Archive for the ‘Ireland’ Category

Chocolate Caramel Shortbread Irish

March 14, 2011

I figure if I got four those words in the title, I’d get loads of hits. Chocolate, caramel and shortbread make up the three layers in Magills, a recipe I acquired while living in Ireland. They go by many names – last year, we saw them called Wellingtons in one place, millionaire bars in another and in one prosaic coffee bar they were plain old caramel squares. I call them Magills, because I got the recipe from Susan Stokes who got the recipe from a fellow named Magill. I believe I have the best story, with apologies to Lord Wellington.

(I have translated the measurements from weights to volume. You can’t find Kerry Cream here, but it’s really just sweetened condensed milk. Look for Lyle’s Golden Syrup in the international or baking aisle of your grocery store.)

 

MAGILLS

Shortbread:

1 stick butter, softened

1 cup flour

¼ cup powdered sugar

 

Caramel:

4 Tbl. butter

¼ cup sugar

¼ cup Lyle’s Golden Syrup

¾ tin of Kerry Cream

 

about ½ cup chocolate chips, melted

 

Crumble shortbread ingredients together; press into 8-inch-square pan and bake at 350 degrees for about 15 minutes, until the edges are just barely turning brown. Place pan on rack to cool.

Bring caramel ingredients to a boil and stir constantly until the mixture reaches the soft-ball stage. While caramel mixture is still hot, pour over the shortbread. Let cool.

Using an offset spatula, spread the chocolate in a thin layer over caramel. When set, slice into bars or squares with a hot knife.

 

My Irish brown bread

March 6, 2011

I was once asked – by an American, of course – why there was no soda in Irish soda bread. What? That’s like asking why there are no chocolate chips in chocolate chip cookies. She apparently had a “traditional” soda-bread recipe from her family that contained no soda. I’d say that’s not soda bread.

In Ireland, brown soda bread is called brown bread, no need to specify. I’ve made it for years from a recipe I found in an Irish magazine when I lived in Dublin. When we are in Ireland, we eat as much as possible – you’ll know why once you try it. Brown bread is on the breakfast table at hotels and B&Bs and it’s offered with soup at lunch; at dinner time, you have to ask if they have any left. Brown bread is fast, healthy and extremely tasty. It’s March – make some today.

Marty’s Irish Brown Bread

(This recipe uses weight measurements; it’s the only way I’ve ever made it.)

8 ounces whole wheat flour

8 ounces white flour

1 tsp. salt

1 tsp. sugar

1 tsp. soda (yes, soda!)

1 Tbl. butter

11 ounces buttermilk (this is a half-pint of buttermilk, but it’s half of an Imperial pint)

1 egg, slightly beaten

Mix dry ingredients, then rub in the butter. Mix in buttermilk and egg. This can all be done by hand or with a mixer (don’t over mix). Press into a greased loaf pan or round casserole dish. Bake at 425 degrees F for about 30 minutes. You can turn out the loaf and tap on the bottom to check for doneness; if it sounds hollow, it’s done. Turn out, and wrap the bread in a damp tea towel and  place on a rack until the bread is completely cool. Cooling it in a damp tea towel will keep the crust from getting too hard. Enjoy!

Gardening with a sense of place

September 21, 2010

Do you feel that a garden should reflect its surroundings? Apart from the house around which it is situated, should a garden be a part of the greater natural landscape?

Ilnacullin

Some garden design ties itself closely with place – Japanese gardens reflect, on a small scale, the mountains, valleys and lakes around them. Regional native plant gardens in incorporate trees, shrubs, perennials and bulbs exclusive to the surrounding environment.

And yet there are Japanese gardens around the world, and a native plant garden in a city is decidedly unattached to its surroundings. Ilnacullin, on Garinish Island in Bantry Bay, Ireland, carries Harold Peto’s signature Italianate look.

We borrow whole designs, elements of design, and small design devices to make gardens that we love, so I thought it entirely appropriate to find a house in the Preston Hollow area of Dallas, Texas that you looked like it was lifted out of Hobbiton. The effect of stone (these are the hobbits that took to building houses not burrowed into the hills, but still reflecting a hobbit-hole sort of design) and round windows and a round door suited the woodsy surroundings.

Although some gardens I can’t imagine elsewhere – Lawrence Johnston’s Arts and Crafts style at Hidcote is perfect – I’m all for using elements of those gardens elsewhere. If only someone would build me a double gazebo.

Hidcote Manor, of course

Native plants far from home

August 31, 2010

It never fails that when we go on tour to England, Scotland, and Ireland we see lots of North American native plants in gardens – Oregon grape, red-flowering currant, salal are all ubiquitous in the Pacific Northwest, but cherished ornamentals when they travel across the ocean.

Sometimes the North American natives don’t even cross state lines very often. I have yet to see Veronicastrum (culver’s root) in a Seattle garden – not even my own – and yet it’s glorious in the gardens abroad. In early July we caught this sight at June Blake’s garden, which we visited before we headed to her brother Jimi’s garden Hunting Brook.

The Veronicastrum stands up to 6 feet high with whorled sets of leaves up the stems; its inflorescences form slender lavender (or white) flames snaking toward the sky. What’s not to love?

Oh wait, this just in – “How to grow” advice from the Missouri Botanic Garden says: “Soil should not be allowed to dry out.” No wonder it looked so good in June’s garden. With my cavalier attitude toward watering, I’d better take a pass.

How to be a tourist in Ireland

July 27, 2010

Skip the Irish cabarets for one thing. How many choruses of “Too-ra-loo-ra-loo-ra” can one person stand? Personally, I would avoid the medieval banquets, too. I attended the show at Bunratty Castle Folk Park in County Clare (near Limerick) years ago, and drank the mead and watched the show along with the herd of other foreigners. And boy, did we feel like foreigners. The setting of Dunguaire Castle , right on Galway Bay in Kinvara, is fabulous, but I think I’d rather enjoy the sights from a pub in that hopping little village (although, it’s become a much posher place since the last time we visited).

Instead, ask around the town or village for good traditional music pubs. On our recent Ireland trip, many in our group went to the Kilkenny Traditional Music Trail that travel agent Brad Cilley of Northwest Travel found. They enjoyed the music and learned a bit about the instruments.

Our hotel in Kenmare hosted music one night we were there – just a local family, including their daughter who danced. We felt like we were part of the evening, not just the audience.

In Dublin, Brad booked us into the Irish House Party, held in the Lansdowne Hotel in Ballsbridge, for our tour’s farewell dinner. We had dinner and music and dancing and no one had to beg for salt or feel like they were channeling Bing Crosby. I found the entertainment was enjoyable – these people really care about their music. Yes, I was a tourist, but I have lived in Ireland, and feeling like a tourist here was OK. I wasn’t a cheesy tourist, I was a tourist who wanted to have a good time and even learn something about the country. Besides, the room was full of not just us, but the bell ringers of Somerset and an Irish hen party. We all had a great time.

Black is the new black – black Tuscan kale

July 20, 2010

at Hunting Brook

Edibles and ornamentals – the new hot celebrity couple. The top honors for the most popular edible to plant in an ornamental bed must go to the Tuscan black kale, seen everywhere but to greatest advantage at Hunting Brook in County Wicklow, Ireland, where Jimi Blake paired it with this fabulous Bupleurum longifolium subsp. aureum. The combination of the dark, chunky, textured leaves with the airy sprays of flowers made a good show.

More on Hunting Brook to follow.

The baggallini brigade

February 16, 2010

I didn’t know that baggallini bags were such a cult item. While signing books at the University Bookstore author’s table at the Northwest Flower & Garden Show, someone noticed my baggallini Around Town Bagg (color: espresso/tomato) and pointed to her own baggallini. We’re our own underground group.

I promised that this bag would be for travel, but I can’t stop using it for everyday, because it’s so darn handy. The pockets! One for business cards, one for sunglasses (safely stowed through most of the Seattle winter), one for thin stuff, one for big stuff, another one for big stuff, a little one inside that one. Whew. And a wide strap that doesn’t kill my shoulders. Coming up, the travel test as I head to Philadelphia to speak at the flower show, Chicago to check out their show, then later in March to Texas to check out the bluebonnets. This summer, Ireland, England. Fall, Italy. This is what comes of not going anywhere in the awful year 2009, I’m ready to burst at the seams. But my baggallini will be intact.

Gardeners Commiserate

January 27, 2010

There’s nothing like disaster in the garden to bring gardeners together, and this summer on our Ireland garden tour, we’ll find out just how much we have in

Crinodendron hookerianum (Chinese lantern tree)

common. Here in the maritime Pacific Northwest, we’ve had only one bout of freezing cold this season – a week in December that turned the ground crusty and made the leaves on all the rhododendrons droop. But it was enough to make us think of last year, when the cold, ice and snow lasted far too long.

Last year, gardeners reported loads of damage: Phormium looked wretched and many gardeners swore they would never plant another hebe. This year, the damage was minimal, mostly taking out plants such as Pelargonium, which usually die as annuals anyway, unless you take extra precautions.

In Ireland and England this winter, they’ve had what we had last year. Will the Chinese lantern be in bloom when we’re there? Jane Powers reports on the damage in her garden in the Irish Times.

Gifts for the Garden Traveler

December 14, 2009

Gardeners’ stockings are soon to be filled with Atlas gloves, trowels, sisal twine and bird netting, but those of us who also enjoy traveling to garden may have a few other items on our minds.

The garden traveler’s holiday wish list is a hybrid of sorts – somewhere between a normal tourist and a gardener.

A tour – Cough up the bucks and send your garden traveler (or yourself) on a specialty tour with like-minded people, who want to discuss the merits ofCrinodendron hookerianum and where it will grow. Our Ireland tour for 2010 may be just the ticket.

A digital camera – And not just any cheap or any expensive model. We take pictures outside and so we need more than a 2.5- or 3-inch LCD screen on the back of the camera: We need a viewfinder. Call it old-fashioned, but in bright daylight those screens are useless. Canon has some reasonably priced models that all include viewfinders; check out the SD780IS. Yes, we do need that image stabilizer – this isn’t a professional photographers tour, and we won’t wait around while you set up your fancy equipment. Anyway, many gardens have a “no tripod” rule, and so we must be our own tripods.

Something to write on – Garden travelers take notes. We may need to jot down the name of a plant or something funny that our local guide says (“The crowd will be heaving.”) And occasionally, we may need to write that down in middle of a light mist. So, a Rite-in-the-Rain notebook comes in handy. They come in all

Leighton's beer notebook

sizes and have yellow covers. Leighton has a small one that he uses as his beer notebook; you never know when a splash of a best bitter might land on an important comment. Rite-in-the-Rain also carries pencils for wet-weather use.

A raincoat, not an umbrella – See previous entry on my biases.

A travel purse – I’ve found mine, it’s a Baggalini. Wide strap to go over my shoulder, enough but not too many zipper pockets and loads of room even though it looks small. Waterproof for those less-than-perfect weather days.

Really good walking shoes – We are not hikers; or at least, this is not a hiking trip. Shoes are too personal to recommend, but I’ll tell you I love my new Clarks Unstructured. Take two pairs so that they can get a rest every other day.

Books about the gardens you want to see – Patrick Taylor’s book The Gardens of Britain and Ireland will give you a good overview. The Good Gardens Guide by Peter King usually comes out every year. Is there a particular place you want to read about? Ask me for a recommendation.

And, for those lovers of English ale, Leighton recommends The Good Beer Guide – which brews are the best and where to find them. To get the 2010 edition, you must go to the amazon UK site.

See you in the garden. Or the pub.

The Plant Hunter

April 30, 2009

There was a sad lack of both hebe and Pittosporum selections at last week’s Arboretum Foundation plant sale – just when we all need to beef up the garden with interesting evergreens.  Sure, several of them died during the winter, but I don’t see that as a reason to stop growing them – we won’t have another winter like that for a while, will we?  And ‘Irene Paterson’ looks great:  a few leaves lost, but new growth coming on just fine – although will mine ever be as large as the ones we see in Ireland?

'Irene Paterson' in Ireland

'Irene Paterson' in Ireland

 

 

(Is this global warming?  It reminds me of an old Twilight Zone episode – with someone who later became a star, of course – about how the earth had gotten off its course and was heading for the sun.  Everything was getting hotter and hotter, and then the main character woke up to find that it felt really nice and cool.  The truth was that the earth had gotten off its course and was heading away from the sun, and everyone was going to freeze!  Cue creepy music.)

I did find one Pittosporum tenuifolium cultivar:  ‘Eila Keightley’ from Fair Meadow Nursery, in Olympia.  It’s the only cultivar listed on their Web site, but they have fabulous other plants, and so I hope that they will add to the P. tenuifolium list.  In fact, this nursery would make a great road trip.  Although I love garden travel to faraway places, short trips nearby to gardens and nurseries keeps me going between the big trips.

Master Gardener Foundation of King County plant sale is this weekend:  What will I find?