Hay Ice Cream

03 Jun 2012

It’s haymaking season here in the Irish countryside, a time when the grassy harlequin fields are being clipped and baled or gathered to make silage. There is even a haymaking festival this month in Trim, County Meath that sounds like a bit of fun.

Any given Irish cow’s diet is made up almost entirely of grass. Whether while grazing in little green fields or munching on hay or silage in the shed during bad weather, grass is a bovine’s first love. Our girls adore it so much that I have often wondered if they would actually ever stop eating it if they didn’t have other milk-related things to carry out each day.

Not surprisingly, the land that we built our home on the farm upon was originally a grazing pasture. In fact, in the first two years of living here, Richard often had a herd of 50+ cattle lingering around in our yard a couple times a month. He would explain with a laugh, “they’re just cutting the lawn for us.”  I would respond by nodding with glazed over eyes, thinking to myself “this too shall pass,” which is ironic because three years on I often find myself thinking it would be nice to have the cows gathered around the house again, if only it wouldn’t create such a mess.

I recall getting to know the girls more intimately during those years. There was always 2-3 heifers who were very curious and would get very close to the house and just gaze into the windows at me. We would literally engage in staring contests with one another as I stood at the kitchen sink eyeing them up and they carefully examined me as if to say, “Hmmm, don’t you look quite odd.” (Ever seen the Twilight Zone episode called “Human Zoo”? Ahem.)

Other times, I’d find myself getting lost in the rhythmic chanting of the pull/chomp/chew…under-the-breath-moo, which was completely audible despite being indoors. Before I knew it, I was hypnotically lulled into observing them for longer periods than I care to admit, and would begin to contemplate things like: how is it possible that little blades of grass could nutritionally sustain such large animals?* And, why don’t humans eat it too?** Do cows think and feel like us?*** One day, I clipped some grass and nibbled on a blade or two. The flavour reminded me of my former stateside fling with a morning shot of wheat grass, which was swiftly followed by a reminder that wheatgrass shots are one thing I really don’t miss about my American life.

Our grass is still not a proper planted “lawn”, but we mow it like it is and my father-in-law often reminds me that we are “wasting good hay for the cows by not letting it grow wild.” My inflexibility on this is just as perplexing to him as having a yard full of 3-foot grass is to me. Let’s just say, we agree to disagree.

When I heard about a restaurant in Washington state (USA) that was making hay ice cream, I was instantly intrigued. I knew the season was just around the bend here, so this week I did some research and tested a couple recipes. Since all of our cut grass is used for silage, I got a handful from a neighbor who has organic hay. I made a custard, and then let the hay steep in the mixture for 30 minutes to infuse the flavour.

The little farmer and I churned the ice cream, and on a whim, decided to put together a picnic and head to the meadow at the thatched farm in the afternoon. I had one of our roast chickens in the fridge so I quickly made up a batch of honey chicken salad. We packed three darling cheese and potato nests leftover from tea the evening before, a loaf of fresh baked brown bread from breakfast, and mixed up a pitcher of elderflower + lavender cordial. Hay ice cream was put on ice in the cooler, ready for indulgence after our little lunch.

Just when it was time to eat the ice cream, the clouds parted and the sun came out. Not sure if it was the warm rays shining down on us or the actual hay ice cream flavour, but each spoonful tasted like sun to me.  Well, sun with a tarty tinge of grass or straw. Have you ever tried Oatscream? To me, it has a similar taste profile. We both liked it, probably not as much as my brown butter ice cream, but when Richard sampled it in the evening, he loved it and ate nearly a pint. You’ll have to try it for yourself, and let me know how you get on.

*it’s jam packed with water, carbohydrates, proteins, vitamins and minerals

**we’d need three more stomachs and special flora to digest it

*** Yes, just ask Temple Grandin!

Thanks to all who came to my cookery demo at Sheridan’s Irish Food Festival last weekend. If you would like the recipes for honey-chicken salad or Irish potato and cheese nests (tartiflette), I will be posting them to my Facebook page very soon!

Slan Abhaile,

Imen

Photos by Imen McDonnell 2012

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I woke up this morning feeling renewed and thankful for “the stuff of my life” Sure, Sundays can usually bring about this feeling…but when I woke up to yet  another gorgeous sunny day in Ireland, I felt especially lucky to be living so brazenly in these bucolic Irish hills that I now call home.

I couldn’t resist putting on some wellies

and walking out to our little meditation garden

encircled with cedars {the trees of life} and an enormous rock in the centre

which is perfect to perch on and have quiet words with my dearly departed father

After some quiet contemplation,

I breezed over to the “maternity pasture” filled with our cows-a-calving

and met one little girl nuzzling with her mommy….lookin’ for a little milk

And after bidding these gentle, kind creatures a good day

I walked around the garden to see what other new growth I might discover…

and there I found a happy Hydrangea bud

and some beautiful new cascading Wisteria petals

Then, feeling a grumble in my tummy

I tucked back into the kitchen to prepare a light breakfast

and decided on an all-time favorite: orange slices sprinkled with cinnamon

and a neat little stack of toasted almond + banana pancakes

which made this sunny morning

even sunnier…

 

Slan Abhaile,

Imen

Photos and styling by Imen McDonnell. Assisted by Sonia Mulford Chaverri.

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Our little boy became a “big kid” this week on the farm.

For his 5th birthday

we decided to make use of

what we are fortunate to have right before us

and celebrate with a

good

old-fashioned

kiddie’s farm fête.

So, we rounded up our two darling donkeys,

A sweet cow and her dotey calf

And three clucky chickens

{yes, the farmer is participating in Movember}

We made loads of fairy cakes to decorate (pictured top)

and homemade marshmallows + caramel corn

We used our very own honey for my special honey bbq beef brisket

that went with Martha’s Perfect Mac & Cheese

Our friend, Claire, created the most magnificent + yummy tractor cake

When the party was ended

each child was given a bag of goodies to take home

The sun was shining

Our faces were smiling

And our big kid was a happy, happy boy.

Slan Abhaile,

Imen

My Easy Honey BBQ Pulled Beef Brisket

serves 12

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon onion powder

1 teaspoon paprika

1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

1 3-4 pound beef brisket (in Ireland try the beef rib roast)

1 18-ounce bottle of high quality barbecue sauce

2 onions, chopped

1 tablespoon Worchestershire sauce

1/4 cup honey

12 freshly baked soft rolls

Mix together minced garlic, salt, onion powder, paprika and pepper. Rub over the brisket.

Place sliced onion on bottom of slow cooker

In a small bowl mix the barbecue sauce, onions, Worchestershire sauce

Place the brisket in the slow-cooker and pour over the sauce. Spoon in the honey. Cook on low 10 hours or until the brisket is fork-tender. Pull the beef apart into strips.

Ladle the cooking liquid into a bowl or glass measuring cup and skim off the fat. Mix the juices with pulled beef. Serve on rolls

Photos by Imen McDonnell. Assisted by Master Geoffrey McDonnell

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