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

Friday, August 11, 2017

An Irish Pasty?

Okay, I'm almost out of new Irish recipes (from this trip), but this one sneaked up on me.

I will happily cede the title of Pasty Queen to Rhys for her Cornish version. I'm not sure I've ever seen an official pasty in Ireland, and the ones shown online seem to lean toward beef stew in a crust. 

But I was having a nice lunch at The Coffee Shop in Union Hall (I love their house-baked pastries! see their Facebook page), and I ordered what was described on the menu as a chicken and Camembert panini with pesto. It arrived, and I was so intent on eating it that I didn't notice that it didn't quite fit the definition of a panini, which usually calls for something between two pieces of bread, pressed to cook, leaving a nice grilling pattern. 

What I got was delicious, but I actually observed it being made: no press involved. However, it did have a wonderful short crust, which I envied. And the filling was flavorful and interesting, so I decided to recreate it (as best I could). Call it whatever you like--it tastes good.

An Irish Pastypannini a la The Coffee Shop


(note: this recipe serves two, but you can expand it or make a second batch later--I had plenty of chicken and cheese left over))

1 recipe pie crust (I shamelessly borrowed Lucy Burdette's version of the Moosewood crust, which actually held together!) It is the simplest version I have ever seen.


one chicken breast, skinned and deboned, lightly cooked 

a small amount of pesto, to rub into the chicken

a small Camembert cheese

1 egg, beaten (this is the glue that holds things together)


Make the pesto, to your taste. I used fresh basil, pine nuts, olive oil, salt and pepper (no garlic, but add it if you like). Mash them together and massage the chicken with it and let it sit for a while to absorb the flavor.

Saute the chicken lightly in a bit more olive oil. Don't worry if it's not cooked through, because this is going into the oven once the thing is assembled. Let cool, then slice about 1/4-inch thick.

Slice the Camembert to about the same thickness.

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F and grease a baking sheet.

Make your pie dough (I used a food processor). Combine the flour, butter and salt and process until it looks like sand. Then add ice water, one tablespoon at a time, until it holds together. Turn it out on a wooden board and form two balls.

I considered adding something like mayonnaise to the inside, but the contents are fairly delicate in flavor, so I decided against it. The crust is very buttery, so the results won't be dry.

Roll out the first ball of dough into a rough circle. Lay three or four pieces of the cooked chicken on one half, then the same number of slices of cheese on top. Don't overfill, or it will never hold together!

Beat the egg lightly, and brush some around the edge of the crust. Fold carefully and crimp the edges together--you want to seal this. Repeat with the second one. Brush the tops of both lightly with some more egg.

Place on the prepared cookie sheet and slide into the middle of the preheated oven. Set the timer for ten minutes, then check to see that the crust has begun to brown. Then reduce the heat to 350 degrees and continue cooking for another 10-15 minutes. The chicken should be nicely cooked, and the cheese with be gooey. (And they didn't leak!)

Slice in half to serve. These can be served warm or at room temperature.

You can vary your ingredients however you like, but this is a nice combination. If you have some leftover chicken, you're home free. You can swap in a packaged pie crust if you want (easier still!), but I've never seen a simpler pie crust recipe, and I've tried at least a dozen.

Many a Twist, the next County Cork Mystery, coming next January. Maura actually gets to eat in a variety of restaurants. I'll make a foodie out of her yet!

The real Coffee Shop in Union Hall

Friday, July 28, 2017

Warm Chicken Salad

This recipe was inspired by one I enjoyed in Ireland, but there's nothing particularly Irish about it. It's a lovely summer recipe, easy to make, and you can swap in any ingredients you want.

The source is The Harbour Bar in Leap, just a few doors down from Connolly's, er, Sullivan's Pub. When I first saw it, it was an ordinary pub, one of a cluster on the main road through the village. Then it changed hands a few years ago, and the new managers tore down the old building and completely remodeled it, and found a chef who created menus of local Irish food with an Asian twist. I've been going back ever since, and I've never been disappointed.

This recipe is simple: take whatever greens you like, add a tart creamy dressing, sautee a marinated chicken breast, slice the chicken thinly while warm, combine the lot, and toss in some croutons. It's best if you use local greens only minutes away from the garden, and make your own croutons, but you can buy a bag of lettuce and a box of croutons and you might never notice the different. The end product combines crunchy, creamy textures with savory flavors, and a nice contrast between warm and cold (okay, you could use left-over chicken, but if it's freshly cooked, it's both warm and soft).

Warm Chicken Salad (with a nod to the Harbour Bar)
(this recipe makes two servings, but it's flexible)


one boneless chicken breast, marinated with olive oil, chopped shallots, salt, pepper and any herb you have on hand, fresh or dry

The US version

The Irish version

one package (or harvest your own) lettuce of your choice (the Irish call them
"mixed leaves" which always makes me giggle)

creamy yogurt dressing:

1/4 cup whole-milk yogurt
1 Tblsp olive oil
1 Tblsp fresh lemon juice
1 Tblsp minced shallot
1 Tblsp chopped fresh chives
1 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp salt

1 cup fresh croutons (I made my own from a brioche roll because I didn't have any packaged ones--just cut up whatever white bread you have handy into cubes and place in a low oven until they turn crispy but not brown)


If necessary, skin and bone your chicken breast. (A note: the ones they sell in markets here are huge. The ones they sell in Ireland are half the size. You can decide how much chicken you want, or cook yours and save some for later--or for your cat.) Whisk together the marinade and let the chicken steep in it for as long as you like.

Rinse your greens and let them dry. Make the croutons if you're going to.

When you're ready to cook, saute the chicken breast in a little olive oil. Important note: cook this over medium/low heat (until it's cooked through)--you don't need to sear it, you want it to remain tender and juicy. Keep an eye on it and turn it a few times so it cooks evenly.

While the chicken is cooking slowly, whisk together the yogurt dressing ingredients and dress your greens.

Dressed greens

When the chicken is cooked, place it on a cutting board and let it cool enough to handle. Then slice it thinly on the diagonal. It may sound odd, but you want the lettuce and the chicken slices to be similar in size and scale.

In individual bowls, place a bunch of your greens, then tuck in some chicken slices (do not overcrowd). Sprinkle with the croutons and serve immediately while the chicken is still warm.

The assembled salad
And there you have the perfect summer dish!

Doesn't it begin to sound as though I go to Ireland mainly to eat? I adore the Field's SuperValue market (I even have a frequent buyer card), I can't stay away from the weekly farmers market (every Saturday, with not only food but crafts and junk), and the burgeoning restaurants (you read about the newest one last week). Maybe next year I'll be able to go to the West Cork Food Festival.

Oh, right, I go to Ireland to do research for books--between meals. But young Rose in the County Cork mysteries is fast becoming a foodie. And that's only one of the unexpected turns in the next book, Many a Twist (coming January 2018).

Available for pre-order at Amazon and Barnes and Noble

Friday, July 21, 2017

The Good Things Cafe

In case you missed all the shouting, I'm in Ireland right now--I arrived over a week ago, and I'll be back next week (please, can I stay longer?). The purpose of this trip was (a) to get the cottage into shape, with paint and curtains and the like (and to confer with my very ambitious handyman), plus (b) do research for the County Cork Mysteries, which involves talking with my police friend and my bookseller friend and anybody else who'll hold still long enough.

But of course there's food. I think I've said in the past that I plan any trip to Ireland to include a visit to the Skibbereen farmers market, which is amazing (and one of the best in the country), and also visits to local restaurants. When I first came to Ireland nearly twenty years ago, the food was as bad as you'd always heard. Now it's terrific.

On the corner on the right
The Good Things Cafe, in the center of Skibbereen, is one of the latest additions, and it's really amazing (check out the website at They serve food in a delightful corner restaurant that is both nicely designed and also welcomes all kinds of people--when I had lunch there, I saw a young mother with a small child, three middle-aged ladies lunching together, and a couple of guys from down the street. Normal people enjoying good food. 

The place is the brainchild of chef Carmel Somers, who's worked in restaurants before, in a different part of the country (starting with a small cafe next to her parents' pub). She created this restaurant from a blank canvas: she was responsible for the kitchen (of course), setting up a sunny space that makes room for as many as six cooks working at once, and also creating a set-up for cooking classes; she designed the layout of the ground floor space, and even selected the glassware and china. But her most important contribution was her philosophy of food--absolutely fresh and local, combined in ways that are interesting without being trendy or silly. Just good cooking, and she oversees every part of the process.

And she gave me the opportunity to do something I've wanted to do for years: to observe a working restaurant kitchen. I squeezed into a corner and just watched.

Yes I did eat: a lamb-burger with eggplant and more than one spicy sauce with a middle-eastern leaning, accompanied by a quinoa salad with fresh herbs and some mixed leaves (lot that term!). Upstairs in the kitchen (yes, the young staff does a lot of running up and down to deliver food) I watched one of the chefs making one of the sauces that decorated my lunch, and it took him close to half an hour, adding one ingredient at a time and tasting, tasting, tasting. The place is not big: one gorgeous six-burner gas stove (those are expensive!), a large stand mixer, and a walk-in fridge the size of my bedroom at home (well, almost). And of course work space on stainless steel islands, that Carmel designed for the space.

Carmel and the saucemaker
And beyond the food (as if that weren't enough) I had the chance to talk with Carmel about how you put together the kitchen you want, how you staff it (a lot of young kids, who work around their school hours and during the summers), how you design a menu. This wasn't just idle curiosity: I want Rose in the County Cork series to really find her calling in cooking, and Carmel reinforced what I've been thinking. Any young chef has to really care about making good food, and serving it well. And that's how Rose feels.

Do you have to wonder why I love Ireland? Beautiful views, clean air and water, and great food. I will definitely be going back to the Good Things Cafe.

Don't forget our giveaway, which ends next week! Click on the cheerleaders for the details.

Promo? How about a peek at the cover for Many a Twist, the next County Cork Mystery, coming in January 2018?

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