Showing posts with label Ireland. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Ireland. Show all posts

Friday, March 24, 2017

Lamb Fillet with Cabbage and Mushrooms

I know, it’s a week past St. Patrick’s Day, But it’s an Irish recipe! And I liked it!

I like lamb. My parents liked lamb. I grew up eating lamb chops about once a week, although we weren't much into leg of lamb or even lamb stew (which I now make regularly). I know there are people who don't like the taste of lamb, and it's hard to find in stores.

When I came across this very Irish recipe, it sounded good to me. Problem was, I have no idea what a lamb fillet is. However, my market has recently started carrying what they call a butterflied leg of lamb (no bone), which is about the right weight and size. It’s from Australia, don’t ask me why. But it’s a lovely piece to work with, nice and tender, and easy to cook.

Roast Fillet of Lamb with Cabbage and Mushrooms (suggested by Clare Connery in Irish Cooking, 1996)


1 lamb fillet, about one pound, 

trimmed of most of its fat
vegetable oil for frying
1 small green cabbage, cored and finely shredded
4 oz butter
4 oz unsmoked bacon, diced (I used salt pork)
6 oz mushrooms, cleaned and sliced (while wild mushrooms would be nice, there are quite a few interesting domestic varieties available in markets now—pick a flavorful variety, not the white kind)
2 oz red wine
2 Tblsp port or sherry
salt and pepper


Season the lamb fillet with salt and pepper.

Heat a small amount of oil in a roasting pan and sautee the meat (briefly) on all sides to sear it.

Finish cooking the lamb in an oven preheated to 425 degrees (hot!). Keep an eye on it. According to the original recipe, it should take 10-12 minutes to achieve medium-rare. That seemed kind of long to me, but it proved to be accurate for rare meat (which I like).

Remove the meat from the oven and keep warm.

Shredded (thank you, Cuisinart!)


Boil the shredded cabbage until it is tender (if you've removed the coarse bits and shredded it finely, this shouldn't take long). Drain it and toss in half the butter. Season with salt and pepper and keep warm.

In another pan, melt the remaining butter and fry the diced bacon until lightly browned. Add the sliced mushrooms and continue to cook until they release their juices. Keep warm. (I hope you have a big kitchen, because by now you have three pans you're supposed to be keeping warm.)

Deglazing the pan
Retrieve the roasting pan with the lamb. Set the lamb on a plate (and keep it warm!) and pour off the excess fat from the pan. Set the pan over medium-high heat and add the wine and port. Bring to a boil, stirring to scrape up any bits on the bottom of the pan. Add this to the other pan with the mushrooms and bacon. Taste the mixture for seasoning.

When you're ready to serve, warm your plates and divide the cabbage between them, making a pile in the center of each plate. You may cut the fillet of lamb into single chunks, or slice thinly and array over the cabbage pile (which is what I did). Scatter the mushrooms and bacon over the meat and cabbage, and pour the wine sauce over it all.

Eat quickly, while it's still warm! I added boiled potatoes to the plate as well.

With potatoes

I was pleasantly surprised by the results. I had my doubts about using bacon and lamb in the same dish, but everything worked well together. There are a lot of mushrooms, not just a scattering, and that worked too. I think this is a keeper, as long as I can find the lamb.

Only a week old! Cruel Winter, the fifth book of the County Cork Mysteries.

The snow has melted in Cork, I'm told, but there was a major snowstorm in County Carlow this past week, south of Dublin. My grandmother was born in a very small townland in Carlow.

Find Cruel Winter at Amazon (my apologies that the pub date of the ebook seems to keep migrating around there, but the print version is on sale!) and Barnes & Noble (likewise on sale there). 

And take a look at my updated website, which now includes a blog where I will ramble on about my Irish cottage when the spirit moves me.

Friday, December 30, 2016

Al's Wild Rice Stuffing

When I was growing up, there was only one stuffing for a turkey: Pepperidge Farm’s. Don’t get me wrong—I liked it then, and I still like it. But sometimes you want to change things up a bit, yanno? I made a few stabs at that years ago, when I volunteered to cook the turkey on quick trips home for Thanksgiving or Christmas, but everybody made polite noises and then we went back to the Old Faithful bag of crumbs.

But I never give up. This year the stars aligned in a peculiar way. I know we’re trying to forget the recent political mess, but I started contributing online to Al Franken (U.S. Senator from Minnesota), mainly because he asked so nicely. He wasn’t even running himself, but he was raising money for a variety of other candidates. His emails were short, funny, and to the point, and I thought the emails alone deserved my support (so did the candidates, but that’s something else entirely).

After the election, he sent out a thank-you email—and he included recipes. No ask, no begging, just simple tasty recipes. So I decided to try one, in his honor. I did a little tweaking of the ingredients, based on what I had on hand, and I have no clue where to find the brand of rice he originally mentioned, but I did track down some wild rice locally. (Please don’t buy the “mixes” in a box, which in addition to the two kinds of rice contains a lot of artificial gunk.)

Al’s Wild Rice Stuffing


1 lb. wild rice (actually I cheated and used half a pound of wild rice and half a pound of white—wild rice is expensive!)

one stick butter
ten cloves of garlic
3 medium sized yellow onions
2 lbs. mushrooms (I swapped in some shitakes, and a package of dried porcini mushrooms I’d had for a long time)
salt to taste


In a colander, rinse the wild rice. Put the rice in a pot, and add 3 inches of water. Boil gently in a pot, uncovered, for about 20 to 25 minutes. 

Weigh a half-pound of white rice (which comes out to about one cup) and make it as you normally would (I do mine in the microwave). Stir when done to fluff it up.

While the rice is cooking, slice (do not mince) the mushrooms, onions, and garlic. (If you’re using dried mushrooms, soak them according to the package instructions, then drain—save the liquid, which is tasty and could go into your gravy!).

Melt the butter in a skillet, and sauté the onions and garlic until they begin to bleed a little liquid (Al’s description, not mine!) into the butter. Then add the mushrooms. The onions should not be totally soft.

Once the wild rice has cooked, drain it and add along with the white rice to the sautéed vegetables (you’ll need a big bowl!), and mix.

Add salt to taste, and stuff into the turkey before roasting (I'll spare you the picture of the naked turkey). The rest can be eaten as a side dish at dinner or saved to go with the leftovers.

How much does this make? Well, I cooked a 12-pound turkey, which is not very large, and used less than half of the stuffing. At the very least you could fill a bigger turkey!

Next book up: Cruel Winter, coming in March from Crooked Lane Books. I'd better use the snowy cover as much as I can before the daffodils bloom in Ireland!

You can preorder it at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.


Friday, December 2, 2016

Seafood Stew from The Little Kitchen

Bear with me, friends--this will be my first post from my "new" kitchen, and I'm still figuring out how it works. But mostly it does work, so now it's just getting used to it. Details like "where did I put that?" and "I can't set that down there--it's hot!"

My kitchen!

The title is kind of a pun. Yes, my kitchen is little, although bigger than my first apartment kitchen, although the appliances are smaller. But this recipe was inspired by a dish I had for lunch at An Chistin Beag, which is the Irish for The Little Kitchen. It's a small place in the center of Skibbereen, with a handful of tables, and the women who run it put out very good food. The seafood stew was on the menu when I ate there a week ago (not for the first time!).

There it was served in small bowls, which was a nice size for one person. Here at the cottage I needed to serve two people. All the ramekins I saw were tiny (about half a cup) and weren't suitable for cooking, so I opted for a midsize casserole dish, which was just right for two.

Okay, recipe: it's lovely chunks of fresh fish (I bought half a kilo at the fishmonger's in Union Hall yesterday morning--it doesn't get fresher than that) poached in milk and stock. The fish goes into the casserole, and you thicken the liquid and pour it over. Then you top the whole with mashed potatoes and some grated local cheese and pop it in the oven for 15 minutes or so, and you're done!

Seafood Stew from An Chistin Beag


(Note: measurements here would make one largish casserole, or two medium ones)

mixed bits of fish (I used a mix of salmon and an unidentified white fish)--half a pound would serve two, a pound serves four nicely. The fish should be in chunks about an inch square

3 cups cooking liquid--I used a mix of milk and chicken stock (I didn't have any fish stock on hand)

half an onion

a few sprigs of parsley

more parsley, chopped
a dash of dried thyme

salt and pepper

3 Tblsp butter
3 Tblsp flour

2-3 cups homemade mashed potatoes, fresh or left-over

1/2 cup coarsely grated cheese (I used a locally-made cheddar)


Put the fish pieces in a deep saucepan and pour the liquid over them. Toss in the half-onion and the parsley. Set over low heat and simmer until the fish is cooked but still tender.

Drain the fish in a colander, reserving the cooking liquid, pull out the half-onion and the parsley, and place in a casserole.

In another pan, melt 3 Tblsp butter, then add the flour and whisk together. Let the mixture cook over low heat to cook the flour. Then add the cooking liquid, whisking constantly, and cook until the mixture thickens. Add the chopped parsley, thyme, salt and pepper and mix. Pour the thickened liquid over the fish in the casserole.

Spoon the mashed potatoes over the fish and spread gently to cover completely. Sprinkle with the grated cheese.

I made mine--no leftovers!)

Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for about 15 minutes, enough to heat the dish through and brown the top just a bit. Don't overdo it if you want the lovely fresh fish to be tender.

Can I stay in Ireland longer? I only just got the kitchen organized, and added the last piece of furniture yesterday, and there's still painting and patching to do, and the garden needs sorting, and...  In the spring? My police friend says the daffodils will be blooming.

I have so many new story ideas! I'll get back to work by next week. Really.

Sunset at Garryglass

Friday, November 25, 2016

Thanksgiving in Ireland

I may have mentioned that I live near Plymouth, Massachusetts. Yes, that place where Thanksgiving began. Recent archeology seems to have pinpointed exactly where the first settlement was located—where those poor cold and hungry settlers were struggling to survive, with a little help from the local Indians.

But right now I’m not at home, I’m in Ireland. This is a nice time to travel to Ireland, since it’s not too crowded and not too cold. And this year I’m setting up my own cottage (including the kitchen), which is a real thrill.

I’ve been visiting Ireland since 1998, and it grabbed hold of me then and never let go. Now I own a half-acre piece of it, in sight of where my great-grandparents were married, and where the bride’s family, the O’Regans, had lived for generations. I can see the church steeple from my land. Rather than braving a new and unknown land, I’m taking back a bit of the old country.

But this is a food blog, right? Let me say up front: Irish food is great. That wasn’t true when I first visited, when watery stew with lots of potatoes and carrots was all too common. Now it will stand up to anyone’s cuisine. I’m not talking about fancy white-tablecloth places, I’m talking about little storefront restaurants with a couple of hardworking women turning out simple tasty and creative dishes (I promise I’ll share one of those with you soon).

Here's one good example, from the Eldon Hotel in Skibbereen: a warm steak salad.
The steak was sauted with coconut milk, soy sauce and red chiles and served on "mixed leaves"
(don't you love it?)

I’m madly in love with the Skibbereen weekly farmers’ market—I plan my visits to include at least one Saturday there. The local supermarket Fields is also terrific, with fresh game, and bread baked daily, and an amazing array of cakes (the Irish do seem to love their sweets—maybe that’s where I get it).

Freshly-baked bread
From the farmers' market: on the left,
goat cheese with fresh herbs; on the right,
gubbeen ( a local specialty)

Yes, that thing at the bottom left is a rabbit
I passed.
But I had to have the pheasant.

But I can’t give you a recipe right now because I’m still getting to know my kitchen. The appliances all work, but they’re tiny by U.S. standards (no way an American turkey would fit in that oven!). We’re still scrubbing and sanding and filling and sorting and so on, and we’re lucky if we can even see a countertop. I’m also still buying all the “essential” cooking tools. Give me a few more days and it will be ready to roll.

It's coming along. At least all the
appliances work!

In addition, I have a vintage Rayburn cooker (the Irish term for stove/oven). It dates from around 1950, so it’s probably original to the cottage. I’m hoping that as soon as I get it clean(er) and patch up a few joints, I can manage to produce something like food in it—at least a loaf of soda bread!

My Rayburn cooker, ca. 1950

I am grateful to all you followers that have read our books, which helped me find a way to reclaim a piece of my own history. Don’t worry, I’ll be headed back to Massachusetts soon, but I hope I’ll be able to get over here a few times a year. So now I have two homes, each with its own history.

Next week: a recipe! (I hope). 

Cruel Winter, the next in the County Cork Mystery Series, coming from Crooked Lane in March 2017.

Of course I'm doing research here! No snow yet, but definitely frost in the mornings.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Thanksgiving Irish Cranberry Bread

Once again the American holiday of Thanksgiving rolls around and finds me out of the country, in Ireland. Having two very separate main branches to my family tree gets confusing: on my mother’s side, I can go back to the Mayflower, and one great-great-whatever managed the first grist mill in Plymouth; on my father’s side, it’s almost all dairy farmers in Cork and Carlow.

This year I’ve become the proud owner of a small Irish cottage in West Cork, in sight of where generations of my ancestors lived. It’s not ancient—probably built in the mid 20th century—but it still has a cast iron cook stove, which originally doubled as heating for the main sitting area. I’m guessing it’s still functional and it burns solid fuel: coal, wood, peat, and for all I know, household trash. Looking at it, I can understand why the Irish bake so much soda bread, both light and dark. I think it’s a safe bet that the temperature of the oven is a bit inconsistent, but soda bread is very forgiving. I’m looking forward to trying the oven out, after a good scrubbing.

Traditional Irish soda bread contains raisins or currants. As a nod to my American side, I’m swapping those for dried cranberries. After all, the corporate HQ of Ocean Spray is literally right down the road where I live, and I believe in buying local.

Cranberry Soda Bread


1-1/2 cups dried cranberries
4 cups unbleached flour
4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
6 Tblsp granulated sugar
6 Tblsp cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1-1/2 cups buttermilk
2 egg yolks
1 Tblsp Irish whiskey (optional, but this one comes from West Cork!))

2 Tblsp. crystallized sugar for sprinkling


Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.

Put the cranberries into a bowl and pour boiling water over them to soften for a few minutes. Drain.

Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and 6 Tblsp. sugar.

Blend in the butter with pastry blender, a pair of knives, or your fingers, until pea-sized bits form.

In another bowl, whisk together buttermilk, egg yolks and whiskey if you’re using it (you could substitute vanilla extract if you like). Pour the liquids over the flour mixture and scatter the cranberries on top. With a wooden spoon, stir the mixture to form a moist dough. Knead the dough lightly in the bowl for 15 seconds.

On a lightly floured counter or board, divide the dough in half. Form each half into a rounded half-ball measuring 5-5 1/2 inches in diameter. 

Place each ball on the lined baking sheet, 5" apart. With a small sharp knife, slash the top with a cross. Sprinkle the top of each loaf with crystallized sugar.

Bake for 40 minutes or until the loaves are golden. Transfer to wire racks and let cool for 30 minutes. Serve with plenty of good Irish butter (try Kerrygold—I may have met some of the cows that contributed to that butter).

You Can Celebrate Thanksgiving Anywhere!

Coming in March 2017: Cruel Winter, the fifth book in the County Cork mystery series. There is a lot of new snow on the ground in West Cork, and an old crime to solve . . .

Friday, July 29, 2016

Mussels with Cider and Cream

I was going to be industrious and bake something using summer’s bountiful fruits and vegetables—but have I mentioned our local heat wave? Day 6 and counting. Or is it Day 7? So I started thinking about cooler recipes, ones that don’t involve any heating up an oven or standing over a fire.

And then I remembered the mussels in my freezer.

Back in 1999, my daughter and I traveled to Ireland alone (my husband was in South Korea at the time), landing at Shannon and driving south along the coast toward Leap, where we’d be staying. Along the way we stopped in Bantry for lunch. There’s a nice harbor there, and looking out across the water I asked, “what’re those things?” As it turned out, those were mussel beds.

I filed that thought away, and it was a few years later I was in my local market and saw they had packages of frozen mussels, ready to heat and serve. I read the fine print, and found they came from Bantry, which is in West Cork. [Note: while the company that packages these flourishes, they’re getting their mussels from China these days. But they still taste good.]

When I was growing up, and visiting Long Beach Island in New Jersey in the summer, mussels were those annoying things you cut your toes on. Now people see them in markets and say, “what the heck do I do with those?” Or “Where’s the food in them? They’re all shell!” I’ll admit they’re kind of labor-intensive for the amount of mussel you get out, but they do taste good.

And you can buy them shelled! Perfect for a very quick summer meal. Here’s one I adapted from a more traditional Irish recipe, modified for ready-to-eat mussels.

Mussels in Cider


1 package frozen mussels (the 8-ounce package served two of us; the brother was enough for a larger package)
1 shallot, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed or minced
2 oz finely-diced pancetta
2 Tblsp butter
1 cup hard cider
1/4 cup heavy cream
Small handful of chopped parsley
Salt and pepper


In a medium-size saucepan, brown the pancetta pieces over medium heat until they are golden and sizzling. Add the butter, then the shallot and garlic. Cook for about 3 minutes, until the shallot is soft.

Add the cider and let bubble for a few minutes (what little alcohol there is will evaporate). Add the mussels and let them steam for a few minutes.

Remove the pan from the heat, stir in the cream and parsley, season with salt and black pepper. And there you have it!

Serve with some nice artisan bread to sop up the liquid.

Bakes locally in Plymouth

If you've never tried mussels, this is a simple way to start! Using mussels in the shell looks more impressive, but they're kind of messy.

Here's a version I had in Dublin. The green stuff
is samphire, which grows on rocks along the
shore. It tastes kind of like asparagus.

Soon I'll switch gears to the next Orchard Mystery, which is Seeds of Deception (I'll be writing the next in the series shortly, but it's only a glimmer of an idea at the moment, involving an organic orchard and poison).