Horse & Hound

23 Jan 2012

{As published in Irish Country Living 19.1.12}

Last Wednesday morning started out unremarkably. When I was heading home from my countryside Pilates class, I decided to take a different route, just to add some color to the start of the day. I should have known when I passed two large trailers on the road labeled HORSES that something was afoot, but still getting the hang of things around here, I simply didn’t put two and two together.

Suddenly, I found myself in a cavalcade of slow moving vehicles, all of us inching down the small lane together. I thought it might have been a funeral procession so I remained patient and respectful as I lurched along with the rest.  When there was finally a fork in the road, I turned off thinking I could get home more quickly. This detour is also the pretty narrow lane that cuts through the maize land that our farm grows each season.

Just when I was gaining some time, cars lining either side of the passageway stopped me abruptly. I sat idling, trying to figure out what was going on, when out of nowhere a massive stream of redcoats on horseback with a herd of hunting dogs came trotting across the road only inches from the front of my car.

I immediately rang Richard to let him know what was happening. He and his brother were visiting another farm up the country so he hung up and quickly rang the home farm to alert his father or mother so they could rush down and see what exactly was going on.

I sat in the car as the last of the horses and hounds crossed the road and proceeded to jump the hedge and head into the land on the other side. One man with a scraggly beard stood there holding a burlap bag. He looked to me like he was overseeing the group. At one point, he shot me a curious look.  I looked away, trying not to make eye contact.

I was in shock. I have heard about the hunt, I’ve even seen a group of hunters from afar, but I’ve never been so up close and personal. Despite the stunning beauty of the horses, it was daunting and, to be honest, a bit overwhelming to me. And above all, they were carrying on with their hunt on the farm’s land without permission, which seemed so disrespectful.

Each year, our farm and others post notices in the local newspapers so that the hunt groups know which town lands are private and forbidden to hunt upon. Signs go up everywhere in our community, but still, year after year, the hunt groups show up determined to do as they please.

Soon, both my mother and father-in-law came along, and eventually the road cleared. Roughly an hour after I decided to take that more colourful route, I was finally on my merry way home. I have spent a good bit of time in my life sitting in rush hour traffic, but never of the horse and hound variety!

I leave you with one of our favourite tea time treats, the coffee swiss roll. Nothing fancy, not too sweet, and I don’t think I’ve been in a rural Irish bakery that didn’t have one of these on hand. Here is our local recipe if you want to give it a try.

Coffee Swiss Roll

For the cake:

3 eggs, separated

3 oz plain flour, sifted

3 oz sugar

1tsp baking powder

1 tbsp coffee extract (Irel or Camp works well)

For the Filling:

250g double cream

1 tbsp sugar

1 tbsp coffee extract

Preheat oven to 180c/350f

Prepare a swiss/jelly roll tin with greased parchment paper

Beat egg whites in a spotlessly clean bowl until stiff.

Keeping beating and add the egg yolks followed by the sugar until you have a light creamy foam.

Very lightly fold in the flour, not all at once, in 2 or 3 batches.

Gently fold in the coffee and mix together.

Carefully spread into tin.

Bake for 10 – 15 mins until just firm to touch.

Put a clean tea towel on a cooling tray, tip the cake out onto tray, remove parchment paper and use tea towel to roll up cake. Leave to cool completely.

Whisk the cream with sugar and coffee until stiff.

Unroll the cake, spread on the filling and roll up again.

Trim the ends

Dredge with icing or caster sugar.

Slan Abhaile,


Photos and Styling by Imen McDonnell 2012

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An Irish Coffee Cake

24 Feb 2011

I had my first encounter with an Irish coffee cake while we were living in Adare, County Limerick in 2005. We had been renting a sweet little bolthole in the village during the construction of our new home on the farm. There used to be a charming little café + deli called Lloyd’s just up the lane from our place, which was run by a lovely woman named Anne Lloyd.  I believe Lloyd’s even made the esteemed Georgina Campbell’s Blue Book of Ireland’s Best Places, and if not, it should have because it was a very special place and everything that came out of her kitchen nearly melted my heart.

Lloyd’s was literally where I first sunk my teeth into many gorgeous Irish dishes and baked goods. Almost everything on Anne’s menu was exciting to me, not because the ingredients seemed foreign, but because the ingredients were put to different uses than I had ever previously experienced. Chocolate biscuit cake (digestive cookies stirred into chocolate), flapjacks (big square honey oatmeal bars), painstakingly stirred scrambled eggs with a sprinkle of curry, a certain carrot and coriander (cilantro) soup, the perfect Irish stew topped with a splash of white wine and freshly chopped parsley and that oh….so…..wonderful warm brown bread that is essentially an Irish “brand”.  Still, more than anything, I was in very much intrigued by her sensational coffee cake and went on to have an endearing love affair with this cake that still lingers on to this day.

In America, coffee cake takes on a whole different meaning. “American” coffee cake is not an iced cake-y cake at all. Coffee cake in the USA is often more of a cinnamon streusel, bundt-like pastry that is traditionally meant to be eaten while sipping a hot cup of coffee {hence the name “coffee cake”.} While the American version is different than the Irish coffee cake, it is absolutely delicious and also one of my favorite treats. I grew up with a mother who liked to bake coffee cake in the morning and have the neighbour ladies over for coffee and gossip. And I will never forget the incredible poppyseed coffee cake that my grandmother sourced from her local Eastern European bakery and always, always had on hand whenever we visited.

So, at first, I didn’t know what to make of this new idea of coffee cake which is basically a coffee-flavoured sponge layer cake slathered in coffee-caramel-y flavoured icing. But, over time, this cake has become one of my all-time favorites….

First, you must find coffee/chicory essence.  Strong coffee or espresso would work, but would likely produce a flavour that is not the same as the sweet caramel coffee taste of the chicory/coffee essence used in this recipe. In Ireland, look for IREL (In England it is called CAMP and in the USA you can use Coffeol)

After you’ve mixed all the ingredients together, split the batter evenly into two lined, buttered and dusted sandwich tins (layer cake pans)

When the cakes are done and cooled, frost the first layer.  Because I love a caramel-coffee-nut combo, I decided to top the frosting with a handful of toasted pecans.

Sandwich the cakes together, pour over the icing, and tuck into a slice!

I truly hope you enjoy this cake as much as we do on the farm!

Slan Abhaile,


Photos by Imen McDonnell. Recipe adapted from Darina Allen’s “Forgotten Skills of Cooking”

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