Lamb & Lentil Salad

18 Jul 2016

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Nothing says summer more than lunch al fresco under the canopy of one of our massive ash trees on the farm with plenty of salads, warm soda bread out of the oven, and my fresh butter on the table.

Bord Bia (the Irish Food Board) recently asked me to be a part of their “Lamb. Tasty, Easy, Funcampaign and I couldn’t refuse as lamb is a firm favourite on the farm. Lamb is possibly more special to me as it was not as readily available in the USA when I was growing up, and definitely falls under the special meals category. Here, we eat lamb quite frequently as there are so many cuts to choose from, and all of them are delicious. I particularly enjoy my visiting my friend Suzanna Crampton’s Zwartbles farm and if we are lucky she sends us off with a parcel of meat from her herd.

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Greek Salad with Lentils & Lamb
This super simple Greek-style lamb salad, is packed with flavor and nutrients and is perfect for an easy + light summer supper; you can double or triple the recipe if you are entertaining friends. The recipe calls for fillet of lamb (ask the butcher) or lamb steaks. I hadn’t used either of those cuts before and I must say, the fillet was incredibly tasty and tender. Let me know if you give it a go! You can find more fantastic Irish lamb recipes here.

Prep time: 20 minutes (+30 minutes resting time)
Cooking times 4-10 minutes
600g lamb fillet or lamb steaks
224g tin of cooked green lentils (or you can prepare your own)
Juice of one lemon
Salt and pepper
5 tbsp olive oil
250g cherry tomatoes
200g feta style cheese
½ cucumber, deseeded
½ red onion
6 springs flat leaf parsley
6 sprigs mint
12 pitted black olives
Place the lentils in the fine sieve and rinse with plenty of cold water, then leave to drain.
Mix the lemon juice with a little salt and peper in a large mixing bowl. Add 4 tbsp olive oil, then whisk.
Cut the cherry tomatoes in half. Chop the cheese and cucumber into small pieces. Finely slice the red onion and chop the herbs. Place everything into the mixing bowl with the lentils and olives. Mix, cover and leave to rest in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.
Take the lamb out of the fridge and allow to come to room temperature. This will take approximately 30 minutes. Pre-heat the barbeque or frying pan on high heat. Brush the lamb fillets/steaks with olive oil, season with salt and pepper and place on the bbq or in the pan. Cook for 2 minutes on each side, then reduce the heat and continue to cook depending on your preference and the thickness of the cut. Remove from bbq or pan and leave to rest for 2 minutes.
Cut into strips and serve with lentil salad and bread.
Scullery notes: Be sure to not oversalt the vinaigrette as the feta and olives are already quite salty.

Keep an eye on my media/events page, I will be travelling to Chicago, Wisconsin & Mpls this summer and have a few fun book events planned!

Slan Abhaile,

Imen xx

Photos and styling by Imen McDonnell 2016.

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Irish Spring

22 Apr 2014

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If the title of this post conjures up visions

of whittling bars of green and white stripy soap,

cast those clean as a whistle notions aside…

spring in the Irish countryside is

beautiful, raw, and green

filled with birdsong and new life…

but frankly, it mostly smells like manure;

also known as “that sweet country smell”

milking spodgesI am loving this fun sketch of me milking “Sally”

by Ailbhe Phelan, a fabulous Irish illustrator living in London.

What do you think?

The lucky recipient of Ashley English’s Handmade Gatherings is Lori Matthews.

Congratulations!

I will be back with more recipes and stories very soon.

 Life is aflurry with trying my very best to complete a

truly special manuscript & fine-tuning recipes

for my upcoming book…

while feeding calves & milking cows

and simply…

being a mother and wife (the easy part)

hen

In the meantime,

head over to Spenser Magazine

for a beautiful Irish spring lamb story…

read all about my bucolic Zwartbles adventure

nestled alongside some outstanding food stories

on ancient grains in Arizona, Blue Heron Goat Farm

and some amazing salt-roasted spot prawns.

I will leave you to linger with a few more outtakes from the shoot

PicMonkey Collage

shed

justborn

knitting

irishheather

heather

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Slan Abhaile,

Imen

Photos and Styling by Imen McDonnell 2014

No Zwartbles lambs were eaten for this post

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A Pretty Irish Easter

23 Apr 2011

Easter is one of Ireland’s most notable holidays. There are so many special Irish traditions which have been celebrated at this time of year throughout  history. Herring funerals, cake dances and the Cludog (in essence, the roasting of eggs on a farm) are all very old rituals that are not as widely in practice today, but are, nevertheless, nostalgic. Another practice that came as a bit of a surprise to learn was the observation of a ban on alcohol on Good Friday. Let’s just say, Easter is serious business around here.

In our Irish-American blended home, we enjoy a mix of traditions.  Richard loves  the big chocolate eggs and we prepare gorgeous leg of local Irish spring lamb for Easter dinner which is a popular Irish Easter feast.

Growing up stateside, we had the illustrious Easter Bunny whom, if we were good , our parents allowed to creep into our home in the dark of night to drop in a basket filled with Peeps, a fabulous chocolate bunny, tiny chocolate eggs and loads of other goodies.  We would wake up in the morning to find a little note under the pillow, which was inscribed with a clue as to where to look for our eagerly awaited Easter Basket.  One clue would lead to another, and another, and yet another, until we joyously discovered our Easter basket treasures!

Another lovely Easter tradition in our home was dyeing eggs with little kits that were purchased at the local dime store. They included little round colourful tablets of dye (that someone inevitably always thought looked delicious), a wire egg holder for dipping and perhaps a crayon. You mixed the dye with vinegar, dipped the eggs and voila! Beautifully hued hard-boiled eggs.

In the past, I’ve kept a stock of the PAAS colouring kits and have hosted Easter egg colouring parties here on the farm for my friends and their small children. The kids coloured their own tiny basket of eggs and then got to go out and milk feed the baby calves, always a treat!

This year, our shipment from American grandma did not arrive on time so we had to be more creative. At the last minute, Ivan Varian informed me that you could use Gorse flowers to create a yellow dye. Gorse or Furze is a yellow flowering bush that grows wildly in Irish countryside hedgerows. You steep the gorse in boiling water for an hour and you will obtain a yellow hue in which to die your eggs. We also used this lovely article from Williams-Sonoma, and decided to try red cabbage {robin’s egg blue} and beetroot {salmon pink} for natural dyes as well. {Warning: when cutting Gorse, wear gloves as the stems are full of hearty thorns-Sonia cut her finger trying to harvest the Gorse from our hedge!}

A Very Happy Easter To You All!

Slan Abhaile,

Imen

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

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Shepherd{ette} Pies

11 Feb 2011

I have a confession. It was not until I moved to Ireland that I tasted or even heard of Shepherds’ Pie. And really, I never attempted to make it until I had a bambino and it seemed to be the dinner of choice amongst many in the mummy set because of its ease, nutritional value + the fact that it’s basically mushy yummy goodness that all bubbies go ga-ga over.

The history of this gorgeous potato-crusted meat pie dates back to the late 1700’s to early 1800’s and most accounts claim that the pie was created by frugal housewives looking for different ways to serve leftover meat to their families on the British Isles and throughout Ireland {some things never change}. It is also generally agreed that the term “Shepherd’s Pie” originated in the north of England and Scotland where there are large numbers of sheep. If you prepare the pie with minced beef, it is then referred to as Cottage Pie.

Back home, I grew up on casseroles and hot dishes {there is now even a fabulous restaurant dedicated to hot dishes only, appropriately named Haute Dish}, but Shepherd’s Pie or it’s beef version, Cottage Pie, were definitely not de rigueur at the time. Of course, now everyone from Rachel Ray to the Barefoot Contessa has their own version of Shepherd’s Pie in America.

While I love a traditional recipe like this one from Darina Allen or Donal Skehan’s lovely roasted garlic version, I like to experiment a little and tailor the recipe to the flavours that we prefer in our home.

In all of my pies, I try to spice it up with a sprinkle of fennel seeds perhaps, or maybe a few generous pinches of herbes de Provence, Moroccan seasoning or just simply a shake of chili powder….depending on the mood (and the weather!) that day.

Pie #1 (Top) I’ve used mashed cauliflower instead of potato, giving it a subtle flavour difference and a significant carb cut down. Also, since lamb mince is not readily available in most American supermarkets, I substituted ground round steak on this pie.

Pie #2 (Middle) For a veggie version, you can replace the lamb or beef with Quorn or another type of veggie mince and it is just as protein packed and tasty!

Pie #3 (Bottom) Traditional Shepherd’s Pie made with lamb mince and whipped potato topping. Perfection.

I find that it’s nice to make individual ramekins, or “shepherdettes” as I have affectionately named them so you can freeze and take out one at a time as needed for a quick meal for one (or five) after a busy day.

Enjoy,

Slan Abhaile,

Imen

Photo by Imen McDonnell in all-natural Irish light. Assisted by Master Geoffrey McDonnell.

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