My name is Imen McDonnell and I am powerless over pizza.

Okay, maybe I’m not quite a pizza-holic, but pizza has always played a big role in my life.  My fondness for this Italian delicacy probably stemmed from my father’s adoration of the same…we’d often find ourselves sharing a pepperoni and cheese from our local, Port Sandy Bay {whom, I might add, also served the Infamous “Snowcoaster” pizza which was prepared on a shiny round snow sled} and it was such a treat. If I was ever home from school with a cold, my dad insisted that I eat pizza and it was remarkably healing.

As years went on, I would always find myself on a mission to experience pizza wherever I traveled or lived. In Los Angeles, Joe’s Pizza was a favorite; in New York I favoured Ray’s…I’ve had a brilliant pizza at BIKO in Mexico City and of course, in Italy…her birthplace, where pizzerias can be found around nearly every corner, but for me, most memorable at the  10 Corso Como cafe in Milan any choice of little pizza cafés dotting the streets of Rome or along a tiny windy road in Positano.  {I’ve yet to experience a Napoli pizza, my father’s favorite, which has been on my list since as long as I can remember}

When I lived in Minneapolis, brick-oven pizza was king and I had places like Punch and Biga on heavy rotation as I was a single professional who often worked late, couldn’t find time to cook at home in the evenings and longed for something healthy that went well with a glass of red after a long day. In fact, if I fancied, I could even have my pizza delivered to me by a superhero which was always divine.

Since moving to Ireland, I have had great luck with La Cucina, a sweet Italian eatery located in Limerick City near the offices of a production studio I worked at for a time. We would often pick up delicious pizzas or pasta for the crew from Lorraine, a friendly Irish girl who married an Italian and created a lovely restaurant together.

When we went to Inishfood in Donegal last month, we experienced Darren Bradley’s amazing brick-oven pizza at his home near the beach on the gorgeous Inishowen peninsula one evening….which reminded me a bit of going to the bucolic Pizza Farm, only with Irish microbrews accompanying our slices at twilight.

It goes without saying that after we moved into our country home, I would have to learn how to make my own pizza if we wanted to eat it on a regular basis. I started searching for pizza dough recipes and after going through at least 5-6 that seemed to have great potential; I stumbled upon this one from, of all places, Modern Country Cooking and I have never looked back.

If you love a super thin crispy crust, this is for you. I make up the batch and freeze or refrigerate half of it. We love getting creative and mixing it up, making everything from Moroccan to Thai pizzas and when there are odds and ends in the crisper after a week of meals, Sunday morning breakfast pizza is the ultimate.

Inspired by Darren’s potato version from Inishfood, I decided to add some of my favorite local ingredients, Crowe’s Farm streaky rashers and Ardsullagh Goat’s Cheese along with truffle oil, minced garlic and fresh rosemary which grows right in front of our house. This particular pizza does not call for a tomato base, but  the crust is just as delicious with passata and the toppings of your choice.

 

Hope you like it as much as we do!

 

Slan Abhaile,

Imen

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

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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.

Pail from IKEA, Ribbon by American Craft Elements Co. Tags from local craft shop.

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