The Voice of the Irish – Calling Saint Patrick Home

Saul's Church

The site of the original barn that was given to Patrick by the Irish Chieftain

With only a few days until St. Patrick’s Day I wanted to follow up on my story from last week about the journey of our patron saint, as this is such a great story, and worth telling, so here we go…

When Patrick returned to Ireland, the land of his previous slavery, he landed just outside Downpatrick, in County Down where he promptly converted a local chieftain to to Christianity. The chieftain was so impressed that he donated a barn for St. Patrick to live and worship in and this primitive building became the very first church in Ireland in the early 5th century.

In 1932, Saul’s church was then built on the very same spot as the original barn to commemorate the first place of worship established by St. Patrick in Ireland. It’s a very special place to visit and in the words of Dr. Tim Campbell who guides our tour groups to the site “it’s a thin place” and a stillness that encapsulates a sense of wonder. For those of you who have visited here with me you can recall these feelings and if you have not visited I encourage you to put it on your bucket list. Still a few spots open on my two Legendary Irish tours this summer…

Here are the dates:

June 17th to 23rd $2495 per person sharing (6 nights and 7 days)

June 30th to 7th $2895 per person sharing (7 nights and 8 days)

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Judith  (Shamrock and Peach)



A Voice from the Sea – Ireland is calling

St. Patrick's Call to Ireland

“the voice of the Irish” calling

The Irish sea was a place of terror for young Patrick who had been violently ripped from his family in ancient Roman Britannia by a band of Irish pirates and hauled off to a place that the Romans called Hibernia (meaning – the land of perceptual winter). He worked as a slave in what is now County Antrim in Northern Ireland, but hope was not lost. Through a God inspired dream, Patrick had seen a boat, and his possible means of escape from his years as a slave to Miliucc, the Celtic King of Antrim. This gave Patrick the courage to get up, leave his place of bondage and run away in hope of finding this sought after ‘dream boat’, which he eventually did after many dangerous days of travel through the ancient oak forests of Ireland.

Arriving at the south coast, after a long and difficult journey, Patrick boarded a ship, after convincing the captain to take him with them, and sails to Gaul – modern day France. Once in Gaul, he was back in familiar Roman ground and after sometime managed to find his way back to Britain and his northern home after many years of enslavement and hardship.

For many, this might mark the end of a fateful journey, but for Patrick, it was only the beginning as he encountered another dream where he was called back to the very people who had enslaved him. The story goes that one  night he dreamt that he was visited by an angel called Victorious, holding “countless letters” who hands over the mail to Patrick. As the letter is opened Patrick is stabbed in the heart by a voice near the Western Sea crying “We beg you to come and walk among us once more”. The voice of the Irish, fate was calling…

Our next adventures take us to Downpatrick and the landing of our patron saint back in Ireland that would see him transform from captor to apostle. Stay tuned!

Shamrock and Peach


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

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




Welcome first day of Spring! (St. Bridget Feast Day in Ireland)

The first day of Spring (Feb 1st) has been important in Ireland from the Neolithic period.  In Ireland the lighting of fires and candles invited the power of the sun in the period between the cold Winter months and Spring!  Can you believe it folks….? We’re almost there and I am ready for the warmth of the sun and the buds of Spring to appear.

The relics of St. Bridget and Columcille are said to be enclosed in Downpatrick in the same grave as our National St. Patrick.  I loved this photography shared on the Friends of Saint Patrick’s website today of a group of students from John Brown University in Missouri placing a St. Bridget’s cross on the grave.  The hanging of the St. Bridget cross on the front door is symbolically asking Gods protection on livestock and homes in many homes in rural Ireland.

Those of  you who have been on Shamrock and Peach tours are familiar with Dr. Tim Campbell and this quote he often shares around the grave side.

“In Downpatrick, three saints one grave do fill, Patrick, Bridget and Columcille”

Welcome Spring and and let the feasting of St. Bridget begin!

Judith the Irish foodie


Discovering the real St Patrick…

Shamrock and Patrick-1

St. Patrick’s statue in Armagh, and a shamrock on the Antrim coast…

What does St. Patrick’s day mean to you? Hearty beers and beef? How about shamrocks and green top hats? Or the river running through the city dyed bright green? Or just a fun night out with great friends? Well, the thing is that St. Patrick actually means a lot of things to different people, and I say…happy days!  After all, if Irish culture can be celebrated like this once a year with folks having fun and enjoying themselves, then why not? – but what about ‘ol Saint Paddy himself?

Most people don’t think about it, but St. Pat was quite a man. A trailblazer, a peacemaker, a kingmaker, a leader, a pastor, a father figure, a statesman, a writer and the stuff of legends, even in his own lifetime. He spent a lot of his time and founded his first church at Saul in County Down in the north of Ireland, and to this very spot I bring groups of guests each year on my tours to hear about Patrick’s inspiring story.  – We all squeeze into this wonderful place that was founded in the 5th century and marvel at the history and the legend. – How could one man achieve so much and now be celebrated the world over?

The Saul church - St. Patrick's first church founded in the 5th century

The Saul church – St. Patrick’s first church founded in the 5th century

County Down and Saint Patrick’s country is so inspiring that we actually always spend a day in this region whilst on the Shamrock and Peach Irish Tour – and why not? apart from the eye-opening and inspiring history around every corner, it’s also a very beautiful place with the Mourne Mountains sweeping down to the sea – a place that has to be seen to be believed.

So, take a moment this March 17th, and think of the man himself – then consider joining me on one of our tours this summer and I’ll introduce you to him personally! – We will walk in his footsteps, look out to sea and dream…let’s go!

click on this link to know more…

Happy St. Patrick’s Day to you all!
Judie the Irish Foodie XX

Best thing I ever ate in Ireland (part 3)

Locally caught Seafood

Chef Danny Miller pulls out the stops…

No visit to County Down would be complete without stopping by Balloo House to eat some delicious locally caught seafood. This most memorable Roast Cod with Strangford Lough Shellfish and Comber Potatoes was one of the best dishes I ate in Ireland last year with my tour groups.  When you taste each perfectly prepared morsel it’s no surprise Chef Danny Miller won best Chef in Ireland back in 2010.

My American guests are always enchanted to eat in the fine dining restaurant of Balloo House, a coaching house with a 400 year old history.  Other prestigious endorsements also include the Michelin Guide, Georgina Campbell Guide, McKenna Guide and the AA Restaurant Guide.  Many thanks to Chef Danny Miller and I cannot wait to return this summer.

Only weeks away until March 17 it’s appropriate to play tribute to Co. Down where our Irish saint is buried and Strangford Lough – Shellfish is the best.

Judith the Irish foodie

So who was St. Patrick anyway?

Wait…is that a burrito he’s holding?

 (St. Patricks Cathedral, Armagh – Northern Ireland)

 So here it is, the day has arrived when everyone is Irish, when everything appears green and when we all try on the Irish brogue (for a few words anyway) -even if the catch phrase involves  ‘me lucky chaaaarms’! Oh yes, and despite being mistaken for Australian yesterday (ha!) I have to say I do love this time of year, as I’m sure oul’ Saint Patrick would if he were around to see it all….

 But wait a minute….who exactly was Saint Patrick anyway? Do ya know? Do ya care? Did he drink green beer and fall into the fountains in Savannah? Did he really pick up a shamrock for the King of Tara whilst wearing his ‘kiss me I’m Irish’ hat….or was he even Irish I ask???

 Well, fear not because I’m going to clue you in on a big secret….

 You see, um….well, no…..he wasn’t Irish. He, he was British!! Roman British in fact – toga and all, and he didn’t even drink green beer. None of that, he was in fact an early Christian missionary who crossed the Irish sea with a mission to purge pagan Ireland and by so doing to bring about the coming of Christ, as Ireland in those days was considered as ‘the far edge of the world’…(think of Christ’s words about the gospel reaching the ends of the word, and you’ll see what I mean.)

 Yes, he lived in the 5th century and yes he came to Ireland to save souls, even though his was a Brit, so that’s why most monuments to Patrick in Ireland are Christian in nature, such as the early cross pictured below in Downpatrick in County Down, near the grave site of St. Patrick.

You see, the story goes that Patrick as a young man, was captured by Irish pirates (red beard I’m guessing, not blackbeard!!) taken to Slemish mountain in Northern Ireland, but after a period of some years managed to escape and eventually get back home to what is now England. But what’s really cool about this is that many years later, as a prominent bishop and more mature Christian he felt a calling to go back to Ireland to spread the gospel to the very people who enslaved him!

 Yup, that means he was kind of a hero, and a clever one at that given he managed to persuade kings and peasants alike to turn to Christ from paganism. Quite a feat, and completely without the use of green beer, beads, silly hats, or corn beef for that matter!

 OK, I know I’m being kind of light hearted about this…but truthfully, the real Saint Patrick was a very noble individual who was obviously courageous, inventive and driven to what he did, so overall he was a cool guy methinks!

 Growing up in County Armagh in Northern Ireland, which is Saint Patrick’s country, I was always surrounded with reminders of Patrick from placenames to church names to street names and never thought much about him until later in life. In many ways I suppose you could say I took him for granted, oblivious to the great festivals thrown in his name around the world. As an example, the church pictured here is Saint Patricks ancient cathedral in Armagh, which is sited on the spot of Patrick’s first church and is a thousand years old! Not bad.

Now, I know that the festivals and parades are more about being Irish than they are about St. Patrick himself, but I thought it would be fun to clue you in….So, there you have it!

 Hope you enjoy the day, whatever you decide to do!

 Wearing the green! Enjoy!

 Judie the Irish Foodie