Winifred Horan's soda bread

Winifred Horan soda bread

In the Kitchen with Winifred Horan

Imagine if you will the sounds of the fiddle and the beat of the bodhran, the laughing faces illuminated by the glow of firelight, and the smell of warm bread swirling in the air with a hint of pine – while outside the wind whines and Christmas Day knocks at the door.

If there’s anyone I’ve ever met who personifies the whole experience of a Christmas home party, it’s Winifred Horan. She is the close friend greeting you with unbridled excitement after years apart, even if you are meeting her for the first time. She is the fire in the hearth and she is undoubtedly the music. Until recently however, I didn’t realize that she is also the sweet bread cooking next door.

It was for that very reason I met up with Winifred at a friend’s home in Maine. She joined me to share her mother’s sweet Irish soda bread recipe. We threw together the cake, as easy to make as it was delicious, and while it baked, she filled me in on life around the Horan household growing up, including holidays, food, and family.

For those who might not know, Winifred is a virtuoso fiddler, teacher, and award winning Irish step dancer, as well as an original member of the traditional Irish band, Solas. Her most recent endeavor is a radio show on Bluegrass Country described as a “new cutting edge Celtic music program [that] will bring the beautiful, soulful and technical components of Celtic music from around the world to your ears. Win’s passion for and knowledge of Celtic music is a major asset as she will dig deep into the culture and present classic cuts from the Irish tradition and also introduce listeners to newly composed, fresh and astounding new music from talented young musicians and bands from across the Celtic world.” She is also currently a guest lecturer for the Irish studies program at the National University in Galway.

The day we met to discuss cooking together, our conversation flowed freely, and I was swept away into the world of Rockaway Beach, New York and rural Ireland. As a first generation daughter of Irish immigrants, Winifred has a notable perspective on the marriage of Irish traditions with other food.

“... Because we grew up in an immigrant community of Irish and many Italian families, [my mother] learned how to make Italian dishes like meatballs, chicken and eggplant Parmesan. Something she would only ever have learned from her neighbors in the melting pot that is New York City and its surrounding boroughs”.

In a way, the kitchen was a place where Winifred learned about the larger world she would later explore as one of its most popular Irish musicians. And her mother’s love for cooking became the roots that still feed Winifred’s longing for home.

Her Christmas memories sound like a children’s book. Her father, a master carpenter and boat builder, made the children wooden toys, while the smells of her favorite meal filled every corner of the home. Her mother’s turkey, ham, homemade applesauce, mashed turnips, parsnips, and sweet potatoes always bring Win back to the pleasure of a lingering family meal. The day, filled with toys and plentiful food, was often capped with a drive around the neighborhood to see all the Christmas lights.

Of course, Ireland has had a strong pull on her during her life, since both of her parents are Irish immigrants. Along with devoting her professional life to Irish music, she lived in the Emerald Isle as an adult for a couple of years and travels there often. And when she speaks of her mother’s life in Ireland, her expressive dark eyes light up even more.

“My mom grew up in a little town called Johnstown, outside of Arklow, Co. Wicklow in Ireland. She learned all of her cooking and recipes from my grandmother, who basically operated a small organic farm”.

Her mother’s childhood speaks of another time, but is recreated for Win in the kitchen and through her family stories. She paints a delightful picture of a childhood in rural Ireland.

“They had a cow, a goat, chickens and a fresh vegetable garden. Everything they cooked was from their garden or animals. They would ride a horse and cart into town once a week to buy flour, oats and visit their local butcher for the freshest cuts of meat. My grandmother made her own butter, bread, honey, jams and taught it all to my mom, who in turn passed the recipes on to me and my siblings”, she says.

For centuries, women have played an important role in handing down cooking and music traditions on the home front. In the Horan household, women certainly led the charge for music and recipes. As Win says so eloquently, “Most folk tradition is passed on orally and by real experience. Whether it be recipes, story telling, music and songs, mothers teach their children by example. This is how I was raised. My grandmother baked, sang, played the melodeon, and danced. My mother baked, played, sang, and danced. I bake, play, sing, and dance. This is how tradition stays alive. Constantly changing, constantly evolving... a thread to keep us all connected”.

Winifred Horan baking

Mom’s Sweet Irish Soda Bread

One of Win’s fondest food memories was dessert in the form of sweet Irish soda bread loaded with butter, jam, or honey. Her grandmother, in rural Ireland, made this cake in a cast iron pot over the open-hearth fire in the living room. She covered the pot and then lay coals on top, making, as Win calls it, a sort of convection oven. The cake is still served at all major family and community events from funerals to weddings to holiday meals.

After cooking, we slathered on fresh creamy Irish butter and as Winifred says, drank “an endless pot of tea”. The cake is a perfect representation of the Irish food aesthetic: simple, rich, warming, and delicious, with a slightly sweet taste and moist texture.

3 cups of flour
2 eggs
2/3 cup of sugar
1 ½ cups of buttermilk
1 stick of melted butter
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon of salt
1 cup of raisins or currants

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a nine-inch spring form pan. Combine all of the ingredients in a large bowl and mix by hand. Pour into the spring form pan. To make the cake more rustic, mix until just combined — do not over mix.

Cooking time is 50-55 minutes, depending on your oven. Check to make sure it is golden brown on top and fully cooked in the middle before removing. Allow the cake to cool for 10 minutes. Lightly dust with powdered sugar and serve slices with butter, honey, or jam.

Her radio show, The Celtic Cut with Winifred Horan, streams every Saturday at 7pm EST.

Bluegrass Country Radio website: Live streaming link:

Libby Page is the founder of, a website devoted to Irish food in all its forms, featuring spotlights on food artisans, a glossary of Irish culinary terms, and new recipes. If you have recipes, eatery suggestions, stories to share, or need ideas for food places to visit in Ireland, please contact her:

Ploughman's lunch

Ploughman's lunch

Seeking an easy, filling lunch without sparking up the stove on a warm summer day—maybe a perfect option for a picnic? Look no further than the Ploughman’s. There’s a reason the classics stick around. Hearty, simple and delicious, the Ploughman’s lunch was just a formalization of a meal enjoyed by working folks and a marketing ploy by the Cheese Bureau to push their product in the UK during the 1950s. Essentially the Cheese Board took the tradition of scavenging around the home for whatever bits a farmer could throw together for sustenance, gave it a name and ensured cheese was in the definition (after the World War’s rationing of the delectable stuff). And it stuck.

There are arguments back and forth about what exactly is entailed in a traditional Ploughman’s, but the basics often include cheese, rustic crusty bread, pickles and an apple. At Irish Food Revolution, we figure it doesn’t matter all that much. After all, our focus is on the changing culinary landscape in Ireland. So we like to play loose with this meal, with no apologies to the few stubborn traditionalists. We figure, if you like it, throw it on the plate and if you don’t, leave it off.

For our sample, we’ve combined a lot of the traditional Ploughman’s offerings, but feel free to toss in whatever you have lying around. One of the reasons this meal works so well is that there’s sweet, salty and sour. Plus, items like pickles, fruit, greens and berries cleanse the palate after a bite of the fatty offerings. (It also helps to clear out the fridge.)

Some people will insist that you eat the meal with your hands, that the only cutlery needed is a knife for the cheese and condiments, but if you want a fork, have at it.

Included in our pictured sample:

  • Thick cut ham
  • Boiled eggs (cover uncooked eggs in cold water, bring to a boil, remove from heat and cover for 12 minutes, then soak in cold water to stop the cooking)
  • Buttered brown soda bread
  • Pickles
  • Pea shoots
  • Bleu cheese
  • Cheddar
  • Dijon mustard
  • Chutney (pictured is cranberry apple)
  • Gooseberries (also called Golden Berries)
  • Perhaps most importantly, a pint of ale or stout

Other possibilities? Try any combination of an apple, pickled onions, cold sausages, just about any type of greens, olives, prosciutto, turkey or chicken, pork pie, hard cider instead of beer, cole slaw, tomato, beet root, any type of berry, celery, carrots or cucumber. And if you’re a teetotaler, by all means substitute tea for the alcohol. It’s all about making a quick meal you’ll really appreciate.

"Mighty" Beef Stew

Mighty beef stew

We love beef stew and for the past year, have wanted to create our own version. So finally here is our stew! It turned out “mighty” good. Beara Irish Brewing Company is a local brewer, who uses imported Irish barley for their beers. Owners Michael and Louise Potorti have roots in the Beara Peninsula in County Cork (Louise is from there). So they are huge fans of the farm to table movement both here and in Ireland. Using local brews and local beef (from Tendercrop Farm) was the perfect combination for our vision as well here at Irish Food Revolution.

If you cannot find a strong local brew for yours, then Guinness works just as well, of course. However, Beara Irish Brew’s “Mighty” does have a stronger flavor than Guinness, which we loved in this stew. It added a zestier ale taste to the stew. If you live in the Seacoast New Hampshire area, then we highly recommend snagging Mighty. They are brewing a new batch as we speak!

Before heading to the recipe, a word about Dutch ovens, which are the best things on the planet. For years, we swooned over the Le Creuset versions, which were out of our price range. However, we found Lodge Cast Iron that makes great Dutch ovens for a very reasonable price.

Mighty stout from Beara Irish Brewing

Serves 6-8 (great for leftovers!)

  • 3 ½ pounds of grass fed beef, buy pre-cut or cut into 1 and1/2 inch pieces (grass fed is expensive, yes. But the more we read, the more convincing the argument. It is simply better for our bodies.)
  • 4 Tbs of vegetable oil
  • l large yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 Tbs tomato paste
  • 2 minced garlic cloves
  • 2 ¾ cups of organic beef stock
  • ¼ cup of all purpose flour
  • 1 ¼ cups of Beara Irish Brew Mighty (or similar dark brew)
  • Fresh thyme (4-5 sprigs, leaves only)
  • 1 ½ pounds of Yukon Gold Potatoes, unpeeled, cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 1 pound of peeled carrots, sliced into 1 inch long pieces

1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees (adjust the oven rack to lower middle of oven)

2. In a large bowl, mix the beef with 2 Tbs of oil and flour until fully coated. Heat the remainder of the oil in a large Dutch oven (6 quarts).

3. Brown the beef in the Dutch oven for about 8 minutes. Add in chopped onions, garlic, thyme, and cook another 5-8 minutes or so. Add in tomato paste and cook another 2 minutes. Stir often during these steps.

4. Stir in beef stock and ¾ cup of ale, scraping off the bottom brown bits in the Dutch oven. Bring to a boil and then put in the oven for 80-90 minutes.

5. Take it out of the oven, add in carrots, and stir. Return to the oven. Cook for 15 more minutes.

6. Take it out of the oven, add in potatoes, remaining ale, and stir. Return to the oven. Cook for 45-50 more minutes.

7. Serve with bread and eat!

Enjoy with a slice of rye bread

Parsnip Carrot Soup

Parsnip Carrot Soup

As the leaves fall and the temperature drops, the idea of a nice warm bowl of soup grows ever more enticing. Well, the Irish certainly love their soup and they make delicious varieties to be sure. Drop into any pub and they’ll have a soup of the day ready to go with fresh cut brown bread.

My cousins, in County Armagh, introduced me to homemade parsnip carrot soup and I was hooked. It may not solve all of your problems, but it certainly won’t hurt them either. Made with fresh, homemade chicken stock and vegetables, this is cast easily into a healthy lifestyle, so you can feel good about what you’re eating as well as getting the warmth to the body and soul that only soup can bring.

Ingredients (makes 6 servings)

Chicken stock (skip if using store bought, but expect more sodium)
Two chicken carcasses (Two makes a deeply satisfying stock. I freeze the carcasses to use in soups after enjoying everything that can be gleaned off them)
2-3 handfuls of celery, cut into chunks
2-3 handfuls of onions, cut into chunks
2-3 handfuls of carrots, cut into chunks
2 bay leaves
1 tablespoon thyme
Salt and pepper

Parsnip Carrot Soup
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
2½ cups chopped onion
3 cloves garlic
3 cups chopped parsnips
2½ cups chopped carrots
3 cups water
4 cups chicken stock (see above. Low sodium if using store bought.)

Throw chicken carcasses into a large stock pot with chopped celery, onions, carrots and bay leaves. Fill the pot with water just to cover the ingredients. Bring to a boil over high heat, then lower temperature to a simmer. Over the next 15-20 minutes skim off the foam as it rises to the top. Simmer the stock for a total of at least two hours. The chicken should be breaking apart easily and the vegetables mushy. Taste the stock and add salt to taste, perhaps a half to one teaspoon. It will help focus the flavor.

Strain stock into a container and discard the solids. If desired, skim off most of the fat using a fat skimmer. Alternatively you can refrigerate the stock and skim off most of the fat from the top after it has cooled. Skimming the fat isn’t necessary, as fat adds to the mouth feel and flavor of the finished soup, but a little can go a long way. I freeze the majority of the fat for use in other dishes later on.

Separate 4 cups of stock for the soup and refrigerate or freeze the remainder.

In a large stock pot (you can just rinse the pot you used for the chicken stock), add 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil over medium heat. When it gains a sheen, add the onions and sauté for several minutes, then add the garlic and continue sautéing until the onions are soft.

Add the parsnips and carrots, the chicken stock and water, bring to a boil over high heat and reduce heat to a simmer for 50 minutes or so. Turn off the heat and let the soup rest for 5 minutes, then transfer in stages to a blender and blend until smooth. Once the soup has been pureed, return it to the pot and keep it warm under low to medium heat until ready to serve. Top with sliced scallions or chives and/or crispy bacon. Serve with a sandwich or fresh brown bread and butter.

Chicken stock
Chicken stock starting to cook

Skimming chicken stock
Skim the foam off the top

Parsnip Carrot Soup ingredients
Simple soup ingredients

Sauteeing onions
Sauté the onions and garlic

Parsnip Carrot Soup begins cooking
Soup starting to cook

Parsnip Carrot soup cooked
Soup finished cooking

Parsnip Carrot soup finished
Parsnip and Carrot Soup

Soda bread

Fresh from the oven

You’d be hard pressed to find an Irish kitchen without a recipe or two for brown soda bread, the old hearty standby that puts any store bought loaf to shame. It’s basic, but practically required Irish home-cooking. Our recipe produces a soft, nutty loaf equally at home with a bowl of soup, as part of a sandwich or just by itself with a spot of butter and/or jam. One of the great aspects of brown bread is that you can enjoy it sweet or salty depending on how you pair it. Toasted soda bread with butter and honey (one of James Joyce’s favorites) is a classic for a reason. I like to make a loaf a week to keep on hand.

Ingredients (one loaf)

  • 2½ cups whole wheat flour
  • ½ cup all purpose flour
  • ½ cup steel cut oats
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups buttermilk
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten

Preheat oven to 325° Fahrenheit. Coat a 9x5 loaf pan with cooking spray, line with parchment paper and coat the paper with spray.

Combine dry ingredients; combine wet ingredients; then add wet mixture to dry and mix until combined, taking care not to over mix. Spoon the mixture into the prepared pan and flatten with a wet spoon. If desired, sprinkle more oats on top. Bake for 65 minutes or until crust is golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean. Remove loaf from pan and parchment paper and cool on a rack.

Wrapped in tinfoil or plastic, bread should last several days up to about a week at room temperature and will last longer if refrigerated or frozen.

Looking to create a delicious sandwich with this bread? Try our Toastie and egg.

Gathering the ingredients
Gathering the ingredients.

Wet and dry ready to mix
Wet and dry ready to mix.

Ready to bake
In the pan, ready to bake. So simple, but so perfect.

Soda bread disappearing
A blank slate.

Butter and unfiltered honey topped soda bread. Cue James Joyce.

Maple cinnamon scones and whipped cream

Maple Cinnamon Scone-served

One of the greatest pleasures in life is tea and scones — the lightly sweet buttery crumbliness of these traditional cakes is proof that there’s a reason classics endure. But how do you improve on a time-tested winner?

A recent meal at McCambridge’s in Dublin provided the answer for me. My breakfast was served with fresh maple syrup and I realized maple and cinnamon would blend perfectly into a scone, so I created my own version. Along the way, the concept of maple cinnamon whipped cream seemed to fit the bill for an accompaniment and I set about putting it all together.

Ingredients (makes one cake)

For the scones

  • 1½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon + more for sprinkling
  • ⅓ cup currants
  • 6 tablespoons cold butter
  • Scant ½ cup buttermilk
  • ¼ cup minus 1 teaspoon real maple syrup + more syrup for drizzling
  • 1 teaspoon table sugar

For the whipped cream
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 2 tablespoons real maple syrup
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ¼ teaspoon cinnamon

For the scones
Preheat oven to 425° Fahrenheit. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or lightly grease.

Combine flour, baking powder, salt, baking soda and cinnamon in a bowl. Stir in currants.

Cut in butter with pastry blender or two knives until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add buttermilk and maple syrup and stir until the mixture forms a soft, sticky dough that clings together. With wet hands to prevent sticking, form the mixture into a ball and pat into an 8-inch round on prepared baking sheet. Cut into 8 wedges and sprinkle with teaspoon of table sugar.

Bake 15-18 minutes or until lightly browned. About 7-8 minutes into baking, carefully line the edges of the cake with tin foil to prevent burning. Maple syrup browns more quickly than sugar, so keep a close watch.

For the whipped cream
Chill a high edged bowl in the freezer. After a few minutes, place whipping cream into bowl and beat at high speed using an electric hand mixer until the cream starts to thicken. Add the syrup, vanilla extract and cinnamon and continue whipping to desired consistency.

The scones may need to be recut after baking. Drizzle maple syrup on a plate, place a scone on top, dollop a spoonful of whipped cream next to it and sprinkle the plate with cinnamon. Scones served warm are delightful, but room temperature is nothing to scowl at.

Storing note
The scones will keep for up to a week in the fridge if they last that long. If you have leftover whipped cream, dollop individual servings onto a parchment lined baking sheet and freeze until solid. Then place into a freezer bag for longer term storage. (Try it on top of hot chocolate.)

Scone dry ingredients
The mixture with butter cut in.

Maple Cinnamon Scone-raw
Ready to bake.

Maple cinnamon scone-baked
Out of the oven.

Pub sandwiches

Party sandwiches

So the big rugby match is on and you’re looking for something simple and satisfying. Maybe some friends are coming over for tea and you don’t have time to run to the store. Rest assured, the Irish have an answer and there’s a good chance you already have the ingredients: party sandwiches. These little goodies are proof that the simplest foods can be the tastiest.

I’m making three types — egg, cucumber and ham — and they’ll be scarfed down by the score. Vegan friendly butter can be substituted on the cucumber sandwiches to accommodate vegan friends.

Traditionally the Irish have used white bread for these bites, but increasingly you’ll find healthier options. I’ve used seeded rye for the extra flavor.

Ingredients (makes three sandwiches)

  • 2 peeled hard boiled eggs (I place eggs in a pot covered in cool water, bring just to a boil, remove from heat and cover with a towel for 12 minutes)
  • Sliced ham
  • Cucumber
  • Butter
  • Bread
  • 2 Tablespoons Mayonnaise
  • Dill weed
  • Salt

Slice crusts off bread

Egg salad

For the egg sandwich:
Dice eggs and combine in bowl with mayonnaise, a pinch and a half of dill weed and a dash of salt. Spoon egg mixture onto one slice of bread (there will be a little leftover); cover with second slice of bread.

For the ham sandwich:
Cut several layers of thinly sliced ham to fit the bread; place them flat on one slice of bread; butter second slice generously and cover.

For the cucumber sandwich:
Cut cucumber into ¼“ slices (or paper thin if you prefer); layer on first slice of bread; butter second slice generously and cover.

Quarter each sandwich and serve.

Party sandwiches open

Berries and cream

Blueberries and cream

No one is going to hold it against you. You don’t have time to prepare all the food you’d like to. No one does (especially as I prepare for my trip to Ireland!). But if you have even five minutes you can create a delectable sweet and creamy treat and take in a load of antioxidants at the same time. Okay, so the cream might outweigh the benefits of the berries, but who’s counting? You can hold your head up high knowing your indulgence is also packed with an all-natural superfood.

Organic whipping cream is a healthier alternative to the regular brands found in the supermarket, but it’s also sometimes pretty hard to find. If you can buy organic, use it. If not… well, it is dessert after all. And while fresh blueberries aren’t found on the Dirty Dozen list (compiled by the Environmental Working Group) this year (2016), they are often listed on it, having had more than 50 pesticides detected as residue on them by the US Department of Agriculture. Frozen blueberries seem to be a little safer, but frozen just won’t cut the mustard when it comes to berries and cream. You can, of course change up the type of berries you use or even create a mix, but keep in mind that non-organic strawberries are one of the greatest pesticide-laden culprits according to the Environmental Working Group.

We’ve omitted one of the main ingredients usually found in whipped cream: sugar. For us, the berries add enough sweetness and added sugar is now considered one of the worst things you can ingest. Try just berries and cream; you may not go back.

Ingredients (serves 4)

  • 1 cup organic heavy whipping cream (makes two cups)
  • Fresh organic blueberries (or berries of your choice)

Store everything in the refrigerator including the bowl until you are ready to make the cream. The colder you keep things, the easier and better the cream will whip up.

Pour the cream into a mixing bowl and whip with an electric mixer on high, making sure to move the beater around the bowl and change directions occasionally. You can use a hand whisk, but be prepared for a forearm workout. Beat until the cream thickens, usually a few minutes. Feel free to whip until it forms stiffer peaks, but be careful not to overdo it as it will quickly turn into butter. If the cream turns thicker than you like, you can mix in a little more cold, unwhipped cream to loosen it.

Spoon the desired amount of cream into a bowl and top with washed berries.

Irish food????

Calf, taken 1989 outside of Athlone, Ireland – moments up close and personal with animals were common in my year there.

Part One: A Personal Perspective

Since our launch three weeks ago, the question “why Irish food?” has come up a great deal during conversations. And the tone is one of bewilderment. Americans have a somewhat negative view of Irish cuisine: bland potatoes comes to mind for them. So I decided to share my reasons for embracing Irish food and further our mission here at Irish Food Revolution.

Longing for Tradition
Growing up, my family did not identify with any particular cultural tradition. Our cultural history lacked the richness for which I longed and saw in some of my friends’ families.

Our family certainly never built rituals (always changing it up, we never did the same thing twice). The only moments I recall were the sounds of the Irish music my father enjoyed. So I latched onto this musical cultural heritage – starving for connection to those who came before. It is no surprise that I’ve spent much of my life trying to forge a cultural identity – one that feels right.

On a parallel track has been my relationship with food. Meals at our house were often a slap/dash affair. However, my fondest memories as a child are of my father cooking homemade donuts and applesauce made from the apple tree in the back of our house (a rare occurrence). It felt so special, and hidden in my heart all these years has been a love for slow food – almost without me realizing it.

One Step Removed
Over the past several years, two things came together: an identification with my Irish heritage and a love for the farm to table movement. I lived in Ireland for a year over twenty years ago and will never forget the glass milk bottles on the doorstep. Up until that point, I never drank plain milk; I always put in chocolate or used it as a vehicle for cereal. After my first sip of the milk in Ireland, I was struck by a taste that was full bodied and creamy – without the metallic after taste in the milk back home. I did not understand then why it was so wonderful. But throughout that year, I began to sense why, watching the green fields and cows roll by the window on frequent train rides.

After leaving Ireland, I moved to New York City and became even more distant from the sources of food. Food was simply something to purchase and consume – not meaningful or connected to the natural world. I saw cows back home in New Hampshire, but food felt one step removed from those farms and animals. Farms were quaint and nice to look at, but they had nothing to do with the food I bought in the grocery store.

After struggling with eating issues for many years, I now realize eating local produce and grass fed meats helps me to eat mindfully. Taking a step towards actual food sources has helped me reassemble the scattered pieces of my cultural identity as well. Cultural tradition and the farm to table movement have come together as an integral part of my life; Ireland embodies these two ideas ten fold.


Finally, in the past three weeks, I am reminded of the connections that form between people over food. Long ago in Ireland, a hearty meal was always good “craic” as they say. And when I visited again after many years, in 2012, I sensed a palpable change around the attitude towards cuisine. People are embracing the old ways of traditional cooking and recognizing how delicious it is. They are also updating old favorites in new, approachable ways. A love for real food, real people, and homegrown fare; the Irish are experts at all of it.

And after meeting people through social media, I see that the phrase “Irish food revolution” is definitely not an over exaggeration. The love for the land, farming, eateries, and artisan food production is inspiring. People have offered to show me around farms and eateries in Ireland already; this glowing pride has brought my own passion to the next level. I am more determined than ever to share this exciting country and its lovely cuisine.

In honor of my newfound connections on Twitter, I must dedicate this blog post to some folks: Suzanna @ZwartblesIE, Annie @desperateAnnie, @the_greensheep_, @tasteofireland, @MidletonFarmers, John @irishtasteclub, Imen @ModernFarmette, @danoharafarm, Loretta @LorGMedia, Drigin @MsEatGalway, Rory Morahan @RoryMorahan, and the hundreds more with whom I have interacted on social media so far! May I connect with many more of you on this journey!


An Ode to Oats

1. Apple, Pecan and Cinnamon Porridge

2. Steel-cut Oat Porridge

3. Pineapple-Coconut Porridge

Oat porridge is one of my go to breakfasts and another popular Irish dish. I chose to make it three different ways to highlight its versatility. In honor of the chefs and their work, I will not reprint recipes here; however, I do provide tips and comments for each. All of the books I use are readily available at your local bookstore or online. And finally, I included my own recipe for porridge (with coconut cooked directly in), which I hope you try!

1. Apple, Pecan, and Cinnamon Porridge from Clodagh McKenna, Clodagh’s Irish Kitchen, page 48. Do please seek out her book if possible, I am loving it!

She uses rolled oats, steamed, rolled, then toasted rather than steel-cut that are just roughly chopped. Both are close in nutritional value to each other although the glycemic index – which helps with blood sugar levels – is lower on steel cut (

This dish is also cooked with milk rather than water, giving it a creamier texture and filling me up a bit more than the water-based porridge. One tip is to bring the milk and oats just to a boil; watch it like a hawk. Since I am an easily distracted amateur cook, I did overcook it a bit and the milk scalded.

As for the taste? Rich, creamy, delicious. The grated apple was a beautiful touch (great way to sweeten it- I did not even need honey), and something that I had never done in all my years of making oats. The mixture of cinnamon, pecan, and apple was just right.

2. Steel-cut Oat Porridge from Darina Allen, Irish Traditional Cooking, page 268. Her books are thorough and gorgeous resources for cooking all Irish foods. She gives the history and variations so I feel like I am in school – in a good way! It is a class I wish they had offered at my college.

She uses steel-cut oats, which always bring me back to Ireland. I remember my bedroom in one house where I stayed was so cold in the winter that I saw my breath every morning. We only had one coal fireplace to heat a three-bedroom house. I was such a cliché, wearing my fingerless gloves, clutching my porridge, surrounded by blankets. I was in heaven.

So Darina Allen’s recipe was perfect for warming me up both in body and spirit. She soaks the oats overnight, which brought out even more of the nutty flavor that characterizes steel-cut. I use McCann’s since it is readily available in the states.

Before reheating it in the morning, I swirled my bowl with some unsweetened vanilla almond milk, and after, I loaded on the brown sugar. It was scrumptious. And you can really put anything on it, which brings me to my own recipe for porridge.

3. Coconut and Pineapple Steel-cut Oats. I cook the coconut with the oats and the aroma swirls through the house. If you like coconut, please try it. The smell alone is worth it – rich and tropical, which is great on a bleak winter’s day. And it tastes amazing!

  • Half cup of McCann’s Steel Cut Oats
  • 2 cups of water
  • ¼ cup of organic, finely shredded, unsweetened coconut – very important that it be finely shredded
  • 2 heaping teaspoons of sugar
  • Fresh pineapple chopped to bite size pieces
  • Extra shredded coconut for topping

Boil the water. After it comes to a rolling boil, add the oats. Keep it at a boil, stirring until the oats start to thicken a little (5 minutes or so).

Stir in the coconut. Bring it to a boil again then reduce the heat to medium low and cover.

Simmer covered for about 30 minutes, stirring frequently (make sure it does not boil over- lower the heat if necessary). Add two heaping teaspoons of sugar after about 10 minutes. The oatmeal should be fairly thick when done; but if not thick enough, let it stand for five minutes off of the burner –in the pan– and it will thicken up. Or if you prefer thinner, eat it right away!

Serve it in a bowl topped with plenty of pineapple and a bit of shredded coconut. And a bit of extra sugar – if desired.

An Irish Breakfast


Beginnings, fresh starts, warmth, comfort – breakfast has all these connotations for me. I feel there is no better way to embark on our journey than for Irish Food Revolution’s inaugural blog post to feature breakfast. And the Irish do it right.

It is no wonder that James Joyce begins Ulysses with the morning meal playing such an important role. Leopold Bloom starts his celebrated day on a quest to find and cook a pork kidney for his breakfast. No kidneys will be fried up in the making of this blog; however, Bloom’s satisfaction with the kidney’s earthiness and decadence seems to transcend a single breakfast, speaking to the importance of a hearty meal for the Irish.

Breakfast was actually my indoctrination to Irish food over twenty years ago, and after embarking from any plane trip back to Ireland, I always head out for the quintessential Irish fry up (for restaurant suggestions head to the ever-growing locator page). But at home, I make it myself; it brings me back twenty years to my first day in Ireland.

What I’m creating here is one possible version and does not include black or white pudding, but the Irish sausage, Irish beans, and fried tomato do it for me!

For a simple nod to an Irish Breakfast, and I stress simple:

1. Fry up the following (I use Kerrygold butter rather than oil for a truly decadent experience):

  • Half a fresh, ripe organic tomato- till it is soft and has a nice crust
  • One cage free, organic egg- made to your liking
  • Two Irish sausages (you can find links to online Irish food sales on the locator page-if there aren’t any stores near you that sell any). Heat the sausage until it reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees. The sausage needs to be golden brown all over.

2. Warm up some authentic Irish canned beans- I bought my can of Batchelors at a local Irish shop. They use tomato in the beans, which gives them a distinctive flavor.

3. Serve with soda bread or brown bread with more butter (and even a bit of honey too).

4. And plate.

Note about beverage

No Irish breakfast is complete without a cup of tea. In Chapter 1 alone of Ulysses, tea is mentioned ten times as Joyce’s alter ego, Stephen Dedalus, eats his breakfast. And Clodagh McKenna has a wonderful recipe for an authentic cup of tea in her book, Clodagh’s Irish Kitchen. But one simple directive: you must use a kettle and bring the water to a rolling boil before pouring over tea bags or leaves. The tea flavor will be that much richer!

At this moment, I am actually craving a cup of tea-so until next week, where I will explore great breakfast alternatives.

Here is to your own new beginnings. May they bring you joy.