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 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.
Dalriada Kingdom tours team up with Shamrock and Peach at the Giants Causeway
Giants Causeway fun
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!
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
½ cup of heavy whipping cream
2 Tbsp of powdered sugar
1 tsp of vanilla
2 Oreos (crumbled)
How to make it
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.
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.
In a separate bowl whip the cream until stiff peaks appear with the remaining ¼ cup of powdered sugar.
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.
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).
Spoon or pipe the resulting cream on top of the Oreo crumble base and refrigerate until ready to serve.
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.
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
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
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:
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.
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.
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.
To serve toss the kale in the warm vinaigrette with the bacon.
Serve right away and top each salad plate with a small handful of friend shallots and enjoy!
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
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:
In a heavy based saucepan melt the butter over low heat. Add the leeks and onions allowing them to “sweat” until they are fragrant.
Add the stock and potatoes and season with salt and pepper.
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.
Allow the soup to cool slightly before using an emulsion blender to smooth.
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.
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.
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.
Happy New Year 2018! Wishing all my friends and followers good health and Prosperity with Irish Savoy Cabbage Greens and Bacon…a true Irish favorite!
In the South it’s a tradition to enjoy collard greens as part of a New Years tradition (cooked in a smoked ham hock bone and served with black eyed peas and cornbread). The greens are symbolic of paper money and bring good luck and wealth for the upcoming year, whilst the black eyed peas represent the coins… so now you know!
So we wanted to share a new year suggestion for you with some Irish style crispy cabbage and wishing you a year like no other!
Bacon with Crispy Cabbage and Mustard Sauce
3 lbs cured loin of bacon
2 bay leaves
1 tsp peppercorns
1 stick of celery (chopped)
1 large onion (cut in quarters)
1 carrot (chopped)
(for the cabbage)
1 large green savoy cabbage (hard core removed and thinly sliced)
3 Tbsp of butter
2 Tbsp water
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
(for the mustard sauce)
3 Tbsp butter
2 Tbsp all purpose flour
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
½ cup reserved cooking liquid
1 Tbsp whole grain mustard
How to make it
Put the bacon in a large saucepan and cover with cold water. Add the bay leaves, peppercorns, celery, and carrot. Bring to the boil and then cover with a lid and reduce the heat to a low simmer for 20 minutes per pound plus an additional 30 minutes.
Remove the bacon from the pan and set aside. Reserve ½ cup of cooking liquid for the sauce.
To make the mustard sauce melt the butter and add the flour cooking for a minute and then whisk in the reserved cooking liquid, heavy whipping cream, mustard and salt and pepper.
To make the cabbage melt the butter in a large skillet and then add the cabbage tossing with tongs until it’s bright and fragrant. Sprinkle 2 Tbsp of water over the cabbage to wilt slightly but still remaining crispy and bright.
To serve slice the bacon and drizzle with a little mustard sauce and top with crispy cabbage.
Enjoy, and have a peaceful and prosperous new year!
We all know Ireland is a special place, but did you know about Newgrange on December 21st? – Now this is really special….
New Grange is older than Stonehenge and the Egyptian Pyramids and on December 21st ( the Winter Solstice) it is a symbol of light to our dark world. The Winter Solstice is the shortest period of daylight and the longest night of the year. The mound that you see in the picture covers a single tomb that consists of a long passage and a cross-shaped chamber. The Megalithic chamber was build for the Winter Solstice and when the run rises a shaft of light illuminates the chamber through an opening in the roof box. The actual purpose of the chamber is unclear, although recent research suggests it could of had an astronomical function, but whatever it was built for…it is amazing! How could stone age people have built such an amazing thing?
This year I lead a tour of American guests to NewGrange and the response was that of complete awe and fascination! Just like the ancient Celts we look for light and the sun to break forth in the midst of the Bleak Mid Winter!
…just amazing. Please check it out and I do hope everyone is enjoying the run up to Christmas – excitement is building!
We are relishing these rare days of snow in Georgia with 12″ of fluffy white fun falling in Atlanta this weekend! Our friends and family in Ireland tell us that it’s snowing there also, and we are all dreaming of a white Christmas! -maybe this is the year?
Being Irish, there are certain flavors, smells and traditions associated with Christmas and one of those has to be warm sweet mince pies. Whats not to like about melt in your mouth pastry filled with dried fruits, apples and spices (cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg)? I can follow up with a recipe for homemade sweet mincemeat but for now, please allow me to share a recipe for some of the most delicious pies I have ever tasted (from my dear Irish friend Marian Lynch). Your home will smell wonderful as they are baking in the oven – comforting and delicious
Oh, and you should know, despite the name, there is actually no meat as such in the recipe (but eaten as a traditional part of Christmas from the 16th century, and back then, the ‘meat’ may have just meant the filling part). Today it’s a sweet treat not to be missed this season!
Here’s the recipe
Irish Traditional Mince Pies
18 oz all purpose flour
2 oz powdered sugar
½ cup ground almonds
1 tsp salt
12 oz unsalted Kerrygold butter)
1 large egg yolk (beaten)
3-4 Tbsp ice water
1 Tbsp lemon juice
(mince meat) homemade or bought
How to make them:
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
Combine the flour, salt and powdered sugar in a large bowl. Add in the ground almonds. Rub in the butter and margarine until it resembles breadcrumbs.
Blend the egg yolk, lemon juice and the water together and gradually add to the dry ingredients, until just enough to hold together.
Turn the pastry on to a lightly floured board and knead lightly. Cover the pastry and put aside in the fridge to relax for at least an hour or overnight.
Roll out the pastry very thin and using a pastry cutter cut in to 2 inch rounds. Spoon 1 tsp of mincemeat on to half the rounds. Brush edges all around with cold water. Place another on top and press edges together. Prick with a fork.
Bake for about 9 minutes until the pastry is golden brown. Allow to cool in the pan for a few minutes and then place mince pies on a cooling rack.