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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: Soup/Stew

Soup Weather: White Bean and Ham Soup

john barry


I can hardly believe how we’ve gone from sun to soup so quickly. The kids are a constant reminder to be adaptable because they don’t let these changes get to them. If anything, are excited to get our their coats, hats and gloves. Lucky for me, they love soup.  It’s about the only way I can get Emmett or Isla to eat a vegetable. Plus, if I make a big pot of soup on Sunday, I can rest assured that I have something in the house (other than leftover Halloween candy, frozen pizza or mac ‘n cheese) to feed hungry bodies.  #winning.

I like to partially puree the soup so make it thick but without sacrificing all of the chunks.  Isla won’t eat it unless her portion is completely pureed but Emmett, who is getting better about that sort of thing, ate a bowl chunks and all, proudly exclaiming “I just ate a piece of carrot! On purpose!” Eve, of course, is the best and eats it all with abandon.  I’m just waiting for her to get picky but holding out hope that it won’t happen (it will).

White Bean and Ham Soup

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 small yellow onions, chopped
  • 3 stalks of celery, chopped
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • 3 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 2 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • 1 large russet potato, peeled and cubed
  • 1 ham bone (optional)
  • 1 cup cubed cooked ham or Irish bacon
  • 6 cups chicken stock
  • 1 can white (navy) beans or garbanzo beans*

*Usually I would use navy beans for this but I used garbanzos because that’s what I had in the cupboard.

Heat butter in large pot or dutch oven over medium heat.  Add onions, garlic, celery, carrots, rosemary and  thyme and cook until softened, 5 to 10 minutes. Turn the heat down if onions and garlic start to brown too much.

Add potatoes and ham bone (if using) and cook 2 minutes more.

Add chicken stock and turn the heat up until it reaches a boil, scraping brown bits from the sides of the pan.

Turn heat down to a simmer and cook until potatoes are tender, about 30 minutes.

Add beans and diced ham or Irish bacon and cook for 15 minutes more.

Partially puree soup (either by blending about half of it in a blender, or partially pureeing it with a stick blender, making sure to leave chunks of vegetables and meat in tact).

Serve warm with chopped herbs and soda bread.




Chicken Stew (AKA “Chicken and Dumplings without the Dumplings”)

john barry

I bought some leeks specifically for this dish and then totally spaced and forgot to use them.  I blame this on the fact that the day before I tripped over my own foot while taking out the garbage and landed with the full weight of my body on my left pinky finger, rendering that hand pretty much useless. It goes without saying, I am the clumsiest person in the universe, that is, besides my dad (sorry dad).

The good thing about having a family is that, no matter what happens (and of course, I’m blessed if all I have to complain about is a sore hand) babies still need to be held, diapers still must be changed, there are still sets of little teeth to be brushed and everyone’s still gotta eat. Being a mama forces you to WO-man up.  So, cheers to you mamas.  You are the glue.   In keeping with my not-a-New-Year’s-resolution to make weekdays easier by doing more food prep on the weekend, I made this stew, minus the leeks, one-handed.  If you're looking for something easy to make I think this fits the bill. It's kid-friendly, reheats well and warms you up on these brisk days we have as we transition to spring.   

I usually top this dish with buttermilk biscuit batter before I put it in the oven, but this time I left it as is, since my eaters usually prefer rice or brown bread anyway.

Chicken Stew (AKA “Chicken and Dumplings without the Dumplings”)

1 ½ lb chicken thighs, cut into 1” pieces

Salt and pepper

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 onion, chopped

1 large carrot, chopped

2 celery stalks, chopped

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 teaspoon fresh thyme, minced

1 bay leaf

2 tablespoons of dry sherry

3 cups chicken stock

1 ½ cups milk

¼ cup all-purpose flour

1 cup frozen peas

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

Season the chicken all over with salt and pepper. In a large dutch oven, heat the oil over a medium-high heat. Add the chicken to the pan and cook for 8 minutes, stirring occasionally. Transfer the chicken with its juices to a bowl.

Add the onions, carrots and celery to the dutch oven and cook until the vegetables begin to soften, about 5 minutes.

Add the garlic and cook for about 2 minutes more.

Turn the heat up and add the dry sherry until almost all of the liquid has dissolved.  

Add the chicken stock, thyme and bay leaf and turn the heat down to a simmer.

Return the chicken with its juices back to the pan.  

Place milk and flour in a measuring cup with a spout and whisk until flour is completely dissolved and no lumps remain. Add milk mixture to the pot and bring to a simmer.  

Place dutch oven into the oven uncovered for about 40 minutes. Stirring once half-way into the cooking time.  

Set dutch oven back on the stove top over low heat, add frozen peas and cook 3 to 5 minutes more, until peas are warmed through.

Serve with rice, mashed potatoes or bread (or peanut butter and jelly sandwiches! See below).

Keep your microphone handy in case you need to break out in song between bites. 

Keep your microphone handy in case you need to break out in song between bites. 

Emmett elected to have his stew as a second course.  Goes well with all that peanut butter and jelly still on his face.

Emmett elected to have his stew as a second course.  Goes well with all that peanut butter and jelly still on his face.

The Wind that Shakes the Barley: Irish History and Beef and Barley Soup

john barry

Beef and Barley Soup.  I eat all my soup topped with hot sauce, plain yogurt and something green. 

Beef and Barley Soup.  I eat all my soup topped with hot sauce, plain yogurt and something green. 

Reading Tread Softly on My Dreams has really got me interested in Irish history.  I’m now reading the next book in the Liberty Trilogy and lately, I’m bordering on obsessed. Like please-stop-reading-for-a-few-minutes-because-it’s-time-to-tuck-your-children-into-bed obsessed. Have you heard the song "The Wind that Shakes the Barley"? It’s in the movie of the same name. According to wikipedia:

“The song is written from the perspective of a doomed young Wexford rebel who is about to sacrifice his relationship with his loved one and plunge into the cauldron of violence associated with the 1798 rebellion in Ireland. The references to barley in the song derive from the fact that the rebels often carried barley or oats in their pockets as provisions for when on the march. This gave rise to the post-rebellion phenomenon of barley growing and marking the "croppy-holes," mass unmarked graves into which slain rebels were thrown, symbolizing the regenerative nature of Irish resistance to British rule. As the barley will grow every year in the Spring time of the year this is said to symbolize Irish resistance to British oppression and that Ireland will never yield and will always oppose British rule on the island.”

It makes you think of barley in a whole new light doesn’t it?

I was already a big fan of barley, it’s whole grain, healthy and delicious. Whenever I think of barley, I remember scorching hot  summers spent in Japan, drinking ice cold barley tea and slurping up bowls of cold noodles. I think of my grandmother, and my best friend’s mom, each of whom knew exactly what I liked to eat and always made sure I got the best bites.

It’s probably not the picture most Americans have in their mind’s eye when they think of barley.  I would venture to guess that Beef and Barley soup is the most common way we consume barley here in the U.S.  I love it in soup too, soup lover that I am. So I was pleased to see that, one of my favorite food websites, recently included a recipe for Beef and Barley Soup as one of their best in 2016.  It might just be one of my best for 2017. You can view the recipe here.

This soup is perfect for a cold February day, even though I have no complaints at all about the winter we have had this year.

And, just in case you are interested, here are the words to that beautiful, sad song.

I sat within a valley green,
I sat there with my true love,
My sad heart strove the two between,
The old love and the new love, -
The old for her, the new that made
Me think of Ireland dearly,
While soft the wind blew down the glade
And shook the golden barley.

Twas hard the woeful words to frame
To break the ties that bound us
Twas harder still to bear the shame
Of foreign chains around us
And so I said, "The mountain glen
I'll seek next morning early
And join the brave United Men!"
While soft winds shook the barley.

While sad I kissed away her tears,
My fond arms 'round her flinging,
The foeman's shot burst on our ears,
From out the wildwood ringing, -
A bullet pierced my true love's side,
In life's young spring so early,
And on my breast in blood she died
While soft winds shook the barley!

I bore her to the wildwood screen,
And many a summer blossom
I placed with branches thick and green
Above her gore-stain'd bosom:-
I wept and kissed her pale, pale cheek,
Then rushed o'er vale and far lea,
My vengeance on the foe to wreak,
While soft winds shook the barley! 

But blood for blood without remorse,
I've ta'en at Oulart Hollow 
And placed my true love's clay-cold corpse
Where I full soon will follow;
And round her grave I wander drear,
Noon, night and morning early,
With breaking heart whene'er I hear
The wind that shakes the barley!