Thursday, December 4, 2008
We enjoyed eating them with Caramel flavored ice cream and a dollop of freshly whipped cream. Your feedback as always is welcomed.
Merry Christmas and eat your way through the season with Joy!
6 medium Pears (peeled and cored)
(Brandy Sugar Syrup)
4 Tbsp Brandy
½ cup sugar
½ cup water
(Spiced Sugar Syrup)
1 ¾ cups water
1 ½ cups sugar
½ tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp nutmeg
few drops of red food coloring
3 Tbsp butter
2 cups all purpose flour (sifted)
½ tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder
2/3 cups (128g) shortening
½ cup milk
To make the brandy sugar syrup by boiling the water, sugar and brandy together for 2 minutes and set aside to cool. Make spiced sugar syrup by placing water, sugar, spices and food coloring and boil for 3 minutes in another small saucepan. Stir in butter.
To make the pastry sift the flour, baking powder and salt. Use pastry cutter or tips of fingers to rub in shortening to resemble coarse breadcrumbs. Stir in milk with a metal spoon to combine.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Peel pears and carefully insert an apple corer in to the base of the pear stopping to keep the pear stem in tact, twist and pull out seeds. Spoon brandy syrup over pears and marinade for a few minutes.
Roll out dough on a lightly floured surface to an 18x12’ rectangle. Cut in to 6 squares.
Use a skewer to make a small hole in the center of dough squares for the pear stem. Brush edges of pastry with water and place dough over pear. Pinch together with fingers to help form a tight seal and tuck excess dough to the base.
Place pears 1’ apart in a 12x9’ pan. Pour syrup over dumplings and place in oven to bake for 30 minutes. Continue to baste with syrup every 10 minutes to allow syrup to caramelize over crust.
Remove from oven and serve spooning remaining syrup over pears.
Tuesday, November 4, 2008
’Pails of Irish Blessing’.
Beautiful, bountiful and brimming with Irish joy….how can you possibly resist?
The unique pails are filled with authentic Irish tea from Belfast (not the yucky stuff in a green box!), Butter Shortbread, Baileys Irish Fudge, Irish linen towels, Irish handmade candles and (of course) a few wee bottles of ‘the water of life’ , all garnished with a Kelly green bow. All the products are the ‘real McCoy’, made in Ireland and the cookies and fudge baked fresh the day of delivery. Now what more would you need to make a friends day special? Customers have a choice of Decaf or Irish breakfast tea and we will be offering Johnston’s Irish coffee soon all for the same deal. (Johnston’s coffee is blended and roasted in County Antrim in Ireland, and is wonderful indeed!)
Small Pails $25
Large Pails $49
(cash or check payable to the ‘The Ulster Kitchen’ )
An Irish heritage is celebrated through Irish Blessings, legends and poetry. So even if you are not Irish, the tradition to wish someone well and speak life giving messages of hope and blessings can be enjoyed by all.
As a culture the Irish have a principle of always giving a wee bit back to the community and in business relationships. My father is a sheep farmer and when he closes a deal and pays for sheep in cash the customer always gives him a ‘wee bit back’ in what we call a ‘luck penny’. So, as Christmas approaches it gives us all a chance to give back to the people with whom we have traded or shared community.
So go ahead and bless someone this season and remember, in life it is often the little things that count, and always count your blessings…..
E-mail me if you would like to give an Irish blessing this Christmas….
May the Road Rise Up to meet you….
Monday, October 6, 2008
Fortunately, after a lot of research involving tasteless teas, I discovered that Northern Ireland’s leading tea brand, ‘Punjana’ is now available in the US and be shipped anywhere in the US by The Ulster Kitchen. This is superb tea (am I biased?) and is blended in Belfast by a four generation family firm who consider quality their highest achievement. The differences between these authentic teas and the run of the mill brands from Kroger are amazing. You must taste the difference.
Of course, here in the South we also love our tea, and the popularity of iced tea can be appreciated at a whole new level when made with Punjana. The Ulster Kitchen’s Pomegranate Ice Tea was a big hit at a Women’s Expo promoting health, Lifestyle and Beauty held in Roswell Georgia this past weekend. Why I even had my husband and two sons promoting by giving out free samples in the warm Georgia fall sunshine to delight first time customers….photos may follow.
Tea has amazing health benefits including being a rich source of potassium, which is vital for maintaining fluid levels in the body and may help protect against heart disease and certain types of cancer. (Read more about the health benefits at www.punjana.com)
The pomegranate fruit containing tiny ruby red pearl like seeds is gaining popularity because of its health benefits also. he fruit is rich in antioxidants and contains folic acid, potassium, niacin, vitamin C, iron and calcium. So, go ahead and try this recipe for a fresh alternative to a wonderful drink.
Pomegranate Ice Tea with Mint
If you prefer to use fresh pomegranates cut them in half and juice as you would an orange. Strain any pulp or seeds. I like to use store bought juice and cheat by garnishing with fresh pomegranate red jewel-like seeds.
(Makes 1 gallon)
1 cup sugar
2 cups water
10 cups (5 pints) natural spring water
8 bags of Punjana Irish Breakfast (decaf)
2 cups (1 pint) simple syrup
4 cups (2 pints) pomegranate juice
Mint sprigs (to garnish)
Seeds of one pomegranate (optional)
Make simple syrup by bringing sugar and water to a boil. Set aside and cool.
Use fresh drawn cold water and bring to a boil. (Re-boiling water takes the oxygen out and stops the tea from brewing properly).
Preheat tea pot. Place tea bags in pot and pour over boiling water. Brew tea for 1-3 minutes depending how strong you enjoy your brew. Remove tea bags and dispose.
Combine sugar syrup and pomegranate juice to cooled tea.
Serve over crushed ice in an ice tea glass. Garnish with a sprig of mint and a few pomegranate seeds. Enjoy!
Tuesday, September 16, 2008
My favorite restaurant in Atlanta has to be JCT Kitchen and Bar, owned by Chef Ford Fry, and last summer he served me an unforgettable appetizer with goat’s cheese and fresh Georgia peaches. So good it was, that it spurred me on to try my hand at a similar combination this summer.
Peaches and goats cheese really work together in my view, so, I decided to combine my love of quiche and pastry with local peaches, goat’s cheese and dill….and here’s the result. Light, crisp and very tasty…….
Invite some friends over, pull up a deck chair and enjoy this simple appetizer with the perfect glass of chilled chardonnay as we wave summer goodbye. Falling leaves will be here before we know it!
(makes 18 bites)
1 sheet frozen puff pastry
1 small Peach (stoned, peeled and chopped)
3oz goat’s cheese (chopped)
1 sprig of dill (stems removed and leaves chopped)
2 medium egg yolks
½ cup whipping cream
¼ tsp sea salt
pinch of ground pepper (1/8 tsp)
pinch of nutmeg (1/8 tsp)
Thaw pastry at room temperature. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease mini muffin pans with a little melted butter.
Roll out pastry on a lightly floured surface. To make pastry cups roll pastry out thinly enough to cut 18 squares (about 14”x 7 ½” rectangle) and use a knife to cut in to 2 ½” squares. Place in to mini muffin pan. Refrigerate pastry while preparing filling.
Whisk the egg yolks with cream, salt, pepper, nutmeg. Cut up goat’s cheese and peaches and chop dill. Remove pastry from refrigerator and divide the goat’s cheese, peaches and dill between cases. Pour just enough egg mixture evenly over cheese to fill cups.
Bake for 15-20 minutes until the custard is puffy and pastry crust is golden brown and puffed. Remove from muffin tins.
Best enjoyed warm from the oven.
Wednesday, September 3, 2008
Now, I did mention that I would add an entry about how old oatcakes really are…well, here it is. The photo above is one we took during a trip home a few years back of an Irish High cross. This wonderful monument was carved in the eighth century for an early Columban monastery in the heartland of Ireland, and can now be found near the village of Moone in County Kildare.
The simple carvings that cover the face of the cross on all sides depict various scenes from the old and new testaments, giving the cross the title of a ’Scripture Cross’. One of those scenes however really caught my eye as I gazed at those ancient carvings, namely the scene in the photo above.
Can you make out what it is?
Or can you tell which famous story it illustrates?
Do you see some fish? Round objects and two snake like creatures?
Well, in actual fact, the carvings illustrate two river trout, two eels and five oatcakes and they re-tell the famous story of Jesus feeding the five thousand. Remember He took two fishes and five loaves?
To the Irish people of the eighth century fish and loaves meant brown trout and oatcakes. This remarkable carving gives us an insight into the diet of these Irish people, baking and eating oatcakes over a thousand years ago!
I told you it was a pretty old recipe!!
Have fun…next time I’ll post something that celebrates the coming of Autumn.
Something with apples perhaps? We’ll see.
Wednesday, August 20, 2008
These versatile bites can be served with cheese as an elegant appetizer or eaten the way my two little boys devour them when getting home from school, with butter and jam. When making these oatcakes, go shopping for Scottish Oats otherwise known as ‘Stone Ground Whole Grain oats’. They are available often in the organic section of most US grocery stores, and can be found with some searching. As I may have mentioned before, Scottish Oats are different from rolled oats. They are made by grinding the whole oat kernel to produce a coarse meal. These Oatcakes have a ‘wee taste of Ireland’ in every bite.
(makes 12 Oatcakes)
1 cup of Stone ground Scottish oats
6 Tbsp all purpose white flour
1/8 tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
¼ cup butter
2 Tbsp boiling water
2 Tbsp brown organic sugar
3 Tbsp Apricot Preserves
1 pear (thinly sliced)
3 oz Blue Cheese crumbled (Irish Cashel Blue or Stilton)
Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
Saturday, August 2, 2008
Cooking Barbeque is intensely personal in the South. It seems being able to cook great barbeque is like a true religion with strong opinions about dry rubs, marinating and of course having the perfect sauce. I am still forever learning and taking it all in, but I know that in Georgia barbeque sauce is made sweet, and comes with a choice of mild or spicy. I also learned whilst in South Carolina that their barbeque sauce is mustard based.
In this particular case, the famous Kentucky bourbon barbeque sauce and the sweet Georgia sauce influenced my own Ulster Kitchen barbeque to create a sweet Irish whiskey barbeque sauce….get ready to lick your fingers!
I served this recipe to a native of South Carolina earlier this summer and he gave me the thumbs up. It’s great with avocado-corn salsa and I serve some extra barbeque sauce.
(6 Loin rib pork chops)
1 Tbsp kosher salt
2 Tbsp brown sugar
1 Tbsp cracked black pepper
1 Tbsp ground cumin
2 Tbsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp cinnamon
Sweet Irish Whiskey Barbeque Sauce
1 cup Irish Whiskey
1 cup ketchup
1 cup apple cider vinegar
½ cup brown sugar
3 Tbsp Worcestershire Sauce
1 Tbsp onion (minced)
1 tsp salt
¼ tsp pepper
1 tsp cayenne pepper
Combine all the dry ingredients to make the rub. Apply rub to the surface of the uncooked pork chops before grilling. This can be done several hours in advance or else just before grilling.
To make barbeque sauce combine all ingredients in a small saucepan and simmer gently for 30 minutes or until the sauce has been reduced to about half.
Preheat grill to medium/hot.
Place chops on the grill and cook for about 7-10 minutes on each side. To check that pork is cooked use a sharp knife to cut the thickest part of the chop and check that it is done to your preferred liking. Brush a little barbeque sauce over both sides of chops and cook for 1 more minute on each side.
Remove meat from grill and rest for 5 minutes before serving.
Brush pork chops with a little more barbeque sauce.
Tuesday, July 8, 2008
Last week at the Scottish Dessert Evening my faith in the existence of the Loch Ness Monster was called in to question. Can you believe it? Of course, my loyalty remained steadfast. What, after watching the movie ‘Water-horse’ recently how could we ever doubt such a legend? The magic should never end!
The Ulster Kitchen catered the Scottish Cranachan (also known as Cream Crowdie) using the traditional wild heather honey and whiskey folded in to the fresh cream and oats…and, this week I did some experimenting and came up with a white chocolate version! Yum!
White chocolate is folded in to the fresh cream and oats and the whiskey is added to the raspberries. This needs to be enjoyed right away because the oats tend to get soft and loose their crunch.
It’s fun to dip Ulster Butter shortbread cookies in to the pudding for added buttery crunch. Juicy summer raspberries are in season so enjoy now!
1/3 cup steal cut oats (toasted)
2 Tbsp light brown sugar
1 ½ cups heavy whipped cream
5 oz quality white chocolate
3 Tbsp Scottish or Irish Whiskey
1 cup (6oz) raspberries
2 Tbsp fine granulated sugar
In large skillet toast oats with brown sugar, stirring all the time being careful not to burn. Set aside and cool.
In a blender puree half the raspberries and strain to remove seeds. Fold in the remaining raspberries to puree. Stir in Whiskey.
In a small saucepan over low heat bring ½ cup heavy whipping cream to simmering point (do not boil). Incorporate chocolate to cream adding 1/3 at a time, stopping to beat with each addition until smooth. Cool to room temperature.
Beat remaining 1 cup of cream until soft peaks appear. Fold in white chocolate cream and toasted oats.
In a tall glass begin to layer first raspberry puree, then white chocolate cream mixture, raspberries and end with cream.
Garnish with a single raspberry, shavings of white chocolate, toasted oats and a sprig of mint.
Serve immediately as the oats can become soft and loose their crunch.
Saturday, June 21, 2008
A group from Atlanta who are planning a trip to Scotland this July asked me to give them a taste of some traditional desserts to prepare their culinary sweet tooth for their trip, so I turned in several highland delights for them to enjoy and I believe everyone had fun…..Scotland’s not all whiskey and haggis y’know!
We served Punjana Ulster tea and the hostess provided elegant Scottish china including a blue calico Wedgewood tea set that was a replica made for John Wesley by Josiah Wedgwood back in 1760 with the Rose for England, the Shamrock for Ireland and the Thistle for Scotland. As you can imagine I was in my element. The Scottish Cranachan (also known as Cream Crowdie) was served with my Ulster Butter Shortbread and Flake cookies that can be dipped in to the Cranachan. Blackberries or Strawberries can be substituted, but raspberries are the traditional choice. Serve in a tall glass on dessert plate with cookies on the side. Summer raspberries are in season so go ahead make it at home and enjoy!
In the coming weeks I’ll post recipes for some of these desserts, beginning with Scottish Cranachan next week, so check back for details!
Scroll down for a few pics of the food and the event.
Saturday, June 7, 2008
I know, I know…lamb is rarely cooked in American kitchens, but let me encourage you to give it a try! It’s really a terrific meat choice. Full of flavor, yet lighter than beef. Ooh, I can just recall the childhood memory of the succulent lamb rising to aromatic heights in the kitchen with the sound of it crackling and hissing in the oven! Yum! Realizing that helping Mum would speed up the proceedings, I was all too willing to chop, mix & stir! Even running out to the herb garden was one of my favorite little tasks, picking and adding the mint, sugar and vinegar…
In Ireland the leg of lamb is traditionally surrounded by roasted root vegetables and potatoes and served with rich gravy. However, living in Georgia, or ‘Hot’lanta, the back yard grill mentality has led me to reinvent one of my favorite comfort dishes using local ingredients to tantalize the taste buds, and suit the outdoor climate.
And…. As Georgia is also known as the peach state, peaches are just now in to season. Wonderful succulent fruit can be purchased at road side stands all over Georgia. Go out and get some...
So, try this one out to make a sunny summer day even more memorable!
4 Lbs boneless leg of lamb (cut in to 6 pieces)
1 tsp kosher salt
1 cup natural yogurt
juice of 1 lime
2 rosemary sprigs (stems removed)
2 cloves garlic
½ Vidalia onion
1’ piece of root ginger (peeled)
1 medium red chili pepper (seeds removed)
1 ½ cups mint (stems removed)
2 tsp sugar
½ tsp salt
3 Tbsp white wine vinegar
8 Tbsp olive oil
4 peaches (peeled, stoned, finely chopped)
1 medium tomato (finely chopped)
1 small red onion (chopped)
1 jalepeno pepper (seeded, finely chopped)
¼ cup cilantro (stems removed, chopped)
juice of one lime
¼ tsp kosher salt
¼ tsp sugar
Thursday, May 22, 2008
This dish is a perfect ‘Southern-Irish’ fusion number, taking the freshest ingredients grown in the Deep South and combining them with the Ulster’s favorite gourmet eats. So, on that note here is my version of a classic French onion soup, but with an Irish twist…
Why should the French have all the great recipes anyway? We all know Guinness is good for you, so combine that with the uniquely sweet and flavorful Georgia onion that is great for your blood and you have got a brilliant combo! If I ever move back to Ulster I will need to find a way to have the famous Georgia Vidalia onions shipped over.
The red Georgia clay can be a chore to produce home grown vegetables but in this case the soil hits a home-run and produces the best onion in the South and some would agree in the world. The wonderful ‘Vidalia’.
My sister had this soup at a restaurant in Ireland and called me up to tell me that I needed to have it in my cook book. I served this soup to my friends as an appetizer in my dinner party last week, and everyone agreed it was the best soup they had ever tasted. The flavor is amazing and the gruyere croutons add to the taste bud explosion. I can safely say this is now my number one favorite soup. Hope you all love it as much as we did.
Stout and Onion soup (made with Georgia Vidalia onions)
1 ½ Lbs Vidalia onions (thinly sliced)
¼ cup (2oz) butter
1 Tbsp all purpose flour
1 tsp sugar
2 ½ cups (1 ¼ pints) chicken stock
2 ½ cups (1 ¼ pints) Beef stock
½ cup Guinness stout
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp pepper
6 slices crusty French bread
1 clove garlic (peeled and cut in half)
2 Tbsp butter
½ cup (2oz) Gruyere cheese (grated)
Melt butter in large sauté pan. Add the onions and sugar and cook over medium heat stirring constantly. Reduce heat to medium/low and cook the onions slowly for 30 minutes or until they are light brown in color.
Add the flour to onions and cook for 1 minute, stirring with a wooden spoon.
Gradually add the stock and Guinness stout. Bring soup to a boil and the lower temperature allowing simmering for 20-25 minutes. Taste soup and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.
To make croutons slice bread and rub with the cut garlic. Brush both sides with melted butter and toast one side on preheated grill. Turn toast over and sprinkle with freshly grated cheese
To serve preheat serving bowls and then fill with soup. Place a slice of the cheese topped toasted bread on top of each bowl. Place bowls under broiler until the cheese melts and bubbles. Serve immediately.
Monday, May 12, 2008
Sadly, my experience over the years whilst living America is a widely borne misconception of Irish cuisine. Sure, most people admire the Irish beauty and adore the Irish culture and love the smell of Irish Spring (!)…but just don’t know much about Irish food. The truth though, is that Irish food is greatly admired in Europe, but greatly misunderstood in the United States. You’re all too focused on ‘Lucky Charms’ and green tinted beer…but fear not! I am here, ‘The Irish foodie’, and my mission is to set things right! Yes indeed!
So, here’s the scoop…the green island of Ireland boasts some of the most ‘organic’ farms in the world. No mass production here! Just lush, green rolling hills bringing with them prized produce that is deeply in demand throughout Germany, France, and throughout Europe. Beef cattle are raised on farms grazing grass, not artificial feed, and without any hormones. Big fat sheep wonder the hills chewing the herb, not restricted to small smelly enclosures. Our rivers are clean, and the Atlantic west coast of Ireland has some of the most unpolluted waters of the world harboring the most wonderful seafood.
My point? Well, as a cook I know that good produce means good food, and in the case of modern Ireland…the food is very good indeed! Belfast and Dublin are bursting with top class restaurants serving the most incredible Irish organic produce that keeps the tourist trade buzzing.
The Irish culinary arts are inspired by the land, the sea, the rivers, game shooting sports and vibrant and rich cultural traditions. There is something wholesome about knowing the story of ‘from the farm to the table’, and in this age of scary cancers it just makes sense to be as organic as possible.
So, this is my quest. To introduce you to the wonderfully ‘green’ cuisine of Ireland, and to remain true to the naturally organic nature of Irish food.
It’s not just the beer that’s green!
Thursday, May 1, 2008
Oatmeal Cookies, perfect for afternoon tea:
Anyone for tea?
An old BBC TV commercial for a famous brand of British biscuits (or, cookies!) used to say “a drink is too wet without one”, and in my case ‘the one’ will always be an oatmeal cookie.
This week my Canadian friend, Charlotte came over to my kitchen and we spent the morning baking my two favorite Irish cookies, butter shortbread and oatmeal cookies. The recipes came from my grandmother’s handwritten, torn cookbooks and I cannot bake or eat them without reminiscing about her.
She and my grandfather owned and ran a B&B overlooking the Irish Sea in Co. Down, Northern Ireland, and afternoon tea was served every day at 3.30 pm in the parlor. Back in ‘those days’, tea-time was an occasion to dress up, pull out the china and the silver 3-tier cake stand. The savories were served on the bottom tier, scones and tea breads on the second layer and the top plate was filled with cookies, pastries and fresh cream cakes. OK, I know most of us cannot pull this off every day, but we can all enjoy the pleasures of a simple cookie and a cup of tea and think about times past.
Oatmeal cookies are buttery rich with a crunchy texture, but, to add balance, are made from oats and rice grains. So, don’t feel too guilty when you’ve discovered you’ve eaten all two dozen cookies in one session!
½ cup (4oz) butter
¼ cup (1oz) all purpose flour
¼ cup (1oz) rice flour
½ tsp baking soda
1 ¼ (5 oz) cup quick cooking oats (makes 1 cup ground)
¼ cup (1 oz) organic dried unsweetened coconut
¼ cup (2oz) light brown sugar
¼ cup (2 oz) granulated sugar (plus 2 Tbsp to sprinkle)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grind oats in food processor.
Combine flour, baking soda, ground oatmeal, coconut and set aside.
Cream together the butter and sugars in electric mixer, stopping to scrape down the sides of the bow. Continue to beat until light and fluffy.
Add all the dry ingredients to the creamed mixture and mix to fully incorporated.
Lightly flour surface and roll out the dough using a floured rolling pin to a thickness of about ¼”.
Cut cookies using a 1 ½” round cutter.
Place on cookie sheet and bake for 10-12 minutes. Sprinkle with sugar and allow to cool for a few minutes before transferring to a wire wrack to cool.
Friday, April 25, 2008
- 1 1/2 cups stone ground whole wheat flour
- 1/2 cup all purpose flour
- 1 cup quick cooking oats (plus 2 tsp to sprinkle on top)
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 2 Tbsp honey
- 2 Tbsp butter
- 1 cup buttermilk (plus 2 Tbsp)
- 1 egg (beaten)
- 1 tsp flax seeds (to sprinkle on top)
Thursday, April 24, 2008
It seems as if my friends have been begging me to get with the 'blogging' program for an absolute eternity now, and so, here I am...at very long last. 'An Irish girl in a blogging world'. (sounds like a song!)
As you will soon discover, my musings these days are focused on all things foodie and all things Irish (there's a shock!). I love to cook, I'm proud of my heritage and I enjoy living in the South, so, in this blog you will find creative ways in which I intertwine and blend those ingredients together into one big old gourmet stew...Irish-Southern fusion. Sounds weird, I know, but it works. Just keep coming back to check out my recipes and posts and you'll soon see!
Why, I'm even writing a book on the subject, entitled 'The Ulster Kitchen' and from time to time I will dip into that resource to bring tasty treats to all of you who are kind enough to grace my small corner of cyberspace land.
My cookbook started a few years back since I discovered that this 'fusion' thing works, and I have been marinating in my culinary roots whilst tasting the new found flavors of Southern cuisine ever since! My passion for food has even inspired me to teach Irish cooking classes and cater intimate events also where I can get to be with people, cook great food and have a lot of fun all at the same time. People and food, my enduring passions!
So, thanks for taking time to journey with me along this meandering road of foodie discovery!