Tis’ the season for festive cocktails and holiday cheer! Oh yes! – This year we got to bring groups to visit the Jameson’s Whiskey distillery in Middleton, Cork, and whilst there I absolutely fell in love the simple mix of Ginger Beer and Whiskey we were served at the distillery bar, and it made me think of just how fun cocktails can be!
My catering company, Shamrock and Peach Foods, will be serving a fun new Irish styled cocktail that I came up with this year, namely a Cranberry Whiskey Fizz ,at upcoming Christmas events, and I can’t wait to hear the reaction. The cranberry base can be made a few days in advance and stored in the refrigerator, so no last minute scrambling is necessary, and your party guests will love it. It’s very light, totally refreshing and embodies all the flavors of what I consider to be Festive, merry and bright, – and I wanted so much to share it with my faithful blog followers!
So, here’s the recipe and hope you enjoy!
Spiced Cranberry – Whiskey Fizz with Rosemary
5 oz Jameson’s Irish whiskey
1 Tbsp lime juice
2 Tbsp Spiced Cranberry Syrup
Club Soda (enough to fill up the glass)
(for the spiced cranberry syrup)
1 cup of cranberries
1 cup of water
1 cup of sugar
1 cinnamon stick
1 rosemary stem
½ inch of sliced Ginger root
(for the garnish)
Rosemary, Cranberries, lime curl
How to make it
To make the Spiced Cranberry syrup place the sugar, water, cranberries, ginger root, rosemary and cinnamon stick in a saucepan and simmer together for 7-8 minutes. Cover and allow to sit overnight and strain before using.
To serve fill a glass with ice and add the whiskey, lime juice, cranberry syrup and top with club soda.
Stir together and then garnish with a sprig of rosemary and a few cranberries.
So, despite all the jokes, it ’tis the season for Fruitcake once again! In Independence CA, an annual festival called ‘All things Fruitcake‘ chooses a Fruitcake King to eat a slice of the fruitcake from when the festival began in 2005 (yes, it might STILL be good?). Shortly after the holidays, a Fruitcake Toss is held in Manitou Springs, CO to compete for the title of Fruitcake King or Queen (not sure how those pieces of fruitcake taste?). Our grocery store baking isles are laden with candied cherries, orange peel and dried fruits and in the USA, the bad jokes about giving fruit cake begin to be told. Regardless of whether you love or hate fruitcake it is a season of giving, abundance and bounty! – and yes. despite the bad press, fruitcake is traditional, and delicious…try it and see!
The Winter Solstice Celebration marks the shortest day of the year and the longest night of the year. It’s the promise that nature will again bear fruit and care for all living things. Giving fruits in the bleak mid winter at a time of scarcity was a sacrifice and redistributed bounty within a community.
Many of us (especially those of us with Celtic and Irish roots) are also baking plum puddings and fillings for mince pies. Here is my recipe for homemade mincemeat (the delicious filling for my annual pies).
Sweet Mincemeat (recipe makes 4 Lbs)
8 oz currants
8 oz sultanas
8 oz dried apricots (chopped)
8 oz (glazed cherries)
4 oz fruit and peel mix
2 oz chopped almonds
8 oz soft brown sugar
2 oz butter (melted)
2 tsp ground cloves
2 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp mixed spice
2 tsp ground ginger
2 oranges (juice and zest)
¼ pint brandy
¼ pint of sherry
How to make it:
Combine all the ingredients in a large bowl. Stir together and cover over with plastic wrap. Leave overnight.
The following day mix all the ingredients to combine. Spoon in to sterilized jars.
This Christmas I have been exploring the fascinating ancient Celtic traditions of Christmas. So much of the Christmas festival we enjoy is a blend of ancient tradition and cultures that have somehow become meshed together over the centuries, and I thought you might find it interesting to know where some of these wonderful traditions we enjoy each year come from…
So, where or better to start with than Father Christmas? It’s impossible to to point out one real Santa Claus because his origins are a culmination of Celtic and Scandinavian mythologies. An ancient blend of the Norse god Thor, who rode across the sky in a chariot drawn by goats giving gifts to children at the end of the year. Befana, a Roman goddess bearing gifts and the Celtic Winter god, the Holly King.
The Druid Holly King wore a Holly wreath as a crown and wore red. Remind you of anyone? In Celtic Mythology, the Oak King (representing light) and the Holly King (representing darkness) were warrior twins, engaged in a never-ending battle for supremacy. Oak trees that are sacred to the Celts lose their leaves in Winter while the holly trees are ever green. But at the Winter Solstice the tides change, and the Oak King starts his new reign of dominance. To celebrate the Holly King’s midwinter dominance, we decorate our homes with holly and ivy- didn’t know, huh? The Holly King was rumored to have the power of transformation, renewal and rebirth and this may well be why we make new year’s resolutions? Interesting…
It’s been raining all week in Georgia and days like today make me crave warm, nutritious root vegetable broths and soups. Warming comfort food for the soul…
Growing up on a farm in the countryside of Ireland, I was always close to the land and had access to fresh local root vegetables. I served Parsnip and Pear Ginger Soup at my last cooking class at Whole Foods over the weekend, and several students claimed they loved it so much that it would grace their Thanksgiving table next Thursday! – now that is a compliment!
Apples and pears are at their peak right now and their sweetness combines perfectly with the nutty earthy flavor of parsnips and heart warming spicy ginger. So, I wanted to share the recipe with my blog followers and I hope you stay warm and enjoy making some heart warming soups (that may even make it to your family table next week),
Here is the recipe:
Parsnip and Pear Ginger Soup
2 Tbsp butter
1 medium (1 cup) Vidalia onions (chopped)
1 celery stick (3/4 cup diced)
4 parsnips (4 cups peeled and diced)
2 medium (1 ½ cups) pears (peeled and chopped)
2 tsp grated fresh ginger
6 cups vegetable stock
2 cups pear juice
1 tsp sea salt
½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 tsp curry powder
½ pear (cut in to matchsticks)
Squeeze of lemon juice
3 Tbsp of Crème Fraiche
How to make it
In a large soup pot, melt the butter and sauté the onions, celery, parsnips, pears and grated fresh ginger over a medium to low heat, then over and cook until they are fragrant and beginning to color for another 8-10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Add the stock, pear juice, curry powder and salt and pepper and simmer for 25 minutes until all the ingredients are tender and the liquid has slightly reduced. Taste to adjust seasoning.
Using a hand blender puree the soup until smooth or use a food processor.
To serve place 1 tsp of chopped pear in each warm bowl followed by the soup and then stir in a little creme fraiche.
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!