Tis the Season for Festive Cocktails and Holiday Cheer

Whiskey Coctails

Cranberry Whiskey Fizz

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

  1. 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.
  2. To serve fill a glass with ice and add the whiskey, lime juice, cranberry syrup and top with club soda.
  3. Stir together and then garnish with a sprig of rosemary and a few cranberries.

Judith, The Shamrock and Peach

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The Celtic Roots of Fruitcake at Christmas

Christmas preparations

Tis the Season for baking fruitcake!

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
  • 8oz raisins
  • 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.

Mincemeat will keep for up to 2 months

Enjoy the Season!

Judith, The Shamrock and Peach

 

The Sweetest Sweet Trolley

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 second trolley 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!

Judie the Irish foodie

Turning back the years at Ballymaloe

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!

More to come about our visit to Ballymaloe!

Judie the Irish foodie

Lough Erne Legendary Irish Elegance

Words cannot fully describe how we were royally treated at the Lough Erne Resort in Co. Fermanagh last week when our Legendary Irish tour.  We got to experience world class dining and accommodation staying at one of Northern Ireland’s most prestigious 5 Star resort.  Executive head chef and friend Noel McMeel rolled out the red carpet for our guests.  One of the most memorable meal experiences was the recreation of the menu served at the G8 summit.  Our guests got to taste the menu experienced by our world leaders, the very best of Irish cuisine.   Our guests were overwhelmed with the Lough Erne Hospitality  and the way we were treated by the restaurant servers and chefs will be a food memory to last a life time.  We feel so humbled and grateful to the team at the Lough Erne including Chef Noel McMeel and Chef Stephen and would like  to send out a personal applause and thankfulness to them.  This this Sunday I will embark on two back to back tours of Southern Ireland, but before we lunch our new venture I wanted to acknowledge our appreciation of the very best of Northern Irish hospitality!

Joy in the journey!

Judie the Irish Foodie

Fire Flame Cooked Guinness Oysters

Oysters cooked over fire

Fire Fork Feast Guinness Oysters

I had no idea how many foodies out there love to eat Oysters!  So, here’s the recipe for those of you who have written in to request that I share my recipe and others who attended the Fire Fork Feast event in Nashville over the weekend.

Reducing the Guinness for me was the key to amazing flavor and of course in the words of Derek Wolf, founder of Over the Fire Cooking, “fire is an ingredient”  with the smokey flavor enhancing this sensational dish. I recommend equal parts butter to oyster… and if in doubt…where possible… always reach for Irish grass fed  Kerrygold but (it’s da bomb)!

Grilled Oysters on the Half Shell with Guinness Herb Butter

  • 2 dozen large fresh oysters on the half shell
  • ½ cup of Parmesan cheese (finely grated)
  • (for the Guinness butter)
  • 8 oz (1 cup) of salted Irish Kerrygold butter
  • 1 cup of Guinness stout (reduced to 4 Tbsp)
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 Tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2 Tbsp shallots (finely chopped)
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 tsp thyme (finely)
  • 2 Tbsp parsley (finely chopped)
  • 1 tsp of kosher salt
  • ½ tsp freshly ground black pepper

How to make them

  1. Prepare oysters using an oyster knife and shucking severing the muscle that is attaching the oyster to the shell. Leave the oyster in the shell that is more cupped shaped.
  2. In a small sauce pan simmer the Guinness, sugar and thyme until it has reduced by 75% (leaving 4 Tbsp of liquid) and cool.
  3. To make the Guinness butter sauté the shallot in 1 tbsp of vegetable oil for a few minutes to soften and then add the garlic at the end and cook for 1 minute.
  4. Whip the room temperature butter by hand or with electric whisk and add the cooled reduced Guinness, parsley, shallots and garlic, salt and pepper.
  5. Preheat the fire or grill to 400-475 degrees F.
  6. Arrange the oysters in a single layer on a grill and spoon 2 tsp of the butter mixture into each oyster shell and then top with finely grated Dubliner Irish Cheese. Grill uncovered for 6-7 minutes until the butter is sizzling and the oyster is puffed up.
  7. Remove from the grill and serve immediately.

Judie the Irish foodie

Over the Fire Cooking (Fire Fork Feast event)

This past weekend I attended the Fire Fork Feast event in Nashville, Tennessee and so enjoyed the experience. The event was organized my my dear friend and founder of ‘Over the fire cooking’ with an outstanding following of 453,000 on his Instagram!  Way to go Derek!!   It was so much fun cooking over the fire with so many amazing chefs on the picturesque Wedge Oak Farm in Nashville, Tennessee. OK, so the weather was kinda chilly but it was warm by the fire…and the food was incredible. What a great idea!

I especially enjoyed cooking with Lodge Cast Iron cookware and in my next blog I am going to share my recipe for cooking soda bread over an open fire using a dutch oven.

My main dish for this really inventive festival was Guinness oysters (a butter made with Guinness reduction, herbs and garlic topped with Parmesan cheese)… Pretty yum…!!

Slainte!

Judie the Irish foodie

Mocha Meringue Nests for Easter Sunday

Easter Desserts

Mocha Meringues

Welcome Spring, the pastel colors, the budding of flowers and that feeling of renewal.  My family always baked meringue nests for our table on Easter Sunday and hot cross buns on good Friday and its been some of the many traditions I have continued in Georgia and love to share with my family and friends.  The meringues are actually more of a pavlova based recipe because I really like the crispy on the outside and crewy on the inside bite.  The balsamic vinegar and coffee cuts some of the intense sweetness of the meringue and for me it’s a perfect ending to the Easter feast.

Hope you enjoy and have a go at making these easy and tasty treats!

Here it is……

Mocha Meringue Nests

( makes 12 nests)

  • 4 egg whites (room temperature)
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 cup plus 2 Tbsp extra fine sugar
  • 1 tsp cornstarch
  • 2 Tbsp quality cocoa powder
  • 2 tsp chocolate infused balsamic vinegar (or quality balsamic)
  • 1tsp of coffee essence (or freeze dried coffee dissolved in boiling water)
  • (for the topping)
  • ½ cup heavy whipping cream (1 cup whipped)
  • 2 tsp extra fine sugar
  • 2 Tbsp of grated dark chocolate eggs to fill the nests
  • coffee balsamic (reduced)

How to make it:

  1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees F.
  2. Line and grease a baking sheet with parchment wax paper.
  3. In electric mixer beat egg whites and salt until they are white and foamy. Slowly incorporate sugar one teaspoon at a time.   Blend in the cornstarch, balsamic vinegar, coffee essence and cocoa powder.
  4. Pipe the meringue in a circular round mounds with an indent in the middle to form a nest shape on to a lined baking sheet, building up the edges a little higher than the middle.
  5. Set meringue in the preheated oven and then immediately turn the temperature down to 250 degrees and bake for 30- 45 minutes. Turn the oven off and allow the meringue to dry out as the oven cools.
  6. Decorate the nests by whipping the fresh cream and sugar until soft peaks appear.
  7. Place some eggs in the nest and sprinkle over grated chocolate.

Happy Easter!

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

 

 

 

Valentine’s Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta with Poetry

Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta

A valentine’s dessert to remember

Valentines day is almost here and in the spirit of love and heart shaped romance I wanted to share a perfect dessert for Valentines, along with a few delicious quotes from one of my favorite Irish poets, the one and only Oscar Wilde…

Many of his quotes are profound and I am always saddened that his life journey was so short. So, in honor of a poet I enjoy, here are a few of quotes on love…

Keep love in your heart.  A life without it is like a sunless garden when the flowers are dead

Woman are made to be loved, not understood

To love oneself is the beginning of a lifelong romance

Hope you enjoy this special Valentine’s dessert….and remember the best ingredient is always ‘love’.

Buttermilk Panna Cotta with Raspberries and Chocolate with a Sugar Spun Basket

(makes 6)

  • (for the buttermilk Panna Cotta)
  • 2 Tbsp water
  • 2 gelatin leaves (3/4 tsp) unflavored gelatin
  • 1 cup of heavy whipping cream
  • ½ vanilla pod (split lengthwise)
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • Pinch of fine sea salt
  • ½ cup of buttermilk
  • (for the sugar spun basket)
  • 1 ½ cups of granulated sugar
  • (for the garnish)
  • 12 fresh raspberries
  • 4 sprigs of mint
  • (for the raspberry sauce)
  • 1 cup of raspberries
  • 2 Tbsp of fine granulated sugar
  • (for the chocolate sauce)
  • 1 cup of chocolate chips
  • ¼ cup of whipping cream

How to make it

  1. Place 2 Tbsp of water in to a small bowl and sprinkle over gelatin. Let it stand for 5 minutes until the gelatin softens.
  2. Scrape the vanilla seeds from the pod and add in to a medium size saucepan with 1/2 cup of the cream, pod, sugar and sea salt. Bring to a low boil and stir constantly for 3-5 minutes until the sugar has dissolved.  Reduce the heat and stir in the gelatin mixture.
  3. Strain the cream mixture through a sieve and add the buttermilk and remaining cream.
  4. Divide in to molds and chill for at least 4 hours in the refrigerator.
  5. To make the sugar spun baskets melt the sugar in a small skillet and boil until it is a light caramel color. Remove from the heat and place the pan in a basin of cold water to stop the cooking process.  Using the back of a spoon, drizzle the caramel in a think steady stream weaving back and forth to create a weave design.  Gently remove the basket and place on a sheet of parchment paper.
  6. To make the sauces puree the raspberries and sugar together and strain to remove the seeds. Melt the chocolate over a double boiler with the cream and stir to melt.  Transfer to squeeze bottles.
  7. To serve remove the panna cotta from the mold and place in the center of the plate. Place three raspberries on the side of the panna cotta and a sprig of mint. Using a squeeze bottle pour three circles of raspberry sauce and a swirl of chocolate sauce.  To serve gently place the sugar spun basket on top.

Judie the Irish Foodie,

in love…