Ireland – Land of Saints and Scholars

Monastic Ireland

Cross of the Scriptures

In Ireland’s core you will not only find its oldest pub, but one of its finest early Monastic sites.  The Monastery at Clonmacnoise dates back to AD 544 when St. Ciaran,who studied under St. Finian at Clonard Abbey, founded the site. Considering its central  ancient East/West land route on the banks of the River Shannon you can see why it bloomed during Ireland’s golden age of learning – a ‘land of saints and scholars’.  Many historical manuscripts can be traced to this site with stories of High Kings, ancient feasts and  even whiskey!

The site is peaceful and tranquil today and visible remains include a cathedral, seven churches, two round towers, three high crosses and fascinating grave slabs.  Considering the site has endured attacks from the Irish tribal wars, the Vikings and the Normans it’s a miracle so much still stands today. One of the many hi lights of the site includes ‘the cross of the scriptures’ that is mentioned twice in the annals of the Four Masters.  I cannot help to imagine a time when the Irish could not read or write and they would learn bible stories by the carvings on  the crosses, from the betrayal of Christ to the Crucifixion and the Judgment that is still to come.

Cross of the Scriptures

Founded by St. Ciaran in 544 AD

This Sunday Shamrock and Peach tours will return to walk this ancient site and look forward to sharing this jewel with guests next summer on our Wild Atlantic Way tour.

Joy in the Journey!

Judith

Lightning strikes twice for Rory McIlroy

They say “lightening never strikes the same place twice”, except for Rory McIlroy, who just won his second Fed Ex tour championship in four years!  I was cheering on Sunday’s big win for my Northern Irish homeland and Rory McIlroy!  The FedEx 2019 tour championship was held just a few miles from my Atlanta home at East Lake Golf Club. It’s lovely to see someone from Northern Ireland take home such a triumphant win and be so respected not only professionally but for being an all round great person. The true sizzle to this lightning strike is that Rory takes home the largest payout in golf history… with a cool $15 million!

Much love and Congratulations from the Shamrock and Peach!

Twelve out of ten in Galway…

Some restaurant score an eight out of ten for food and service excellence. some even score an impressive ten out of ten….but in my experience, the wonderful ‘Twelve Hotel’, one of my favorite Irish hospitality hotspots, scores a twelve for the incredible local Irish produce from Connemara and Galway Bay that is magically converted to an unforgettable gastro experience each time I bring guests to visit.

Connemara Lamb by Chef Martin O’Donnell

What sets Irish food apart when in Ireland is the sheer quality of the produce, and Chef Martin O’Donnell really knows how to bring the best out of the best. Whether it’s scallops or lobster, or seaweed, or Irish beef or as in the is case, Connemara lamb. The lamb was slightly smoked by a local producer and crafted into the meal experience we enjoyed tonight with fermented truffle and a fine jus. My tour guests were blown away, and they all now totally get why Ireland is such a foodie island!

Thank you Martin and Fergus, and all at the wonderful Twelve in Galway. Can’t wait to come back wit more Shamrock and Peach guests!

Fine Irish food indeed!

Judie, the Irish foodie!

http://www.shamrockandpeach.com

Celtic Roots of Santa Claus

Irish Christmas

Celtic Christmas

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…

Judith and Santa

Santa Claus stopping by the Tourism Ireland booth

More Celtic stories to come…

Shamrock and Peach

In Ireland, Soda is bread…

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:

  1. Preheat oven to 425° F. Grease and flour 3 small 8x4x2” loaf pans.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Transfer the resulting dough to a floured surface and knead gently with floured hands.
  5. Divide the dough into loaves and place each loaf into prepared tins. Using a knife, cut a line down center of each loaf.
  6. Bake for 40 minutes until a deep golden brown color or until base of loaf sounds hollow when lightly tapped.

Judie the Irish foodie

 

Bluegrass meets Greengrass

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!

Joy in the journey!

Judie the Irish foodie

Going Green with the Sweet Life

Minty Oreo Cheesecake

Green Desserts for Saturday

Mint Oreo Chocolate Cheesecake

As we are getting ready for St. Patrick’s Day parties, festivals and parades you may be looking for some festive recipe ideas? Here’s a recipe I adapted for a cooking class that’s really green, really fun, and really yummy!  Just in case you haven’t discovered them….But Oreo Cookies now come in mint …. and as far as cookies go… the famous American Oreo is hard to beat?  Now, try combining it with a creamy cheesecake and flavored with creme de menthe?  What’s not to like? Wishing everyone a wonderful and very green St. Patrick’s Day week as we are on the countdown to Saturday!

Here is the recipe…

(Serves 6 in mason jars)

  • (for the base)
  • 18 mint Oreo cookies (crushed)
  • 2 Tbsp of unsalted butter (melted)
  • (for the mousse)
  • 1 ½ tsp of gelatin (1 Tbsp of cold water/2 Tbsp of boiling water)
  • 1 ½ cups of heavy whipping cream
  • 2 (8oz) packets of cream cheese (room temperature)
  • 2 Tbsp of crème de Menthe (or 1 tsp of mint extract and a few drops of green food coloring)
  • 1 ½ cups of powdered sugar
  • (to garnish)
  • ½ cup of heavy whipping cream
  • 2 Tbsp of powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp of vanilla
  • Mint leaves
  • 2 Oreos (crumbled)

How to make it

  1. n a food processor roughly chop 12 of the Oreo’s and stir in the melted butter. Divide the crumble between mason jars and press down with the back of a spoon.
  2. To make the cheesecake mousse beat the cream cheese in an electric mixer until light and fluffy and add 1 ¼ cups of powdered sugar. Add the crème de menthe and beat until it has fully incorporated.
  3. In a separate bowl whip the cream until stiff peaks appear with the remaining ¼ cup of powdered sugar.
  4. Mix the gelatin in 1 Tbsp of cold water and let it sit for a few minutes and then stir until it has completely dissolved in 2 Tbsp of boiling water.
  5. Gradually add the gelatin mixture to the cream cheese mixture, beating until well blended. Fold in the whipped cream and the remaining 6 Oreo cookies (crushed).
  6. Spoon or pipe the resulting cream on top of the Oreo crumble base and refrigerate until ready to serve.
  7. Just before serving whip the cream, powdered sugar and vanilla and pipe a swirl on top of the mint mousse.  Garnish with the Oreo crumbles and a sprig of fresh mint.

Judie the Irish foodie

Crazy Green at Crazy Love

Shamrock and Peach went crazy green at Crazy Love Coffee House last night in Roswell. The menu theme was all things green (some healthy recipes…. some fun recipes…. but everything that just tastes good in honor of the month of March and all things Irish).  We had a full house with smiling faces, great coffee, conversations and Irish food.  If you live in the Atlanta area, check out Crazy Love Coffee house and I can guarantee you’ll love it. Here’s the link to check out

https://www.crazylove.coffee/

In keeping with all things green and of Ireland here’s a blessing…

“May green be the grass that you walk on

May blue be the skies above you

May pure be the joys that surround you

May true be the hearts that love you”

Judie the Irish Foodie

Go Green for March

Irish Kale Salad Recipe

Kale Salad with Warm Bacon Dressing and Crispy Shallots

I don’t know about y’all but all the winter and holiday eating has caught up with me and it’s time for me to Go Green and eat some healthy and ‘in season’ Kale. I mean, the recipe does call for Apple Wood Smoked Bacon and Crispy Fried Shallots, but it sure beats the heck out of Fries and Butter Burgers?  It’s also the month of March where we celebrate our beautiful Emerald Isle and our patron Saint Patrick. So, here’s a healthy Salad with the goal of going green…

…and finally, in keeping with the theme, here’s a verse from one of my favorite artists and songs, written by Johnny Cash and Forty Shades of Green...

“I close my eyes and picture the emerald of the sea

From the fishing boats at Dingle to the shores of Dunardee

I miss the river Shannon and the folks at Skibbereen

The moorlands and the midlands with their forty shades of green”

Hers the recipe…

Kale Salad with a Warm Bacon Dressing and Crispy Fried Shallots

 Ingredients:

  • 2 ½ oz (5 cups) Kale (hard stalks removed and hand torn)
  • (for the dressing)
  • 1 Tbsp vegetable oil
  • 5 slices uncured apple smoked bacon (finely chop)
  • 8 Tbsp (1/2 cup) olive oil
  • 3 garlic cloves (finely chopped)
  • ¼ cup white balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • (for the fried shallots)
  • 2 shallots (finely sliced)
  • 1 Tbsp flour
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • Kosher salt and pepper

How to make it:

  1. Heat oil in skillet and crisp bacon. Remove bacon from the pan and set on plate lined with a paper towel.  Drain bacon fat from skillet leaving 1 Tbsp for a little flavor.
  2. Add chopped garlic and cook for 1 minute to soften but not brown. Remove from heat and add vinegar, (being careful as pan may splutter some).  Gently shake the saucepan to mix.   Use as whisk to mix the mustard, sugar.  Add ground black pepper.  Finally whisk in the olive oil and gently heat on low.
  3. To make the fried shallots toss in the flour. Heat the oil in a medium saucepan or fryer to 360 degrees F.  Add the shallots in small batches so they do not stick together cooking for 10-12 minutes until they are really crispy.  Remove with a slotted spoon and place on paper towels to drain.   Season the shallots with a little salt and pepper.
  4. To serve toss the kale in the warm vinaigrette with the bacon.
  5. Serve right away and top each salad plate with a small handful of friend shallots and enjoy!

Judie the Irish Foodie

 

Irish Heritage Leek and Potato Soup

Classic Irish Soup Recipe

Heartwarming Irish Potato and Leek Soup

Go Green for St. Patrick’s Day and the month of March is all about celebrating our national holiday by cooking classic Irish heritage dishes.  It’s traditionally the busiest month of the year for me with sold out Irish cooking classes, intimate catering events and parties. Over the years I have been traveling to Florida with Kerrygold teaching cooking classes at the Publix Aprons cooking schools. This year I am going to be working in Atlanta teaching a St. Patrick’s dinner class at Wholefoods on March 16 and a luncheon at the Piedmont Cancer Center on March 17th.

If you are hosting a dinner party for St. Patrick’s day you may consider serving this soup as a welcome shooter or as an appetizer for your dinner party.  It’s warm and comforting and a true taste of Ireland for our festive month of March…So, go green and enjoy!

So, here it is and “Health to you and yours: to mine and ours”….

Leek and Potato Soup with Chive Puree and Garlic and herb cheese croutons

(serves 4-6)

  • 4 oz salted butter
  • 1 medium onion (diced)
  • 2 large leeks sliced (use mainly the white part)
  • 5 medium potatoes (4 cups potatoes peeled and diced)
  • 2 ½ pints Chicken Stock
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/8 freshly ground pepper
  • 2 Tbsp of cream

 (for the spring onion puree)

  • 4 spring onions (chopped)
  • Fine sea salt
  • 4 Tbsp salted Irish butter (melted)

 (for the garlic and herb cheese croutons)

  • 3 slices of day old baguettes (cut in to cubes)
  • 4 Tbsp Kerrygold garlic and herb Irish butter
  • 1 oz Dubliner Irish cheese (finely grated)

How to make it:

  1. In a heavy based saucepan melt the butter over low heat. Add the leeks and onions allowing them to “sweat” until they are fragrant.
  2. Add the stock and potatoes and season with salt and pepper.
  3. Stir to combine on medium heat and bring to a boil. Cover and then turn the temperature down allowing the soup to gently simmer for about 20-25 minutes or until the potatoes are soft.
  4. Allow the soup to cool slightly before using an emulsion blender to smooth.
  5. To make the spring onion purees blanch the spring onions in salted boiling water for just less than 1 minute. Strain and place in Ice water.   Transfer to a blender to puree.  On low heat melt butter and slowly drizzle in to the puree to create froth.
  6. To make the croutons preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Melt the butter and toss in the bread cubes.  Bake for 10-15 minutes turning half way or until crunchy and toasted.  Sprinkle  the cheese over croutons for 1 more minute to melt.
  7. To serve the soup return to heat and bring to a gentle boil. Lower the temperature and finish the soup by adding the cream.  Taste to adjust for seasoning.  Serve in individual bowls with a drizzle of the frothy spring onion puree and a few garlic and herb cheesy croutons.

Judith the Irish foodie