You’ll love Yule log! – A Celtic Christmas tradition

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It’s Christmas again, and with each passing year we enjoy a tradition in our home that I carried form Ireland, namely, the traditional Yule log. Yes, our family loves this, and trust me when you try the combination of chocolate and fresh cream you will too..

…but what is a ‘Yule log’ I hear you ask?

The history of the Yule log cake stretches all the way back to Europe’s Iron Age, before the medieval era. Back then, Celtic peoples would gather to welcome the winter solstice at December’s end. People would feast to celebrate the days finally becoming longer, signaling the end of the winter season, and to cleanse the air of the previous year’s events and to usher in the spring, families would burn logs decorated with holly, pine cones or ivy. Wine and salt were also often used to anoint the logs. Once burned, the log’s ashes were valuable treasures said to have medicinal benefits and to guard against evil.

With the advent of Christianity, the Yule log tradition continued, albeit on a smaller scale. Families may have burned a log on Christmas Eve, but smaller hearths became the norm so huge logs were impractical. Those small hearths, however, were perfect for baking cakes. We don’t know who exactly made the first Yule log cake, but judging from the individual ingredients it could have been as early as the 1600s. Marzipan and meringue decorations, two of the most popular choices for Yule logs, appeared on many a medieval table. Sponge cake, which often constitutes the base of the log, is one of the oldest cakes still made today…however, I make mine with delicious chocolate and fresh cream, so – the tradition continues, but the way we like it!!

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So, from our home to yours, may I wish you a very merry Christmas – filled with the joy of Advent, and the hope of tomorrow, just as those Celtic peoples did so long ago as they gazed into the yule log…

Judie the Irish Foodie,

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Newgrange winter solstice-a 5000 year old puzzle

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In Ireland, December brings many things – frost that coats the ground, cold foggy mornings, hot whiskeys, and all things Advent and Christmas, of course – but an even older tradition happens each December 21st…

5000 years ago, an ancient people in Ireland built a temple dedicated to the sun – or so we think. That temple today stands at Newgrange in County Meath, Ireland, and is a most incredible place. Especially tomorrow, December 21st, which happens to be the Winter Solstice. The shortest day of the year, and the point at which the earth is farthest from the sun.

Amazingly, these ancient people knew all this, and they built a temple with a light projector to celebrate!

5000 year old solar alignment

Above the entrance to Newgrange there is a opening called a roof-box. On mornings around the winter solstice a beam of light penetrates the roof-box and travels up the 19 meter passage and into the chamber. As the sun rises higher, the beam widens so that the whole chamber is dramatically illuminated. -The opening to this light passage is pictured below.

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Access to the chamber on the Solstice mornings is decided by a lottery that takes place at the end of September each year. So, a handful of lucky people get to witness this beam of light as it travels perfectly down this 5000 year old passage and illuminates the triple spiral in the chamber at the center of the temple…must be a sight to see!!

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But how did they know to do this? How did stone age people align this temple so perfectly to catch sunbeams at 9 in the morning on December 21st.Truth is we really don’t know….but sometimes, mystery can be a good thing! right?

Join me in Ireland, and we can check out Newgrange together- you will be absolutely puzzled and amazed by this incredible place…

www.shamrockandpeach.com

Merry christmas everyone!

Judith xx

Christmas Scones are Gingerbread Heaven

Ginger Scone Recipe

Gingerbread Scones for Christmas Brunch

Certain smells and flavors conjure up the essence of Christmas!  Just like the aromas of the spices baking in the oven of my favorite Gingerbread Scones.  Gingerbread is an Old World recipe that has somehow become synonymous with the Christmas Season around the world including both Ireland and America.  These Gingerbread Scones are perfect for holiday brunch are always a hit especially when served with Lemon Curd and Fresh Whipped Cream.  Enjoy the season and the spices of Christmas..  It’s the time!

Gingerbread Scones with Clotted Lemon Cream

Gingerbread scone ingredients (makes ½ dozen):

  • 1 lb. (4 cups) self-rising flour
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 2 oz. (¼ cup) dark brown sugar
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. ground powdered ginger
  • ½ tsp. nutmeg
  • ¾ tsp. cinnamon
  • 6 oz. (¾ cup) butter (cold and cut into small pieces)
  • 1 egg (beaten)
  • 4 fl. oz. (½ cup) buttermilk
  • 2 fl. oz. (¼ cup) molasses
  • egg wash (1 egg beaten with a little water or milk)

 

How to make them:

  1. Preheat your oven to 425° F.
  2. Sift the flour with the baking powder then combine the remaining dry ingredients together in a food processor or a large mixing bowl.
  3. Cut the cold butter into the mixed dry ingredients then rub the mixture together with your fingertips or add them slowly to a food processor to form a breadcrumb-like texture.
  4. Beat the buttermilk, egg, and molasses together in a small bowl and combine with the dry ingredients, mixing well.
  5. Turn the resulting dough out onto a lightly floured surface.
  6. Knead the dough a few times and then roll it out with a lightly floured rolling pin until it’s about ¾” thick.
  7. Cut the scones out of the flattened dough using a 1” biscuit cutter.
  8. Brush dough scones with egg wash and place onto a lightly greased baking sheet.
  9. Bake 12–15 minutes until well risen and golden brown on top, turning the baking tray halfway through baking time to ensure even baking.
  10. Best served warm. Serve sliced in half and slathered with clotted cream.

Happy Holiday Baking!

Judith the Irish Foodie

 

Lemon Posset is making a come back!

Lemon and Raspberry Posset

The Posset makes a come back

This tangy lemon dessert is perfect for holiday entertaining and fantastic paired with ginger snaps or Irish butter shortbread.  During my Shamrock and Peach Tours last year I was pleasantly surprised to see ‘the Posset’ making a come back in many of our top Irish Chef’s menus.

…and what is a posset I hear you cry? The Posset goes as far back to medieval times where hot milk was flavored with honey, wine or ale. Today, the Posset has evolved to a dessert classic and is simply delicious with passion fruit and citrus. The lemon is perfect for holiday entertaining and I like to serve them in tiny shot glasses for the perfect small indulgent treat….just perfect!

Here is the recipe and what’s not to like about a recipe with 3 simple ingredients?

Lemon Posset:

  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 2 lemons (5 Tbsp plus zest)
  • 2/3 cups sugar
  • ¼ cup berries (for garnish)

How to make it:

Finely grate the zest of lemons and then juice.

  1. In a small saucepan heat the cream, sugar and lemon zest to a gentle boil stirring for about 5 minutes until the sugar has dissolved.
  2. Remove the saucepan from the heat and stir in the lemon juice.
  3. Allow the posset to cool slightly before pouring in to containers (4 Martini glasses or 8 shot glasses).
  4. Refrigerate for several hours before serving.
  5. Before serving garnish with fresh berries.

Merry Christmas and I hope this graces some holiday parties this season!

Joy in the Journey

Judith the Irish foodie

Thanksgiving’s Pumpkin Pie Still Steals the Show

Happy Thanksgiving to all my wonderful followers and friends and I am so thankful for you all!  People say there’s nothing more American than an Apple Pie, but I think a more iconic choice would be to say; ‘Pumpkin Pie’.  Growing up in Ireland and in my travels throughout Europe, it’s always been considered an all American classic. For many it’s the taste of the holidays and it’s still the most popular dessert on the Thanksgiving dessert buffet table – I mean, what’s not to like about rich a rich spicy custard filling and buttery pastry?  I love to add a taste of Orange Zest to my filling but I don’t like to fool much with a classic.  I mean good is always just good! Right?

So, Happy Thanksgiving from the Shamrock and Peach…. and enjoy this yummy recipe that will be on my table tomorrow!

Pumpkin Pie (with cinnamon whipped cream)

  • 1 (15 oz) cooked pumpkin puree
  • 1 cup evaporated milk
  • 2 eggs (beaten)
  • ¼ cup organic brown sugar
  • ¼ cup honey
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • Zest of one orange
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • ½ tsp ginger
  • ¼ tsp cloves
  • 1 unbaked 9-inch (4 cup volume) deep dish pie shell
  • (cinnamon whipped cream)
  • 1 cup (8 oz) heavy whipped cream
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • ¼ tsp cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp nutmeg

How to make it:

  1. In a large bowl or electric mixer combine all the pie ingredients and stir until well blended.
  2. Pour pumpkin mixture in to the prepared unbaked pie shell.
  3. Bake for 45-50 minutes or until testing with a knife the center comes out clean.
  4. Cool on a wire rack for 2 hours.
  5. Beat heavy whipping cream until soft peaks appear with vanilla, cinnamon and a touch of nutmeg.
  6. Slice pie to serve and top with cinnamon whipped cream.

Judie the Irish foodie

Irish Culinary Halloween Traditions

In hope of keeping Irish traditions ‘alive’ at the Feast of the ‘dead’ wishing you all a very Happy Halloween!  As as we prepare for tonight’s trick or treating and the family culinary traditions that make this celebration memorable,  I am also reflecting on my childhood.  In Ireland Oiche Samhain, or Samhain Night , marks the end of harvest and the beginning of winter.  Irish Culinary traditions include Colcannon (potatoes and curly Kale and Spring Onions), Barnbrack (yeasty bread with fruit) and apple pie.

The most fun part of our Irish culinary traditions is the hiding of symbolic items in the food we serve. Oh, the suspense of who would receive what?  The items included money wrapped in aluminium foil (symbolizing good fortune), a ring (symbolizing an upcoming romance or marriage), and a rag (symbolizing poverty), a thimble (symbolizing the person will not marry).  So tonight wherever you are wishing you happy memories with those you love in this ‘feast of the dead’ and beginning of winter.  I hope you may even add some Irish culinary traditions to tonight’ Halloween feast?

Judith the Irish foodie!

Fifteens are a sweet taste of home

A wee taste of home

Northern Irish Fridge Slice

Last week I hosted a dessert coffee evening (thanks to Oli and Ve) for my Northern Irish friend and outstanding singer-songwriter Warren Attwell , who is on his US tour (he’s amazinghttp://www.warrenattwell.com/) and “fifteens” were on the menu. – and what are ‘fifteens’ I can hear you asking? Something more than fourteen, something less than sixteen?

Yes, to my surmise the recipe was unknown to my Atlanta guests; so, I promised to share the recipe on my food blog. The recipe is easy peasy to remember because it’s all about fifteen, hence the name (15 digestive biscuits, 15 marshmallows, 15 cherries and it slices in to 15 pieces)…fifteens, get it?  It’s one of those recipes growing up that we always had the ingredients for in the cupboards, and they could be whipped up quite quickly for an impromptu party or a spontaneous supper when the preacher drops by! …Just one tip for my US followers is to purchase the Digestive Biscuits in the British section of your local grocery store or specialized shop (Grahame crackers are not just as tasty).  Hope you enjoy a Northern Irish fridge cake classic!

Fifteens…(now you know!)

  • 15 Digestive biscuits (8 Grahame Crackers)
  • 15 Marshmallows (cut in to four)
  • 15 Glaze Cherries (cut in half) (or dried cherries)
  • 200 ml sweetened condensed milk (1/2 tin)
  • 1 Tbsp water
  • Desiccated coconut (for rolling)

How to make them:

  1. In a food processor crush the digestive biscuits or Grahame crackers.
  2. In a large bowl mix the crushed biscuits, chopped marshmallows and cherries and the sweetened condensed milk and water.
  3. Lay out a large sheet of parchment or plastic wrap and sprinkle with coconut. Spread the prepared mixture along the plastic wrap to form a long sausage shape.  Sprinkle more coconut over the top of the mixture and then begin to roll using the parchment paper to form a circular sausage shape.  Twist both ends to seal.
  4. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours or allow to sit overnight before slicing.
  5. Slice in to 15 pieces (naturally)

Enjoy!

Judie the Irish foodie

Celtic Thunder Legacy Tour Winners

Celtic Thunder at the Fox

Legacy Tour

Congratulations to our winners Carla Poff and Amy Balogh!  Ryan’s favorite Irish Bread for breakfast is in fact “potato bread’!  We enjoyed an incredible concert last night at the fabulous Fox Theater attending the Celtic Thunder Legacy Tour.  The music was a combination of traditional Irish songs and some modern contemporary pieces, all with a humorous twist. We were all captivated by their stories and music and the theme of ‘home’ and the transatlantic links between Ireland and the US; the songs that make us cry, songs of immigration and of loved lost with the triumph of the new world and hope for tomorrow. The finale brought the house down when all five cast members appeared on kilts and danced to a foot stomping tribute to Ireland.

If you get a chance to catch Celtic Thunder on tour, let me encourage you to do so.

http://www.celticthunder.com/

So, thanks to the Fox Theater and Celtic Thunder for partnering with Shamrock and Peach.  I even got to straighten my curly hair for the occasion and got to take off my chef whites for a girls night out!  We really enjoyed Celtic Legacy Tour 2016 and look forward to your return to Atlanta in the future!

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Here’s to all things Irish!

Judith the Irish foodie!

Celtic Thunder Legacy ticket giveaway

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I am so excited to announce to my blog followers a chance to go and see the Legacy Celtic Thunder tour at the Fox theater next Thursday night!

This week I had the pleasure of interviewing one of the original members of Celtic Thunder; Ryan Kelly.  Although he studied accountancy at Queens University, Belfast and is a qualified Chartered Accountant by trade – music and theater has always been Ryan’s true passion and he longed for a break, as many of us do! Well, turns out the break came when his brother encouraged him to go and try his hand at the auditions in Dublin back in 2007, and it may have seemed far-fetched, but, he landed the role, and the rest is history. A real inspiration to all of us!

Ryan and I talked about the success of Celtic Thunder and why Irish Culture and music is so loved throughout the world. Ryan artistically described how the Irish have become a nation of travelers and story tellers and set our roots in other countries. We shared a common bond of family, friendship and the love that brings us back home to Ireland – and that’s the feeling many people here express to me all the time. A longing to return to Ireland to explore their roots, to see where their ancestors came from, and to enjoy the culture!

Ryan loves to run and has played Gaelic football and basketball at a national level.  We joked how he likes to run to burn calories after enjoying a full Irish breakfast; his favorite meal of the day.  Yes folks, we are talking about the famous Irish Fry, and for those of you who have been to Ireland, you know what I mean. A hearty combination of Irish bacon, sausages, black pudding, tomatoes, mushrooms and best of all the distinctive Irish breads namely, potato bread, soda bread and brown bread with lots of creamy Irish butter.

So, the question is…which of these Irish breads do you think would be Ryan’s favorite?

A. Irish Brown, also known as Wheaten Bread

B. Potato Bread, also known as potato farls, or

C. Irish Soda bread

To enter the drawing, simply follow the link below to my website and go to the ‘contact‘ drop down in the top right corner. Click on it, fill it out and send me your answer.

www.shamrockandpeach.com

I will announce the winner from among the entries promptly, and you could be on your way to see Celtic Thunder at the Fabulous Fox theater, courtesy of Shamrock and Peach!…good luck to everyone, and send me your entries!

 

Joy in the Journey!

Judith the Irish foodie

Announcing tomorrow’s ticket giveaway to Celtic Thunder

Shamrock and Peach is excited to announce a free ticket giveaway to go and see the Celtic Thunder Legacy tour at the Fox theater on October 13 2016.

The giveaway will be based on a personal interview I had with Celtic Thunder star Ryan Kelly.  Ryan is from the Moy in Northern Ireland and we had so many shared food memories from our homeland.  Tomorrow we will be launching the quizz question to my readers and the winner will receive 2 complimentary tickets to the Fox Theater.

So…stay tuned! Tell your friends, and get ready for a chance to this incredible show at the Fabulous Fox Theater!

Judith the Irish foodie