This week in SBS Food’s Blog Appétit – our round up of food blogs worth bookmarking – we bring you Farmette, a delicious blog about packing it in on one side of the world for a whole new life on the other.
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7 Jan 2015 - 10:05 AM  UPDATED 11 Feb 2015 - 10:13 AM

Farmette reads like a Hollywood movie, really. American Imen McDonnell used to spend her days working in television and advertising in the glittering lights of New York and Los Angeles. Then, she fell in love with an Irishman and followed the dashing farmer back to his sprawling property in the Irish countryside. Today, this eloquent (and cheeky) writer shares the trials, tribulations and cooking adventures that come with starting from scratch in a new culture on Farmette, complete, as she puts it, “with a pair of wellies and a whole lot of muck to trek through.” Jokes aside, McDonnell embraces the food and customs of Ireland with gusto as she cooks up farmhouse recipes for milk bread or an inspired take on traditional Madeira cake. She also brings a piece of America to her homestead with Southern-style dishes like crab boil and Mexican tacos – just to give the locals lads a stir. The American’s first book, inspired by her popular blog, is set to release later this year.

 

"Since moving to the Irish countryside, I have really learned to cook around the seasons and embrace fresh ingredients from the farm or as local as possible. In some sense, there is really no other way when you live so rurally. We grow a lot of veg and berries, and have milk, eggs and poultry from the farm. The orchard provides us with plums, pears, apples, gooseberries and blackcurrants. Salmon comes from a dear friend in County Clare and, once a week, my little boy and I travel to the fishmonger to take home the fresh catch of the day. We live a simple, yet bountiful life on this Irish farm. It’s very different from urban America, but it has become a beautiful home to cherish."

 

I started my blog to…
"Stay connected to friends and family in the USA, which ultimately evolved into sharing my experience of adjusting to Irish country living and eating."

 

The must-cook recipe on my website is…
"Best brown bread, my recipe for Irish brown bread."

 

I can’t wait to go back to…

"Buvette in Paris to eat more leeks vinaigrette."

 

My current food obsession is… 
"Uncovering vintage, traditional Irish recipes from period farms and estates."

 

Eating…
"My homemade lobster rolls takes me back to a memorable weekend in Martha’s Vineyard."

 

Nugget of cooking wisdom…
"Cooking vegetables grown in your garden is life changing."

 

I learnt to cook from…
"Books and my mother-in-law, really. Growing up, my father and grandmother were very inspirational, but I didn’t really learn how to cook until I moved from the city to rural life." 

 

When I go back to my home town…
"Minneapolis, the first thing I eat is puppy dog tails, a type of cinnamon bun, from Isles Bun & Coffee. Or, if it’s New York, a slice of pizza from pretty much anywhere."

 

Friends always ask me to cook my…
"Sausages and mash with thyme-ale gravy or buttermilk chocolate cake. Also, the recipes I’ve shared here are on high rotation!"

 

The one thing I can’t cook is… 

"Tripe and onions. The texture and scent is somewhat disturbing to me!"

 

If I ever met…
"Ina Garten, I would ask her to make me dinner and dessert."

 

I always have…
"Homemade preserves in my pantry, raw milk in my fridge and frozen pizza dough in my freezer."

 

My favourite biscuit to dunk in a cup of tea is…
"Choc-chip cookie, a The New York Times recipe."

 

My most sauce-splattered cookbook is…
"Darina Allen’s Forgotten Skills of Cooking."

 

The most difficult food to shoot/style and make look tasty is…
"Stew or casserole."

 

Beyond my own blog, some of my favourites reads are… 

"Local Milk, From My Dining Table, Manger, Dash and Bella, Modern Farmer, Condé Nast Traveller, Bon Appétit magazine and donna hay magazine."

 

Top picks from Farmette

 

1. Summer fruits Madeira cake

Madeira cake did not originate in the Madeira Islands, rather from the Portuguese Madeira wine that would have traditionally been served with this tea cake in Ireland and the UK many years ago. This wildly popular (and, once new-to-me), beautifully buttery, dense cake is normally prepared with just a touch of lemon zest, but I’ve pushed the limits and made it rich with summer fruits, balanced with a creamy mascarpone, cassis-spiked icing. I added blackcurrant jam and a touch of smoked sea salt to the frosting, which is lovely, but definitely optional and not necessary if you prefer a less profound flavour profile. The pretty green plums in the photos were not used in the cake mix; sweet, ripe plums are a must for this recipe. You could cut the recipe in half and leave out the layers and icing altogether for a simple summer fruit Madeira.

 

 

2. County Kerry crab boil

 

 

3. Hot-smoked salmon tacos with chipotle crema and kale verde

 

4. Farmhouse milk bread

Pan, barrel, cobb, bloomer, brown, batch, granary, rolled, basket, milk. These are all names of beautiful breads that you will find in any Irish market or bakery on any given day, and all names of breads that totally eluded me upon moving to Ireland. Milk bread in particular sounded appealing to me. I stumbled upon a loaf a couple of years back and gave it a try, loved it, asked some friends if they knew what it was (no), then somehow forgot all about it. After rooting around for a few weeks, I discovered the farm recipe for an old-fashioned milk bread and couldn’t wait to give it a try. The recipe didn’t work so well, so I adjusted some measurements, added more milk and used strong (baker’s) flour instead of all-purpose (plain) and out came the softest, whitest loaf this side of the snow-capped Alps.

 

Blog Appétit editor Yasmin Newman

Blog Appétit is our curated list of go-to food blogs we love, with a focus on high-quality photography, trusted recipes, strong editorial themes and a unique voice and personality. View previous Blog Appétit entries.