Mmmmm. Fresh yogurt. Crunchy granola. Boo Berries.

BUT, before I go into all of that crazy goodness, I’d like to express my GINORMOUS thanks to all that voted for this blog in the Saveur Magazine Best Food Blog Awards. Voting is closed and the winners will be announced on May 3rd. If you voted, it was very generous and kind of you, if you didn’t, I get that too; signing up to vote in a contest is not everyone’s cup-o-tea. I’m just delighted that you take the time to read my funny little country-living/food-loving diary. It’s a labour of love.

I really must say that I am especially grateful to Bord Bia {the Irish food board}, Marie-Claire Digby of the Irish Times, The Irish Farmer’s Journal and Irish Country Mag, along with the amazing food and blogging community in Ireland who shared an overwhelming show of support in getting the word out about this nomination. If there is one thing I have noticed that Ireland does with great pride and enthusiasm, it is supporting the people, places or things they believe in. To receive this gesture of support as an American living in Ireland is something to relish; it is heartwarming and very special to say the least. Plus, it goes a long way in making an oft homesick expat feel right at home, and that is enough of a win for me! Thank you.

I apologise for not having a post up sooner. As luck would have it, we’ve had sketchy internet. I am not going to flannel on about it, because we are lucky that we even have a fast internet connection most of the time. This was not always the case. When I moved here just a few years ago, there was dial-up. The kind where you hear the dial tone and worse-than-nails-on-a-blackboard screeching sounds. Now, we have wi-fi, but the router is located in the cowshed at the upper farmyard because it picks up a better signal from there. Which is brilliant, until rains too much {cough} we don’t get a signal. Yes, it rains fairly often. (see Fair Weather Friend)

So. Homemade yogurt. Something I probably would have never dreamed of attempting, but when you have an Irish dairy on your doorstep and the nearest supermarket is 3/4′s of an hour away, it makes no sense whatsoever NOT to milk it. This post is not groundbreaking. There are already bags of other food blogs + websites featuring DIY yogurt. It’s like a bubbling pot of live bacteria out there. So, I am not going to claim that my version is the best, but I do know that our 6 year old prefers it over fromage frais which is nothing short of monumental. I personally think the trick is vanilla bean. Takes down that tang.

And, besides the cracking taste; other mightly fine reasons for making your own yoghurt are:

  1. It’s healthier as it contains no extra preservatives, sugars or additives {i.e. gobbledy-gook}
  2. It’s less expensive {even if you’re not farming}
  3. It’s friendlier to the environment {no trees will be harmed}

As far as the granola, it’s as simple as A. my go-to gorgeous Kilbeggan Oats roasted with B. my beekeeping father-in-law’s happy honey, and C. a few other nutty & seedy bits and bobs thrown in for good measure. Of course, you can use any brand of oats and honey from the shop or market. Easy peasy.

Sharing these recipes can only mean I’ve formally become “crunchy” right?  Okay, maybe halfsies; I did go out to a fancy city dinner wearing makeup and Michael Kors last week, so perhaps I’m just a partial granola girl.

Either way, I’m down with it.

Are you?

Farmhouse Yoghurt

2 Liters or 1/2 gallon of milk

(I use full fat from our dairy for a delightfully creamy result,

but you can buy organic milk of any fat content from the

market as well)

125 ml/ ½ cup of plain yogurt

(to be used a starter, store-bought & must have “live bacteria

cultures” on label)

1 teaspoon vanilla pod seeds

Stainless steel saucepan

Candy Thermometer

Over low heat, slowly bring the milk up to 77°C/170°F in saucepan with a candy thermometer. Do not allow the milk to boil at any time. Once your milk reaches 77°C/170°F, turn off the heat and bring the temperature back down to 43°C/110°F. Once your milk has reached 43°C/110°F, stir a little bit of the warm milk into the 125 ml/½ cup of plain yogurt.

Pour the milk and yogurt mixture into to the saucepan and gently stir them together. Stir in vanilla seeds.

Now it is time to incubate the yogurt. You will need to keep it at a temperature of about 110°F for the next 4-10 hours. The length of time will depend on how thick and tangy you want your yogurt. The longer it sits at this warm temperature, the firmer and tangier it will get. Check the yogurt at the 4 hour mark for a taste and texture test, if you are pleased you can move onto chilling.

I recommend putting the lid onto the saucepan of yogurt, wrapping it up in towels and placing into an oven which was preheated to 50°C/120°F and then turned off. (You can try to maintain the heat in the oven by leaving the light on, which can generate enough heat to keep the yogurt active, but I find keeping the pan cosy in towels should do the trick). All ovens are not the same so play it by ear. I have also read about using a crock-pot, heating pad or, of course, a yogurt maker as well.

When the desired time is up, place the yogurt in the fridge to chill. After the yogurt is completely chilled, stir. There may be a film over the top, which you can eat or simply remove. Pour yogurt into airtight containers and store. (remember to save some to use as your next starter.) Then poon into a dish, cover in granola & fresh berries and DEVOUR.

Slan Abhaile,

Imen x

Photos and Styling by Imen McDonnell 2012

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Baked Irish Porridge

03 Jan 2012

Happy New Year! You might have noticed a few wee changes here….what better time for new beginnings than the first week of the year, right?

In the spirit of fresh new starts, I’ve decided to make a small change to the title of this blog and from this day forward she will now be emblazoned: “farmette” {at I Married An Irish Farmer}. The farmer and I gave it some thought and came to the conclusion that it was time for a change…and in his words “We all know you married an Irish farmer now….isn’t that old news?” He’s right.

So, here’s the new news…

1. I have basically (umm, finally) settled into my role as ‘chief farmette’ here at the farm.

Plus…

2. The little weekly column that I write is entitled “Tales of A Modern Farmette” and @ModernFarmette is also my handle on the ‘ould Twitterbox, so now everything will be all nice and tidy.  We likey nice-y and tidy.

And…

3. The word “farmette” makes me smile. Nuff said.

For now, the web address will stay the same so you don’t have to remember a new one, eventually it will move to a new address and I will make sure that process is seamless.

I have also added two new pages on the right hand side:  “Settling In” and “Traditional Skills”. Both quick links to past blog posts with “Settling In” being a sort of pre-food round up of funny posts about adapting to my new life in the countryside, and “Traditional Skills”, a place for all those time-honoured skills that I have learned over the past 2 years, such as butter and cheese making, apple pressing, jam, bread, and honeybee posts. I will be adding new material to both pages as time goes on.

Roight. Enough with the housekeeping, swiftly moving on…

I had planned on starting off the year with theeee most wickedly decadent cake + pudding post, inspired by one too many viewings of Sofia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette over the holiday break, but decided to go with a healthier start…for a week or so anyway.

Baked porridge oats for brekky is one of the little farmer’s firm favourites. He loves it with brown sugar + massive amounts of cinnamon and Grandad’s honey. This morning we used Highbank Orchard Syrup, a boiled down apple syrup in place of the honey. Let’s just say it went over better than a new Phineas and Ferb episode. I discovered this gorgeous new product at Savour Kilkenny in October, and we will definitely keep a stock of it in the larder from here on out as it is perfect in porridge on a cold winter’s morning.

My {Quick and Easy} Baked Irish Porridge Oats

Ingredients

1 cup of Irish porridge oats (We love Kilbeggan Organic* best, now also available in the USA at Dean & Deluca in store and online)

2 cups of water or milk + 2-3 tablespoons milk

1 tsp boiled apple syrup or 2 tsp of honey

1-3 tsp cinnamon

2 tbsp brown sugar

Method

Bring the porridge oats and water or milk to a boil in a saucepan. Turn down heat and let simmer for 3-4 minutes stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Mix in a few tablespoons of milk, a teaspoon of Highbank Orchard Syrup (or any boiled apple syrup) and cinnamon to taste. Pour into an ovenproof ceramic baking dish, sprinkle top with 2 tbsp of brown sugar and place into 425f/210c oven* for 20 minutes or until brown sugar has bubbled and hardened on top slightly. Serve immediately.

*alternatively, if you have an oven with an overhead grill place under at 200c for 10-15 minutes

*Since posting, I rec’d an email that Kilbeggan Oats are now available in Stateside at Dean & DeLuca!

You can also use the coarser steel cut oats; just soak them in water overnight beforehand so they get nice and soft when cooked/baked in the morning.

Cheers to a wonderful 2012! If you have a spare moment, would love to hear your thoughts on “farmette” and other changes to the blog…you can leave a reply below.

Slan Abhaile,

Imen x

Photo and styling by Imen McDonnell 2012

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