Shamrock and Peach Tours Chocolate dessert memories
It’s almost Valentine’s Day and I am still dreaming of Irish Chocolate! Today I wanted to highlight a few of my favorite chocolate desserts that we had the opportunity to taste and devour last year whilst leading our Shamrock and Peach Tours.
Irish chefs are creating world class chocolate desserts made with chocolate from homegrown Irish companies, which is kind of a new thing. In Ireland, we are known for our wonderfully pure and wholesome dairy products and herds who enjoy a grass fed diet producing milk that is rich, yellow and naturally salted by our clean and pure sea breezes. So, guests who come to Ireland are falling in love with more than just Ireland….. our chocolate alone is worth the Journey!
In pursuit of the best Irish chocolates we turn to Dingle Town in County Kerry,a stop on last summer’s Shamrock and Peach Southern Elegance tours. The Wild Irish Chocolate Shop, situated on the main street in Dingle, had an assortment of fudge, marshmallows, toffee, truffles and one of the largest selection of chocolate bars I have ever seen… (in fact you can choose from 47 different varieties). Dingle is not the only place to purchase Wild Irish Chocolate brand when you are visiting Ireland so take my advice and try it for yourself, with varieties of bars like seaweed and lime splash and White Chocolate Cranberry you will need to leave extra room in your suitcase.
On the countdown to Valentine’s Day this is one of the Irish chocolate stops I will be dreaming about and look forward to returning again this summer to enjoy Wild Irish Chocolates (all handmade in Co. Clare, Ireland).
Are you just like me and in love with chocolate? Of course you are! – This week is Valentine’s, and in celebration I am blogging about some of my favorite Irish Chocolate experiences. For us Irish living abroad there are always two requests we have for friends and family who are coming over to the USA to stuff into their luggage before they leave, and they would be – Irish Chocolate and Irish Tea! Make room in those suitcases and fill them with goodies please!
Yes, chocolate is considered one of the foods I adore, so, being Valentine’s day I am excited to share some dreamy, creamy memories. Here we go…
During my travels throughout Ireland I am always excited to discover new artisan chocolate-tiers springing up all over the country and many of my favorites are in my bucket list to visit this coming year. Last year, Shamrock and Peach Tours had the chance to stop at Hazel Mountain Chocolate in the Burren, in County Clare and considering the ambiance, landscape, never mind the to ‘to die for’ coffee and chocolate ,it did not disappoint! Tomorrow I am following up with another favorite (and this time with a stop in Dingle)…
Wondering what to bring to your Burn’s Night celebrations parties? Here’s a simple Scottish recipe that will be the hit of the party! But, what’s the difference anyway between Scotch and American pancakes anyway? – here’s the rub, Scotch Pancakes are like American Pancakes, but, they are much firmer with a thicker constancy and a perfect base for savory or sweet toppings (and in my opinion just a wee bit… nicer). The recipe makes 12 pancakes so you may want to double or event triple it because they are so delicious…
So enjoy your Burn’s night and all things Scottish as we ourselves prepare for a trip to ‘The Highlands’ in a few short weeks, researching our next Scottish adventure with Shamrock and Peach Tours…excited.
Here’s the recipe for Savory Pancakes with Smoked Salmon, Olives and Dill…
(for the pancake)
6 oz of self-flour (1 cup)
1 tsp of baking powder
½ tsp sugar
Pinch of salt
7 oz of milk
Butter and a little vegetable oil for frying
(for the topping)
Ground black pepper
Squeeze of lemon juice
Sprigs of Dill
How to make it
Sift the flour with the baking soda, salt and sugar in a bowl and make a well in the center.
Whisk the eggs and milk together and pour in to the center of the dry ingredients, stirring until combined.
In a heavy based pan or griddle add a just a little butter and vegetable oil. Using a small ladle drop a small amount on to the hot pan. When one side is golden flip over and cook the other side. Remove and set aside.
To assemble pile a little smoked salmon on top of each pancake with a squeeze of lemon juice over the salmon and freshly ground black pepper. Top with a little creme fraiche, chopped olives and a sprig of dill.
Ireland, the land of a thousand welcomes (Cead Mile Failte) is rooted in hospitality. For more than a thousand years Ireland was governed by the Brehon Laws which esteemed the values of hospitality to a stranger. It was the hosts responsibility to provide food, drink and a warm bed where possible to a stranger. – Isn’t that amazing?
When the Celts converted to Christianity, the traditions of welcoming strangers continued.
On Christmas Eve a candle was lit and placed on the window as a symbolic gesture to provide a light to guide Mary and Joseph on their way. Visitors to an Irish home, particularly around Christmas time are treated with a warm welcome and festive cakes, pies and spiced wine. A place is often set at the kitchen table with fruit bread, milk and a light candle for a wandering stranger. So, this Christmas, be welcoming, be warm and follow in the steps of the ancients who loved hospitality!
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
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.
To serve fill a glass with ice and add the whiskey, lime juice, cranberry syrup and top with club soda.
Stir together and then garnish with a sprig of rosemary and a few cranberries.
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.
It may seem as if the holiday of Halloween is a very American tradition with it’s trick and treater’s and all the candy inspired pageantry, however, it may surprise you to know that in actual fact Halloween began in Ireland. Yes, the origins of the holiday is the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain, which was celebrated over 3,000 years ago. Today however, Halloween is similar in Ireland as it is celebrated in America – It’s a time to gather family and friends together for some community fun, and of course eating together.
Growing up in Armagh, also known as the Orchard county of Ireland, my favorite ‘go-to-desserts‘ always involved apples. I was practically raised on apple tarts (pies) and crumbles, and so when I emigrated to the Southern US states over 20 years ago, I continued this tradition and just love all the wonderful American fall desserts, such as ‘Apple Dumplings‘.
An apple dumpling is a whole apple filled with brown sugar and a little butter wrapped up like a little present in pastry and baked in the oven. The dumpling is finished off with Candy Apple Sauce and please do not forget the vanilla ice cream!
It’s time to celebrate with apples!
Apple Dumplings(for the pastry)
2 ¼ cups of all-purpose flour
¼ tsp of salt
2/3 cups of shortening
6 to 8 Tbsp of ice water
(for the egg wash)
1 beaten egg and a little water
(for the apples)
6 medium size baking apples
3-4 Tbsp of brown sugar
2 Tbsp of butter
(for the candy apple sauce)
1 cup water
¾ cup sugar
¼ tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp nutmeg
1 1/2 Tbsp butter
1 drop of red food coloring
How to make them
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
To make the pastry combine the flour and salt in a large bowl and rub in the shortening until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Using a knife stir in the ice water until a dough is formed adding a little extra water if necessary. Form the dough in a rectangular shape disc with hands and then cut that in to 6 equal pieces to make it easier to roll out in to square shapes.
Core and peel the apples and place each one in the center of prepared pastry. Spoon a little butter and brown sugar inside the center of each apple. Brush the inside edges of the pastry with a little water, and pull up to the center to completely cover the apple like a little package. Brush the outside of the dumpling with egg wash.
Grease a medium size baking dish and set the dumplings gently in to the pan. Place the dumplings in the oven and bake them for 45 minutes until the pastry is golden brown and the apples are soft.
While the apples are baking prepare the sauce by boiling together the water, sugar, spices and a little food coloring and then whisking in the butter.
To serve place the apple dumpling in the center of a dish and pour of the sauce. Best enjoyed with a spoonful of vanilla ice-cream.
Failte (Irish world for wlecome) from Co. Kerry to Co. Antrim the Emerald Isle awaits you!
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 secondtrolley 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!
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!