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847 634 0339

The Irish Boutique is an Irish import store that has been located in the Chicago land area for over 40 years.  The shop stocks a variety of products ranging from Irish jewelry, crystal, china, food, sweaters, caps, t-shirts and a wide variety of Irish gifts. 

Cooking Blog

Visit our blog to read about Michelle Barry's adventures in cooking and eating Irish cuisine and to learn about new products and upcoming events. 

 

Filtering by Category: Food Gifts

Soda Bread Crumbs

john barry

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My brother and his girlfriend have been visiting this week from Saint Martin and it has been so nice to catch up with them.  The kids especially love it when they are here. Every moment ends up being an opportunity to try to steal their attention and impress Uncle Mark and Aunt Jenn.  This state of affairs is, of course, fine with me and Paul.  Increasing the ratio of adults to little kids is always a good thing, especially when those adults are Mark and Jenn.

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Mark and Jenn are both great cooks and have taught me much of what I know about cooking and feeding people. Their first night here I wasn’t sure how hungry everyone was going to be or what they would be up for. I ended up sort of paralyzed with indecision and without a dinner plan.  Fortunately, just before it was time to head to the airport, I decided to make some garlic bread crumbs out of the soda bread hanging out on the counter.  I figured, if we didn’t go out for dinner, I could use them to whip up a quick pasta dish to serve with a salad and grocery store rotisserie chicken.

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I toasted the bread, whizzed it in my food processor with a few cloves of fresh garlic and toasted the whole lot in butter and olive oil on the stovetop. You know how people say that if you want to sell your house you should bake chocolate cookies? Well, I think you should make these bread crumbs.  They smell toasty, nutty, garlicy - like something delicious is in your future. When the bread crumbs were reasonably cool, I tossed them with grated Parmesan, minced parsley and lemon zest. Then I seasoned them with a tiny bit of sea salt, nutmeg and black pepper and headed to the airport.

We ended up using them to make this simple pasta dish with some fresh pasta.  But honestly, these would be good on anything. I’m thinking of making some more to use instead of panko for this Ina Garten recipe. Or as a topping for baked fish. I usually add nuts to this sort of thing but I found that the nuttiness of the soda bread provided what I was looking for and the texture was light and perfect.

Oh, and by the way. Turns out a simple pasta dish, rotisserie chicken and a big salad can be company worthy. It made the perfect family dinner that everyone could enjoy.  

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Soda Bread Crumbs

  • 5-7 pieces of soda bread, about 3 cups crumbs
  • 3-4 cloves of garlic
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1-2 tablespoons butter
  • 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • ¼ cup minced parsley
  • Zest of one lemon
  • ¼-⅓ cup grated Parmesan
  • Sea salt, nutmeg and back pepper to taste

 Toast soda bread and add to food processor along with peeled garlic cloves and a pinch of salt. Pulse until the bread turns into coarse crumbles.

Add oil and butter to large frying pan and heat over medium high heat until butter is melted.

Add garlic-bread mixture and toast, stirring constantly until bread crumbs are fragrant and brown. I turn the heat down at the end since the crumbs can go from toasted to burnt easily.

When the crumbs have cooled add the parsley, lemon zest and Parmesan and stir thoroughly.

Season to taste with salt, pepper and nutmeg.

 Donegal Oatcakes and Tomato-Rosemary Jam

john barry

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I’ve been home most of this week with FOUR sick kids.  I’m only just getting used to having four children, let alone sick ones.   It’s been snowy and cold here, so if there is a time to be taking care of sick little ones and baking, that time is now.  

This whole cold, snowy weather, sick kids thing could really be a bummer, and while I hate that the kids are off their game, I’m feeling fortunate that it’s not this nasty flu everyone else is getting.  Also, since I’m on maternity leave, I can be here to take care of them.  And do what I would probably be doing anyway: Bake.

It’s funny how I think most people who know me would say that I’m an extrovert, outgoing, social and talkative (“excessive talking” was the comment I would get from every single teacher on my elementary school report cards).  I’m all of those things, but I’m also a homebody to the core. I can go days, weeks even, without leaving the house. I always have a list of projects I want to tackle and it’s so easy for me to just get lost in one or a few of them.  When I’m focused, I don’t notice the hours or days go by.  Paul tells me that he can identify the look in my face when I’m “in the zone” and he knows to just get out of the way. Haha.

My point is, that for me, being snowed in with sick littles isn’t so bad. It’s an opportunity for me to get things done around the house, including trying some recipes I’ve had on my list.  So, once again, I find myself cooking comfort food from the pantry.

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I’ve been wanting to try this simple recipe for Donegal Oatcakes by Darina Allen for ages.  When I surveyed the contents of our fridge and saw tomato-rosemary jam, a by-product of Paul and I both buying grape tomatoes on the same day, I thought it would complement these oatcakes perfectly. Well, as it turns out, I was right. These were nutty and homey and another easy and delicious way to use my favorite Irish flour. They are also great with fruit jam and clotted cream, creme fraiche, or greek yogurt.  They can be taken in the direction of dessert with a generous swipe of nutella - sort of like an oaty, nutty, chocolate digestive. With just five ingredients, and a little time, they couldn't be easier to make.

Put the kettle on.

Donegal Oatcakes

  • 1 cup stone-ground oatmeal
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour, plus more for dusting
  • 2 tbsp. unsalted butter or lard, cubed and chilled, plus butter for serving (optional)
  • 1⁄2 tsp. kosher salt, plus more for sprinkling
  • 1⁄2 cup boiling water

Tomato- RosemaryJam

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  • 2 cups grape tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 sprig fresh rosemary
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ⅓ to ½ cup of sugar

For tomato jam:

Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan and bring to a boil.  Lower heat and simmer until tomatoes cook down and the mixture reaches a thick, jammy consistency, about 1 hour.  Remove rosemary sprig, its ok to leave some whole leaves that have fallen off in the jam. Serve with oatcakes, brown bread, on a grilled cheese or even with chicken, fish or pork.  

For oatcakes:

Add oats, flour, butter and salt to food processor and pulse until butter is in pea-sized clumps.

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Drizzle in boiling water until dough comes together. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and roll into a ½” thick square.  Place a kitchen towel over the top and let sit to dry out for about an hour.

I rolled the dough out between the parchment I baked them on and a sheet of saran wrap. 

I rolled the dough out between the parchment I baked them on and a sheet of saran wrap. 

Preheat oven to 250F.  You can cut the cakes out with a biscuit cutter and gather and reuse the scraps or just cut them into squares as I did.

With this approach, they don't look identical (unless you rolled them out in a perfect rectangle) but I don't mind the "rustic" look.

With this approach, they don't look identical (unless you rolled them out in a perfect rectangle) but I don't mind the "rustic" look.

Sprinkle with coarse sea salt and bake, flipping once, until golden and slightly crisp, about 1 hour and 15 minutes.  Serve warm or at room temperature with butter (or Irish cheddar) and tomato jam.

It's tough to tell from the photo but these did brown slighty on both sides.  They are crisp on the outside and a soft on the inside. 

It's tough to tell from the photo but these did brown slighty on both sides.  They are crisp on the outside and a soft on the inside. 

These last about 1 week in an airtight container.

Noelle, Noelle

john barry

No cooking or baking this week, unless you count this little bun, whose been in the oven for ages and was ready to come out just in time for Christmas.

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We named her Noelle Hikari.  She loves to be held, to eat and to sleep.  So yeah, she's perfect. Emmett and Isla love her to death (almost literally... they will not STOP TOUCHING HER, especially while she's sleeping!!!!) and Eve isn't crazy about her (to say the least).  Now we have 4 kids under the age of 5, which sounds, perhaps IS, insane.  But so far everything has been ok. Chaotic at times but not too different from before.

We've been very lucky to have our support system.  My brother-in-law's willingness to spend the night more than once while we were figuring out whether or not "tonight was the night" I was going to deliver her; my sister-in-law's selflessness in driving two hours each way from Indiana just to wait in the car with Noelle so that I wouldn't have to miss the kids' school program; and a big pot of pozole on the stove ready to be devoured when we arrived home from the hospital, courtesy of our amazing babysitter. I'm not sure I could have thought of anything better to ask for, oh yeah, except a perfect, nearly painless labor, delivery and recovery, which I also had.  And the best doctors ever (my doctor, who is incredible, was in Paul's high school class, which we found out a year and a half ago when she delivered Eve).

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With everything that last week has brought, I've been overwhelmed with gratitude.  On my due date, already home with Noelle for a few days, I was feeling especially grateful to have some time to think about what gifts to give Emmett and Isla's teachers.  Teacher gifts are so, SO tough to think up.  When your kids have great teachers nothing you can afford comes close to being enough.  I know that the best thing to give is  cash but I also like to make something homemade to show them how much we appreciate all that they do for our little ones.  Plus, I think it's good for the kids to be able to give something tangible to their teachers as an expression of their gratitude, even better if they help with the baking and wrapping.

Thus, bound somewhat by what I had in my pantry and because it has become a ritual (ever since Emmett was born), I decided to make granola.  I used my basic recipe/technique that can be found here.

Big Batch Granola Assembly Line

Big Batch Granola Assembly Line

For the teacher gifts, I omitted the egg whites (not everyone likes it clumpy) and used a mix of butter and coconut oil instead of olive oil. For the fruit and nut portion, I used what I had in my pantry: pecan pieces, chopped walnuts, bran flakes, dried apricots, raisins and cranberries and coconut flakes. The recipe makes a ton, but after packing up the jars for the teachers, I wished there were more left over for me! I'll have to make another batch soon.  

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Merry, Merry Christmas to you and yours. Please shop the site for unique Irish Christmas gifts. If you are in the Chicago area, feel free to call the stores and they can set aside items for you to pick up. Traditional Irish and English foods are now stocked at Paddy's on the Square if you are looking for any additions to your Christmas spread. Thanks for reading and welcoming the new year with us!