Summer’s End and Happy Lughnasa

Today marks the first day of fall and the end of summer in the Celtic Festival calendar. On this harvest day many honor the harvest roots by baking breads and cakes.  Another alternative name for Lughnasadh is ‘Lammas’, and old English term meaning ‘loaf mass’.   Lughnasadh is one of the four main ancient Galelic festivals, including Samhain (Halloween), Imbolc, and Beltane. These Celtic Festivals were historically celebrated in the Gaelic lands of Ireland, Scotland and the Isle of Man.  Before Christianity came to Ireland the Harvest festival involved religious rites, such as the offering of first fruits (Bilberries), and sacrificing a bull to the sun God ‘Lugh’.  Such ceremonies would have taken place on high ground, on top of mountains and hills.  Interestingly, the tradition of climbing hills on Lughnasadh still exists in Ireland, and is now part of a Christian tradition with pagan roots.  Each year on ‘Reek Sunday,’  thousands of Irish people make a Holy pilgrimage to the top of Croagh Patrick Mountain in Co. Mayo. Many pilgrims choose to walk up the mountain barefooted, as an act of penance. It is believed that Saint Patrick climbed the mountain in 441AD and fasted for 40 days and nights, and the custom has been handed down and continues today.

My birthday falls on the Summer Solstice, and I have had a life long fascination with the movement of the turn of seasons and gazing at the sun.  Last night I was struck by the bright full moon, and the alignment of the planet Jupiter as I walked my dog, through my urban Atlanta neighborhood.  It feels like there is a stillness in the earth with the spread of the Corona Virus, and for me, it’s a time of pause with ancient reflection.

Happy First Day of Autumn and Enjoy the Moon Tonight!

Shamrock and Peach (Judith) x

Summer Salad with Peaches, Cucumber and Watermelon

Last week I got to take a road trip to leave the hustle and bustle of Atlanta, to the open space and farms of South Georgia. I got to stock up on all my favorite farm produce including Peaches, Watermelon, Cucumbers, Cream Peas, Corn, Okra, Red and Green Tomatoes and Sunflower oil.  Our first farm stop was Gibbs Farm Store in Abbeville Georgia, where I got to pick my own sunflowers, and pack my car with veggies and fruits. Next, stop was Oliver Farms who just opened up their own store front in Pitts, selling their own cold pressed oils from nuts and seeds.  The last stop of the day was Dickey Farms, where we loaded up with peaches, and of course enjoyed their own homemade Peach Ice cream.  Needless to say, I am rearing to put all this bountiful produce to great use, and I have been cooking up a storm.

Last week I turned 50 years old, and my girlfriends threw me quite a party.  I was allowed to prepare a Summer Salad using the Peaches, Cucumber and Watermelon I had picked up on my road trip South Georgia.  The salad was a big hit at my party, and I wanted to share the recipe with you, my wonderful blog followers!

Here’s the recipe!

Summer Salad with Peaches, Watermelon and Cucumber

(for the salad)

  • 2 Lbs Peaches (peeled and sliced in wedges)
  • 1 English cucumber (skin removed, halved lengthwise and sliced)
  • 1 Lb. Watermelon (skin remove and sliced in cubes)
  • 12 basil leaves (torn)
  • 12 mint leaves (torn)
  • 4 oz feta cheese (crumbled)
  • (for the lemon vinegar dressing)
  • 2 lemons (zest and juice)
  • 2 Tbsp white wine vinegar
  • 1/3 cup of shallots (minced)
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

How to make it

  1. In a bowl whisk together the shallots, lemon juice and zest and the white wine vinegar. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.
  2. Prepare the cucumbers and toss them in half of the lemon vinegar dressing.
  3. Slice the peaches and watermelon and toss them in the remaining lemon vinegar dressing.
  4. To assemble the salad, combine the peaches and cucumber on a large platter. Stir in the feta cheese and finally sprinkle over the torn basil and mint.

Enjoy!

Shamrock and Peach (Judith)

 

Foraged Chanterelle Mushroom Ravioli

Foraging for Mushrooms

Chanterelle are one of the most popular edible mushrooms

Growing up on a farm in Ireland I discovered the pertinent joy of working for my food.  My new adopted home, in the highly populated northern suburbs of Atlanta is never the less deeply wooded.  Each year from late Spring to late summer, we have Chanterelle mushrooms growing wild in our back yard.  Our family love to gather wild mushrooms, and we enjoy cooking them in a variety of ways .We enjoy the almost peppery taste and the fruity aroma reminiscent of apricots.  We are excited to share our favorite pasta dish with you.  .

Chantelle’s, also know as the “queen of wild mushrooms”, packed with Vitamin B and D and are great for your immune system.  If you are foraging in your woods for mushrooms for Chanterelle’s they can be easily identified by their distinct funnel shape, bright orange/yellow color and forked grills that run all the way down and tapers in to the cap.

We are excited to share one of our families simple way of cooking them!

Foraged Chanterelle’s with Ravioli

  • 1 lb. Chanterelle’s (brushed clean and cut in half)
  • 6 Tbsp salted butter
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 4 cloves of garlic (2 finely chopped and 2 thinly sliced)
  • ¼ cup of white wine
  • ¼ cup of heavy cream
  • ¼ cup reserved water from cooked pasta
  • 4 sprigs of thyme (leaves removed)
  • 1 sprig of fresh rosemary (leaves finely chopped)
  • Zest of one lemon and 1 Tbsp of juice
  • Kosher salt and pepper to season
  • (for the pasta)
  • ¼ Lb. freshly cooked Ravioli pasta (reserve 1/4 cup of water from cooked pasta for the sauce)
  • 1 Tbsp parsley (finely chopped)
  • 2 Tbsp Parmesan Reggiano (finely grated)

How to make it

  1. Melt the butter with the olive oil in a large skillet on medium high heat.
  2. Add the garlic and cook for one minute and then add the mushrooms to the skillet. Cook the mushrooms until they are lightly golden shaking the pan for about 5 minutes.  Stir in the rosemary and thyme leaves.
  3. Add the white wine to the pan and allow in to reduce. Add the cream and pasta water and stir to reduce for a few minutes.
  4. Season with salt and pepper and add the lemon zest. Finish with a squeeze of lemon juice.
  5. To serve place the ravioli in the center of each plate and top with the mushrooms.  Garnish with freshly chopped parsley and grated Parmesan Reggiano.

Shamrock and Peach (Judith)

 

Grilled Cauliflower Steaks with a Tomato and Basil Topping

July 4th Grilling Idea

Plant based Grilling for July 4th

The United States Declaration of Independence was signed in 1776, and on July 4th, America celebrates it’s birth. My husband and I moved to the United States over 20 years ago and we have always loved the casual back yard cook outs and red, white and blue entertaining.

Traditionally casual and fun foods such as, hamburgers, hot dogs and wings are served on the 4th of July, with all the tasty sides. In the past, I have been invited to pot luck style entertaining, that makes it really easy to entertain larger groups, especially when guests bring a dish to share. However, as we all know, the summer of 2020 is not just any year. It is proving to be a unique year, and with social distancing in place, our family are grilling a different dish that we are excited to share with you.  Our very own Shamrock and Peach Style Cauliflower Steaks!

Cauliflower has become very popular with the rise of paleo and plant-based diets.  Cauliflower is also an excellent carbohydrate substitute and suitable for those suffering with celiac disease or a gluten free diet.  This Cauliflower Steak recipe makes a hearty and satisfying meal, especially with the tomato and basil topping. Admittedly we will be also grilling hamburgers for my college age sons, but with a recipe this good, even the biggest carnivorous may not be complaining!

Hope you enjoy and wishing everyone a Safe, healthy and happy 4th of July!

(serves 4-6)

  • 2 cauliflower (sliced in to 1 ½” pieces and save the ends)
  • 2 Tbs olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • ¼ tsp cumin
  • ¼ tsp turmeric
  • (for the sun-dried and basil cauliflower topping)
  • Cauliflower pieces remaining (finely chopped)
  • 4 oz of sun-dried tomatoes in olive oil (drained and lightly chopped)
  • 2 garlic cloves (crushed)
  • ¼ cup of parsley (chopped)
  • About 12 basil leaves (torn)
  • (for the vinaigrette)
  • 2 Tbsp of lemon juice and Zest of one lemon
  • 3 Tbsp of olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • (to finish)
  • 3 Tbsp sunflower seeds
  • 1 Tbsp butter
  • Kosher salt

How to make it:

  1. Slice the cauliflower steaks reserving the broken pieces for later.
  2. Preheat the grill and brush the cauliflower steaks with olive oil. Season with cumin, salt, and pepper.
  3. Grill slices for 5-7 minutes on each side until tender and slightly charred.
  4. While the cauliflower steaks are cooking make the topping. Chop up the remaining cauliflower, sundried tomatoes, garlic, parsley.  Fold in the torn basil.
  5. To make the vinaigrette whisk the olive oil into the lemon juice and zest, and season with salt and pepper. Stir in the vinaigrette with the cauliflower and basil topping.
  6. To assemble place a slice of Cauliflower steak in the center of each plate. Spoon over the sun dried and basil topping.
  7. Melt the butter in a small pan and add the sunflower seeds shaking gently until they are browned. Season with a little kosher salt and sprinkle over the sun dried and basil topping.

Wishing everyone a very Happy 4th of July

Shamrock and Peach (Judith)

The Power of a Circle

Stone Circles

An example of a Minor Ring Circle around 2000 BC

Like the ripples of time, I am renewed and drawn in towards circles.  From the spirals formed by throwing rocks into still water to the blazing sun and the silvery curves of the moon, I sense the presence of my Celtic ancestors and hope of the eternal. I have always claimed the best things that happen in life are those accidental happenings and unplanned discoveries; and so this story begins….

While visiting the Culloden Battlefield site in Scotland, we stumbled across a small brown tourist sign for Clava Cairn, a Bronze Age circular chamber tomb just a mile from the busy visitors center.  We followed the sign down a narrow country road and rolling farmland to the prehistorical burial site just as the sun was beginning to set.  There were no other cars parked in the parking lot and we were instantly enamored by the beautiful wooded glen setting and intrigued by the site.  We opened up the small wooden gate where there was no charge to a complex site of passage graves, ring cairns, kerb cairns and standing stones that literally took our breath away. We ran to the standing stones and touched them laughing and reenacting scenes from Outlander and Claire going through at Craigh na Dun. We recalled the brilliantly spoken words in season 4 by Claire that went something like this, “humans have had a fascination with circles over the centuries – from the movement of the planets around the sun, to clock hands, to a simple wedding band, I more than most know how much a circle can effect life and death”. As the sun was going down we knew it was time for us to leave the Clava Cairn’s, but we took from it a lasting memory and a sense of wonder.

My husband snapped this photo is of one of the minor rings around the much larger passage graves but to me it somehow captures an essence of the site. How I wished to know more about the people who built this site, what they believed and how they worshiped. The site is just one of around 50 similar Cairns in the Inverness area alone, dating back to around 2000BC.

To end I would love to share a Celtic poem known as The Caim Prayer.

Circle Us Lord,

Keep Love within, keep Hatred out,

Keep peace within, keep worry out,

Keep light within, keep darkness out,

May you stand in the circle with us,

today and always.

Sending all my love from Shamrock and Peach (Judith) x

 

 

Digging Up Donegal’s past in Spain

Donegal Castle

The Castle is situated in the center of Donegal town

When you visit Donegal town you cannot miss seeing the castle close to the diamond in the town center. The castle was the stronghold of the O’Donnell clan, one of the most powerful Gaelic families in Ireland’s history. Red Hugh O’Donnell, who was allied with Catholic Spain, fought in the 9 years war against Elizabethan England, which ended in 1601. Gaelic Ireland was defeated at the ‘Battle of Kinsale’ and the Spanish ships there were completely surrounded by the English troops in the port of Kinsale. After the battle, the 30 year old Red Hugh O’Donnell escaped to Spain to ask King Philip III if he would further help Ireland to drive off England’s control in Ireland. Sadly, O’Donnell never made it home to Ireland and died and was buried in Valladolid, in Spain. The King of Spain granted the Irish nobleman a military funeral, attended by state officials and palace guards.

Skeleton Of Irish Hero, Red Hugh O'Donnell, To Be Exhumed In Spain ...

Thanks to the initiative of a retired Irish soldier, who visited Spain over a year ago, and asked the city’s authorities if they knew the locations of O’Donnell’s grave – the mayor of Valladolid granted permission to the Hispano-Irish Association and archaeologists to begin an excavation. One of answers they are looking for, should they find O’Donnells grave, is the cause of his untimely death because it was unclear if it was due to infection or if he was indeed poisoned by an English spy. DNA testing will be required to identify the skeletons, but one helpful piece of information that prove a clue, is that O’Donnell had succumbed to frostbite as a young man and evidently lost his big toe on each foot. The Spanish archaeologists believe they are close to finding the remains of Red Hug O’Donnell entombed below the foundations of a bank. We promise to update you again, as the excavation continues!

Our Shamrock and Peach tour guests will visit both Donegal Castle and Kinsale next summer so we promise to update you as the excavation continues!

Shamrock and Peach

(Judith) x

Fun and Easy Friday Fish Recipe

 Oven Baked Oat and Herb Crusted Salmon

Healthy and Easy to prepare at home!

Friday is one of the best days to shop for fresh fish in Ireland because of the availability of the freshest fishermen’s catch, whether that be at the local farmer’s markets or grocery stores.  Many families in the christian tradition in Ireland and all over the world observe fasting from meat on a Friday, as part of a penance, to mark the death of Christ; and this is how the tradition got started.  I think it’s eating fish on a Friday has evolved to a cultural tradition and one of my favorite meals of the week growing up.

Nothing beats a nice piece of salmon and cooking fish is something we enjoy weekly as a family, although we do not observe it as a Friday rule.  The best fish is fresh and never frozen and wild caught.  To check the freshness of the salmon it should be firm, brightly colored and smell like the salty sea rather than ‘fishy’.  Another tip If you are purchasing a fresh whole fish the eyes should be clear and not cloudy. It sounds very funny but true when we say..”it’s all about the eyes”… even when shopping for fresh fish….!

I hope you enjoy this simple recipe that is so easy to make, healthy and it’s also gluten free (by substituting the butter for olive oil it can be made ‘dairy free’).  The recipe will serve 4 guests!

  • 4 (4 oz) salmon fillets
  • Kosher Salt and pepper to season
  • ½ cup Walnuts
  • ½ cup oats
  • 1 tsp lemon zest
  • 2 Tbsp dill
  • 1 Tbsp parsley
  • 2 Tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 2 Tbsp melted salted butter (or good quality olive oil)
  • (for the salad)
  • 1 cup of mixed greens
  • Small handful of fresh herbs (parsley, dill, chives)
  • 1 small petite pepper (1 Tbsp of finely chopped red pepper)
  • (dressing for the Mixed Green Salad)
  • 2 tsp lemon juice
  • tsp honey
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • Kosher salt and pepper

How to make it

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. In a food processor combine the walnuts, oats, lemon zest and pulse. Add the dill and parsley and pulse again to combine.
  3. Season the salmon with a little kosher salt and freshly milled black pepper. Brush the Salmon fillets with the Dijon mustard and sprinkle to coat with the oat and nut mixture.
  4. Place salmon on a baking tray and drizzle with a drizzle of quality Olive Oil.
  5. Bake until salmon is flaky and opaque in color and this will take 12-15 minutes.
  6. To serve remove the skin from the salmon that will easily pull away when cooked. Place the salmon in the center of each plate.
  7. Whisk the lemon juice, honey, salt and pepper together and toss in the combined greens, herbs, peppers and place on top of each piece of salmon.

Enjoy as always!

Shamrock and Peach (Judith)

 

The Amazing Eilean Donan Castle

So yes, we all know that Scotland has some amazing castles – but Eilean Donan is really incredible, really special, but have ever wondered about it’s strange name? – read on…

Irish monks contributed to the spread of Christianity by leaving their homeland and establishing monasteries in Britain and continental Europe.  Later on in the 13th century the term ‘land of saints and scholars’ was associated with Ireland to pay tribute to the fearless missionaries who were sent out to spread Christianity.

One of those monks is Saint Bishop Donan who is attributed to the name of Scotland’s most beautiful and photographed Castle, “Eilean Donan”.  This magnificent castle is situated on the Western Coast of Scotland on the main driving route to the Isle Sky.  There are several churches dedicated to Donan in the area, and it is presumed that he established a small community during the late 7th century.  Sadly, it is documented in the Irish book of Leinster that Saint Donan and his followers suffered martyrdom on 17th of April 617 by the pagan pictish peoples he was trying to convert to Christianity.  Donan is the patron saint of Eigg, an island in the inner Hebrides where he was martyred.

The word Scotti is Latin for the Gaelic speaking people of both Ireland and the Western Isles of Scotland. In early medieval times Ireland was know as (Eire), the land of habitual winter (Hibernia) and (Scotia) in Latin.  By the end of the 11th century  the Gaelic lands were referred to the “Sea Kingdoms” of the Lord of the isles and the sea was a mighty highway.  The Gaelic lands held a similar language, culture where they fought over trading routes and took part in endless clan rivalry.  Eilean Donan Castle would offer the ideal defense for such clan rivalry whose walls contain more secrets than we will ever know or imagine.

Looking forward to beholding the beauty. mystic and majesty of Eilean Donan next summer when we visit with our Shamrock and Peach Tour Groups.

Shamrock and Peach (Judith)

A wee dram to lift the “spirits”!

There’s nothing like a wee dram of Scotch or Irish Whiskey for a ‘pick me up’ during this time of COVID-19 pandemic.  It’s no surprise Whiskey sales are through the roof, and one of the highest growing spirit segments in the US.  Most of the growth has been in the super premium range as consumers are becoming connoisseurs in nose, taste and finish without a need to ‘mix’ their drinks.  In Ireland and Scotland we like to drink it with just a wee taste of water to “open it up”..

My husband and I couldn’t help noticing a group of four fraternity brothers who had just graduated college from Boston in the tasting rooms at Glendfiddich Distilery last Spring when we visited.  The Speyside trail in the Highlands is a bucket list for the younger generation and women too;  and not just for old man’s cigar clubs.   In today’s big conglomerate take over’s it’s getting harder to find companies that are still family owned.  Shamrock and Peach Tours are proud to visit both Tullamore Dew in Ireland and Glendfiddich who are owned and run by William Grant and Sons.  The name ‘Glendfiddich’ means valley of the deer in Gaelic, and the location of the distillery beside a fresh water spring is the back bone of the whisky’s produced there.

Outside the Tasting Rooms

William Grant and Sons are Five generations and counting

Something to look forward to in the Highlands or at home… Slainte!

Shamrock and Peach (Judith)

 

The end of the Scottish Clans at Culloden

Memorial Stone

We found our clan name listed on a stone

We found the McLaughlin clan name written on a memorial stone at the Culloden battlefield site on a calm and sunny day last year, and reflected on the loss beneath our feet.  Culloden is one of those places where time stands still, and there is a draw to look back, to remember and not forget.  The Battle of Culloden was fought on April 16 1746, and it marked the end of an era for the Scottish clans system.  On this day the Jacobite’s, under Charles Edward  Stewart (“Bonnie Prince Charlie”) were defeated by the British under William Augustus, (“the Duke of Cumberland”).  The site at Culloden is only a few miles out side the city of Inverness on a marshy moorland known to the locals as “Drummossie Moor”. The battle was a bloody slaughter for the Highlanders who were hungry, tired and surrounded on marshy ground by the British ‘red coats’ and defeated in a brief 40 minutes.  The British were prepared and had studied the way the Highlanders charged straight ahead towards their enemy. The red coats attacked the Highlanders from their right side and not in front of these brave warriors ran to their death.  All attempts to restore the Stuart blood line to the throne as Bonnie Prince Charlie escaped the slaughter before making his way disguised to the isle of sky.

For those of you joining us on one of our  Spectacular Scotland Tour next year it will be an experience that will be rich in memory and contemplation.

Big hugs xx

Shamrock and Peach (Judith)