you add the hot mixture. Pour the mixture back into the saucepan. {Or, if you are nervous about scrambling, wait 5-10 minutes for milk to cool down a bit and then whisk in the eggs}

Cook on medium heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until the mixture begins to thicken slightly, and coats the back of the spoon. Do not allow the mixture to boil, or it will curdle. Remove from heat and stir in the cream, vanilla and bitters, if using.  Strain the mixture through a mesh strainer to remove the cloves. Let cool for one hour.

Mix in nutmeg and whiskey. Chill. 

Sip by the fire. 

The Snowball

1 jigger of Advocaat

1 jigger of fizzy lemonade (sweet-n-sour or sprite would work too)

1 jigger of fresh lime juice

Mix + Sip

 

Slan Abhaile,

Imen

Photos and Styling by Imen McDonnell 2012

Share

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

· · · ◊ ◊ ◊ · · ·

A Farmer’s Meringue

22 Dec 2011

Richard’s favourite Christmas dessert is a massive. sloppy meringue covered with loads of cream and fresh fruit. Pavlova, roulade…anything of the like, and he goes crazy for it. I finally got around to attempting meringues this week as a holiday treat ‘just for him’

{20. 12.11 text message conversation}

Farmer: Did you make them yet?

Me: Make what? I am whipping the meringues right now, can’t talk

Farmer: Yes, meringues

Me: Yes, meringues! Speak tonite

Farmer: Did they turn out good?

Me: You can try one tonite *nearly drops phone into bowl of stiff peaks of egg whites*

Farmer: Right so x *back to feeding cattle*

Me: x

They worked. A few cracks, but oh… so… softly-crunchy-melt-in-your-mouth-delicious.
He told me that if that is all he got for Christmas, he’d be one satisfied farmer.

Here’s the recipe. Very simple….just don’t overwhip and if you have a fan oven start at 140 and turn down to 130.

Farmer’s Meringue

Makes 4 Large “Farmer Size” or 8 Small Meringue Nests

2 Large eggs

4 oz/110 g caster (superfine) sugar

Preheat oven to 300F/150C /Gas Mark 2

Place the egg whites in a large bowl and, using an electric hand whisk on a low speed, begin whisking. Continue for about

2 minutes, until the whites are foamy, then switch the speed to medium and carry on whisking for 1 more minute.

Now turn the speed to high and continue whisking until the egg whites reach the stiff-peak stage.

Next, whisk the sugar in on fast speed, a little at a time (about a dessertspoon), until you have a stiff and glossy mixture.

Spoon 8 heaped dessertspoons of the mixture on to your baking sheet lined with parchment paper, spacing them evenly.

Then, using the back of the spoon or a small palette knife, hollow out the centres.

Don’t worry if they are not all the same shape – random and rocky is just right.

Next, place the baking sheet on the centre shelf of the oven, immediately reduce the heat to gas mark 1, 275°F (140°C) and leave them for 30 minutes.

After that, turn the oven off and leave the meringues to dry out in the warmth of the oven until it is completely cold (usually about 4 hours).

Serve topped with cream and fresh fruit or berries!

The winner of the beautiful book, A Taste of Cork, is Annetje Roodenburg!  Congratulations Annetje and thanks again to everyone else who left a lovely comment here. Annetje, please email me at imen.producer@ireland.com with your mailing/postal address.

Nollaig Shona Duit,

Imen

Photos and Styling by Imen McDonnell 2011 {Shot with Loftus lens Hipstamatic}

Share

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

· · · ◊ ◊ ◊ · · ·

One of the best bits about the holidays for me is all the baking and confections of the season. It’s the one time of year where you are likely to throw caution to the wind, indulge in all the festive sweets that your heart desires and chalk it up to holiday spirit. I personally think that is A-OK. That is, until the first day of the New Year when I can’t seem to fit into my stretchy yoga pants.

Over the weekend, my little baking assistant and I made magnificent mince pies. I discovered that these savory/sweet tiny tarts are perfect for little hands to help out with, and Geoffrey had loads of fun rolling then cutting out circles of pastry and spooning the mincemeat into each little case to be topped off with a star. Later we packaged the pies up all pretty and brought them across the road to share with family. They went down a treat and Geoffrey was delighted with himself.

I must say, mince pies in Ireland are so perfectly dainty and elegant looking. Even if you don’t like mincemeat, it’s impossibe to not pick up a parcel of these eye-catching pies delicately sprinkled with powdery icing sugar. They just seem to jump out at you when you’re browsing the market, oozing the essence of Christmas.

The beauty of mince pies came as a surprise to me, however, as, unless I am mistaken, you would be hard pressed to find mince pies trimming the aisles of every supermarket  in America at this time of year. (or any time of year, really) Remarkably, my grandmother made mincemeat pie for Thanksgiving every year as a part of her trinity of classic tarts: apple, pumpkin and mincemeat. Still, I do not recall witnessing a mince pie at a friend’s home nor a bakery or grocery store in the States. I remember as a child, we considered mincemeat pie extremely old-fashioned because only the adults took a slice for dessert. In our naïveté, we also thought it very strange that people would eat a ‘meat’ pie after a massive meaty meal.

At the weekend, my wee assistant and I will be hitting the kitchen again and attempting to make meringues for the first time. The recipe looks uncomplicated, but I’ve been told that either you can make them or not. I’m hoping for the former. Wish us luck!

Now, for more exciting holiday pressie news!  We put all the butchery course entries into a big milk pail and the farmer drew a name last evening. And, the winner of last week’s holiday giveaway is…drum roll please….Kristin Jensen! Congratulations Kristin, leave it to my farmer to pull another expat out of the mix! You will be joining me on 21st Feb at 6:30 and we will butcher the night away! Will be sending more details via email soon. Thanks so much to everyone for leaving a comment, even if you didn’t win a place on the course, I would encourage you to still sign up…it will be an excellent opportunity to learn about butchering techniques and where our meat comes from!

For my second lovely Christmas giveaway, I am very excited to announce that I have a stunning book from The History Press Ireland up for grabs. A Taste of Cork, A Gourmand’s Tour of its Food and Landscape by Seán Monaghan and Andrew Gleasure captures Cork’s rich and diverse landscape and presents it in a whole new light, combining the spectacular scenery with the artisan gourmet food producers who are so much a part of the culture. The book features Ummera Smoked Products, Cork’s English Market, Ardrahan Farmhouse Cheese and Lullaby Milk, McCarthys of Kanturk and many, many more sensational artisan food producers and beautiful Cork scenery. Leave a comment to be included in the draw. I will ship internationally!

Irish Mince Pies

For the homemade mincemeat

1lb sultanas

1lb beef suet (or a shredded veg suet)

8 oz mixed peel

2 oranges, juice and rind

6 tbsp brandy or cognac

1 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp mixed spice

1/2 tsp ground ginger

1lb raisins

2lb brown sugar

1lb cooking apples

2 lemons, juice and rind

1 tsp nutmeg

1/2 tsp ground cloves

In a large bowl, mix together all the dried fruit, suet, sugar and spices. Grate the apples and add in along with juice and zest from oranges and lemons.  Add brandy. Leave for 24 hours, then put into pots and seal.  (makes 8-10 jam jars)

For the pastry

200g/7oz plain flour, sifted

40g/1½oz caster sugar

75g/2¾oz ground almonds

125g/4½oz unsalted butter, diced

1 large free-range egg, beaten

milk, to glaze

Lightly butter a 12-hole pie/shallow muffin tin. Tip the mincemeat into a bowl and stir so that the liquid is evenly distributed.

Place the flour, sugar, almonds and butter in a food processor and process briefly until resembling breadcrumbs, then slowly add the egg. (Or rub the butter into the dry ingredients by hand and stir in egg)

Bring the mixture together with your hands, wrap in clingfilm and chill for an hour or so.

Thinly roll out the pastry on a floured surface. Cut out 12 circles with a fluted pastry cutter, large enough to fill the base of the prepared tin. Press gently into each hole, then fill with spoonfuls (as you like) of the mincemeat.

Cut out another 12 slightly smaller discs and 12 smaller stars and use to cover the mincemeat. Press the edges together to seal. Brush lightly with milk. Chill for about 30 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas 6.

Bake the pies for 20-25 minutes until golden brown. Remove to a wire rack and serve warm with lashings of brandy butter.

Happy Holidays!

Slan Abhaile,

Imen

Photos & Styling by Imen McDonnell 2011

Share

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

· · · ◊ ◊ ◊ · · ·

It wasn’t until my first Irish family Christmas that I was introduced to the quirky splendor of the Christmas cracker. Ever since, I get giddy with excitement when I see them nestled up next to our plates at Christmas or St. Stephen’s Day just calling out to be pulled apart with a loud snap and lots of laughter.

When our little boy brought home a holiday activity book from school that included a how-to page for constructing Christmas crackers from scratch, I knew we had to sit down and give it a try.

We had loads of fun making crackers for our family and friends on a snowy Sunday afternoon. Fill them with a little tissue paper crown, a handwritten riddle or perhaps a fortune like we did {“I see many lovely pressies for you in the near future”} and some tiny treats-either kiddie-style (choccy gold coins, finger puppets) or grown-up (small biscuits or a small handmade ornament).

You can buy the snap tape in specialty shops and I’ve been told the Euro store as well, they are lovely with or without the pop. These crackers make lovely hostess gifts or gifts for workmates + friends during the holidays.

Happy Cracker Making!

Slan Abhaile,

Imen

Photo by Imen McDonnell. Assisted by Master Geoffrey McDonnell

Share

Tags: , , , , , ,

· · · ◊ ◊ ◊ · · ·

img_7544

Twas two weeks before Christmas

And all through the house

Mommy was madly baking cookies

With her child and spouse…

I really look forward to the holidays each year as it gives me the perfect excuse to inject a little bit of American tradition into our ever consuming Irish country life. As a child, I grew up making delicious cookies and candies with family and friends during the holiday season. Pfeffernüsse, Snowballs, Peanut Butter Kisses, Spritz, Snickerdoodles, Peanut Brittle, all so yummy. But my all-time favorite Christmas cookies have always been the sugar cutouts. It was always so exciting to be able to get to roll out the dough, use the cookie cutters and then frost and decorate each of our masterpieces.

Over the years, I have tried many recipes for these simple sugar cookies and always go back to the one that we always used at home. It calls for sour cream, which makes it more cake-like and creamy. It is absolutely necessary to leave the dough in the fridge overnight or it will become too soft when rolling and cutting. Be sure and use loads of flour on your rolling surface as well to prevent the dough from sticking.

This year I drizzled Royal Icing instead of using a buttercream frosting, both are gorgeous tasting, but the Royal Icing is perhaps more decorative.

I thought it would be fun to gather a bunch of candy cane cookies,place them in mini milk pails tied with a festive red tag and ribbon bow. They make lovely little hostess gifts.

Nollaig Shona Duit,

Imen

Photo by Imen McDonnell, assisted by Master Geoffrey McDonnell.

 

Share

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

· · · ◊ ◊ ◊ · · ·