There is something about the coming of March that carries a touch of whimsy. The air becomes a bit balmy. The days grow longer and the early evening slant of light create a fairy-like hue across the end of the day. I confess I find it a wonderful time to gaze out of the window, sip a delicious cup of coffee and reminisce. In this atmosphere, my thoughts carry me back to Ireland and the places and experiences that warmed my heart. With St. Patrick’s Day just around the corner I thought it would be a grand time to share a route to visit, a treat to eat, and an elixir to enjoy.
If you want to experience the magic of Ireland, The Ring of Kerry will not disappoint you. The Ring of Kerry is a 179-kilometre-long circular tourist route in County Kerry, south-western Ireland. Clockwise from Killarney it follows the N71 to Kenmare, then the N70 around the Iveragh Peninsula to Killorglin – passing through Sneem, Waterville, Cahersiveen, and Glenbeigh – before returning to Killarney via the N72. An enchanting loop!
It was at a café at the foot of the Ring of Kerry that I experienced the most savory cup of Irish Coffee and here is the recipe for you to enjoy:
1 cup freshly brewed hot coffee
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 jigger Irish whiskey (1 1/2 ounces or 3 tablespoons)
Heavy cream, slightly whipped
Fill a footed mug with hot water to preheat it, then empty. Pour piping hot coffee into warmed glass until it is about just passed half full. Add the brown sugar and stir until completely dissolved. Blend in Irish whiskey. Top with a collar of the whipped heavy cream by pouring gently over the back of a spoon. Serve hot.
No doubt along the route you will hit a bakery. Step in and savor the aroma of Irish Soda Bread baking in the oven. Order a slice. It will come splattered with hot butter. You won’t leave the shop without buying a loaf, and surely you will want to make it at home.
• 4 to 4 1/2 cups flour
• 1 Tbsp sugar
• 1 teaspoon salt
• 1 teaspoon baking soda
• 4 Tbsp butter
• 1 cup caraway seeds
• 1 cup raisins
• 1 large egg, lightly beaten
• 1 3/4 cups buttermilk
1 Whisk together flour, sugar, salt, baking soda: Preheat oven to 425°F. Whisk together 4 cups of flour, the sugar, salt, and baking soda into a large mixing bowl.
2 Work the butter into the flour, caraway seeds and raisins: Using your fingers, work the butter into the flour mixture until it resembles coarse meal, then add in the currants or raisins.
3 Make a well, mix in buttermilk, egg: Make a well in the center of the flour mixture. Add beaten egg and buttermilk to well and mix in with a wooden spoon until dough is too stiff to stir.
4 Lightly knead dough and form dough mound: Dust hands with a little flour, then gently knead dough in the bowl just long enough to form a rough ball. If the dough is too sticky to work with, add in a little more flour. Do not over-knead!
Transfer dough to a lightly floured surface and shape into a round loaf. Note that the dough will be a little sticky, similar to biscuit.
5 Score with a cross: Transfer dough to a large, lightly greased baking sheet.
Using a serrated knife, score top of dough about an inch and a half deep in a cross. Brush the top of the bread with melted butter.
6 Bake: Transfer to oven and bake at 425°F until bread is golden and bottom sounds hollow when tapped, about 35-45 minutes.
Check by inserting a long, thin skewer into the center. If it comes out clean, it’s done.
7 Let cool a few minutes: Remove pan or sheet from oven, let bread sit for 5-10 minutes, then remove to a rack to cool briefly.
Serve bread warm, at room temperature, or sliced and toasted. Best when eaten warm and just baked.
Life is a journey. It should be traveled far and wide. It should be filled with people, places and experiences that keep us enriched long after the journey ends.
As we journey into a new season enjoy and…..March on!