chants

I rumbled into Geoffrey’s room early on Saturday morning spouting a crazy chirpy, “Tally Ho!”

There were still dishes in the sink from last night’s meal shared with kindred visiting friends from America; an epic curry feast of food and fodder that lingered long into the wee hours of the morning.

But, the wash-up could wait. I was captaining a magical mushroom mission five counties away, and time was of the essence.

“Awww mom…Janey! Not so loud,  I’m still sleeping” cried the small farmer from beneath his tractor-patterned bedding.

I gave my co-pilot fifteen minutes notice, cast a blind eye to the pile of turmeric stained plates, and we walked our wellies right on out the door.

hen

I had designs on attending this obscure mushroom festival since last year when I received a friendly email from a person by the name of Lady Sue Kilbracken. A reader of my column in Country Living, she had asked me to help spread the word about her unique event.  My curiosity was piqued, but I had a commitment that weekend so I sadly had to give it a miss for 2012. However, I scribbled it on the calendar for 2013, and wasn’t going to let this year’s festival fade into the past without paying a visit.

I couldn’t convince anyone to join me on this mycological adventure despite the allure of a hike in an enchanted forest brimming with over 300 species of mushrooms. So, once again, Geoffrey was appointed sole co-navigator and song-singing partner for the 3+ hour trip. Whence awake, he was much obliged.

We arrived at Killegar House, Carrigallen, County Leitrim early on a perfect, brisk Saturday afternoon. As we strolled up the lane to the 1813 Georgian estate, Geoffrey immediately spied several species of mushrooms popping out of the moss and leaves along the side of the path. From that point on, we walked to the gleeful beat of,

“look mom! A big one!

look mom! A big one!

look mom! A big one!”

…… until reaching the house where the other guests had been gathering.

house

handshroom

walkingtoforest

conks

We were graciously led on a fanciful foray through the massive expanse of native Killegar woodland to learn about the mysterious role of fungi in the forest ecological cycle. Living amongst this ancient forest floor covered in russet leaves and rust-tinted conkers, were puffballs, earthballs, honey mushrooms, ceps, and many more species than we could fit into our basket. Another in the group found an amethyst deceiver, which was a stunning shade of blue/violet.

mushrooms4

enchantedforest

shrooms

While most of our finds were inedible, we left with plenty of tasty apricot-scented and frankly, fallopian-tubesque Chanterelles to cherish, which I put to work into a tantalising tart of chanterelle, carmelised onion, fresh caraway, and Toonsbridge Dairy buffalo hard cheese for supper the following evening.

chanterelletartfinal

Wild Chanterelle, Caramelised Onion, Caraway & Buffalo Cheese Galette

Serves 4

Ingredients

2 teaspoons olive oil
1 large sweet onion, cut in half and thinly sliced into half moons
450g/16oz chanterelle mushrooms (or any wild mushrooms)
Shortcrust pastry (here is my favourite/easy basic recipe)
Handful of fresh caraway, chopped coarsely (can sub thyme or other fresh herbs that you love)
Salt
Ground black pepper
85g/3oz grated Toonsbridge Dairy Buffalo Hard Cheese or a similar hard cheese.
Milk, for brushing

1. Preheat oven to 230c/450f
2. Add 1 teaspoon of oil to a large saute pan over medium heat.
3. Add onion, salt and pepper, tossing to coat evenly.
4. Cook 20 minutes, stirring often, until onions have softened and turned a lovely shade of golden caramel.
5. Remove onions to a bowl and set aside.
6. Add remaining teaspoon of oil and add mushrooms, caraway, a little more salt and pepper.
7. Toss to coat.
8. Cook, stirring occasionally, until mushrooms have turned brown and released most of their liquid.
9. Remove pan from heat and pour mushrooms onto a paper-towel lined plate in order to remove as much moisture as possible from them.
10.On a lightly floured surface, roll out shortcrust and transfer to a parchment-lined large rimmed baking sheet.
11.Leaving a 2 to 3-inch border around the center, spread out 1/2 of the onions on the dough.
12.Layer with mushrooms & caraway mix, evenly distributing, and finish with remaining onions.
13.Sprinkle with a little more pepper.
14. Top with the shredded cheese.
15. Fold in sides of the dough circle roughly, pressing slightly to adhere pieces to one another.
16.Brush edges of dough with milk.
17.Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until crust is golden and cheese is bubbling.
18.Garnish with remaining fresh caraway
19.Remove and allow to rest for 5 minutes before cutting into slices.

Slan Abhaile,
Imen
As with all of my recipes, I use a convection oven. Please adjust temp/time to your oven guidelines) Photos and styling by Imen McDonnell 2013. *Janey or Janey Mac is an Irish expression of surprise and bewilderment that Geoffrey has picked up here. Not sure if this is a good or bad thing. 

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oystercollageAka: three of my guiltiest pleasures.

Three things that I think about more than a farm any girl should. Three things that must really be done all in one day to fully appreciate. Add champagne to any and all and you’ve upped the totty. The best.

I have a few bits of bacchanalia I wanted to share this week in between recipe posts. They involve oysters, cake, and cinema.

I am doing a cookery demonstration at The Galway International Oyster Festival this year. What will I be preparing? Something oysterlicious, of course.  And, 50′s style Americana. Using amazing local Irish artisan ingredients and a drop of smokey Connemara Whiskey. The festival takes place today, 26th September through the Sunday the 29th with a schedule filled with remarkable oyster and seafood events. I’ll be there on Saturday afternoon at 3pm, after Birgitta of Burren Smokehouse and before Michelin star chef, Kevin Thornton. (don’t ask me how that happened!). On Sunday, the fabulous Clodagh McKenna will be cooking for everyone. Do come along!

Galway Native Oysters back in season for the Galway International Oyster & Seafood Festival, 26-29 Sept 2013 (Large)[1]

Our film, Small Green Fields, has been selected to screen at the Food Film Festival in Chicago in November! We are so thrilled to share the stories of incredible artisan Irish food and farming personalities with audiences across the pond. In the Windy city where so many people can say they are proud to be Irish, I’m hoping will be a big hit. Have a look at the other films screening, fun + impressive company.  Also, on October 17th, Small Green Fields will screen at the IndieCork Film Festival in Cork City. More details to come.

smallgreenfieldfinal

My friend and fellow Irish food blogger/author, Lilly Higgins along with Patrick Ryan of Firehouse Bread will be baking cakes for ACT for Meningitis at Bake Fest Galway this year.  The national festival takes place on Saturday 5th & Sunday 6th of October. Organised by Goodness Cakes, in association with charity ACT for Meningitis, Bake Fest Galway will be Ireland’s biggest baking festival and competition for both novices and professionals.

BAKE

Back soon with a new farm adventure + recipe to share.

Slan Abhaile,

Imen

 

 

 

 

 

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currantpie

One of the very first meals I shared with Richard in Ireland occurred at the ridiculously charming Mustard Seed. I’ll never forget driving up the hill that evening to the stately restaurant and inn, which he explained, “was housed in a former 19th century convent.”  I had been prepared to enjoy a romantic dinner for two, but I suddenly began to worry: could my dashing and devout Irish farmer be shipping me off to a nunnery for a bit of parochial polishing up?

Deep breath.

We parked the car and found ourselves being graciously greeted at the grand entrance door by a handsome and attentive maître d’ whom swiftly handed us each a crisp and cordial glass of bubbles.

Exhale. 

After taking our coats we were shown into a wonderfully wabi sabi yet classically drawn sitting room oozing with warmth and tartan and books and pictures and bottles of scotch filled with smoke and history. We lingered on the davenport and sipped our bubbly glasses dry while giddily holding hands in front of a roaring fireplace.

mustardseedpurple

After just the right amount of time, we were summoned to a beautiful dining room all dressed in blue where we feasted on pan fried Kerry scallops, nasturtium jelly, wild mushrooms, freshly-caught roasted trout, a tender fillet of local beef and puddings galore which we washed down with chalices of wine and spirits and tea and coffee until the early hours of the morning.

Unforgettable.

mustardseedblue

That night, there was no way of knowing that years later I would move and marry and become simmered in the spectacular world of Irish food, embracing traditional skills and championing artisan producers as I have done.  Perhaps involuntarily that meal at the Mustard Seed planted this special seed. A nice notion to ponder.

Last month, I paid a visit to the Mustard Seed to collect a gift certificate just as they were expecting a large group of local guests. The ebullient proprietor, Dan Mullane, was in the front of the house preparing glasses of fresh black currant cordial with soda + sprigs of lemon verbena for the impending arrivals. When he handed me an amethyst-coloured glass of the refreshment I more than happily obliged.

The flavour was out of this world.

verbenadrink2

I am ashamed to admit that black currant offerings were a bit lost on me when I first came here. I tended to associate black currant with the flavour of bittersweet grapes, as the black currant juices that line supermarket shelves here resembled a certain deep purple grape juice that I never fancied in America.

Ignoramus.

That all changed once I had a taste of my mother-in-law’s homemade, fresh-picked black currant jam. To this day, both Peggy’s homegrown black currant and gooseberry jams are the conserves that I cherish most. They are also two jams that I never had in my life before moving to Ireland {and for the record, two more reasons to make a girl never leave Ireland.}

blackcurrantorhard

Peggy’s black currant jam changed my mind about black currants. And, Dan’s black currant lemon verbena cordial at the Mustard Seed took my love for this little berry one step further. {and yes, I am reading your mind, indeed this clever concoction pairs wonderfully with a finger of gin and a splash of tonic, I know this from obligatory experimentation}

I contemplated: if fresh black currants were so damn good in jams and drinks, wouldn’t they be great in a tart? Because the lemon verbena matched so beautifully in the cordial, I decided experiment with a vanilla bean + lemon verbena glaze over fresh picked black currants. The result was a splendidly tangy (but not tart) velvety vanilla, bursting berry flavour with a cornmeal crust that comfortably cradles its filling.

currantpie

See what you think!

Black Currant Lemon-Vanilla Verbena Glazed Tart with Cornmeal Crust
INGREDIENTS
CRUST
300g/2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
30g/1/4 cup corn (maize)meal (medium ground)
3 tablespoons sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
113g/1/2 cup plus 6 tablespoons chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
55g/1/4 cup nonhydrogenated solid vegetable shortening frozen, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
4 tablespoons (or more) ice water

GLAZE
2 teacups (or handfuls) washed fresh lemon verbena leaves
1 vanilla pod
450g/2 cups sugar
120ml/1/2 cup water

FILLING
750g/5 cups fresh black currants (about 27 ounces)
175ml/3/4 cup lemon verbena glaze
120g/1/2 cup caster sugar
30g/1/4 cup cornstarch
Milk (for brushing)
1 1/2 tablespoon raw sugar

METHOD
FOR CRUST
1. Blend flour, cornmeal, sugar, and salt in processor.
2. Add butter and shortening; blitz on and off until mixture resembles coarse meal.
3. Add 4 tablespoons ice water and blend just until moist clumps begin to form
4. Gather dough into ball.
5. Divide dough in half; flatten each half into disk.
6. Wrap disks separately in plastic and chill at least 1 hour.

FOR GLAZE
Put all ingredients into saucepan and slowly heat just until sugar dissolves and creates a thick syrup. Remove from heat and let cool and steep for 2 hours (or longer if you can, the longer you steep the more pronounced the flavour) Strain leaves and pod. Reserve syrup for glaze.

FOR FILLING
1. Combine black currants, lemon verbena glaze, sugar, cornstarch in large bowl; toss to blend.
2. Let stand at room temperature until juices begin to form, about 30 minutes.
3. Preheat oven to 200c/400ºF.
4. Place rimmed baking sheet in bottom of oven.
5. Roll out 1 dough disk between 2 sheets of generously floured parchment paper to 12-inch round.
6. Peel off top parchment sheet; invert dough into 9-inch-diameter glass pie dish.
7. Carefully peel off second parchment sheet.
8. Gently press dough into pie dish, pressing any cracks together as needed to seal and leaving dough overhang.
9. Spoon filling into piecrust.
10. Roll out second dough disk between 2 sheets of generously floured parchment paper to 12-inch round.
11. Peel off top parchment sheet. Carefully and evenly invert dough atop filling.
12. Peel off second parchment sheet.
13. Trim overhang of both crusts to 1 inch.
14. Fold overhang under and press to seal.
15. Crimp edges.
16. Cut five 2-inch-long slits in top crust of pie to allow steam to escape during baking.
17. Lightly brush top crust (not edges) with milk. Sprinkle with raw sugar.
18. Bake tart 15 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 175c/350ºF and continue baking until crust is golden brown and filling is bubbling thickly through slits, about 1 hour 15 minutes.
19. Cool pie completely on rack.
20. Serve with scoops of ice cream, custard, or whipped cream.

The lucky recipient of Nessa Robin’s, Apron Strings, randomly picked out of an old milk pail by our little farmer, is ORLA O’BRIEN. Congratulations Orla! Please email your address to me at imenmcdonnell@gmail.com.

Slan Abhaile,

Imen

Photos and styling by Imen McDonnell 2013. Black currants for the tart were graciously gifted to us by the Mustard Seed, and also picked from our own orchard at the farm. 

 

 

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Apron Strings

07 Aug 2013

book3

She…

is a scratch-made girl who swears by using wholesome, honest ingredients. she is genuinely endearing….salt of the earth, if you will.  you want to eat and linger in her kitchen for days surrounded by sweet children soaking up every bit of tender love in the air. you want to watch butterflies and pick berries in her garden and then sit outside for tea and tart al fresco. she radiates a supreme goodness, yet has absolutely no pretense…….she’d make me a damn fine neighbour.

This is Nessa Robins.

bookcover

When I opened my copy of Nessa’s beautiful new cookery book, Apron Strings, I read it through from top to tail. This was not an entirely easy task given the fact that I was in wellies mucking out a shed in between chapters. The book embraced me, much like Nessa’s personal warmth. I went into the kitchen and immediately made a comforting crock of her potato soup for everyone. Not just any Irish potato soup; a savoury + spicy white onion, potato and chorizo number. It was pure velvet heaven on a drizzly, fresh day.

bookcollage

I am sorry if this seems a bit heavy handed, but the truth is, I can’t say enough about how special this cookery book is…..I mean, there is a chapter called Home Nurse. Emmmm, can I move in for a weekend, Nessa?

homenurse

For the record, this is not a review. We bought Nessa’s book; and will buy a few more before the holidays. However, her publisher has generously offered to give away a copy to a fortunate reader. If you are interested in being in the draw, please leave a comment below. Of course, will ship domestic or international. {If you are not chosen to win, you can buy Nessa’s book here or here}

Other quick bits of bacchanalia to share…

The very first Ballymaloe Garden Festival is on Aug 31-Sep 1st. We are hoping to attend; maybe will see you there?

Our short film, Small Green Fields, has applied for an Arthur Guinness Project grant to produce a feature length version…will the big dogs support a small dog? We will have to wait and see….you can vote here if you like.

Does anyone else use Eden knives? I recently bought two and they have changed my world in the kitchen. Would love to hear other experiences with this {new to me} brand.

Expedia recently asked me to review their new travel app. Since I don’t do formal reviews on this blog, I declined, but I will give it a mention it here as we frequently use Expedia for booking our travel to America and the app will surely come in handy.

Still going gaga over Toonsbridge Dairy water buffalo cheeses that I picked up at the Milk Market over the weekend, you can find it in the The Real Olive Oil Co. stall.

My friend, Niamh Shields, is writing a new BACON book and needs our support, here is a link to her Kickstarter campaign for Project: Bacon

Food 52′s Provisions has opened it’s virtual doors! I am coveting more than a few items in stock….

Oh, the Irish Blog Awards are coming up. They are accepting nominations from Irish diaspora this year too so if you are Irish and living abroad with a blog there is now a category for you.

Listening: Jake Bugg

Insta-loving: @dashandbella {Dash and Bella blog}

Hope you are all enjoying the summer.

Next post: An Irish Country House Tea…and a very special berry pie

Slan Abhaile,

Imen

Photos of book by Imen McDonnell 2013. Nessa Robins did all of her own photography for the book.

 

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finalcrabboil

It’s summertime and the living is easy…

…at least that’s what Mimi of Manger says, so we’re  just going to go vicariously with it.

For the first time in a few years, we won’t be traveling stateside this summer. So, I’ve decided to bring a bit of Americana to the farm.

We’ve already gone all State Fair and made corn dogs; funnel cakes are on deck, and a few weeks ago we hosted a traditional American southern-style crab boil.

It is always surprising how little seafood you typically find on Irish menus. (with the exception of that glorious & ever so popular Irish seafood chowder, of course.) Crab and lobster are a fraction of the cost here, and I make sure that we take FULL advantage of this flavorful fact in our kitchen.

The crab and lobster that we source from our local fishmonger comes from nearby Kerry or Clare; two gorgeous Atlantic counties which border us. The Brown Kerry crab with its succulent claw meat and Clare’s luscious lobster tails both equate absolute divinity in my book.

Here is my basic recipe for a classic summer crab boil as was also recently {and very proudly} featured in the Sunday Times Magazine. A crab boil is more a method than a recipe; the fun of it is in the preparation and casual eating ritual which is what makes it especially delicious to me!

County Kerry Crab Boil

INGREDIENTS
New potatoes (2 or 3 per person depending on their size, cut in half-inch slices or whole if small enough)
Salt to taste
Crab boil seasoning (I recommend Zatarain’s or DIY a large sachet filled with mustard seeds, coriander seed, cayenne pepper, bay leaves, dill seed and allspice)
Live brown Kerry crabs (3 or 4 small crabs per person or 1-2 large)
Sweet corn (an ear per person, cut in halves)
Smoked spicy sausage (1-2 per person)
Plenty of melted butter for dipping
Newspapers or brown paper for covering your table
Little forks, claw crackers or hammers to get at the crab meat

METHOD
1. Put the potatoes in an oversized pot; they should cover the bottom.
2. Cover them with water by about two inches.
3. Add crab boil seasonings and a few generous pinches of sea salt.
4. Char or sear sausages to seal in flavour.
5. Place crabs, corn, and sausages in the pot and cover.
6. Put the pot over high heat. When the water reaches a rolling boil; reduce the heat
to medium high. Cook for another 12 to 18 minutes until the crabs are cooked
through.
7. Hold the lid of the pot ajar and dump the water, keeping the food in the pot.
8. Pour the pot onto the center of a table covered with paper.
9. Make sure plenty of melted butter is available and a couple bottles of chilled
pinot blanc, rosé wine, sangria or crisp cold cider.
10. FEAST!

Slan Abhaile,

Imen

Photo and styling by Imen McDonnell 2013

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gate

“I’m bored”

It’s nearly 7am on our third day into summer break. I explain that it is impossible for you to be bored, you haven’t even brushed your teeth yet. Come back to me when your breath is a little sweeter.

We scamper downstairs to the kitchen and develop a new pancake recipe. We’re kind of on a pancake-a-day lark. I let him choose a flavour and he asks to try the chocolate version which he has been obsessing about for weeks. The same one I have been saying no to for weeks. While he goes outside to feed the dogs while I finely grate a carrot into the mix and pour batter onto the griddle and feel better about feeding my child chocolate pancakes for breakfast.

We sit at the table and eat. He gobbles two mahogany-coloured flapjacks while I carefully alternate spooning egg out of a cup with plunging crunchy toast soldiers into its gooey yolk. We slurp milk and coffee respectively. Yes, slurrrrp. It’s 7:44am.

In my best Fantastic Mr. Fox voice, I proudly proclaim “we shall go wild crafting today.” If I say we are going to clip elderflowers it won’t be as nearly exciting….the foraging adventure never wears off, but you gotta keep it fresh.

We pack up. I bring camera, bucket, shears. He brings a compass, my dad’s vintage binoculars, 3D glasses, and his dingy soccer ball.

I open the gate to one of our quiet grazing meadows which is enclosed by wild hedges teeming with flora. We see a row of hay bales all stacked up in a long row like one of those big tootsie rolls with segments. Bale jumping glee.

balejumping
We find wild honeysuckle, comfrey, meadowsweet, and, of course elderflowers. Geoffrey looks for four leaf clovers while I get drunk on the beguiling fragrance of wild roses.

cloversandroses

We near the elderflower hedge and hear cows lowing on the other side. They get louder. Through the thick hedge I swear I make out a black bull. Louder. A low warning moo. Louder again. We snip the musky vanilla coloured delicate flower heads that dangle like earrings from the elder branches and rush away…stopping only for a bouquet of honeysuckle blossoms.

Bale hopping.

Ball kicking.

Flower smelling.

Clover picking.

Elderflower clipping.

Honeysuckle sniffing.

Wild Crafting.

pickedflowerssimple

We arrive home and simultaneously prepare a batch of elderflower + wild honeysuckle cordial, supper, and a homemade greeting card for a loved one. I have to go on record as saying that there are very few edible flower flavours that I tolerate. As much as I could bathe in rose or orange blossom water, for me, the taste harkens of eating chapstick.

honeysuckle

Elderflower and honeysuckle are different. Elderflower has a very distinct, almost muscat scent and the flavour is genuinely just on the right side of sweet. Honeysuckle has a fresh sugary tang that lingers in such a satisfying way. I had never sampled these amazing treats until I moved to Ireland and they have simply become a summer staple.

elderflowertreejellyduo

We wait 48 hours then prepare the jelly using a bit of our priceless cordial and save the rest. In Ireland, gelatin is “jelly.” If you are like me, you will order “jelly and ice cream” from copious amounts of kiddies menus when dining out. It goes together like oil and water, but that separation is addicting. Well, it is in our house anyway.

jelliesgalore3

Elderflower + Honeysuckle Jelly
Feeds 4 hungry farmers

250ml of elderflower cordial ( I use this recipe using 1/2 elderflowers and 1/2 honeysuckle heads)
750ml of water
150g of caster sugar
6 gelatine leaves

1. Soak the gelatine leaves in cold water until soft. Remove from the water, squeezing out the excess water from the leaves
2. Place the caster sugar, half of the cordial and half of the water into a saucepan and bring to the boil. Once boiling, remove from the heat and add the gelatine leaves. Stir well to dissolve the gelatine
3. Add the remaining water and cordial, stir well and pour the mixture one large or two medium jelly molds.
4. Cool to room temperature then refrigerate overnight until set.
5. Unmold and eat with scoops of ice cream.

meadowsweeticeduo

Meadowsweet Ice Cream
Makes 1.5 pint

500ml double cream
250ml whole milk
135g sugar
Generous handful of wild meadowsweet flowers*

1. Combine cream, milk, and sugar in a saucepan and heat until the sugar is completely dissolved.
2. Pour cream into a bowl and steep meadowsweet until cooled.
3. Pour cream and meadowsweet through a sieve into a clean bowl.
4. Chill in the refrigerator overnight.
5. Freeze in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
6. Store in an airtight container and freeze for an additional 2 hours.

*Make sure you have positively identified meadowsweet or any wild edibles. Also, From Wikipedia: About one in five people with asthma has Samter’s triad,[3] in which aspirin induces asthma symptoms. Therefore, asthmatics should be aware of the possibility that meadowsweet, with its similar biochemistry, will also induce symptoms of asthma.

Slan Abhaile,

Imen

Photos and styling by Imen McDonnell 2013.

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salmontacoblog

Once a week, the farm kitchen is transformed into a Tuesday taqueira. Whether we use our own chicken, whatever is fresh and fun at the fishmonger (squid is always silly + sensational) or something meaty from the local butcher, I would simply not survive without having a little Mexicana on the supper schedule despite having a three-hour drive to the nearest margarita + mole.

Our new favourite standby: Hot Smoked Salmon Tacos.

I first made these special salmon tacos after an extraordinary day spent fishing with Birgitta Curtin of Burren Smokehouse in County Clare.  She was heading out to fish for the first of the wild Atlantic spring salmon in Ireland, and I asked if I could come along and document her adventure.

Irish Atlantic salmon spend the first years of their life in rivers before migrating to the sea to grow. To complete their life cycle, they return to their river of origin to spawn. In the case of these fish, they would have traveled as far as Greenland and back to Ireland to lay their eggs. The wild salmon season begins in May and ends in August, with strict regulations in place to prevent overfishing.

cot3

I arrived at a marina on the River Lee in Cork on a cool, rainy morning in mid May. Birgitta was suited up and ready to go, but the fish weren’t exactly going along with the plan. After a couple of hours, we decided to pull up anchor and move to the River Nore in County Kilkenny. We met Eurotoques winning producers, Mark and Tricia Murphy, who brought us out on traditional Irish cot boats for the afternoon. It was absolutely calm and serene as a we floated up and down river pulling a snap-net between the two handcrafted flat-bottomed boats.

snapnetting

Birgitta and I left Kilkenny with a small bounty of beautiful wild salmon, one of which was destined for the President’s residence in Dublin for a special meal that evening.

salmonbeforeafter

We are all fans of smoked salmon here so I when I came home with a few packs of Birgitta’s Burren Smokehouse tender, delicate hot-smoked salmon I absolutely had to experiment with using it as a taco ingredient.  It was Tuesday after all.

Combining the added smoke of chipotle with garden fresh kale and cabbage verde, these fishy tacos pack a rich and flavorful, yet balanced punch in the taco department {not to mention plenty of Omega 3s and antioxidants!}

We’re hooked on hot-smoked salmon tacos here….perhaps you will be too?

Hot-Smoked Wild Irish Salmon Tacos with Chipotle Crema & Kale + Cabbage Verde

Ingredients
SERVES 4 HUNGRY FARMERS
1/2 cup/125 g mayonnaise
1/2 cup/125 g sour cream
1 tablespoon sauce from tin of chipotle peppers in adobo sauce (or 1 tbsp chili powder)
1 tablespoon ground cumin
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 pound/450 g hot-smoked salmon (or any smoked fish
. Burren Smokehouse Salmon is available in USA here)
Salt and pepper
8 flour tortillas, warmed
1 cup/250g of shredded white cabbage
2 cups/500g of tender leaf curly kale, finely chopped
1 small green chili pepper, finely chopped
A big handful of chopped fresh cilantro
1 garlic clove
Juice of one lime
2 limes, cut into wedges + cilantro for garnish

Method
1. For the crema: mix mayonnaise and sour cream together in a large mixing bowl and add the chipotle, cumin, lemon juice, and season with salt and pepper to taste.
2. For the verde: Blitz cabbage, kale, green pepper, cilantro, garlic, lime juice, salt in food processor until smoothish.
3. Flake the hot-smoked salmon into each tortilla.
4. Top with crema and verde.
5. Serve with lime wedges and cilantro. (You can also flake the salmon into the crema, mix then fill tortilla and top with verde)
6. Feast.

Slan Abhaile,
Imen

Photos and Styling by Imen McDonnell 2013

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coffeeicecream3

I recently had the great fortune to stumble upon an amazing new coffee roaster in Ireland. They go by Red Rooster and are an American family-run business who prepare fairtrade beans in their special cast-iron roaster just outside of Galway City. Since I am constantly craving a truly proper cup of jo, I placed an order and waited (im)patiently for its delivery.

When the parcel of coffee arrived in our kitchen, its ridiculously alluring aroma filled every corner of the room. The scent took me straight back to city cafes with artisan roasters that sit in the corner and work away, while you sip your coffee and work away too. The Red Rooster full-bodied blends all boast a sweet, smokey fragrance that imbues comfort, yet shakes you awake before you even brew it.

From the minute I took a sip of a deep, dark roast, aptly named “Farmer’s Friend,” I started dreaming about coffee ice cream. The kind all the grown-ups ordered while we were handed our double-dip of blue moon when we were kids. Now, as an adult I crave coffee ice cream along with the memories of those long hot American summer days.

As you know, ice cream comes easy here. Fresh sweet cream abounds. So, Geoffrey and I make the ice cream on an unusually warm Irish day. He actually likes the strong flavour. He eats two scoops and plays outside for three hours. When he comes back into the house, he asks if we can just make plain chocolate next time. I agree.

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If you want to add a little Irish Whiskey to this recipe, feel free. Then you’ll have Irish-Irish Coffee Ice Cream.  We did that too. It was a hit for a small dinner party we hosted recently. If you like ice cream in your coffee, slip a scoop of sweet cream ice cream into a small cup of strong, velvety Red Rooster coffee and you have an amazing affogato. Have done that one too many times this week.

affogato

 Slurrrrp.

Irish Coffee Ice Cream
Makes 1.5 pints

INGREDIENTS
1 1/2 cups whole milk
3/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups whole or ground Red Rooster beans {decaf if you don’t want the caffeine + any quality coffee will work}
Pinch of salt
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 cup Irish whiskey {optional}

METHOD
1. Heat the milk, sugar, coffee, salt, and cream in a medium saucepan until the sugar is melted and it is warm and steamy, but not boiling. Once the mixture is warm, remove from the heat, and let steep at room temperature for 1 hour.
2. Strain creamy coffee mixture into a ceramic bowl. Mix in the vanilla {and whiskey if using}
3. Chill the mixture thoroughly in the refrigerator overnight, then freeze it in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Or, use a hand churn method.

{for a metric conversion chart, click here}

Slan Abhaile,

Imen

Photos and styling by Imen McDonnell 2013. Imperfect hand model: a certain farmer. This post was not sponsored in any way by Red Rooster coffee-it simply just rocks my world.

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wildboy

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Long before I was familiar with  “ramps” or “ramsons” {or wild leek, spring garlic, and wild onion for that matter} I was visiting the honeybees in the wood with my father-in-law.  I wandered off to admire the babbling brook when I stepped on a plant and suddenly the scent of woodsy garlic hit the air with a vengeance.

I came back and explained what happened to Michael and he enlightened me by saying that the plant was ‘wild spring garlic’ and to him it was a bit of a nuisance. Especially if it grew near the bee hives.  {garlic honey anyone? Actually, that kinda sounds good!}

I went home that afternoon and secretly marveled over the idea of ‘wild spring garlic’.  The following weekend, the little farmer and I packed up a basket and the garden shovel and we went down to collect some of this chive-y plant to use in a soda bread recipe.

Nowadays, Geoffrey and I have an annual outing for ramsons. We have found their haven in the wood, where the flowering onion grows madly and looks like a blanket of snow amidst the ivy entangled trees.

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We’ve done many things with these gems, wild garlic pesto is easy and lovely, wild garlic infused oil works perfectly, I’ve pickled the bulbs and used them for double dirty martinis. Today, I decided to throw them into our favourite go-to pasta. I usually use regular garlic and lemon zest, but switched it up with the ramsons and grapefruit zest. Wild garlic + grapefruit should really get a room together because they absolutely sing. Serve this simple pasta with rhubarb cordial like we did {or a lovely chilled rosé would be divine}

tabletop

Irish Ramson + Kale + Grapefruit Linguine

Serves 4

200g Linguine {other any pasta, even asian rice noodles would be nice}
1 chicken or veg stock cube
2-3 tbsp of olive oil
2-3 large ramson bulbs {or 4-5 small}
Handful of ramson flowers {rinsed thoroughly}
200g of blanched kale
1 tbsp grapefruit zest (or lemon zest)
100g grated parmigiano-reggiano (or more to taste)

1. Boil water then add stock cube and linguine.
2. While linguine is cooking, sauté ramson bulbs in olive oil over low heat for 5
minutes until golden.
3. Add kale and cook for another 5 minutes, tossing together gently.
4. Stir in grapefruit zest and 1/2 of the parmesan.
5. Strain linguine, reserving 1/2 cup of stock liquid.
6. Add linguine and reserved liquid to sauté pan, stir through.
7. Serve with remaining parmigiano-reggiano and dress with ramson flowers.

I have a few bits of bacchanalia to share as well. First of all, Donal Skehan has just launched a magazine! Aptly titled FEAST, it is a dinner journal filled with delicious, beautifully photographed Irish food stories. I have recently been contributing recipes + photographs to the positively divine My Little Box, part of My Little Paris. For the moment, the boxes which are similar to the Birch Box, but also filled with a lifestyle +food magazine are only available in France and Belgium, but will soon be expanding to other parts of the world.  I recently discovered Mimi Thorsson’s magnificent Manger blog and can’t get enough of her gorgeously documented life of convivial food and family in France. Beth of  Local Milk blog came to visit Ireland last week and didn’t want to go home. She is a contestant on the new Masterchef series stateside, tune in! Another American girl/soon-to-be-an-Irish-farmer’s-wife shares her recipe for Kombucha. On a non-food related note, I have finally found a store in Ireland that rivals my lingerie lady at Bloomies. This is big news, I tell you.  Dublin Lingerie Co. is an online shop that sells pretty + quality underpinnings {that fit!}.

Slan Abhaile,

Imen

Photos and styling by Imen McDonnell 2013

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Welsh Cakes

19 May 2013

welsh

Sundays are the one day of the week where I am not preparing 2-3 separate brekkies. Richard can usually take a break from late morning until late afternoon so we’ll share a lazy, simple brunch of something like eggs, American crispy bacon and buttermilk pancakes {Geoffrey’s favorite}. Sometimes I’ll splash out and whiz up a full Irish or an eggs benny, or if we’ve had friends for dinner the previous evening, an easy strata that I prepared the day before and can just pop into the oven. If I have a hardcore hankering for home, I’ll do a version of a Sunday favourite that I used to share with a special friend, a breakfast quesadilla made with egg whites, salsa fresco, fresh guacamole, farmer cheese and fresh herbs from the garden. We try to make Sundays sublime.

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This morning I woke up with a mind whirring on about Welsh cakes. Similar to griddle scones, they have added fruit in the form of currants or raisins and are cooked on a griddle or in a frying pan. These charming little cakes originate from nearby Wales, and can also be referred to as a bakestone. Feeling the will of the wisps this morning, we simply swapped Geoffrey’s fluffy pancakes for fruity Welsh cakes and he was equally delighted.

I have had several requests for the recipe today, so I wanted to quickly oblige….hope you enjoy them as much as we did. They can be served at tea time (late afternoon) or anytime really, including 8pm on a Sunday night….

Welsh Cakes
{makes about 16}

225g plain flour
85g caster sugar
½ tsp mixed spice or cinnamon
½ tsp baking powder
100g butter, cut into small pieces, plus extra for frying
50g currants
1 egg, beaten
splash milk

1. Combine the flour, sugar, mixed spice, baking powder and a pinch of salt into a bowl. Then, with your fingers, rub in the butter until crumbly. Mix in the currants. Work the egg into the mixture until you have soft dough, adding a splash of milk if it seems a little dry – it should be the same consistency as shortcrust pastry.

2. Roll out the dough on a lightly floured work surface to the thickness of your little finger. Cut out rounds using a 6cm cutter, re-rolling any trimmings. Grease a flat griddle pan or heavy frying pan and place over a medium heat. Cook the Welsh cakes in batches, for about 3 mins each side, until golden brown, crisp and cooked through. Delicious served warm with butter and jam, or simply sprinkled with caster sugar. Cakes will stay fresh in a tin for 1 week.

Slan Abhaile,

Imen

Photo by Imen McDonnell 2013. Hand model: Geoffrey McDonnell

 

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