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!
Irish soda bread is a quick bread traditionally made on a cast iron griddle over an open fire, using what appear to be quite odd ingredients. When I was invited to participate in the Fire Fork Feast event in Nashville recently, organized by Over the Fire Cooking, I was excited to connect with my old school heritage style of cooking. There is no yeast in soda bread, with the leavening agent instead being a combination of bicarbonate soda and buttermilk so it’s ideal for camp fire style cooking. The result is a uniquely delicious and light bread that worked really well with the Guinness Oysters we served. I really loved cooking with Lodge Cast Iron ware and the Dutch oven makes this style of cooking easy and fun too (especially when you share the experience of cooking with friends and family…. and a big welcoming fire)! Here’s the recipe for you to try!
Below is a link to Lodge Cast Iron cookware – I just love cooking with this fabulous cookware.
Preheat the Dutch oven in the fire (charcoal briquettes should be white) and place briquettes on top of the lid Cut a circular piece of parchment paper to line the dutch oven and grease it lightly.
Meanwhile measure all the dry ingredients together and sift to incorporate as much air as possible.
Make a well in the center of the flour and add enough buttermilk and melted butter to get an easily handled soft dough.
Knead very lightly and form into a circle then make a cross in the center using a knife and place on the parchment paper.
Using the Lodge Cast Iron lid lifter remove the lid and set the bread inside the dutch oven pot. Using the Cast Iron Lid lifter replace the lid and add heated briquettes on top before setting in the open fire.
Bake for about 40 to 45 minutes until the bread is baked.
Remove the bread from the Dutch Oven and slice and serve warm with butter.To test, gently tap bottom of bannock (bread is ready when it sounds hollow).
I had no idea how many foodies out there love to eat Oysters! So, here’s the recipe for those of you who have written in to request that I share my recipe and others who attended the Fire Fork Feast event in Nashville over the weekend.
Reducing the Guinness for me was the key to amazing flavor and of course in the words of Derek Wolf, founder of Over the Fire Cooking, “fire is an ingredient” with the smokey flavor enhancing this sensational dish. I recommend equal parts butter to oyster… and if in doubt…where possible… always reach for Irish grass fed Kerrygold but (it’s da bomb)!
Grilled Oysters on the Half Shell with Guinness Herb Butter
2 dozen large fresh oysters on the half shell
½ cup of Parmesan cheese (finely grated)
(for the Guinness butter)
8 oz (1 cup) of salted Irish Kerrygold butter
1 cup of Guinness stout (reduced to 4 Tbsp)
1 tsp sugar
1 Tbsp vegetable oil
2 Tbsp shallots (finely chopped)
2 garlic cloves
1 tsp thyme (finely)
2 Tbsp parsley (finely chopped)
1 tsp of kosher salt
½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
How to make them
Prepare oysters using an oyster knife and shucking severing the muscle that is attaching the oyster to the shell. Leave the oyster in the shell that is more cupped shaped.
In a small sauce pan simmer the Guinness, sugar and thyme until it has reduced by 75% (leaving 4 Tbsp of liquid) and cool.
To make the Guinness butter sauté the shallot in 1 tbsp of vegetable oil for a few minutes to soften and then add the garlic at the end and cook for 1 minute.
Whip the room temperature butter by hand or with electric whisk and add the cooled reduced Guinness, parsley, shallots and garlic, salt and pepper.
Preheat the fire or grill to 400-475 degrees F.
Arrange the oysters in a single layer on a grill and spoon 2 tsp of the butter mixture into each oyster shell and then top with finely grated Dubliner Irish Cheese. Grill uncovered for 6-7 minutes until the butter is sizzling and the oyster is puffed up.
Guinness Oysters (photo credit over the fire cooking)
This past weekend I attended the Fire Fork Feast event in Nashville, Tennessee and so enjoyed the experience. The event was organized my my dear friend and founder of ‘Over the fire cooking’ with an outstanding following of 453,000 on his Instagram! Way to go Derek!! It was so much fun cooking over the fire with so many amazing chefs on the picturesque Wedge Oak Farm in Nashville, Tennessee. OK, so the weather was kinda chilly but it was warm by the fire…and the food was incredible. What a great idea!
I especially enjoyed cooking with Lodge Cast Iron cookware and in my next blog I am going to share my recipe for cooking soda bread over an open fire using a dutch oven.
My main dish for this really inventive festival was Guinness oysters (a butter made with Guinness reduction, herbs and garlic topped with Parmesan cheese)… Pretty yum…!!