We are delighted to announce next years itinerary release. We strive to hand pick the best accommodations and destinations we can find in Ireland for our guests, and many of you who have been on past tours with Shamrock and Peach, will recognize some of the amazing accommodations in this video.
Next year we are excited to deliver the same Luxury Ireland to our guests from the stunning Antrim Coast to the Dingle Peninsula. North, south, east and west. In our Legendary Ireland tour of the North and West of Ireland where we offer you the 5 star Culloden Hotel and Spa, the 5 star Lough Erne Hotel and Spa and the Luxury Boutique Twelve Hotel in the West, voted the best hotel in Ireland in 2018. On our Southern Ireland tour we offer you Mount Juliet Estate and Spa in Kilkenny and dining at the Mitchell Star Lady Helen restaurant, the 5 Star Castlemartyr Hotel and Spa in Cork with dining at Ballymaloe House, and the fabulous Killarney Royal Hotel, featured in Ireland’s blue book – the gold standard for historic luxury resorts in Ireland.
It may seem as if the holiday of Halloween is a very American tradition with it’s trick and treater’s and all the candy inspired pageantry, however, it may surprise you to know that in actual fact Halloween began in Ireland. Yes, the origins of the holiday is the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain, which was celebrated over 3,000 years ago. Today however, Halloween is similar in Ireland as it is celebrated in America – It’s a time to gather family and friends together for some community fun, and of course eating together.
Growing up in Armagh, also known as the Orchard county of Ireland, my favorite ‘go-to-desserts‘ always involved apples. I was practically raised on apple tarts (pies) and crumbles, and so when I emigrated to the Southern US states over 20 years ago, I continued this tradition and just love all the wonderful American fall desserts, such as ‘Apple Dumplings‘.
An apple dumpling is a whole apple filled with brown sugar and a little butter wrapped up like a little present in pastry and baked in the oven. The dumpling is finished off with Candy Apple Sauce and please do not forget the vanilla ice cream!
It’s time to celebrate with apples!
Apple Dumplings(for the pastry)
2 ¼ cups of all-purpose flour
¼ tsp of salt
2/3 cups of shortening
6 to 8 Tbsp of ice water
(for the egg wash)
1 beaten egg and a little water
(for the apples)
6 medium size baking apples
3-4 Tbsp of brown sugar
2 Tbsp of butter
(for the candy apple sauce)
1 cup water
¾ cup sugar
¼ tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp nutmeg
1 1/2 Tbsp butter
1 drop of red food coloring
How to make them
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
To make the pastry combine the flour and salt in a large bowl and rub in the shortening until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Using a knife stir in the ice water until a dough is formed adding a little extra water if necessary. Form the dough in a rectangular shape disc with hands and then cut that in to 6 equal pieces to make it easier to roll out in to square shapes.
Core and peel the apples and place each one in the center of prepared pastry. Spoon a little butter and brown sugar inside the center of each apple. Brush the inside edges of the pastry with a little water, and pull up to the center to completely cover the apple like a little package. Brush the outside of the dumpling with egg wash.
Grease a medium size baking dish and set the dumplings gently in to the pan. Place the dumplings in the oven and bake them for 45 minutes until the pastry is golden brown and the apples are soft.
While the apples are baking prepare the sauce by boiling together the water, sugar, spices and a little food coloring and then whisking in the butter.
To serve place the apple dumpling in the center of a dish and pour of the sauce. Best enjoyed with a spoonful of vanilla ice-cream.
It’s National Bread week in Ireland between 10th and 16th of September 2018. We love our bread in Ireland and I am excited to share one of my favorite breads and the secret recipe…aren’t you lucky?
In America, soda is a fizzy drink such as a coke or sprite, but in Ireland soda is a bread, and a beloved bread at that. My mother always bakes some specially for my husband when he returns to Ireland and visits the farm.
Irish brown soda bread also known as Wheaten bread is a staple in the Irish bakery. It is full of fiber, yeast free and so simple to prepare. Just like any quick bread it’s best to eat at the day it is baked but try toasting it for breakfast the second day and it will be scrumptious. It seems every week I get emails from people asking me about the wholewheat flour in the United States and that it’s not gilding the same results from the bread they have enjoyed while visiting Ireland, so, to remedy, I have tweaked this recipe using flours from the United States adding extra oats and wheat germ for fiber and I am getting rave reviews from this recipe (also featured in my cookbook the Shamrock and Peach)…..give it a try!
Happy National bread week and enjoy your soda!
Ingredients (makes 3 loaves in a 1-lb. tin):
1 lb. (3 cups) coarse whole wheat flour
5 oz. (1¼ cup) flour
5 oz. (1¼ cup) oats
1 tsp. salt
3 tsp. baking soda
2 oz. (½ cup) wheat germ
3 oz. sugar (3/8 cup)
3 oz. butter or margarine
1 egg (beaten)
1½ pints (3 cups) buttermilk
1 Tbsp. honey
How to make it:
Preheat oven to 425° F. Grease and flour 3 small 8x4x2” loaf pans.
Measure all the dry ingredients in a large bowl. Rub in the butter you’re your fingertips and create a well in the center of the mix.
Beat the eggs in a small bowl and mix with the buttermilk and honey. Add to the dry ingredients and mix well with a large spoon.
Transfer the resulting dough to a floured surface and knead gently with floured hands.
Divide the dough into loaves and place each loaf into prepared tins. Using a knife, cut a line down center of each loaf.
Bake for 40 minutes until a deep golden brown color or until base of loaf sounds hollow when lightly tapped.
My Irish grandmother served desserts and sweets from a ‘sweet trolley’ and passed on that most old world of traditions to my mother in Ireland. I can still hear my grandmother describe the desserts on her trolley, and then have to repeat it several times because we all wanted an excuse just to to hear it all over again! The ‘Oohs ad Aahs’ added an entertaining highlight to our family gatherings; as my grandmother was a world champion sweet maker…oh yes indeed! Our heads would be spinning trying to decide what to choose and wondering if we could try just a little of everything? The sweet trolley was trending way back from the late 50’s when my grandparents ran their own bed and breakfast, but it’s a tradition my mother still maintains when hosting to this day.
This summer I had the honor of bringing groups of fellow foodies from the US to Ireland to dine at Ballymaloe House to the rolling green hills of East Cork, and, you can only imagine my delight when at the end to our dining feast they produced ‘the sweetest sweet trolley’. The room went suddenly silent as our charming hostess began to describe the puddings. I remember we had Honey Mousse with Lavender Jelly, Carrageen Moss Pudding, Raspberry and Mint jelly, Chocolate ice-cream served in an ice bowl, a fruit filled baked Pavlova with cream. Then, as if that wasn’t enough, we had a secondtrolley of local Irish cheeses with homemade Ballymaloe Brown Cheese biscuits that were light, crispy and a perfect pairing with the quince jelly. Finally, came the petit fours including Ballymaloe Fudge, garden blackcurrent jellies.
I am so happy the sweet trolley never went away from Ballymaloe House and my vote is for the comeback of the vintage sweet trolley. Bring it on…darling!
This summer Shamrock and Peach Tours had the opportunity to stay and dine at the wonderful, and world class Ballymaloe House. A star of the Irish culinary culture, bringing the best of Irish produce to the table – a true ‘farm to fork’ experience!
Just being there was an incredible treat for a foodie fanatic such as myself, but this year as we sat around the tables in the scrumptious Yeats Room Restaurant of Ballymaloe House, we discovered a new and personal connection (yes, Ireland really is a small place!). It turns out that my dad, a retired cattle farmer, who was with us on the trip, bought Jersey bull calves as a young man from Ivan Allen (husband of the late Myrtle Allen, the food pioneer of Ballymaloe) many years ago and didn’t really realize the connection until we arrived…this is why we love Ireland! – It’s a large village with so many connections. Everyone knows everyone!
When my groups were dining and staying at Ballymaloe House it was the perfect time for my dad to revisit the farm in Shanagarry, Co. Cork where he recalled the cattle deal, and our guests were going crazy about the bright yellow butter on the tables, handmade from a small herd of Kerry and jersey cows, milked every morning on the farm at Ballymaloe. – not something you get to experience everyday!
We are savoring our last few hours at Mount Juliet Estate in Kilkenny, before heading to our next destination, and what an experience it has been! The welcome we received from our arrival has been second to none with a few guests on my tour are telling me they are not leaving this Irish paradise. With it’s elegant Manor house, built in 1757 and the beautiful grounds, stables and gardens, this is a beautiful lady indeed. As is the Michelin star awarded Restaurant, ‘The Lady Helen‘. Our tour group had the chance to dine in the Lady Helen last night, located inside the historic Manor House, and what a lady she is! Each course was better than the last, and yet again I amazed at the sheer inventiveness of Irish cuisine and the flavor of Irish produce, mot of which is produced on this Irish country estate, nestled in 1,500 acres of woodlands and lush gardens.
A big thanks also to Des McGrath another Mount Juliet legend and local character who shared the history of the estate with gusto, graciousness and a sparkle of Irish wit and charm – my guests loved it! – The one bit of good news is that next week I am returning with a second group and I’m already hungry for more!
Words cannot fully describe how we were royally treated at the Lough Erne Resort in Co. Fermanagh last week when our Legendary Irish tour. We got to experience world class dining and accommodation staying at one of Northern Ireland’s most prestigious 5 Star resort. Executive head chef and friend Noel McMeel rolled out the red carpet for our guests. One of the most memorable meal experiences was the recreation of the menu served at the G8 summit. Our guests got to taste the menu experienced by our world leaders, the very best of Irish cuisine. Our guests were overwhelmed with the Lough Erne Hospitality and the way we were treated by the restaurant servers and chefs will be a food memory to last a life time. We feel so humbled and grateful to the team at the Lough Erne including Chef Noel McMeel and Chef Stephen and would like to send out a personal applause and thankfulness to them. This this Sunday I will embark on two back to back tours of Southern Ireland, but before we lunch our new venture I wanted to acknowledge our appreciation of the very best of Northern Irish hospitality!
Augh….We are in the foodie destination heaven here in the grounds of Ashford Castle and the Lodge at Ashford Castle! Our group got to steal Chef Jonathan Keane away on Father’s day on a foraging walk of the grounds and tour of the Polytunnels, vegetable and herbs garden. Lucky for us we also got to dine in the famous Wilde’s restaurant for two evenings and experience the delicious flavors we had tasted, smelt and seen on our walk in a stunning settling, over the waters of Lough Corrib. So, with full hearts and memories to last a lifetime we are departing Cong as we adventure further North on our Legendary Irish tour! Big thanks to Chef Jonathan and the team at the Lodge for such a brilliant stay yet again….
Summer tours are off and running and what a kick off! Starmakers Dance Academy from South Carolina took Ireland by storm! In Larne, a port city in County Antrim, the links between South Carolina and Northern Ireland were celebrated and highlighted – and with good cause, as the first immigrant ship left from this very port of Larne to the American colonies in 1718 carrying those pioneering first Scots-Irish settlers, and the influence of our rich Irish heritage was demonstrated right here with the art of clogging. An art from that traces it’s roots directly to those Scots-Irish settlers, but now is a distinctly southern American dance.
We were generously hosted by the Mid-Antrim Council and greeted by the Lord Mayor’ with our group performing with the Antrim Coast Dance Academy where again, the fusion and influence from the shores of Ireland to South Carolina became apparent.
Other high lights included the Titanic Center in Belfast, the Giants Causeway, Slieve League Cliffs, Devenish island and Trinity College Dublin. We ended the tour with dancing in Ireland’s highest point at Johnny Fox’s Pub to complete our week of adventure and fun.
Tomorrow I meet a greet my second tour in Dublin airport and looking forward to more stories to share from the road!
Less than a week to go before the Royal Wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle at Windsor Castle and I wanted to share the story of this Belleek Irish Pottery heart shaped basket that was inspired for the Royal occasion, made by Belleek using the Irish craftsmanship famous across the world.
The basket itself is full of symbolism, and ties between Ireland, England and the United States. The Ribbon detail at the top of the basket signifies ‘tying the knot’ (an iron age Celtic wedding tradition). The Roses are both the national flower of England and the United States. The peony is thought to be Meghan’s favorite flower and the Lilly of the valley is associated with the month of May. Oh, and an Irish Belleek basket would not be complete without a hand crafted Shamrock to wish them a lucky and happy marriage, or course!
So from the Shamrock and Peach, may we wish the happy couple well and many years of happiness. Meanwhile the limited edition basket is for sale!