For the first time since I moved to Ireland, we are welcoming family from America to the farm for this year’s Thanksgiving celebration and I am just thrilled! Last year, we hosted the dinner in our home with a group of our expat friends which was wonderful and this year it will be just as special again.

We will all be to traveling to Kildare on Wednesday the 23rd to visit a turkey farm and take home our fresh bronze turkey. I have freshly pressed apple cider in the fridge that we will warm and sip the next morning as we prepare for our meal later that day. Pumpkin pie(s) will be made. Martha’s stuffing. Fresh cranberry chutney. Yams. And of course, Richard’s famous Irish coffee.

In America, I think it is safe to say that Thanksgiving is nearly as big a holiday as Christmas. Here, since there is no holiday to break up the time before Christmas, everyone is already dangerously close to hitting the Christmas spirit. It is getting increasingly more difficult to wait to go Christmas cray cray until the day after Thanksgiving, but I will resist!

In the spring, I worked as a food stylist on a fantastic cookbook written by Irish butcher, Pat Whelan, and photographed by the very talented Moya McAllister. One of the recipes that really appealed to me was Pat’s sweet turkey, ham and cranberry pies. They are just the right size for a light lunch or tea in the evening. Of course, the idea is that these would be easy to whip up with leftovers from the Christmas dinner, but I love the thought of making them after Thanksgiving. With or without the ham.

Here’s Pat’s recipe

Makes 8 (In a regular 12 hole bun/muffin tray. I used tart molds which are a bit larger so recipe would make 6)


500g Shortcrust pastry

250g/9oz/1 1/2 cups shredded turkey

100g/3/4 cup cooked ham cut into small pieces

8 tbsp creme fraiche

8 tsp cranberry sauce

1 egg beaten

Roll out pastry

Cut 8 circles to line holes of the tin and 8 smalled circles for the pie lids

Grease the holes in the tin and line with pastry

Divide the turkey, ham, cranberry sauce and cream between the 8 holes

Season with salt and pepper

Brush the edges of the pastry and apply the pastry lid to seal

Place tray into the fridge to chill for about 30 minutes

Heat oven to 180/Gas 6

Brush pastry lids with egg wash and bake for 25 minutes

Can be eaten hot or cold!

Slan Abhaile,


Photo by Moya McAllister. Food Styling by Imen McDonnell 2010.


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Here I go writing about food again, but how can I resist when Thanksgiving is right around the corner? I have always had an affinity for Thanksgiving.  It may just possibly be my most favorite American holiday. We had the same lovely tradition for so many years of traveling to my grandmother’s house where all of my wonderful extended family would come together on a (usually) pretty snowy day and celebrate with loads of turkey and all the trimmings. The best bit of it all? The PUMPKIN PIE of course!

Now, as far as I can tell, pumpkin pie would not be something that the Irish necessarily love…even though the famed Jack-O-Lantern has it’s roots in Irish lore, the pumpkin does not get the same celebrity status as in the USA.  I’ll never forget the time when Richard and I were still dating and I was visiting Ireland during Thanksgiving. I decided on a whim that I would make Thanksgiving dinner for his whole family. I mean you can’t NOT celebrate Thanksgiving, right? I brought over pumpkin and cranberry and other pantry items to be on the safe side..along with my trusty Martha Stewart recipes that I had chosen for that year. We used a turkey from the farm (don’t ask the details about that) which was lovely and I began making this extravagant meal that I thought everyone would surely love and appreciate. Well okay, maybe I just wanted them to love and appreciate ME.

So. The first thing that went wrong was that I was oblivious to the fact that there would be differences in oven temperatures. Here, we use celsius, not fahrenheit so I had to do some major conversions which drove me a bit mad. Then, the same with the measurements! Everything is in metric so instead of cups I had to work in mls and grams. The last time I used grams for anything I cannot discuss here, but let’s just say it was a long time ago so as you can imagine converting ounces to grams to mls to cups and back again completely did my head in.  Still, somehow I sorted it out and made a gorgeous meal for everyone.

We sat down in the formal dining room and started to eat. I was happily taking in all the compliments and actually feeling a little chuffed when I was posed with the question of “So, Imen, is Thanksgiving a Jewish holiday?”.  Huh?  I told myself not to giggle. I answered eloquently, explaining the history of Thanksgiving (Charlie Brown style, of course) that no,  it was not Jewish, but that Jewish people do, in actual fact, observe the holiday with all the other Americans. They were fascinated and nearly ate every last morsel that I had prepared. Success!

But then came dessert. The famous pumpkin pie. I wish I had videotaped the faces on everyone as they took their first bite of this yummy sweet/savory delicacy that we love so dearly in the USA.  Surprise. Delight. Terror. No expression just fast gobbling. Sheer happiness (me).  And then, out of the blue, a quote uttered by Grandma McDonnell, “Tis Different”.  A phrase which I learned much later had meant “It’s Rotten”.  I find this quite humorous and touching. She actually thought it tasted rotten, but ate it all and never said a bad word to me.

Oh well, it’s still my favorite. And Richard and Geoffrey love it too. (Really!)

Mind Yourself,


Photo courtesy of Food Network


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