When I traveled to the Emerald Isle last spring, I stayed in the sweet village of Ballyvaughan in County Clare. As all of you who have traveled to the land of leprechauns know, there are a plethora of tearooms all over the place. Everywhere you look, there are cakes, tarts and treats of every sweet and savory nature waiting to be devoured; the Irish are so welcoming; and you are on vacation.

Well, you just can’t help yourself.

When I visited last spring, I am not sorry to say that I ate a cake or a tart every single day, sometimes more than once. Believe it or not, I lost 7 pounds in spite of it. You see, I was quite taken with the bargain of the “cup and slice of the day” for a mere 3 euro. The caffeine and sugar never failed to give me the kick in the pants I needed to keep on walking …

… To the next tearoom.

And then there are the pubs. My daughter and I had a satisfying lunch at Gus O’Connor’s in Doolin where we tucked into two goat cheese tartlets. I have attempted to replicate the tarts here at home, utilizing the fresh cheese one of my other daughters makes, courtesy of her lovely goats.

You’ll also find several tarts, quiches, sandwiches and casseroles that include smoked wild-caught Atlantic salmon in western Ireland. If you want the best, it can be found at the Burren Smokehouse in Lisdoonvarna, also the home of the annual Matchmaking Festival. Since I wanted to bring you something totally different, I chose these tacos which are highly addictive, make a great appetizer, and can be made with fresh salmon, as well.

Lastly, I found it curious that carrot cake was a stalwart staple in every Irish tea room. Inspired by a slice I tasted at The Burren Perfumery, I went through my recipe card file and came up with the old favorite I’m sharing here.

When I’m feeling fancy, I slice the cake cross-wise and spread the bottom half with at least a one-inch layer of cream cheese frosting then put it back together.
I’ll leave you with an old Irish proverb: “It is good to be hungry when you have something to eat.”

And I’ll always make sure that you do.

Goat Cheese & Beet Tartlet with Caramelized Onions

  • 3 medium red beets
  • 4 Tbsp. olive oil, divided
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • 2 tsp. thyme, divided
  • 2 large onions, thinly sliced
  • 2 tbsp. maple syrup
  • 8 oz. goat cheese, crumbled
  • 1-2 sheets puff pastry or homemade pie crust
  • 8-10 oz. pesto, store-bought or homemade
  • 1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped
  • 2 cups balsamic vinegar
  • 4-5 cups mixed spring greens

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Place beets in a small roasting pan with a wire rack on the bottom. Drizzle with 1 tbsp. olive oil, season with salt, pepper and 1/2 tsp. thyme. Cover and roast for about an hour, until you can pierce the beets with a knife. Cool and remove skin. Julienne as finely as possible.

Meanwhile, add balsamic vinegar to a medium saucepan and place over low heat to reduce by half. This takes about an hour.

In a sauté pan, heat 2 tbsp. olive oil and add maple syrup and onions. Cook until caramelized, about 20 minutes. Add 1 1/2 tsp. thyme. Season with salt and pepper.
Roll out pastry to a 12-by-12-inch square and cut with a large round cookie cutter into 6 rounds to fit into buttered individual tartlet pans or a tin for large muffins.

Place pastry in pans.

Stir julienned beets into onions. Spoon mixture into the pastry-lined cups. Divide goat cheese evenly amongst the tartlets. Drizzle each with a bit of olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Bake for 15-20 minutes until pastry has browned.

Upon removing from oven, garnish with a swirl of pesto and a sprinkle of parsley.

To serve, drizzle balsamic reduction on plate. Add greens and place tartlet on top. Yield: 6 servings

Irish Smoked Salmon Tacos

Crema:

  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1 tbsp. chili powder
  • 1 tbsp. cumin
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Salsa verda:

  • 1 cup cabbage, finely shredded
  • 2 cups kale, finely chopped
  • 1 jalapeño pepper, finely chopped
  • 1 cup cilantro, finely chopped (set some aside for garnish)
  • Juice of 1 lime

 

  • 1 lb. smoked salmon
  • 8 flour tortilla shells
  • 2 limes, cut into wedges for garnish

Combine mayonnaise and sour cream with the spices and lime juice in a small bowl. Season with salt and pepper and refrigerate.

Combine cabbage, kale, jalapeño and cilantro. A food processor can be used if you have one. Stir in lime juice and add salt to taste.

Flake salmon and warm tortillas. Place fish in tortillas then top with crema and salsa. Garnish with cilantro and serve with lime wedges. Yield: 4 servings at 2 tacos per person

Carrot Pineapple Cake

  • 2 cups sifted flour
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp. allspice
  • 1/4 tsp. cloves
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 1/4 cups oil
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1/2 cup walnuts, chopped
  • 1 tsp. flour
  • 1.5 cups grated carrot
  • 1 (8 1/4 ounce) can crushed pineapple, drained

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Sift together 2 cups flour, baking soda, spices and salt. In a separate bowl, beat together sugar and oil until well-blended. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add vanilla.

Gradually add dry ingredients, beat for 2 minutes. In a small bowl, combine walnuts and 1 tsp. flour. Stir walnuts, carrots and pineapple into batter then pour into greased and floured 9-inch tube pan or Bundt pan.

Bake for 1 hour and until cake tests done. Cool in pan on rack for 10 minutes. Invert and remove cake from pan. Cool on rack. Sprinkle with confectioner’s sugar.

Yield: 12 servings