St. Patrick’s Day


IMG Farmette Cookbook_p69_boxty_Roost Books


As the whole world (it seems) gears up to celebrate St Patrick’s Day – have a good root through your cupboards and pick out your very best ‘greenery’ to don on Thursday next. Let’s all have fun and get into the emerald vibe. The Irish diaspora from New York to Shanghai are in high spirits, Tourism Ireland recently announced this year’s additions to the Global Greening initiative where famous sites and monuments throughout the world are illuminated in green to mark our National Holiday. It’s a totally brilliant initiative to focus the whole world’s attention on Ireland.

This year the 7 World Trade Centre at Ground Zero in New York, the famous Big Wheel on Place de la Concorde in Paris, the City Hall in Tel Aviv and Munich’s Hofbräuhaus and the Amazon Theatre Opera House in the midst of the Amazon Rain Forest are among the newest sites to join the Sydney Opera House, the Colosseum in Rome, the Little Mermaid in Copenhagen, the Empire State Building in New York and Auckland’s Sky Tower……Here in Dublin, disability rights campaigner Joanne O Riordan from Millstreet has been chosen as Grand Marshall of the St Patrick’s Day Parade, at 19 years old, she’ll be the youngest ever to lead the celebrations.

Well, back to the kitchen, to plan a feast. For me, St Patrick’s Day is all about Bacon and Cabbage and Parsley Sauce with a big bowl of champ and a generous lump of Irish butter melting into the centre – the ultimate comfort food. Despite the atrocious weather we’ve been having our rhubarb is growing enthusiastically, so it’ll be a juicy rhubarb tart for pud with lots of soft brown sugar and Jersey cream. But if you’d rather ring the changes how about St Patrick’s Day Bacon and Cabbage Pot Stickers with soy dipping sauce.

This is just one of the tempting recipes in Imen McDonnell new book Farmette Cookbook which documents her recipes and adventures on an Irish farm.

Imen will be very familiar to the Irish Farmers Journal readers for whom she’s written a food and lifestyle column for many years. She’s also a contributing editor to Condé Nast Traveller and Irish Country Magazine. In a former life, she spent her days working in Los Angeles, happily going about her business in a successful broadcast media career. Then fate intervened, she met a dashing Irish farmer in Minneapolis and fell instantly in love. In short order, Imen found herself leaving behind her career, her country, her family and friends, to start a life from scratch on a centuries-old family dairy farm in County Limerick. When she’s not cooking, writing, weeding or photographing, you’ll find her in the farmyard with her husband and son, milking cows, feeding calves and chickens, or loving up their two donkeys and amusing Airedale terrier, Teddy. Imen highlights farmhouse skills such as butter and cheese making and the use of local, wholesome ingredients. Here are a few of Imen’s modern Irish recipes for you to enjoy from The Farmette Cookbook published by Roost Books.

Hot Tips

Organic Horticulture: Vegetable Garden Preparation

The Ballymaloe Cookery School Head Gardner Susan Turner will teach a day long course and provide you with the necessary skills to how to grow your own delicious and nutritious vegetables. Susan will cover site layout and design, soil preparation, compost making and crop rotations, dealing with weeds & pests in organic horticulture, raised beds, year round sowing plan and sowing methods, polytunnel and glasshouse crops….coffee on arrival and a delicious light lunch included. Monday March 14th 9.30am-5pm for more information

Slow Food Galway

are planning an exciting breadmaking demo with Jeremy Zanni from Les Petites Douceurs in Galway. It will be held on Cait Curran’s organic farm in Moycullen, near Spiddal on Sunday March 13th at 11.30am. Tickets €5.00. Contact Kate O’Malley for further details and directions 087 9312333


Imen McDonnell’s St Patrick’s Day Bacon and Cabbage Pot Stickers with Soy Dipping Sauce

Makes 20 medium-size dumplings


For the wrappers

2 cups (250 g) all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting

1½ teaspoons kosher salt

½ cup (120 ml) boiling water

½ cup (120 ml) cold water


For the filling

3/4 cup (300 g) cabbage, roughly chopped

½ teaspoon sea salt

½ teaspoon grated fresh gingerroot

3 tablespoons finely chopped kale

â…“ lb (150 g) shredded boiled ham (or Irish bacon)

â…› teaspoon ground white pepper (or freshly ground black pepper)

½ tablespoon soy sauce

½ tablespoon Chinese rice wine (or dry sherry)

1 teaspoon sesame oil


For the slurry

1 tablespoon cornstarch

½ cup (120 ml) water

Sunflower oil, for frying


For the dipping sauce

2 tablespoons sesame oil

½ cup (115 g) scallions, chopped

¼ cup (60 ml) brown rice vinegar

¼ cup (60 ml) soy sauce


First make the wrappers. In a medium bowl, combine the flour and salt.

Gradually stir in the boiling water until the mixture is mealy. Gradually add the cold water, and stir until  the mixture comes together into a dough.

Knead the dough on a floured surface, adding more flour as necessary, until the dough  becomes smooth.

Transfer to a clean bowl, cover with a damp towel, and let rest while you make the filling.

Next make the filling. Put the cabbage in a food processor and pulse until finely minced. Transfer to a large bowl and sprinkle with the salt. Let sit for 10 minutes.

Pulse the ginger, kale, ham, pepper, soy sauce, rice wine, and sesame oil in a food processor to mix well. Set aside.

Squeeze the water out of the cabbage and into the sink. Place the dry cabbage in a dry bowl and add the ham mixture. Fold together with your hands.

To make the dumplings. Roll out the dumpling dough into a circle and cut out wrappers  with 2-inch round cookie cutters. Set aside.

Mix together the cornstarch and water for the slurry in a small bowl. Take one dumpling wrapper, and spoon about 1 tablespoon of the ham mixture into the middle.

Dip one finger into the slurry, and paint the edges of the dumpling wrapper. Fold the bottom side of the wrapper over the filling and press into a half-moon shape.

Place on a baking sheet, cover loosely with plastic wrap, and repeat with the rest of dumplings. Make sure the dumplings do not touch each other on the sheet.

When all the dumplings are assembled, you can cook immediately or cover with plastic  wrap and refrigerate for up to several hours. To cook, half-fill a large pot with water and bring to boil. Gently slide in one-third of the dumplings. When the water returns to a boil, turn the heat down and simmer gently for 6 to 8 minutes. Remove the dumplings with a slotted spoon, and repeat with remaining dumplings.

Coat the bottom of a frying pan with the sunflower oil and place over medium heat until hot. Fry dumplings until they are golden on each side.


Make the dipping sauce:

Heat the sesame oil in a saucepan until it smokes. Add the  scallions, then the brown rice wine vinegar and soy sauce. Mix well, then take off the heat and pour into a bowl for dipping.

Scullery Notes: Salting and squeezing the water out of the cabbage is essential. It prevents your dumplings from being waterlogged and soggy


Imen McDonnell’s Boxty

Serves 4


6 medium potatoes

¼ cup (38 g) all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon sea salt

1 tablespoon butter (or sunflower oil)

Fresh herbs, chopped, for garnish


Peel the potatoes. Line a colander with cheesecloth and place over a large mixing bowl. Using a box grater, grate the potatoes into the colander. Gather the corners of the cheesecloth together and squeeze the liquid from the potatoes into the bowl. Put the dry grated potato in another bowl and discard the liquid.

Add the flour and salt to the grated potato and mix gently. Melt the butter in a heavy iron pan, and pour in the potato mixture to make an even layer, about ¾ to 1 inch thick. Cook over medium heat until nicely brown on one side, about 15 minutes; flip the whole boxty cake and cook on the other side  for another 15 minutes, or until brown. It’s much better to cook the boxty slowly than too fast. It should be crisp and golden on the outside and cooked through on the inside.

Remove from the heat, cut into quarters, garnish with herbs  and serve with crème fraîche, apple sauce, or just on its own.

IMG Farmette Cookbook_p300_carawaycake_Roost Books (1)

Imen McDonnell’s Sweet Caraway Seed Cake

Serves about 8


¾ cup (175 g) butter, softened

1½ cups (175 g) superfine or granulated sugar

3 large eggs

About 1 tablespoon milk or water

½ teaspoon vanilla extract

1½ cups (225 g) all-purpose flour

½ teaspoon baking powder

1 tablespoon fresh caraway seeds


Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C). Line the base of a 7-inch springform pan with parchment paper; set aside.

Cream the butter in a mixing bowl with a wooden spoon. Add the sugar and beat until light and fluffy.

Whisk the eggs, milk or water, and vanilla together, and gradually add to the creamed butter and sugar.

Fold in the flour in batches; mix the baking powder in with the last addition of the flour.

Gently mix in the caraway seeds. Pour into the prepared cake pan.

Bake for 50 to 60 minutes. The cake is done when a toothpick comes out clean. Remove it from the oven, and let cool in the pan on a wire rack.

Cool completely before slicing.


Imen McDonnell’s Farmer’s Sunday Cake

Makes 2 loaves


¾ cup (170 g) butter, softened, plus more for greasing the pan

6¼ cups (800 g) all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon cream of tartar

1 cup (200 g) superfine sugar

1 cup (150 g) golden raisins

1 cup (150 g) dried currants

2 tablespoons glacé cherries

½ cup walnuts

2 tablespoons candied citrus peel, finely chopped

Grated zest of ½ lemon

2 eggs, beaten

2½ to 3 cups (600 to 720 ml) buttermilk


Preheat the oven to 450°F (230°C). Lightly grease two 9-inch loaf pans; set aside.

Sift together the flour, baking soda, cream of tartar, and sugar in a large bowl, and mix well. Rub in the butter with your fingers until the mixture resembles coarse bread crumbs. Add the raisins, currants, cherries, walnuts, candied citrus peel,  and lemon zest. Mix well.

Make a well in the center of the flour mixture, and pour in the eggs and 2½ cups (600 ml) of the buttermilk. Stir into the flour mixture, working in a spiral motion from the middle toward the sides of the bowl, and adding a bit more buttermilk if necessary to make a moist but cohesive batter. Do not overmix. Spoon the batter into the loaf pans and bake for 15 minutes

Reduce the temperature to 400°F (200°C) and bake for another 20 to 30 minutes.

Remove the loaves from the oven and let them cool in the pans for 10 minutes. Turn the loaves out and cover with tea towels until ready to serve.

This cake will keep for up to a week in an airtight container or bread box.

About the author

Darina Allen
By Darina Allen


Past Letters

  • Recipes