Milk Jam

28 Nov 2012

Milk jam. Confiture de Lait. Dulce de Leche. The beautiful byproduct of a simmering pot of milk + sugar. A prime suspect in the mystery of the ill-fitting jeans. A case as easily solved as Nancy Drew’s Case of the Crooked BanisterI could eat milk jam by the spoonful, which is why it is only made for special occasions. Special occasions like “Hey mom, it’s Wednesday!”

Thought I’d share how to make milk jam with you as it’s another fun adventure in dairy farm living. The milk I use is from our cows, but you can use any whole milk (grass-fed and organic would be superior, but not necessary.)

Pour it over ice cream, pudding, cake, apple pie or crumble, prepare it with goat’s milk for cajeta, spread onto sandwich cookies, gift it for the holidays…or just simply put it in a jar and dip a spoon in when the mood strikes. Yes, it takes a wee bit of patience…these time-honoured traditions take time. But, by all means, just make it.

Farmhouse Milk Jam

1 Litre (4 cups) whole milk

300g caster sugar

½ tsp sea salt

½ tsp baking soda

1 tsp vanilla extract


In a large pot add milk and stir in the sugar, salt, baking soda and vanilla extract.

Turn heat to med-high and bring the milk mixture to a boil without stirring. Once you see the milk start to boil and bubble slightly, lower the heat (the milk will froth and rise rapidly if it is overboiled.)

Once it’s boiling, turn the heat down to low and skim the foam from the top. Continue to simmer uncovered for around 2 hours, stirring constantly. (consider it the workout before indulgence!)

It’s best to cook it as low and slow as possible. If the heat is too high, the milk will boil and form a skin that won’t disappear no matter how much you whisk.

Check your consistency at about 2 hours. I usually stop it now when I want a runnier caramel to use in other recipes. Cook it a little longer if you want a thicker jam to use as a spread or to sandwich cookies. Just remember that it’ll thicken up more while it cools and when it’s in the fridge.

I have decided to start sharing some inspiring bits + bobs that I come across during the month. all the time.  Will post on an ad hoc basis and call it Bits of Bacchanalia.  {I love the term bacchanalia, by definition, a gathering of people eating, drinking and having a good time…aka, our kind of people!} 

Tis the season, right? I hope you enjoy.

{Bits of Bacchanalia}

Last weekend, I spent a night at the bucolic & welcoming Barnabrow House in East Cork. Geraldine Kidd is the consummate host, and Scottish Chef Stuart Bowes prepared an absolute *mean* Feast of East Cork. We went home happy with holiday puddings and bottles of Cork’s own 8 Degrees Brewing seasonal Winter Ale. 

The Christmas Market opens at Doonbeg on the 7th of December. We will surely be going, beautiful location + wonderful gift ideas. Not to mention, aul’ Santa.

The first commercially brewed Belgian style ale, Dr. Rudi, has been produced in Ireland under the Brown Bag Project label.  According to head brewer, Brian Short, ‘Dr Rudi is best enjoyed poured into a stemmed glass that tapers in at the top, to concentrate all the lovely big fruity aromas of the hop. Serving temperature should be about 10 degrees Celsius to allow the flavours to shine through.’ Available at two of our favourite Dublin haunts  L. Mulligan Grocer + W.J. Kavanaghs 

RTE Lifestyle did a wonderful little recap of the Kitchen Archives: From Spoon to Screen discussion that I participated in at the National Library in Dublin last week.

My butcher buddy, Pat Whelan, has launched his {first in the world} Beef Bonds this month. Exciting! 

We received a this beautifully illustrated book in the post this week from a Dublin PR co….compiled by Bord na Móna for Focus Ireland…proceeds go to fight homelessness in Ireland. 

Apparently, the New York Times was jazzed by juniper junket last week too.

I have just completed Jeanne Oliver’s Creatively Made Home e-course, I recommend it highly. Now, apparently I can gift it to you at a discount price of 38 USD since I am a former student! Leave a comment below if interested.

My farming friend, Kimberly Taylor, of Blackberry Farm, has just opened her Tiggy + Grace online shop..nip over there now!

Keep an eye out for the fabulous new Foodie Crush holiday issue

I just love Ilana’s blog….how could I resist, she likes to refer to it as  “the blob”

I’m on Instagram if you want to follow along for more farm + food adventures!

Slan Abhaile,


Photos, styling, and slurping by Imen McDonnell 2012


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Last year, I was approached by a Dublin production company that wanted to pitch a show to Irish television network, RTE, about my life as an American married to an Irish farmer and the ins-and-outs of day to day life on our farm. A girlfriend back home wondered in jest if it would be called ‘The Real Farmwives of Ireland’ complete with an MTV-style logo featuring a pair of mucky pink wellies with a shimmering gold dusted title animated across the front of them.

While that idea made me chuckle, it also made me seriously consider the idea of real Irish farm wives. I have met many fascinating + inspiring + modern women in agriculture since moving to the Irish countryside that I admire profusely, and YES, there should be a show about these ladies! I am always thrilled to meet other women who manage to farm on some level and run another business or a busy career on the side, feed a family of their own and often extra workers…most of whom are mothers as well. Some may have been raised on farms, and others like myself, moved to a farm without a clue as to what to expect.

Perhaps I won’t be producing The Real Farmwives for Irish television anytime soon, but I would like to share these fabulous farmerettes here with you all, and I hope you enjoy meeting them as much as I have.

First up is Lorna Sixsmith of Carlow, County Laois. I stumbled upon Lorna over a year ago when I was looking for an Irish online boutique that stocked stylish decor/gifts for children. In my search, I came across Garrendenny Lane Interiors and found brilliant bits & pieces on the site including a locally crafted wooden alphabet snake puzzle which I ordered straight away. I received a confirmation email immediately and it arrived two days later in the post without a hitch.  After that, I realised that Lorna also had a blog and lived on a farm herself. Needless to say, she is quite an inspiration to me. I’ve been following her blog as well as her her sales in the online boutique, and am particularly fond of her amazing wallpaper selection and the die-cut prints with common Irish sayings.

Here’s a little about Lorna, her farm, family and Garrendenny Lane Interiors…

Life on the Farm

I was brought up on this farm and we inherited it from my father 9 years ago. We had been living and working in the UK, Brian has a PhD in microbiology but was brought up on a farm and would have loved to farm so we decided to come back and the timing worked well with us starting a family too.  Brian is originally from Coolkenno, which is 25 miles away.

Our farm is dairy and beef, we have a British Freisian herd and keep all the male calves to beef when they are sold to the factory at 2 years.  Brian has worked really hard and really enjoys it and we sell many of our replacement heifers.  I don’t milk the cows, unfortunately with eczema, I am allergic to straw, hay, pollens, and depending on how my allergies are, they will determine how much I can do outside.  I do help out in the spring with feeding calves and herding, etc., but have to admit I tend to be a bit of a ‘fair weather farmer’.  The children vary in what they love doing.  Our 9 year old son loves machinery and will spend days on the tractor with Brian during the holidays. Our 7 year old daughter loves the goats and we  sometimes get a couple of pet lambs which she loves feeding etc.  They help out by helping to feed calves, move cattle, that kind of  thing.

What do I love most about country living? The space, the quietness, the good feelings that walking across particular fields can evoke, the views, the feeling of having nature right beside you.  Farming is a wonderful (although long hours) way of life.


Garrendenny Lane Interiors was started in Nov 2007, initially as an interior design consultancy  service with sales for fabric and wallpaper brands.  It was started as a business to operate from home, which turned out to be a very sensible idea with the way things have altered with the economy. The online store was added the following August, when we managed to get  broadband!

I used to be a teacher, but when living in England, we would buy a house to renovate and  decorate and once it was finished, we would get itchy feet and move on to  another project. We were both working during the day but weekends and evenings were devoted to DIY, unfortunately being self-employed now means neither of us have the time for it!  After having the children, I wanted to work from home – partly to be with the kids, and partly to be on the farm, and as I enjoy interior design and decorating, I did a diploma course and it went from  there.

The name Garrendenny Lane originates from the farm, I was thinking along the lines of a romantic country sounding name like blueberry lane and as we actually have a lane that runs thru the farm called Garrendenny Lane, we decided to go with that – I hadn’t realised that so many people would find it hard to  pronounce!  Our address is actually Garrendenny Castle, but that sounded too ostentatious so went with Garrendenny Lane.

I love going to the European trade fairs – seeing all the new products, designs, new fabrics  and wallpapers, deciding what to order etc.  I write occasionally for local magazines as well as Interiors magazines so enjoy the trade fairs from that point of view too, doing the research for the articles. To date, I have tended to source stock that is either not available elsewhere in Ireland or is hard to find (and many UK sites will not ship to Ireland) so I wanted  Garrendenny Lane to be the go-to site when people want gifts or home  accessories for their home that are different, individual, beautiful and competitively priced.

I decided to relaunch my website in 2010 as with the changes in the economy, and the fact that I was finding it hard to juggle all the balls in the air (interior design, fabric & wallpaper sales  and the online store), I decided to concentrate on the online store. The existing  site was very attractive, but the online store was only one small part of it and hence it wasn’t necessarily that easy for people to find.  It also meant I could work around the children. I still do interior design, but it has tended to be for existing clients or word of mouth recommendations.

So to recap, I tend to source stock from European suppliers, particularly  Scandinavian. However, following a survey I organised before changing the  site, there is a definite interest in ‘Made in Ireland’ products and I have decided to target the UK and the USA with quality, elegant, unusual Irish products that are beautifully made by talented craftspeople and will be adding  to my ‘Made in Ireland’ suppliers considerably.  I don’t tend to sew anything myself I have to admit, but I enjoy taking an old piece of  furniture and adding my stamp to it, but I just don’t have the time at  the moment.


Will is 9 and Kate is 7.  I find the balance works well, I work on Garrendenny Lane when they are in school and then am free to bring them to activities, do homework, spend time with them and I also work on the laptop in the living room when they are playing etc. They get on really well and play well on their own and together. Our living room does tend to be more of a ‘playroom’ but I prefer that and so do they so more often than not, there is Lego or a farm taking up half of it with a doll’s house taking up another quarter!  The extent of my involvement in the farm varies on the time of year, Brian works long hours so it does tend to be me that does  all of the running around to swimming lessons, Beavers although Brian will do some in December and Jan when the cows are dry! Then I am like a single mum again from Feb – May!

The children would love to help me by wrapping up orders, but I tend to have to dissuade them – they love helping when new products arrive and help me when I am checking the orders, emptying boxes etc (they love playing with the huge boxes  that arrive – and make houses, boats, tents etc with them)   They will test out the products for children too!

What is new for Garrendenny Lane Interiors? Anything special for the holidays? Tell us about your blog(s)….

There is an information centre on the website where people will find answers to many decorating and design queries, there is a wallpaper calculator on the wallpaper pages, there is a gift reminder service so people can input birthday dates for their friends and families and  receive reminders so they need never be late with a birthday gift again,  e-vouchers that can be emailed to the recipient,  we stock many wallpapers that are either exclusive to Garrendenny Lane or aren’t widely available – that kind of explains what sets Garrendenny apart from the rest I guess.

While there are lots of other web based shops, I think Garrendenny Lane does and will have lots of advanced functionality, great products, user-friendly, good search tools, informative blog posts and articles – plus our products are different, beautiful and competitively  priced!

Our Aw Go On poster is a firm favourite and of course, was inspired by the Mrs Doyle of the Father Ted episodes. It has been reduced in price to spread some pre-Christmas Irish love :), the Irish blessings in typographical prints are very popular too.

Our Irish Christmas cards provide some good Irish humour and are certainly very different.

The Bold and Noble typographical maps are proving very popular. The Ireland Maps are flying off the shelves and I’ve just got the new New York city map in stock too.

I have started a new personal blog which is called Irish Farmerette, I also blog for Write on Track which is the blog coaching and blog outsourcing business.

Lorna is offering readers of this blog a special discount for purchases (last shipping date to the US is 6th Dec). Use the code FARM22, to get 15% off purchases until 20th December. Visit Garrendenny Lane online at

Hope you’ve enjoyed my first installment of The Real Farmwives of Ireland. Please leave a comment below and let me know what you think!

Slan Abhaile,


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A Irishwoman in Paris

03 Feb 2010

Born and raised on a farm in the countryside near Belfast, Trish DeSeine fell in love with France on a childhood visit.  Little did we know that she would later become a celebrated French cookery writer and television personality living in Paris. Don’t you just love how life works sometimes?

After 20+ years in Paris, Mme. DeSeine could be dubbed a real Parisian…but she’ll always have that warm Irish spirit and charm in her heart. I am honored to be able to share a little about about Trish and her Irish heritage with you this week.

Bon Appetit!

What was it like growing up on a farm in Ireland?

Of the three of us (I am in the middle of two brothers) I was probably the one who took most interest. I would spend many Saturday mornings with my father as he did his weekly check on the cattle over at Belfast’s Cavehill. We helped out a bit when the hay was made, and that was great fun, but my father had an ace team of 5 burly brothers from Belfast who looked after everything. My mother was a teacher, so away during the week, but diligently cooked for any farmhands needing sustenance on Saturdays. This was nearly always mince, potatoes and carrots.  Or sometimes a pot roast or chicken and vegetable soup with barley.

Which Irish dishes do you miss…or have redesigned to be more ooh la la?

None really, you can get most ingrédients all over the world now, and happily Irish ones are pretty simple.  I do love cream and butter from home, though, and barmbrack and wheaten bread.  I certainly would not redesign Irish food. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. It’s true attraction is in its very simplicity, quality and purity. I cannot imagine destructing an Irish stew or beef in Guinness !

Are there Irish traditions or sensibilities that you get nostalgic about?

I ‘d like to be romantic and affectionate but, you see, I grew up in County Antrim, in a fiercely Unionist, Presbyterian family and community during the worst of the Troubles. Irish traditions, ie « Southern » were certainly not celebrated ! My family’s affinities leaned more towards Scotland and Great Britain. Therefore, both traditions and cultures got a bit diluted, somehow.  I studied  English in school, a Protestant Grammar school in Belfast, where only a few Irish authors and poets found their way onto the curriculum .  It’s only now that I can see how biased our upbringing was. It’s very sad, I think, that due to the violence , our entire childhood we were being prepared to « get out »  The result of this is not true nostalgia, but a type of retro-nostalgia, for an imaginary Irish childhood I would loved to have had.I always suspected people on the other side of the border were having a hell of a good time . I realise now this was absolutely true.

I guess I miss the way folk would pop in unannounced, for a cup of tea and a piece of cake, and how we would call with friends in a very unceremonious way.  The Irish kitchens of my childhood always had a good stash of traybakes, scones or Victoria sandwich.

Do your children love their Irish heritage..what do they like about Ireland?

They know very little of it, having spent much more time in Scotland and London. They feel more what the French would call « Anglo Saxon »  or « from an English speaking culture » than Irish.  Hopefully we’ll have time in the future to go back and explore a little more.

Do you ever use Irish slang?

Rarely, I don’t get much of a chance in France ! But my nows and my downs with that NornOrn impossible vowel sound are still perfectly intact. My children have a slight NIrish accent in their English which is really lovely.

Any tips on acclimating to another culture?

Fall in love !

What are some of your favourite places in Ireland that you would recommend visiting?

The Hugh Lane in Dublin and the Bacon exhibit in particular. Ballyvolane House near Cork for a long lazy weekend and fantastic food .

Luckily, even though she now calls Paris her home, we can still have her via her remarkable culinary treasures.

Trish has written a hugely popular series of illustrated cookbooks. Her most recent is “Comme Au Resto” which shows how to take the latest trends and le presentation from restaurant meals to give your own entertaining a bit of glamour without all the cheffy fuss. My favourite? “I Want Chocolate”, you will never think of chocolate in the same way again. You can find Trish’s books available worldwide on Amazon, Barnes & Noble & Easons or for more information visit her beautiful website Trish

Slan Abhaile,


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Good Mood Food

07 Jan 2010

One of my favourite things about living in Ireland is discovering exciting new people, places and things (and, of course, food!). Last week, I discovered one such remarkable person whom I am delighted to share with you all—that is, if you haven’t already heard of him. His name is Donal Skehan, a bright new star in Ireland’s culinary world and according to RTE (Ireland’s largest broadcasting network), “Ireland’s Answer to Jamie Oliver”.  Pretty impressive stuff for a 23 year-old fellow from Howth.

Donal’s book, “Good Mood Food” hit the stores in October and has been flying off the shelves ever since. Based on the blog that he started 2 years ago, Good Mood Food, is filled with delicious recipes that maybe even my husband could make (yes, that’s a hint honey). He’s young and fresh and his recipes mimic that style…healthful and light–many of which you’d think were coming from Northern California rather than Ireland. And let’s face it, sometimes on a gray, rainy Irish day it would be grand to have one of Donal’s yummy sunny recipes on hand just to put a little spring into your step.

When he’s not cooking, blogging or shooting, he’s recording music with his band, Industry, which makes him all the more fascinating. Still, the best bit about Donal is that for all the press and publicity he is an undeniably friendly guy with a genuine love for all things food (including a wonderfully quirky addiction to reading cookbooks). This lovely spirit of friendly foodie enthusiasm comes through in his book, blog…even his tweets.

Donal graciously took the time to share with me a little more about himself and his relationship with Ireland:

What was is the best thing about growing up in Ireland?

I grew up in Howth which is a fishing village 30 mins from Dublin city centre and as kids we had the run of huge green fields filled with horses behind the house, so one of my favourite things was to be lucky enough to have the freedom to spend the whole day out in the open air!  It’s only now that I really appreciate it and realise what a special thing it was.

Which Irish dishes do you love…or have you redesigned to be “good mood food”?

You can’t beat a good Irish stew and like most families, we have our own version, the recipe for which is on the blog. I also love baking Irish soda bread, it’s a flavour which tastes so distinctly like home to me.

In what ways do you support Irish farmers and producers?

I think one of the most important thing is to buy veg that is in season, Ireland produces fantastic fresh fruit and vegetables and by choosing home grown seasonal veg, we as consumers are not only helping the environment, but we end up eating more fresh food.  I actually got to visit a free range Turkey farm before Christmas and it was hugely inspiring, the birds lived a happy life, were extremely healthy and had a farmer that was incredibly passionate about what he did.  In the world we live in it’s becoming more and more important to know where our food comes, and the step by step process its goes through before ending up on our plates.

What are some Irish traditions or sensibilities that you love?

I think growing up I would always have been a little dismissive of Irish traditions, the music, the language etc, but having grown up a little more and travelled, I am so proud to be Irish and I love showing off our fantastic culture to any visitors we have!

What are your fave places in Ireland that you would recommend visiting?

In the last two years I have travelled more in Ireland than ever before and it’s been great because you get to see the amazing sights we have to offer on our doorstep.  We took a little road trip to the Burren and drive up to Galway from there and the views are just amazing.  I also went to Irish college on Achill Island in Mayo in my teens and it’s a really special place too!  Lots of good surf!  Of course I also have to mention my home village of Howth as well, it gets huge numbers of tourists right through the year, we have an amazing cliff walk which is a must see!

In your words, describe your book, Good Mood Food.

Good Mood Food is all about simple, healthy homecooking.  It’s full of really easy healthy recipes that are perfect for even those who haven’t done too much cooking before.  I like to think that I write recipes that become part of a routine, simple family meals which can be done with your eyes closed!

Donal is currently filming an episode of Market Kitchen for the BBC’s Good Food Channel which will air later this month. You can read his blog at: His book, Good Mood Food is available online at

I have decided to give one priviledged reader a copy of “Good Mood Food”. If you’re interested, please email me at before Monday. I will be drawing a name and announcing the winner next week.

In the weeks to come I will be featuring more extraordinary Irish talents as well as blogging about my wee life as an Irish farmer’s wife.

Slan Abhaile,


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