Spectacular Scotland

Shamrock and Peach Tours are celebrating our 10th year of being in business with a brand new exciting tour offering, going to the Highlands of Scotland.  We have been working on launching our new Scottish tour for several years now and I cannot say how excited we are with all of our incredible accommodations and all the places we will be seeing. To me, it’s kind of like a bucket list itinerary including luxuries such as staying at the spanking new and fabulous  Kingshouse Hotel in the heart of Glencoe with spectacular mountain views and highland stags roaming around ( this is the place where Jame’s Bond’s famous movie Skyfall was filmed) – and the equally new 5 star Ness Walk Hotel in Inverness, not far from the famous Spey Whisky trail. We’ll also get to visit Rosalyn Chapel, the Kelpies and Holyrood Palace while staying in Edinburgh – all delightful and wonderful sights to see! – We will pack it in, and it will be incredible.

The website is taking bookings for 2021 as our tour for next year has already sold out.  I am very proud of my Irish homeland but Scotland is Spectacular!.  My husband and I did a dry run of our tour earlier this year and I am happy to share just a few of his pretty amazing pictures!

Shamrock and Peach

Judith x

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Fall in love with Ireland in 2019

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.

Please check out our website for more details:

http://www.shamrockandpeach.com

Slainte… we are excited, very excited!

Judith

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

 

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

A tale of two ladies – Juliet & Helen

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!

Judie the Irish foodie

Foraging Walks and Irish Clovers

Augh….We are in the foodie destination heaven here in the grounds of Ashford Castle and the Lodge at Ashford Castle!  Our group got to steal Chef Jonathan Keane away on Father’s day on a foraging walk of the grounds and tour of the Polytunnels, vegetable and herbs garden.  Lucky for us we also got to dine in the famous Wilde’s restaurant for two evenings and experience the delicious flavors we had tasted, smelt and seen on our walk in a stunning settling, over the waters of Lough Corrib.  So, with full hearts and memories to last a lifetime we are departing Cong as we adventure further North on our Legendary Irish tour! Big thanks to Chef Jonathan and the team at the Lodge for such a brilliant stay yet again….

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

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