Irish Shortbread Recipe & Ireland Travel Notes

butter shortbread

Over dinner on my final night in Ireland, one of the other diners who is Irish said to me, “I just came back from Paris…”, and he hesitated for a moment, and continued “…and the food wasn’t very good.” It’s probably unimaginable a few years ago that someone from Ireland would be criticizing the quality of French cooking. But it shows how far Irish cooking has come.

pint of guinness Irish coffee

I was recounting that story to someone over lunch yesterday back in Paris, who assured me that I was fortunate to have eaten so well during my trip. So of course, there’s good and not-good restaurants in every country, but over my dinner in Cork, Ireland, diving in to a pan-seared dry-aged steak, a pile of freshly sautéed spinach, and crisp French fries made from real potatoes and cooked so each one had a deep-brown crust, I had to say that in addition to the multiple Irish coffees, the rest of the food I had in Ireland was fresh, well-prepared, and surprisingly good.


potatoes for sale

Of course, finishing meals off with sweets like warm sticky toffee pudding didn’t hurt, either.

sticky toffee pudding in Ireland

Especially good were the cheeses, which I stocked up on at the Midleton farmer’s market and brought back home. I had a moment of doubt when I went back to the hotel and left them to sit for a while, and noticed a peculiar odor in my room. And I think the housekeeper must have her doubts, too, because when I came back later, they were sitting outside, on the windowsill.

irishman Justin

I had the classic ‘overhead bin vs. carry-on’ crisis when packing and recalled once when I made a long transatlantic flight, upon arrival, I sprung open the overhead bin and the stink of ripe Camembert wafted across aisles 19 to 27, and I could see reactions spanning from rows A through F. Fortunately the flight had come from France so no one really said anything.

cows

However just in case, I picked up a sealable plastic container and the cheeses made it back with me without stinking up the rest of my clothes, or those of my fellow passengers. (I opted for checked bags this time, due to the short flight.)

another butter swirl butter machine

And the butter. I’ve never had Irish butter before, and indeed the butter in France is one of its strong points. It’s one of the reasons I live in France.

churning butter blog

But if I ever move, it’s likely to retire on the greener isles of Ireland. (Although I’ll never get used to driving on the opposite side of the road, so I’d not likely live there very long…) But the butter was pure yellow, not pallid white, and when I tasted it all by itself, it had the rich dairy flavor. Butter isn’t just something to bake or cook with, it’s a flavor, too. Which is something that often gets forgotten.

dog and cat

And although I love French cheese, I appreciate the offerings in Ireland and the United Kingdom. And I’m seeing them more and more of them represented in some of the better cheese shops in Paris.

milking equipment

In fact, when I went to the Salon du Fromage in Paris last year with a group of my American friends, we dialed in on the Irish and British cheeses there and basically parked ourselves firmly in front of their giant wheels of sharp cheddar, not moving while they fed us triangles of cheese, ignoring their Gallic counterparts.

(Actually it was the French cheese representatives that were ignoring us. Instead of talking to attendees, unless you were a young, attractive woman, they were sitting in the back of their booth drinking Champagne with their friends while we floundered around, looking for someone to help us.)

irish milk producer Irish cream

In Ireland, I was traveling with a small group of food writers and recipe developers. We’d been invited by the Irish Dairy Board to come to their country and see how butter and cheese are made. In all my years of using butter, I’d never been to a butter plant, so you can imagine how anxious I was to finally have the chance to go to one. I spent a morning in the butter processing plant, and although it was quite modern, it was a small facility, and it was interesting to see how small-scale the butter making operations were.

Irish creamery butter

(I also think they might have scooted me out before lunchtime because they were afraid I’d get butter-fingered and slide a few pounds into my pockets.)

Ireland

But what struck me most about Ireland were the vast expanses of water, the lush green hills, grass so green, when I looked at my pictures, I could have sworn that a gremlin got into my camera and dialed up the saturation. The people were so unguarded and friendly. And every time I looked out the window, there was always something mesmerizing to look at.

I sensed a genuine warmth from the Irish people, perhaps because they live on a small Island which although has had its share of problems, it seems that family and community is still important. (Perhaps that’s why some of the strife that has divided the country is taken to extremes.) And cows were everywhere.

I would imagine there’s a certain amount of large industry in Ireland, but in the drives that I took, even the three hour trip from Dublin to Cork, it was grass, cows, trees, and cows. And more cows.

cows for blog


Some of the highlights of the trip:

pumpkins Irish soda bread

Over breakfast my first morning in Cork, when I came down sleepy-eyed and surveyed the lovely breakfast spread, Aisling O’Callaghan, who owns the Longueville House with her chef-husband William, told me they were a historic inn and thus were prevented from serving butter in individual packets or commercial jam packed in small jars.

All the jams and compotes were made from fruit grown just outside. Thick, gloppy Irish cream was heaped in a bowl next to hot scones. And there were generous bowls of fruit, all from their gardens. I have to apologize to those who slept in for taking more than my share of the Autumn Bliss raspberries, but you snooze, you lose.

raspberries and currants

Due to a flight cancellation, I arrived just in the nick of time for dinner the night before, where others were exclaiming that they’d seen the largest berries of their life in the walled garden of the residence. So I guess you could say they did indeed get first dibs. So I don’t feel all that bad for them.

irish flame cooking ducks

I can’t resist going into a restaurant kitchen, even after spending my entire life working in them (perhaps that because they’re the only places I feel truly comfortable) Chef William O’Callaghan gave me a peek in his kitchen along with the small walk-in refrigerator, where I noticed a gaggle of ducks hanging up. When I asked where he got them, he replied, “Oh, there’s certainly no shortage of hunters around these parts, David!” Which made me realize how truly deep in the countryside we were.

scones fresh apple juice

There was apple juice from their own orchards and smoked salmon as well. I’m normally not a big breakfast person, but on the last day I decided to have the “full Irish”, just because I was in Ireland and it would be foolish not to try it. I like sausage, but first thing in the morning, I wasn’t sure I could handle a big plate of greasy links, eggs, and fried potatoes

full irish breakfast

So imagine how happy I was when they brought out a nice, neat plate of a variety of sausages with a fluffy fried potato cake alongside, and two farm eggs. Along with a slice of their brown bread, and some scones and jam (you know, I know I said I didn’t eat much in the morning…but how could I resist scones with housemade jam?), I decided that breakfast very well could go back to being my favorite meal of the day.

scone and jam, with cream

Longueville House & Restaurant
Mallow, Co. Cork



justin blog

When I die, I want to come back as the ghost that haunts Ballyvolane House. In fact, they said one of them in French, and he’s nice. So perhaps it’s a possibility. Justin and Jenny Green welcomed us into their gorgeous manor and I had a meal that was one of the best I’ve had in years.

lettuce

Justin walked us around the well-groomed grounds before sitting down to eat, and it was nice to see all the fruit and vegetables, which they use in their cookery.

We didn’t see their salmon fishery, but we did go to visit the pigs. Each one was about the circumference of a Smart car, and seemed docile enough, although one randy one began sniffing around my trousers and made a beeline for the chapstick in my pocket. From what my Irish male friends call “The Curse of the Irish”, it’s likely he was confusing the diminutive lip balm in my trouser pocket with something else, thinking I was an Irishman.

artichokes barn door

But they say pigs are very intelligent animals, which must be true, because he quickly ascertained that I wasn’t Irish and lost interest whatever was in my pants and made a beeline under the skirt of a female guest. Being a New Yorker, she was no stranger to unwanted advances, and fended off the beast.

I sat next to Roshin, a lovely Irish lass, who charmed me throughout the meal, almost as much as the ‘champ’ (mashed potatoes) that was generously piled into a bowl and scattered with chives, both from the garden we’d just visited.

The young server brimming with adolescent excitement was a bit giddy, likely reflecting his youth, and I think I scared him when he asked if I’d like anything to drink after dinner, and I replied, “Yes, I’d like a glass of fresh-squeezed watermelon juice, please.”

The poor kid, who was taking his job so seriously, got the brunt of my sense of humor and I stumped him for a minute, although he tried not to miss a beat. Without breaking a beat, and continuing to smile broadly, he said, “I’m sorry. I don’t think we have that here, sir.” But dessert of fresh lemon posset (a whipped cream-enriched mousse) with fresh wild blackberries along with fresh mint infusion from the garden was probably a wiser choice to after dinner anyways. But the scare was good practice for me, for when I eventually start haunting this house in my (hopefully) distant future.

Ballyvolane House
Castlelyons, Fermoy, Co. Cork



fried egg at the Tannery fried egg

I once cancelled a reservation at a restaurant because I saw on the menu a single egg that had what I thought sounded like a pretentious name. I like eggs quite a bit and am always up for a good egg for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. But it’s like saying, “One perfect egg” or “An excellent slice of apple”; it just seems goofy to me to use such language to describe a simple dish.

However the fried egg that Chef Paul Flynn made for me for breakfast at the The Tannery was nothing short of perfect. Golden-yellow with bits of crunchy Maldon salt embedded in the yolk, it was gooey perfection speared up with slices of fresh Irish soda bread.

sara kate and waitress

Chef Flynn doesn’t normally serve breakfast but he did just for us, and it included fresh Raspberry Muffins and yogurt parfaits. And the strong coffee? I had four cups.

yogurt & granola

At our dinner the previous evening, we had his local version of Bouillabaise, which was made with locally-sourced fish and giant potatoes from, where else?—you guessed it; their garden just outside. I slipped away with his recipe for Irish Oatcakes and I’m going to share that recipe here on the site in the near future, because they’re one of my favorite things in the world and I can’t believe how easy they are to make.

The Tannery
10 Quay Street
Dungarvan, Co. Waterford



grainy breads english market Cork

Even after I’d spent the morning at the Midleton Farmer’s Market, during a few hours of downtime, Sara Kate Gillingham-Ryan of The Kitchn (beaming above, just after our buttery breakfast), and I, decided to hit the English Market in Cork. This thriving indoor market has a jumble of things, from twirls of sausages to puckery green limequats.

twirled sausages mandarins

I was about to pick out a loaf of bread to bring home with me and when I asked for one, instead of just bagging it up and handing it over, and explained what all the breads she offered had in them. She was just lovely and the bread, when I got it home, had a slightly sweet, nutty crumb and went well with the cheeses I brought home along with the bread.

smoked ox tongues

Even though the smoked ox tongues were “only” €7, I managed to resist those. I did, however, pick up a few jars of dark Irish honey and one bulging sack of limequats. But I presume if I ever change my mind about those ox tongues, a few might still be there.

Cork English Market


shortbread and jam shortbread dough


Irish Shortbread
Twelve wedges

Shortbread is traditionally associated with Scotland, but with all the terrific butter in Ireland, why confine it to one country? This recipe comes from Kerrygold, who provided this recipe for shortbread, which I’ve adapted.

I had never had Irish butter before this trip and I can honestly say it is really lovely butter, with a pronounced dairy taste and as good as some of the butters I’ve had in France. Since shortbread has a lot of butter in it, be sure to use a good-quality butter, the best you can get—no matter where you live.

1 1/4 cups (180 g) all-purpose flour, preferably unbleached
1/2 cup (65 g) corn starch
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/2 cup (100 g) sugar
8 ounces (225 g) best-quality salted butter, cubed and chilled
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. Preheat the oven to 300ºF (150ºC).

2. Lightly butter a 9-inch (23 cm) tart ring or springform pan with a removable bottom.

(I used an open tart ring placed on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper.)

3. Whisk together the flour, corn starch, salt, and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer.

4. Add the butter and mix on low speed until the mixture starts coming together in clumps.

5. Add the vanilla and continue to mix until the dough forms solid clumps.

6. Use the heel of you hand to press the dough evenly into the tart pan. (If using a springform pan, you can use the bottom of a glass to tamp it evenly into the pan. A sprinkle of flour or confectioners sugar may be needed if it’s sticking too much.) You want the top to be a smooth as possible.

7. With a sharp knife, score the shortbread into twelve even wedges and prick each wedge three time with the tines of a fork.

(Note: When I baked these at home, using French butter, both the score marks and the tines disappeared. So be aware that that’s something that might happen. If so, just continue on and cut the shortbread as directed in the next step.)

8. Bake the shortbread for 45 to 55 minutes, or until the top is light golden brown. Remove from oven and immediately use a sharp knife to cut completely through the dough, where you previously marked it, into wedges. Let the shortbread cool completely in the pan. Once cool remove the outer ring of the tart (or springform) pan, and separate the wedges.

Storage: Shortbread will keep for up to one week in an airtight container. It can also be frozen, if well-wrapped, for up to two months.

Recipe Notes: The original recipe said that if using salted butter, reduce the amount of salt to 1/8 teaspoon. But I like the taste of salt and salted butter, so I used the quantities listed in the recipe. If you wish, you can follow their guidelines.

Potato starch is often used as a substitute for corn starch. I haven’t tried it, but you are welcome to try it if corn starch is unavailable where you live.

Related Posts

Brown Bread

Real Irish Coffee

Ballymaloe Cookery School

Plum-Rhubarb Crisp

Making Irish Butter

Midleton Farmers Market

Europe Dining and Travel Archives

rainbow

(As noted in the post, this trip was organized with the assistance of the Irish Dairy Board. This is not a sponsored post nor was any compensation received for writing it or mentioning any products. For additional information, read my Disclosure Statement.)

98 comments

  • Nice way to start my day, with my mouth watering after reading this recipe and the lovely photographs of the same. David, which brand would you describe as the best butter to buy for this recipe in the US, that I can buy in NYC?
    Regards
    Sri

  • Take me there now! These pictures are amazing! I too am not a breakfast person (only because I always have my sights set on lunch and especially dinner) but that Irish breakfast would keep me happy all day!

    Also love how one of the main reasons you live in France is because of the butter. Makes total sense!

  • It’s all I can do to not just get up from my desk and hop on the next flight. I’m really glad you enjoyed your time in Ireland and had so many positive things to say about it! Especially when it comes to the food. The country really is more than the pub food (not that pub food is bad by any means.)

  • thanks for the beautiful words and photos about ireland! this post came just in time; i leave to ireland tomorrow!

  • A wonderful followup post on Ireland. What are those delectable-looking ‘biscuits’ next to the photo of the apple juice? …and what is the golden-brown item in the lower right corner of your breakfast plate? I don’t think they are the same, the latter looks maybe something potato-based? Is it?

    As to the comments about poor food in France, after years saying “I never had a bad meal ANYWHERE in France…except for one place in the south” —sadly, in more recent times, I have had several extremely disappointing experiences.

    Since last year in Paris, Brasserie Lipp is off my list forever. Once a charmer for rustic fare. Biggest letdown of all was at Le Grand Colbert—where sucked in by the scene in the film: “Something Gotta Give” the food, the service was dreadful. I wondered had I know or read your post re Jane Meyers and been able to drop her name would things have gone better? Nah! Our table was not alone in its dismay that night and many others decided it was also their first and last time visit.

    But, on the brighter…looks like Irish shortbread is on my to-do list for the weekend! Thanks!

  • Last week while on vacation in France I took a train from Nice to Nimes, and at noontime an old French lady took out a homemade sandwich that immediately made the entire train car stink like cheese. No one said anything – in fact I think it was the cue for everyone to take out their home-made lunches as well!

  • How bizarre!

    This morning as I read and loved this wonderful followup post on Ireland, I was motivated to respond. My usual anal spell check and preview before posting and click send.

    Looked fine. As I returned to the main page I happened to read further about ‘bad’ cookies, and as Mac user/Firefox browser…I followed the directions after I closed out my visit to your site. Closed the browser and returned to your site – my comment was no longer visible, nor was the one from someone else who posted after mine. Bad, bad cookie! indeed. Cookie gremlins, maybe!

    I am hesitant to rewrite…afraid of duplication in that my initial post might show up. Oh, well…I’ll try again! See what happens…

    Love the photos? By the way, what is on (biscuit) the tray next to the photo of the apple juice? And what is the golden-brown item on the lower right of your breakfast plate? Is it something potato-based? Both look delectably tasty.

    Irish shortbread – definitely on my to-do list for the weekend! Kerrygold is available here in Maine! Thank goodness!

  • Aside from these few words I write thanking you for a wonderful entry, I believe you said it all, and beautifully. Now I must figure out a way to get there. Wonderful writing, and good images. Thanks again.

  • I really, really, really want to go to Ireland! I had the chance to spend a couple days in London this last spring, and loved the cheese. I was unsure about bringing it home to Canada, though, so sadly none came home with me.
    This shortbread recipe is very similar to what I traditionally make. I don’t add vanilla to mine because I don’t want anything to interfere with that lovely buttery flavour, and I always use icing (powdered) sugar. It makes for a smoother, more melt in your mouth shortbread. I’ve also never made mine into one large round, always individual cookies. I think I will have to try the round sometime.

  • Lisa: I used to make shortbread with rice flour but I don’t live anywhere near a store (usually an Asian market) that carries it and was anxious to make the shortbread, so I followed their recipe pretty faithfully. It turned out lovely, but confectioner’s sugar is certainly another option. (And Canada is a tricky place to get in and out of, as I’ve had problems at the border just going there for a few days..)

    Marlene: Sorry you had troubles, and I share your pain (I had a few blog entries vanish because of the problem) but it seems to be okay now and glad your comment made it through : )

    I’ve actually had a few good meals at Le Grand Colbert, although have heard others report otherwise. Lipp I’ve never been to but I’ve heard they can be terribly unfriendly, but I love the look of it.

    The potato thing on the sausage plate was a fried puff of potato that was wonderfully light and delicious! The biscuits above were some rolls the kitchen was making for dinner.

  • Lovely post!!

    In the shortbread recipe, do you think that I could substitute using the stand mixer for the method that you use for making your french tart dough (melting the butter in the oven in a pyrex bowl and then adding the dry mix to form a dough)? I don’t have a stand mixer, so I’m trying to think of alternatives. I could probably just mix by hand, but was wondering if the tart dough method would work…

    Thanks!

  • Oh David,

    You reminded me that the absolute best breakfast I was ever ever served was in Dublin at a little B&B quite stuffed with Victoriana. It started with oats and ended with scones – in between there were eggs and sausages and a cake! We had to be rolled out of the room and couldn’t imagine eating again before 7pm. And truly, though I haven’t been all over the world, the Irish are the friendliest I’ve encountered anywhere and all the children are beautiful.
    I think I need to go back … Oh and the shortbread is on the list for tomorrow!

  • I love shortbread and so did my father. For years I made it for him for Christmas. My recipe does not call for cornstarch and I wonder what the difference is? Does it give it a lighter texture? Thanks so much for the lovely post :)

  • Lovely pictures. It made me wish I had an Ireland vacation booked. Thanks for lightening up my day.

  • I feel like you wrote this recipe out just for me since I’d told you my sad story of using Irish butter with less than stellar results in my shortbread experiment. I did go to the Kerrigold site and bookmarked the recipe at that time. Shortbread is probably my very favorite cookie. Last Christmas I used pounds (yes, pounds!) of butter trying to bake the perfect shortbread where the flavor and texture seems only live in my minds tastebuds! I got close, but didn’t quite get that elusive balance of butter/wheat flavor that I’m sure I’ve tasted before. What did you think of the shortbread from this recipe? You didn’t go into detail. Please do!

  • Who knew there were so many good eats in Ireland where a 7 course meal is a potato and a 6 pack of beer? I spent a week in Scotland and could not find a single decent meal…..and assumed Ireland would yield the same bland, heavy foods. After reading your many, delicious posts I am ready for a visit to the land of the leprechan :)

  • I meant to ask…In this recipe, did you age the butter as suggested by one comment on the butter post?

  • Mmm, oatcakes. One year, for a Menu for Hope prize, I won a “teatime package” from a blogger in London. One of the many awesome things she sent was a box of Ditty’s Irish Smoked Oatcakes. I’ve never had anything like it, which stinks; to this day, it’s one of the best things I’ve ever eaten. Smoked oats. Amazing.

  • Another beautiful post. I’ve always wanted to visit Ireland and if I ever get the chance, I’ll have to follow in your footsteps. Love the stinky cheese stories :)

  • We flew Aer Lingus to the States last summer, and the only redeeming thing about the meal they served was the little pats of Kerrygold butter. (Fortunately, I’d planned ahead and filled up on fish and chips at the airport.)

  • What a beautiful post! I wish I could beam myself in it. Your words and pictures really captured the beauty of Ireland – people, food, and landscape. Thanks for bringing us along on your trip.

  • OMG David! You’re killing me. How incredible is this?

  • All of my favorite things about Ireland cleverly and deliciously summed up with generosity and also a little wink. Love it. Wish I could have met you when you were here…alas, must sign up for one of your events in Paris soon. Imen x

  • I am going to Dublin next week and the thing I look most forward to is warm soda bread with fresh melting butter on it. I could live on that. Not necessarily very long but with a smile on my face.

  • Wonderful post, David. I visited western Ireland a couple of years ago, and the food was uniformly wonderful. I can’t wait to return to this beautiful country.

  • France has so many things to love, but it must be nice to be in a country where you can understand and participate in the humor :) French humor is so bad!

  • I’ve been lurking on your site for well over a year and have never posted. That warm sticky toffee pudding looks incredible, and I almost shed a tear when I clicked on the link that provides a recipe – merci. It looks like you had an incredible trip – I love the cat on the dog – see they do get along :), and is that Justin Green who is so easy on the eyes? If so, definitely do haunt Ballyvolane! Thanks for all the great reads, recipes and tips!

  • i love the picture of the butter! It looks like Butter Toffee which is the newest food I want to invent. Thanks for all the info, David.

  • Oh what lovely pictures! We went to Ireland for a second honeymoon a few years ago and have been thinking we need to go again – now I really want to and have some new places to stay and to dine. And yes you’re right, I don’t know if it is the green of the landscape or the quality of the light but every color seems supersaturated there.

    You have also given me an excuse to pick up some Kerrygold butter which our Costco now carries to try this shortbread.

  • Bringing cheese in your carry-on is a very bad idea these days. In many airports (including Paris) it is considered a liquid or gel (!!) and it will be taken away. A lot of people seem to think it is illegal to bring cheese from one country to another but except maybe Australia an NZ — where they will inspect your toothbrush for pollen — it is usually allowed. Most countries do not allow you to bring fresh cheese in whey, but cured cheeses are OK. Exceptions may apply when outbreaks such as mad cow disease occur.

    Here is a detailed list of what you can bring into the US http://help.cbp.gov/app/answers/detail/a_id/82 I have never heard of any restrictions for bringing food products into France. If anyone knows for sure I’d love to know.

  • Incredible photos, you do local flavor so well. Snick about the pig story! I look forward to your next book, I so hope you have one germinating.

  • I really enjoyed looking at all the pictures. The food looks amazing.

  • David,
    Oh how I want to go now! Lovely pictures as usual, it seems that all colors are more vibrant in Ireland. How wonderful it must be having all that space to grow so many fruits and veggies and to just be able to harvest and eat them! The shortbread looks very yummy, a nice cup of tea would be a perfect companion! Oh, and clotted cream, it’s my mum’s favorite!

  • I love Ireland and want to go back so badly! Would have to include a trip to the Jameson distillery for the Booze Hound :) Irish butter is amazing, and it’s refreshing to hear you speak of butter so highly, in general. One of my favorite foods! Love the pictures, too!

  • Thank you for sharing your Ireland trip with all of us! I really enjoyed the journey… your pictures are gorgeous and you tell a story so well… I had a great time reading each post… May the road rise up to meet you, David…

  • This has truly inspired me to visit Ireland. So amazingly natural and delicious. Which season/month would you suggest?

  • Fantastic account David! Looks like you had a great time. I give thanks butter for where I am today. Happy, healthy and glowing. As a native New Zealander we have fabulous dairy thanks to our happy cows and clean green paddocks that run the length and breadth of the country. My grandparents ran a sharemilking farm so I’ve got milk running through my veins!

    Now that I live in Sydney I MISS my New Zealand butter and have luckily found a source for my blocks of gold right here in the heart of the Sydney City.Its quite incredible what one will do for a slither of great butter.

    I made brown sugar shortbread last night to celebrate a fridge full of New Zealand gold ( swoon) and I was so impressed to see your photo of the WAIKATO mark four milk meter which comes all the way from New Zealand! Waikato is a area just outside of Auckland that is famous for its dairy.

    Having a shortbread bikkie with a cup of tea right now! thanks for reminding me David!!

  • I have really appreciated your Irish posts – being Irish, and yet to visit there. Is it more green than Switzerland? I have been to so many countries – but ne’er there.
    Ah, well. Someday. Sooner than later… it is definitely on the list – but, Egypt, Machu Piccu, Spain and Greece are first. Ireland is #6.
    WOnderful read… and better keep that chap stick in your shirt pocket when travelling in Ireland.
    :)
    Valerie

  • Lovely entry David! The photos, the Guinness, butter, scones, bread, fresh apple juice, spinach, shortbread!! Mmm! Do you drink the black stuff, by the way? Aren’t there just immense shades of green there, they pop up all over and your camera cannot capture the beauty fairly enough.

  • Even though I’m a night-owl, I’d definitely get up early for those glorious raspberries. Even in season in Australia, they’re at least $7 a punnet. GACK! And that dog and cat photo… priceless!

  • I can’t help but smile when I see your pix of those lovely, lively Irish cows! I was transfixed by them during our first trip to that lovely island, and probably took more pictures of cows than anything else!

  • I love the picture of the dog and cat friends!

    Someone else asked this as well–do you know a good brand of butter available in the US that even approaches the Irish kind? I use Plugra for baking, but it doesn’t even come close to that beautiful gold color in your pictures…

  • I just read in one of those free Metro newspapers that an increasing number of foreign tourists in Paris, especially the Germans and tourists from the rest of France, are disappointed with the gastronomy here. Maybe Paris restaurateurs should take a lesson from those in Ireland? Beautiful pictures as always!

  • Like you, we enjoyed wonderfully fresh food while in Ireland. The key for us was to stay at quaint B&Bs off the beaten path. Most of them had beautiful kitchen gardens filled with hearty veggies and fruits. Once the owner realized that we LOVE food the menu would suddenly expand to include the owners favorite dishes. It was pure heaven! I gained more weight during those two weeks than any of our other travel. It was worth every pound.

  • Sri and Skippy: Since I haven’t lived in the US since 2003, I don’t know what butters are available. Much depends on region and availability. Now many farmers markets have butter producers selling handmade butters, and stores carry brands like Vermont Butter and Cheese, Kerrygold, and various “European-style” butters.

    Maria: Like many other countries, France is going through a period of industrialization of their food supply. There are still lots of good places to eat, but gone are the days when you could just stop into a local café or restaurant in Paris and be assured of a good meal. (Many of us have given up on the classic brasseries, which are just serving frozen food or food that’s prepared with oversight by accountants, not chefs.)

    I’m confident there will be a ‘bounce back’, like one that’s going on in the states and elsewhere, when people see what they’re on the verge of losing here. And I see encouraging signs of it in CSA boxes, small restaurants that source good products, and pride in their artisan breads.

    lizzie: I loved the cows and waded out in the fields in my wellie’s to see them up close. Just gorgeous countryside..

    sophie: Thanks for the link. Those rules do change so folks should check back before trips. I don’t know if there are rules for what can be brought in to France, though.

  • Thank you for another wonderful story about your travels in Ireland!
    Never been there, but after reading about your experiences there, I want to go too!

    In the meantime, I shall pick up a brick of that Kerry Gold, next time I visit my local supermarket (even the smallest one seems to carry at least French and Irish butter in addition to local products). Austria’s farmers produce excellent butter, from mountain meadows to the Danube plains, from sweet and from sour cream, but a little foreign excursion can do any harm! ;-)

  • I love shortbreads, last week i cooked some. I also think it´s time to visit Ireland. Kind regards, love your blog :)
    Marta

  • David…you’ve made the decision easy…next year it’s Ireland for our family vacation….only wish I could hop a plane now! Thanks for your wonderful writing and recipes; always the highlight of my day! Will be in Paris at the end of the month for a week…my printouts of your blog entries are at least 2 inches high! I hope a European travel book is in your future; if not, your publisher isn’t paying attention. Your way with words and pictures is superb!

  • P.S.: The yogurt parfaits look delicious. What’s under the yogurt…is it fruit jam or pieces of fresh fruit?

  • This is an exquisite post! I once planned a trip to Ireland in order to introduce her to my dear Erin, but for some forgotten reason the trip fell through. Now I am tempted to ask her if maybe Ireland and Mum might figure in her plans once more.

    As to the butter: I have found a brand of butter here that is cultured and has that deep taste which I thought was lost forever in the dumbing down of food we’ve been experiencing. I shall toss some into that recipe and see if Italian shortbread can live up to the challenge.

  • A beautiful post. My nouth is literally watering and now I’m so, so homesick for Ireland…

    Thank you for showing some of the wonderful sides of Ireland :)

  • Great post with gorgeous pictures that make me incredibly homesick for this country that isn’t even really my home.

  • Oh, I enjoyed reading this!

    David – a wee correction: you refer to “Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom”. Err – the Republic of Ireland is an entirely separate nation from the UK. Referring to someone from the Republic as being British is worse than saying a New Zealander is from Australia! Now, Northern Ireland has been attached to Great Britian/the UK since the partition in the early 1920s, hence “The Troubles” ever since.

    Yes, I’m 1/4 Irish!

  • I go to Ireland frequently and have always eaten well much to the surprise of the French friends I’ve been with. May I suggest that one of the best ways to see Ireland is a walking or cycling tour. You stay in the country B&Bs and those breakfasts are routine.

  • Ahhh I’ve always wanted to go to Ireland. And those raspberries have inspired me to make a trip. Soon.

    As for that Salon with all the inattentive cheese attendants….there really is nothing in Paris you can’t get as an attractive(ish. You don’t even need to be that attractive.) young woman…insert random ethnic roots and ability to speak French, not English, and you’re set. Man, I am so moving to Paris. Also, soon. I hope. Yeah that’s not happening. But Ireland might!

  • All one has to say is Sticky Toffee Pudding, I think of heaven, A man in California makes a living selling it at a Sunday market, when I make it I double the sticky each time, I would love to drink it, I dont tell anyone that it is only cream butter and a bit of brown sugar, The best I can get my hands on.,I go to Ireland several times a year, no longer on the tour bus, but now the babysitting Grandma, sadly the grandchildren are not given cream , butter , sugars, , So that is what grandparents are for ! ! !
    I do so enjoy reading you.

  • love this……I’m jealous! But it does send me straight back to my office(kitchen) to try and recreate!!!

  • Congrats on your mention in GOOP! I got the newsletter this morning in my inbox, and was happy to see you were included in the list of food blogs. Gwyneth is digging you!!

  • About travelling with whiffy cheese, once a French friend flew from Paris to Amsterdam for a dinner party with a LOT of cheeses in her suitcase which was sent somewhere else. After two weeks, the fragrant suitcase was finally delivered by some poor person. Needless to say, she had to thow out all the clothes.

    As for rice flour, you can get it in French healthfood shops, wholemeal as well! shortbread made with wholemeal flour is even more delicious. The nutty flavour enhances the butteryness, or perhaps it’s vice versa.

    Thank you for another evocative post!

  • Ireland is definitely on my list after I’m sick of Italy.
    David are you going to be in San Francisco this Sunday signing your book?

  • I am normally a silent admirer of your blog but this post has roused my voice! I have taken no less than 15 trips to Ireland and breakfast there is always outstanding, even in the cafeteria at the Dublin Airport. But the breakfast at Longueville House in Co. Cork that I ate sometime back in the 1990s was my all-time favorite. I couldn’t figure out why the rashers (i.e., bacon slices) were so much smaller than I was used to, when my husband explained that they must have been made in-house from small pigs raised on their own farm. Ireland can be a paradise of farm-to-table cooking and eating and it’s so wonderful to read about old favorites and new places that I can’t wait to try. You really outdid yourself with this post.

  • Hi David, always love your posts. But I’m sad that recently when they come to my inbox they no longer have a picture! I find your photography is one of the things that draws me to your blog each day and without an image in the email I’ve noticed I’m not clicking through to read the post as often.

    That said, I’ve added “quality salted butter” to my shopping list so I can make this lovely shortbread soon.

  • alex: I mentioned that in the previous post, about the tech issues I am working as best I can to resolve. Unfortunately my tech knowledge hovers around zero and I can’t get any answers, so for now, the feed and the emails that people will receive will just have a link to the updated entry and users will have to click on that to read the post.

    As mentioned, it’s something that I am hoping to get fixed as soon as I can. Thank you for your patience.

    Nica: Nice to know that they were doing a good job way back when as well!

    Maya: Thanks!

  • Yeah, I wouldn’t really think of Ireland as a food destination, but you’ve proved me wrong! Short bread is one of my all-time favorites…how about the toffee pudding recipe as well!

  • I’ve never made shortbread and this one looks like a good starting recipe! Thanks a lot!

    -Amalia

  • This brings back lots of memories – It used to be my “job” as a kid to make the shortbread cookies on Christmas Eve….It’s been over 25 years since I traveled to Ireland – but it looks like the bed and breakfast meals are still as hardy!!

    Beautiful photographs.

    Congrats on being featured by Gwyneth on Goop!

  • David: When can we expect the oatcake recipe? And is there an Irish Soda bread recipe in the future (or past, that I’ve missed)?

  • I love shortbread and my mouth is watering now lovely job!

  • I travelled to Ireland last fall and was amazed by how good the food was. Fresh–everything tasted pure, unprocessed, and fresh. A pleasant surprise, since I was anticipating a hit-or-miss experience. We didn’t have one bad meal–and almost all of them were memorable.

    My sister hung out with a group of Irish people when she first moved to San Francisco. She said they’d lament the state of American food constantly, pining for home cooked meals and claiming “The butter is better back home” in their lyrical beautiful accents. She found it annoying and secretly thought, “then go back to Ireland for your butter.” She visited Ireland and upon first tasting their butter immediately understood why they were so homesick for their butter.

  • Loved this post – beautiful pictures and a great story. Especially loved the anecdote about the pig and the chapstick.

  • I love your blog. Mum and I are going to Ireland next year and I am jotting down all these spots now. I really enjoy your reviews – you should be getting kick-backs from the tourist bureau’s. Did you have to go on a diet when you got home?

  • Interesting…any decent options for vegetarians in Ireland, David? If so, I may need to make a trip soon.

  • Hmmm I love shortbread. Have you ever tried lightly dusting it with ginger when it comes straight out of the oven? Pure bliss!

  • What gorgeous looking food and drink Ireland has! …but that *collie*, be still my heart.

  • The deep orange yolk of that “perfect egg” makes me want to cry. It’s so beautiful.

  • amazing pictures! i’ve had Ireland on my list of places to visit for quite some time :). we drove down the PCH last month and stopped in SF for a night and made sure to hit up Chez Panisse – best meal of the trip, and that included French Laundry. lovely food, just lovely :)

  • Irish butter, cheese, and jam? What more could I want. Thank you for the photos and for sharing your trip.

  • Hi I’m Irish so thought I’d comment :) I saw your website on Goop David, its really good :)

    There are some good vegetarian restaurants in Dublin; not sure about the smaller towns though. I’ve been to Cafe Fresh and Cornucopia loads of times, both very good food and not overly expensive. (Cafe Fresh, Top Floor, Powerscourt Centre, Dublin 2 and Cornucopia, Wicklow Street, Dublin 2 (http://www.cornucopia.ie/menu.html) -they’re around the corner from each other literally and just off Grafton Street so easy to find :) )

    If I was visiting Cork, I’d definitely stop into Ballymaloe House in Cork-its run by Darina Allen who wrote tons of cookery books and now her daughter-in-law Rachel Allen has her own set of cookery books. http://www.ballymaloe.ie/restaurant/menus) Ballymaloe do a lovely tomato relish-its very nice in a sandwich with a nice cheese etc.

    I hate the butter abroad too which tends to taste like margarine! I love toasting soda brown until its very well done/almost burned and then butter with Kerrygold. It definitely tastes nicer at room temperature, so I would leave it out for a while otherwise its so hard to butter onto a piece of bread. Tayto cheese and onion crisps are great in a white bread sandwich buttered with Kerrygold-its a popular snack/meal here.

    *Oh David, hope you don’t mind me adding links, I’ve no affiliation to any of the restaurants, they’d be just places I’d go to for food..:)

  • What an absolutely gorgeous trip David!
    I can’t think why I’ve never been to Ireland but this makes me want to rush out the door this minute!
    Everything is so lush and joyous
    Lucky you!

  • This might be my favorite post of all. Ireland (“home” to my husband) is a beautiful country and the people are so lovely and welcoming. Yes, please give the oatcakes recipe when you can. In the meantime, I’ll be making shortbread. With French salted butter ’cause that’s in the fridge!

  • Unfortunately, I have to agree with him :)

    The two times I’ve been in France, the food was pretty dismal. So surprising to me as French cuisine was always supposed to be the best in the world.

    I think it’s been surpassed now though by places like Thailand where I live, which just spoils you for anywhere else.

    I did love France. Just not the food so much, although I’d kill for some real French bread :)

  • Being the daughter of a french dairy farmer in New Zealand, I was also impressed to see the WAIKATO milking machine being used in Ireland! Kiwis rock the world! ;-)

    Now living in France, I do love the french butter…I prefer it to NZ butter, so much better! But, I do miss a good block of chedder (not easy to find in Dijon!) and the fresh creamy milk from my dad’s farm (fresh and straight from the cows!)….though to be honest, the supermarket milk here isn’t that bad, much creamier…not like the watery stuff we find in the supermarket back home!

  • Great post.

    How could you resist the ox tongue? You reminded me of the wonderful pressed tongue (which she made herself) sandwiches my Irish grandmother used to prepare for high tea: Butter (Irish butter, of course) two pieces of crusty white bread (sliced as thinely as possible). Add just a few pieces of finely sliced tongue. Eat and enjoy!

  • Scott and Jean-Marie: I don’t know when I’ll get to it because I wasn’t so sure about the technique and when I sent a message to Paul about whether the oats get ground up or not, he said they get “folded in”. So I’m still not sure and have to play around with them.

    His recipe for Oatcakes (as he gave it to me):

    225g butter, 80g sugar, 100g flour, 200g jumbo oatflakes

    Cream the butter and the sugar together, then add the flour and oatflakes. Roll into sausage shapes and rest in fridge. Cut into discs and place on baking tray. Bake at 150C for 15 minutes.

    Unfortunately I can’t answer any questions about them since I haven’t made them, but if you give them a try, I’d love to hear about them!

  • Apropos of nothing, I read this today and thought of you, David:
    http://culinotests.fr/news/du-poulpe-dans-ma-bouche-ah-jamais-plus-jamais

  • Fantastic photos, as always. I love reading about your trips.

    Double single rainbow all the way!

  • Thank you for sharing this. I’ve just discovered that my local U.S. grocery sells ‘Kerrygold’ It is so amazing! I never would have realized how much better Irish Butter is without your blog.

  • Giselle, I’m with you on the French vs NZ butter thing. Despite NZ’s preponderance of cows (and I’m from the Waikato so I know all about it), the highly-industrialised dairy industry provides us with some really sub-par products. Such a shame.
    I’m not even kidding when I say that the butter in Europe was a major factor in my moving from NZ… one reason I like David’s blog so much: he understands the need for butter!

  • The Scotch Shortbread recipe is wonderful. The little triangles keep disappearing from my secret hiding place. I didn’t spring for the Irish butter but used what I had on hand. Definitely a keeper recipe.
    This whole Irish adventure and the beautiful pictures are an inspiration!

  • I lived in Ireland for nearly 2 years and in England for 5. I never tire of reminding my French friends that England, in fact, has more varieties of cheese than France. My encounters with real cheese was quite limited before moving to Europe but I’m happy to see that now the US is home to several artisan cheeses!

    However, having a nice wedge of Stilton with a glass of port is a Christmas tradition I happily adopted and intend to never lose.

  • Been sighing all through the time I scrolled through your photos. What a fantastic trip!

  • I just made the shortbread. The only change I made was using half brown and half white sugar. It is the best I have ever made. I do wonder though, why home made shortbread shatters so easily and doesn’t have that fine grain that comercial shortbread cookies have. It helps to compact it by pressing with a plate while it is still piping hot, but it is still more flaky than I would like. Any suggestions?

  • David, I forgot about salted butter. Okay, really I have not baked regularly in so long that I forgot it’s importance plus I temporarily got sucked into the low-sodium craze (yuck). You have reintroduced a wondrous thing to my kitchen! This shortbread is *amazing*!!!

  • gorgeous post, really enjoyed it but can’t believe you came all the way to Ireland and didn’t visit the famous Ballymalloe Cookery School in Cork the only cookery school in the world located in the middle of its own 100-acre organic farm…­

  • Gorgeous spread! It looks like more than a few things have changed since I lived in Ireland 13 years ago. Back then any sentence containing both the words ‘Ireland’ and ‘food’ was most likely a joke. That said, I have very fond memories of brown bread and sharp cheddar. And of course the beer, which in large enough quantities made just about anything palatable.

  • Hello David,

    Looks like you had a good time here in Cork! The English Market is one of my favourite places, even as a poor student. Things are ridiculously pricey but oh, so worth it. Thank you for giving such a lovely write up about all the things I love about this country – the food… and the cows. :)
    I hadn’t realised that butter came in any other colour than gold, and the prospect of moving abroad only to encounter pale spread frightens me.

    It makes me smile to think you were no more than 10 minutes away from me at some point in time, yet here I am supposedly “studying” while I’m reading your blog. Ireland is so tiny, but especially Cork.

    Thanks for the stellar review!

  • i LOVE this. we were in ireland for a few weeks in september and only really loved three things – the butter, the brown bread, and the seafood chowder. Oh wait – one more – jane urquhart’s croissants, at westcove farm bakery – the best i’ve ever had. it’s nice to read that there is good food in ireland, besides the aforementioned items we loved. we had a few bad meals and then stuck to the local markets and cooked at our rental home (pier cottage! lovely).