Thursday, March 13, 2014

IRISH TEA TIME

May the road rise to meet you,
may the wind be always at your back,

the sun shine warm upon your face,
the rain fall soft upon your fields,

and until we meet again,
may God hold you in the hallow of his hand
. 

Irish Blessing

 

Ireland consumes the largest amount of tea per capita of any other country in the world.  Irish tea is usually served three times a day – 11:00 in the morning, 3:00-5:00 in the afternoon and as the evening meal at 6:00pm – just like in England.  The difference is that Irish tea is a strong cup – “strong enough to stand on” – even though it is meant to be mixed with a lot of rich milk!  Ireland takes their tea very seriously and the rich and poor alike love tea time.

 

An Irish Tea Time should include a lot of green!  Set it off with Irish Damask linens, but use your more rustic teapots and pottery dishes.  A collection of green and white candles as a simple centerpiece will set the stage for traditional Shamrocks in the form of potted plants or cutout shapes. 

 

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Legend has it that St. Patrick used the shamrock (traditional spelling: seamr√≥g, meaning summer plant or little clover) to symbolize the divine nature of the trinity when he introduced Christianity to Ireland, however early writers describe it as a food related to watercress – one of my favorite greens! 

 

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As a “wee” token of friendship add a favor at each place setting:  a bag with Rolo candy and a rainbow of twizzlers, a jar layered with gold wrapped candy at the bottom with a rainbow of M&M’s layered on top, homemade shamrock cookies wrapped and tied with green ribbon or sample sizes of Irish Breakfast tea placed inside green bags. Don’t forget to invite your family or friends to “a wearin’ of the Green,” especially since green clothes attract faeries who love to celebrate the weather starting to change too.

 

Carry the theme into the food with lots of greens including garnishing trays with green herbs such as parsley, thyme and rosemary.  Definitely serve Irish Breakfast Tea along with a couple other choices such as a green tea and an herbal blend for those who are caffeine sensitive.  Here are some recipes to choose from:

 

SAVORIES:

BEEF & CHEDDAR TEA SANDWICHES: Add thin sliced roast beef and Irish cheddar cheese with horseradish sauce to split Irish Herbed Potato Scones:
Combine 2 1/2 c flour, 1 tsp baking powder, 1/4 tsp baking soda, 1/4 tsp salt, 2Tbs chopped parsley, 1tsp chopped dill and 1tsp chopped chives in a mixing bowl.  Cut in 8Tbs butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.  Combine an egg, 1/2c mashed potatoes and 1/2c sour cream until well blended, and then add to dry ingredients until they are moistened.  Knead on floured surface until dough holds together.  Divide dough in half and pat out each into a 1/2 inch thick circle and cut into 2” rounds.  Place on greased baking sheet, brush with sour cream.  Bake at 350 degrees for 12-15 mins or until golden brown.

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PINEAPPLE-KIWI ROUNDS: Blend 8oz softened cream cheese with an 1/2c well drained crushed pineapple. Spread this mixture on firm white bread that has been cut into rounds. Top with thinly sliced and quartered kiwi pieces. Chill until serving time.

CUCUMBER TEA SANDWICHES: Core, peel and finely chop a cucumber then add salt and place in a strainer overnight to remove as much liquid as possible. Blend 8oz cream cheese, 1 chopped green onion and 1Tbs fresh dill. Add chopped cucumber, salt and pepper. Spread on whole grain bread, remove crust and cut into triangles.  Garnish with fresh dill.

WATERCRESS-OLIVE TEA SANDWICHES: Combine 8oz cream cheese, 1/2c watercress, and 1/4c chopped pimento stuffed olives until well blended.  Spread the cream cheese blend between slices of bread, remove crust and cut into triangles.  Garnish with a thin slice of olive.

MINI FLORENTINE CUPS: Combine 8oz cream cheese, 1Tbs Parmesan cheese, 1 clove minced garlic and 1-10oz pkg of well-drained frozen spinach.  Line greased mini-muffins pans with slices of turkey lunch meat, fill with spinach mixture and bake at 350 degrees for 15 mins.

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RUBEN PINWHEELS: Combine 1-8oz cream cheese with 1/2c Russian salad dressing and 1/2c well drained sauerkraut.  Spread on flour tortillas, add thinly sliced corned beef and shredded Swiss cheese.  Roll up, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.  Slice into 1” pieces before serving

ASPARAGUS PINWHEELS: Cream together 8oz cream cheese and 1tsp herb salt, then add 1 can asparagus spears, drained and combine well.  Spread onto flour tortillas, top with cooked asparagus spear, roll up, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.  Cut wraps into 1” sections.

 

SCONES/BREADS:

IRISH SCONES: Combine 2 1/2 c flour, 2Tbs sugar, 2 tsp baking powder and 1/2 tsp salt in a mixing bowl.  Cut in 2Tbs butter with fingers or pastry blender.  Add 1/2c plumped raisins.  Add 1egg and 1/2c buttermilk and mix into a dough.  Knead on floured surface until dough holds together.  Roll out, cut the dough in half, then into quarters and then into eighths. Place on a lightly greased baking sheet, brush the top of each scone with buttermilk and sprinkle with sugar.  Bake for 15 minutes at 400 degrees.

IRISH CRANBERRY-OATMEAL SCONES: Combine 1 1/4 c flour, 1/4 c sugar, 1 tsp baking powder, 1/4 tsp baking soda and 1/4 tsp salt in a mixing bowl.  Cut in 8Tbs butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.  Add 1/2c dried cranberries and 1c oatmeal then stir in 1/3c buttermilk until dough is barely moistened.  Knead on floured surface until dough holds together.  Divide dough in half and pat out each into a 1/2 inch thick circle and cut into 6 wedges.  Place on greased baking sheet, brush with milk and sprinkle with sugar.  Bake at 350 degrees for 12-15 mins or until golden brown.

IRISH SODA BREAD: combine 3 1/2c flour, 1/2c medium rye flour, 1/4c sugar, 1tsp salt, 1tsp baking soda and 2tsp baking powder. Add 1/4c softened butter, stirring until just mixed.   Stir in 3/4c raisins and 2Tbs caraway seeds. Add 1pt buttermilk and stir until just mixed and sticky. Divide batter between 2 greased and floured small loaf pans. Bake for 45 minutes at 350 degrees or until a toothpick inserted in the center of loaves comes out clean.


SWEETS:

 

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CHOCOLATE MINT TRUFFLES: Place 14oz semisweet chocolate chips in bowl.  Bring 1c heavy cream and 1Tbs spearmint to scalding point, strain and discard leaves.   Add to chocolate and allow to sit 1-2 mins before stirring then gently whisk until smooth.  Pour into small bowl, cover and refrigerate several hours.  Use melon baller to make truffles and coat with green tinted white chocolate or green tinted coconut.

PISTACHIO TARTS: Combine 1-3oz package instant pistachio pudding and 1c crushed pineapple and mix well. Add 1c heavy cream which has been whipped until stiff peaks form.  Stir in 1/2c finely chopped nuts. Cover and refrigerate until thoroughly chilled.  To serve fill purchased phylo cups with mixture and garnish with chopped nuts.

TARRAGON BUTTER COOKIES:   Cream 1c butter and 1c sugar, then add 2Tbs tarragon and an egg and mix well.  Add 2½c flour and 1tsp baking soda, then 1tsp vanilla. Roll into two logs, wrap & refrigerate overnight.  Slice, sprinkle with sugar and bake at 350 degrees for 10 mins.

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Do not forget to entertain strangers,

for by so doing some people have entertained angels
without knowing it
.”

I Corinthians 10:31

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