Sunday, June 19, 2011

Country Roads Take Me Home.

A month to the day since my last post and it is time my friends.  Time for you to hear about Ireland and get a recipe for some Irish Soda Bread.  Are you excited?  Or just frustrated with me for being such a lazy blogger?

In preparation for writing this I went back through all of the pictures from Ireland.  And I have to tell you, it pulled at my heart strings a bit (too cheesy?) but really, I loved that place.  I could ramble on for days telling you about the trip and trying to convince you to go there...right now, do it, go!  But, I won't do that I promise.  I'll just give you the highlights so you can see why we had to be drug out of the country kicking and screaming.  Just kidding that didn't happen.  But maybe if it would have I could have stayed a bit longer...

We flew into Dublin and spent the evening pub hopping and meeting some really neat people from the states.  The next morning we rented a car and headed out for our journey through the Irish country side...on the wrong side of the road.  The whole driving thing was scary at first but Kaston got used to it in no time.  He's a champion.  We basically did a clockwise loop starting in Dublin and heading south.  We stayed in Kilkenny, Killarney, Ennis, Galway, Connemara, Athlone, and Dublin.  Look these places up.  They are beautiful.  We saw most of the touristy sites, we ate a lot of delicious food, listened to some great music, visited a pub or two (or way more than that) and basically just explored until we could no longer walk another step.

Kilkenny won the prize for being our favorite city that we stayed in.  It was full of friendly locals, great food, fun pubs, and a lot of places to explore.  Not that any of the other cities were lacking in these areas but...this one just stood out for some reason.  Another favorite happened to be Connemara.  We actually ventured outside of staying in hostels for a night and stayed in a castle!  Talk about an upgrade.  It was a lovely change of pace.  We got to sit and relax instead of running around trying to see every single bit of Ireland as quick as possible.  Not to mention the five course meal we had that night was to die for.  Also an upgrade from the pub fish and chips we ate almost every day.  Note: I am in no way snobbishly dogging on hostels or fish and chips.  I love both.  Just as much (if not more) than a castle and a five course meal.

Needless to say this trip convinced me that I want to move to Ireland, become a sheep farmer, and knit/cook/bake my life away.  Anyone else want to join?  I may be leaving soon...(Just kidding Mom.  Stop packing your bags.)

Now for the pictures.  Like I said I'm not going to overdo this.  But I have to show you some right?  I mean I was in Ireland for Pete's sake!

The first day in the mountains.  Straight out of a fairy tale.
Some of our new friends playing music in Kilkenny.
There is a mountain under that foggy mass.  One of the many beautiful drives on the coast.
The Cliffs of Moher and O'brien's Castle.
Sheep on the road!  I begged Kaston to stop the car every time we saw one.  Such tourists.
Oh the castle.  Love the ivy.
So, to ease the pain of being back in the states I decided I needed to incorporate a bit of Ireland in my own kitchen.  And what better to bake than some of the delicious soda bread slathered with Irish butter that they delightfully served with every meal?

You'll need:
1/4 cup unsalted butter
3 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup old-fashioned oats
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
1 tablespoon fresh thyme
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon black pepper plus some for topping
1 3/4 cups buttermilk
1 egg white beaten
Gather the goods and preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
Stir butter in a small saucepan over medium heat until melted and golden brown.  It takes about 3 minutes.  Remove from heat.
Grab the fresh herbs you want to use.  And a knife.  And a cutting board.
Chop those babies up.
Stir flour, oats, sugar, herbs, baking powder, baking soda, salt and pepper in large bowl to blend.
Pour in buttermilk.
Then the butter.
Knead gently until dough comes together. 
Divide dough in half, shape each into a ball, and flatten into a 6-inch round.  Place on ungreased baking sheet and brush the tops with beaten egg white.  (Don't be alarmed...I only made half the recipe so there is only one loaf in the pictures.)
Cut a 1/2 inch deep X in the top and sprinkle with black pepper.
Bake for about 45 minutes or until the top is golden brown and delicious looking.
Try to let it cool for a while...if you can resist.
How perfect right?  Irish butter to go with the Irish Soda Bread.  Thanks Trader Joes!
Slather on the butter and eat, eat, eat!
P.S. - I never explained the incredibly random title.  Fail.  Country Roads is apparently the unofficial anthem of Ireland.  It was playing 24-7.  And it was especially favored as the song to sing as everyone was walking home from the pubs.  So interesting.
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