In Ireland’s core you will not only find its oldest pub, but one of its finest early Monastic sites. The Monastery at Clonmacnoise dates back to AD 544 when St. Ciaran,who studied under St. Finian at Clonard Abbey, founded the site. Considering its central ancient East/West land route on the banks of the River Shannon you can see why it bloomed during Ireland’s golden age of learning – a ‘land of saints and scholars’. Many historical manuscripts can be traced to this site with stories of High Kings, ancient feasts and even whiskey!
The site is peaceful and tranquil today and visible remains include a cathedral, seven churches, two round towers, three high crosses and fascinating grave slabs. Considering the site has endured attacks from the Irish tribal wars, the Vikings and the Normans it’s a miracle so much still stands today. One of the many hi lights of the site includes ‘the cross of the scriptures’ that is mentioned twice in the annals of the Four Masters. I cannot help to imagine a time when the Irish could not read or write and they would learn bible stories by the carvings on the crosses, from the betrayal of Christ to the Crucifixion and the Judgment that is still to come.
Founded by St. Ciaran in 544 AD
This Sunday Shamrock and Peach tours will return to walk this ancient site and look forward to sharing this jewel with guests next summer on our Wild Atlantic Way tour.
It’s not every day that I get the chance to on the BBC, but this evening we were thrilled to listen to an interview that Helen Mark and the Kintra team from BBC Radio Ulster carried out during one of our tour group stops at the Giant’s Causeway in County Antrim.
Kintra is a weekly magazine radio program broadcast on BBC Radio Ulster that explores all things Scotch-Irish (Ulster-Scots) and this week they caught up with one of my tour groups to explore the links between America and Northern Ireland to celebrate the 4th of July. It was a joy to meet Helen and Johnny, and to hear from our guests what they thought of visiting Northern Ireland – everyone spoke so well, and they even interviewed my boys Peter and Jack on which American Presidents had Scotch-Irish ancestry!
The show was broadcast on BBC Radio Ulster, and was listened to throughout Northern Ireland, and Ireland. What a fun experience. See a link below to listen – our wee bit is just 6 minutes long, so you can check it out for fun!
Hope you enjoyed the 4th of July weekend, and it is a joy to explore how strong our links really are on both sides of the Atlantic! – and thanks to my friend Mark Rodgers from Dalriada Kingdom Tours who organized this, and who is beyond doubt the best guide in County Antrim! – thanks Mark!
Some restaurant score an eight out of ten for food and service excellence. some even score an impressive ten out of ten….but in my experience, the wonderful ‘Twelve Hotel’, one of my favorite Irish hospitality hotspots, scores a twelve for the incredible local Irish produce from Connemara and Galway Bay that is magically converted to an unforgettable gastro experience each time I bring guests to visit.
Connemara Lamb by Chef Martin O’Donnell
What sets Irish food apart when in Ireland is the sheer quality of the produce, and Chef Martin O’Donnell really knows how to bring the best out of the best. Whether it’s scallops or lobster, or seaweed, or Irish beef or as in the is case, Connemara lamb. The lamb was slightly smoked by a local producer and crafted into the meal experience we enjoyed tonight with fermented truffle and a fine jus. My tour guests were blown away, and they all now totally get why Ireland is such a foodie island!
Thank you Martin and Fergus, and all at the wonderful Twelve in Galway. Can’t wait to come back wit more Shamrock and Peach guests!
Dine in the Lady Helen Restaurant! A Michelin star property in Co. Kilkenny, Ireland.
Strolling in the grounds
A history talk with Des
Dessert in the Lady 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!
Irish soda bread is a quick bread traditionally made on a cast iron griddle over an open fire, using what appear to be quite odd ingredients. When I was invited to participate in the Fire Fork Feast event in Nashville recently, organized by Over the Fire Cooking, I was excited to connect with my old school heritage style of cooking. There is no yeast in soda bread, with the leavening agent instead being a combination of bicarbonate soda and buttermilk so it’s ideal for camp fire style cooking. The result is a uniquely delicious and light bread that worked really well with the Guinness Oysters we served. I really loved cooking with Lodge Cast Iron ware and the Dutch oven makes this style of cooking easy and fun too (especially when you share the experience of cooking with friends and family…. and a big welcoming fire)! Here’s the recipe for you to try!
Below is a link to Lodge Cast Iron cookware – I just love cooking with this fabulous cookware.
Preheat the Dutch oven in the fire (charcoal briquettes should be white) and place briquettes on top of the lid Cut a circular piece of parchment paper to line the dutch oven and grease it lightly.
Meanwhile measure all the dry ingredients together and sift to incorporate as much air as possible.
Make a well in the center of the flour and add enough buttermilk and melted butter to get an easily handled soft dough.
Knead very lightly and form into a circle then make a cross in the center using a knife and place on the parchment paper.
Using the Lodge Cast Iron lid lifter remove the lid and set the bread inside the dutch oven pot. Using the Cast Iron Lid lifter replace the lid and add heated briquettes on top before setting in the open fire.
Bake for about 40 to 45 minutes until the bread is baked.
Remove the bread from the Dutch Oven and slice and serve warm with butter.To test, gently tap bottom of bannock (bread is ready when it sounds hollow).
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
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.
In a small sauce pan simmer the Guinness, sugar and thyme until it has reduced by 75% (leaving 4 Tbsp of liquid) and cool.
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.
Whip the room temperature butter by hand or with electric whisk and add the cooled reduced Guinness, parsley, shallots and garlic, salt and pepper.
Preheat the fire or grill to 400-475 degrees F.
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.
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!
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!
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
(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
Place 2 Tbsp of water in to a small bowl and sprinkle over gelatin. Let it stand for 5 minutes until the gelatin softens.
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.
Strain the cream mixture through a sieve and add the buttermilk and remaining cream.
Divide in to molds and chill for at least 4 hours in the refrigerator.
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.
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.
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.
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!