Thursday, December 30, 2010


As an Irishwoman living in the U.S, I frequently hear the stereotypical jokes about the Irish and their love of alcohol but rarely do I hear about our love of the other beverage........Tea ! Yes, you heard me tea. Did you know that a cup of tea solves all the problems of the world? It brings us together, we cry over a 'cuppa' and we laugh over a 'cuppa'. I moved to the U.S in 1996. When we bought our first house, needless to say we had various contractors in and out repairing and installing. I would offer them a cup of tea. Some declined politely. Others thought I was crazy offering tea in a cup. "What other way should I serve it?", I asked. "In a glass" was the reply. Of course, I had moved to Dallas, Texas, where the only tea that people drank back then (and even now to be truthful) was iced. More importantly, the difference was not in the temperature of the beverage but indeed, I, the homeowner was offering the hired help a 'Cup Of Tea' I grew up in Cork City, Southern Ireland and everyone had a cup of tea. My mum would put on the kettle to make a 'Cuppa' for the window cleaners. The man fixing the washing machine rarely began his task until he had a nice cup of tea. It's what we do. I sat for countless hours as a teenager with my friends drinking tea, planning our weekends, figuring out who we liked, and who was going out with who ! Tea became popular in 1901 and that was when James J Barry opened his first store on Bridge Street, Cork. Today BARRY'S TEA is still based in Cork and remains in the family. Growing up on BARRY'S TEA is a fond memory. When I first moved to London, I brought my tea with me. My sister now lives in London and packing the distinctive red box is a must in our home. You just can't leave Cork without it. Now, when I teach my cooking classes, I always make a pot of tea for everyone. My preference is to drink tea from a china cup or china mug. It just tastes better to me. The reaction is lovely. Warming reaction. Despite the vast array of teas here in the United States, this golden cuppa is received very well. Simply served with milk, and a spoon of sugar if you like, it is the perfect accompaniment to one of my Irish Butter shortbreads ! By now the customers from the grocery chain 'LUNDS & BYERLY'S in Minnesota know about BARRY'S TEA and I even point it out to them on the shelves. You see, over here, BARRY'S TEA is never where you would expect to find the Tea & Coffee aisle. No, this hidden treasure is found in the 'Specialty or Imported' section, nestled among products from Great Britain, Germany,France & Denmark. Look for the distinctive red box. In 1986, BARRY"S TEA launched their first TV ad and the slogan 'Every Day should have it's golden moments' was born. It has a uniquely refreshing taste and a bright, golden color. Blended from the high mountain slopes of Kenya and the Assam Valley of India. There are many flavors in the BARRY'S TEA range but I chose to write about my favorite ! Now, I urge you to share your GOLDEN MOMENT with me. Simply send me a photo and a few sentences telling me about your GOLDEN MOMENT, preferably over a cup of tea. You have until Jan 31st to submit. Then I will choose one lucky person and BARRY'S TEA will ship you a basket of goodies to your home. I have received several already on my Facebook page, so please feel free to post there also.

Monday, December 27, 2010


It all began November 30th at Central Market Houston and ended Christmas Day. I am referring to Christmas Baking. From cooking Classes to Home Baking my hands have certainly deserved a well earned rest ! Traditional Mince Pies, Christmas Pudding & Brandy Butter, pastry, Cheesecakes and shortbread cookies. My supply of Kerrygold Butter and King Arthur Flour have depleted beyond recognition. So too have my supplies of booze ! Yes, as I mention frequently on my TV cooking segments, I use a lot of booze in my food !

The traditional Pudding is soaked in Guinness & Rum, Brandy Butter is made from Hennessy Cognac , Cheesecake is soaked in Baileys and the mince meat for the mince pies is saturated in Rum & Brandy. For me, the smells of home baking are extremely nostalgic and calming. Walking into a home that actually uses its oven is one of the most welcoming feelings. Funny how many people have such updated kitchens, all the best equipment and gadgets yet you can tell that they are rarely used. How?
It's just like a butchers block. At first it's smooth and new but over time as it is used and treated it becomes a trusted piece, one where you feel confident with your butcher !
A used kitchen is a great kitchen. The aromas become part of this warm place. No matter the size it's still the heart and soul of the home. It's a gathering place and a place to ignite the senses. Over the years kitchen styles change but, thankfully the aromas remain the same...........Comforting & welcoming....

Thursday, October 28, 2010


As I drive through my neighborhood every day, there are constant reminders that I need to buy my candy for the droves of 'Trick-Or-Treaters' arriving this coming Sunday ! Peoples gardens are decorated with pumpkins, giant wall spiders,trees with cob webs,tombstones and cobwebs ! Far from the Halloween I grew up with in Ireland. Costumes are a huge business as are costume parties & pumpkin carvings. An array of action heroes, princesses,fairies & Disney characters will knock for hours and the likleyhood of me seeing someone dressed in nothing more than a black garbage bag is pretty slim ! That was what I wore ! Yes, we had to make our own, so we cut slits in the garbage bag for our arms and made masks in school from empty cereal boxes.....! 'Samhain' was the name given to the ancient Celtic festival on November 1st, the first day of winter. This was a pagan festival as it is believed it began in Ireland around 100AD. 'Samhain' means end of summer and the pagans believed the spirits would return on the eve of 'Samhain', so to stave off these evil spirits they lit bonfires. Back to the pumpkins. There is a myth in Ireland which tells the story of a mean blacksmith by the name of Jack. Jack had drinks with the devil and Jack did not want to pay for the drinks so tricked the devil into transforming himself into a coin ! Jack placed the coin in his pocket next to a cross to protect himself. He bargained with the devil to leave him alone for a year and when he died to not take his soul. When Jack died ,the devil tricked him and not only was Jack refused entry into heaven but the devil also refused him entry into hell ! So, Jack was banished into the dark to forever wander. The devil threw him some burning embers from hell to light his way and Jack carved a turnip and placed the burning embers inside. He was referred to as 'Jack of the Lantern'. The Irish carved potatoes and turnips and placed a light inside to ward off evil spirits. In later years when the Irish immigrated to America they brought with them , this myth and tradition. They soon adapted using the pumpkin instead of turnips !

Centuries ago the poor of Ireland would go door to door collecting money so that when they got home they could celebrate Halloween. Fast forward to today where the kids go door to door 'Trick-or-Treating' getting goodies or loot to have when they get home !
Among the many games and customs was and still is the traditional 'Barm Brack'. In Irish it is called 'Bairin Breac'. Bairin means loaf and Breac means speckled hence the speckled loaf. Among the many games this loaf was used as a fortune telling game ! How? Well, this sweet bread loaf which was made from flour,yeast and raisins was filled with little surprises. When you had a slice there were little trinkets baked inside such as a 'Ring' which meant you would marry and be happy, 'Pea' which meant poverty, 'Bean' which signified wealth, 'Stick' which meant your husband would beat you... Lovely ! Needless to say , we all wanted the ring !
So, this year I made this 'Barm Brack' for my kids. Traditionally this is a bread, requiring yeast but there are many quick and easy recipes which make a delicious treat . Try a slice with slatherings of 'Kerrygold'butter ! .
I soak my fruit in cold tea. Each and every day I still make my pot of 'Barry's Tea',a famous Irish Tea originating from my hometown of Cork. Easy to spot in a red box in most grocery stores over here ! Of course,there was another reason I grew up on 'Barry's Tea', my family...Peter Barry was once upon a time , Minister For Foreign Affairs and my family, The Whelans, were and still huge supporters. Indeed my own mother spent many an evening campaigning for him !
When I travel around the U.S teaching in the cooking schools, I like to scout out 'Barry's Tea' and make a pot for those attending my class. Simply refreshing.
Reserve a cup and a half to soak your dried fruit in overnight.. It serves two purposes. It moistens and plumps the fruit and adds a wonderful flavor. So, later tonight my kids will have a slice of this , but I wonder if the excitement will be the same as it was for me...............?

Monday, October 18, 2010


Wednesday, day 3 and my personal tour guides arrived to take me to Fota House & Gardens! Yes, Ted & Gary Murphy were taking me to Fota. It had been years since my last visit so I was completely surprised when they drove to Monkstown, boarded a ferry and were there in no time at all. Progress !
To be absolutely truthful, at first I simply thought we were in a traffic jam as opposed to a queue for the ferry !

Fota Island used to be a regular venue for school trips and family days out for me, but returning with the advantage of age sheds a completely different light on this magnificent place. As soon as we parked our car, I noticed throngs of kids in school buses had descended also. Had it really been that long ago since I too was a school kid. I remember wanting to get off the bus so that I could find somewhere to run wild not cherishing the idea of touring another historical home ! This time was different.

The history of Fota is intertwined with the story of the Smith Barry family whose members developed the house and estate. They first came to the area in the late 12th century as part of the Anglo-Norman invasion. We walked through the back halls and backstairs of this historical house. Meandering through this house we eventually arrived in the old kitchen, again one of my favorite places to be. There was a carousel in the middle for hanging the game brought in from the estate. In large country houses ,as much food as possible was produced at home. It had a home farm with hot houses,orchards and vegetable gardens. Huge lead-lined boxes were used for salting hams, beef and bacon. This was quite rare and is one of the signs of the outstanding quality of Fota House.

An arboretum was developed at Fota in the 1840's. It coincided with the great plant hunting expeditions that went on around the world bringing back specimens from the Orient, North West America and South America. Fota Island is very well sheltered, has a mean annual rainfall of 41 inches and has an ideal temperature range with frost being rare. A walk through these magnificent gardens is a must.

Three hours had flown by and it was time to move on. We were headed for the city. We had worked up quite an appetite and where better to eat than the 'English Market'.................

Thursday, September 30, 2010


Ted and Garry Murphy suggested we visit 'Ballinacurra House'. "It's just up the road" they said. This is where their son had recently had his wedding reception and they just couldn't wait for me to see this place.

When we arrived at the gates, true to it's word, it was indeed private with a security button hidden amongst the ivy. We decided Ted could do the honors !
Once inside, the drive up the avenue immediately catapulted me back to my childhood. These familiar plants were growing wild everywhere. Ferns and Fuschias in full bloom. Moss covered rocks lined the avenue given it a wooded feel.

As soon as we emerged from this wooded copse, hearing the gravel crunch beneath the tires, this bright and welcoming Irish Country mansion awaits you.

Oscar awaited us too ! Oscar was the Irish Wolfhound, a mere puppy, but to a small child, perhaps he would seem like a horse !

This prestigious 5-star estate sits on 40 acres of woodland and water. It is simply breathtaking. A mere 2 minutes from Kinsale Town, ideally located if you want to play a round of golf at the World Famous Course. 'The Old Head of Kinsale'

We were greeted by the owners Des & Lisa McGahan. They had lived in the far East for a considerable amount of time, returned to Ireland and painstakingly and lovingly restored this estate which was originally built in 1791. They explained that they were preparing for a group arriving from New York in a few days. The week before, the King Of Norway had been their guest.

What struck me most was that despite the luxurious surroundings, it had a homely feel, not the stifled feeling I have often gleaned from similar properties. Meandering through the house is like a treasure hunt. Truely it is. Each room has been individually designed. Needless to say , I ended up in the kitchen ! My favorite place in any home. The magnificent old dresser that took up the whole wall was filled with delf and I knew instantly that this farmhouse kitchen was well used. Through the kitchen windows, I could see strawberries growing along the rock wall and I couldn't help but feel the desire to work in this kitchen.

Next to the Manor House, is the 4 bedroomed stylish Coach house. If you feel the need to land your helicopter, fear not as there is a helipad nestled away for your convenience. Before I knew , it was time to leave. After thanking Des & Lisa MCgahan for their hospitality, all that remained was to seek out Oscar to bid him farewell......There we found him, on the front lawn , sleeping. After all it's a tough life here in Ballinacurra House for an Irish Wolfhound !

Reluctant to leave, somehow I knew,that I would come day !

Sunday, September 12, 2010


Punctual as ever, Ted Murphy and his wife Gary arrived at my parents house in Rochestown to take me around Cork for the day. Born and raised in this city, I was about to see it again through a different set of eyes. We drove the picturesque twenty minutes to Kinsale. Just parking the car took me back ! We had to park on a steep hill and it reminded me of my driving test, where you had to complete hill starts and stops and parallel parking ! As soon as we began walking, people honked their horns, rolled their windows down and wanted a word with Ted. This man was well known here in Kinsale,but as the day progressed and indeed the week I learned that he was well known everywhere in Ireland. He was loved. They loved what he had done for us. He had shown people another side to the Irish.

We sauntered down the streets to Desmond Castle, or Caislean Dheasumhan as it is known as Gaeilge (in Irish), this is what you do in Kinsale, you saunter. I think if I saw someone run, then the thought running through my mind would have to be emergency or burglary! The castle is located on 'Cork Street' in Kinsale. It was built by the Earl of Desmond , AD 1500 as a Custom House and had quite a history after that. This little castle was occupied by the Spanish in 1601 and was known locally as 'The French Prison' in 1747 after a tragic fire killed 54 French Prisoners.

Now here is something of great interest that I discovered while there. During the American War of Independence, it was used by the British to house captured American Seamen. The conditions were brutal and cruel. These American Seamen were trying to stop the British from crossing the Atlantic and in doing so were taken captive. Forton Gaol near Portsmouth and Mill Gaol between Plymouth and Plymouth Dock were the Principal Prisons in England and the 'French Prison' in Kinsale served as the princiapl prison in Ireland. A Presbyterian minister from Bandon,Co Cork, Rev John Hazlitt (originally from Kent,UK) and Reuben Harvey , Glass merchant from Kinsale were among the men who offered aid to the prisoners.

John Hazlitt moved to Bandon,from Kent for a short time and from here moved to the United States. There were many prominent Irish supporters to the American's cause. Edmund Burke, Henry Grattan, Robert Stewart and Thomas Connolly to name a few. These were all Upper Class gentry. Reuben Harvey was a middle class man.
Born on September 29th 1734 in Youghal, Co Cork. Reuben was a glass merchant and indeed was noted for selling huge volumes of glass to New York.
Reuben was instrumental in offering aid and comfort to these poor unfortunate souls.

Hanging on the wall of this little castle, in the back streets of Kinsale is one of the most marvelous pieces of history. It is quite simply put.......A THANK YOU LETTER.

From President George Washington, Head Quarters, Newbourgh,NewYork
To Mr Reuben Harvey , Merchant in Cork, Kingdom of Ireland, 10/8/1783

Tuesday, August 17, 2010


Tuesday June 15th. This was the day I was spending with Ted Murphy, author of 'A Kingdom Of Wine' and his wife Garry. What a day it was, however I will write about the actual day itself later as I simply cannot launch straight into that without introducing you to this wonderful man.

Rewind back a few months to Dallas, Texas, where I now live. I was having lunch with the 'First Lady' of the American Ireland Fund, Netta Blanchard. I call her that! She is a force to be reckoned with and a networker unlike any I have known. Netta, spoke to me of this famous Cork Man. It wasn't until I was having a conversation with my Uncle that I discovered Ted was one of his oldest and closest friends ! These 2 had played many a rugby match together for Cork Constitution Rugby Club and were on the same team when they won the cup in 1967. So, needless to say when I discovered this about Ted Murphy, it made meeting this author even more exciting.

Ted Murphy is a dying breed in my opinion. Remember though , my opinion and a bus ticket won't get you very far at times, but nonetheless it is still my opinion ! His enthusiasm is contagious. When listening to his stories, they will carry you away and you can't help but want to hear more. He is the Honorary Chairman of The WineGeese Society of The Ireland Funds and founder of the Order of the Winegeese."

This labor of love was awarded 'Best in The World Wine History Book' by The Gourmand Awards in China in 2006. This book is a treat with a treasure trove of information that will stagger you. This is a must read and is available on
I traveled with Ted and his wife Garry for 2 days and we enjoyed ourselves immensely. I laughed when he told me of his visit with to Maureen O'Hara;s home, not because of the visit but how his wife tripped on the steps up to her home and he cried "Mind The Wine". After all it was extremely good wine he was bringing to his host ! Garry's broken hand did eventually mend. Ted is a gentleman. Dressed every day in a sport coat and tie. An elegant Irish Gentleman. I am proud that he is an Irishman, A Cork Man and more importantly a friend.

Monday, August 16, 2010


It had been a while since I had been home so I was to say the least just a little excited. I boarded American Airlines from Chicago to Dublin and the flight was short and enjoyable. Arriving in Dublin Airport , I awaited my flight to Cork to start my adventure. The Ryan Air Flight to Cork was extremely short, 45 minutes to be precise but I have to warn you, be really careful with your baggage. It is not cheap. Would you believe it cost me almost 200 Euro in excess baggage ! Cheaper to send it cargo next time ! I find it hard to fly transatlantic to a country for 10 days with only hand luggage or a small carry on. This was my first negative experience. The staff were unfortunately extremely rude and I began to wonder if this was the new and REAL IRELAND. Thankfully, this was my only bad experience . Taking the train back to Dublin solved that problem really quickly !

Upon arriving in Cork, I was extremely jet lagged and after greeting my parents, having the all important cup of 'Barry's Tea' it was off to bed for a couple hours sleep. It was a beautiful evening. Quite literally the sun was shining and the birds were signing...crows I believe, but still birds !

It seemed only fitting on such a lovely evening to go out to eat and what better than to eat by the Atlantic Ocean. We drove a short 12 miles to my old haunt, Myrtleville. I spent many a day and indeed evening here in my teen years. This is a mere 15 miles from the City and what an oasis it is. It's so true that when you live somewhere you tend to take things for granted. Even the drive to Myrtleville made me realise this. The narrow roads were adorned with ferns, hostas and fuschias. Living in Texas,taking care of hostas can be hard work and to see them in their abundance,so lush and green made me feel so alive.

As we parked our car, I felt the urge to run to the sea like I did as a child. I hated having to get our things out of the car,find a spot on the beach,wait for my suncream to be slathered on (yes, even then my mum insisted on this!)
This time, I simply walked straight to the water. Local teenagers were milling around. The girls were hiding behind the rocks, holding towels around each other for privacy ! I remembered this well, especially clenching the towel between my teeth whilst I wrestled with my togs (swimsuit)! 22 years on and it was still the same.

The smell of the salt water just draws you in. I spotted driftwood which I longed to take back to my home in Dallas but knew customs would not be as easy as years gone by. My brother, as usual, found a dog on the beach and this was his new best friend. The familiar seaweed and rock pools reminded me of our many expeditions on the rocks looking for sea urchins,periwinkles and anything else we could lay our hands on. These were all day excursions and leaving was always sad. This day too was no different. After all we had come to Myrtleville to have dinner in the infamous 'BUNNYCONNELLANS'.Again, I did not want to leave but was hungry and so were my family.

Bunny Connellans was built in 1824. This is a well known establishment among native Corkonians. My mum told us of how she and her friends used to come to Fountainstown for the weekend and go to 'BUNNYCONNELLANS' for the music and dancing. It has stayed in the O'Brien family for quite some time now. Since being there last,I noticed they had renovated it quite extensivley but oh so tastefully.
We sat outside on the patio, perched high up on the rocks over looking the majestic Atlantic Ocean. I sat just gazing out, my family chatting away. Even now, I feel tearful writing this as I miss the simplicity and beauty of this spot. The meal was all that I could ask for and more. Simple,white, clean plates of food adorned our table. For the next 10 days I was going to eat as much seafood as I could, afterall this was the best place in the world to eat fish. BUNNYCONNELLANS did not disappoint.
I ate Pan Roasted Cod with Roasted Rosemary, presented on Spring Onion Mash with Red Onion Marmalade & Chablis Cream. A nice chilled bottle of sparklling water went nicely with this summer fare.

Sitting in this perfect silence (besides the family chatter!)I noticed there was so much going on. It was busy. Isn't this an oxymoron? Peace and serenity, yet life was happening all around. Far away in the distance was the ever watchful 'Roches Point Lighthouse' , teenagers swimming in the sea below, people walking their dogs, men canooeing , cutlery chinking on the plates and all seemed just perfect. This had been a great first day. BunnyConnellans was still the same, just new and improved. I wondered what else would be the same as I traveled through the counties including Belfast over the next 10 days.................

Wednesday, August 4, 2010


Yes, its been a while since I've written but I have good reason. I decided to go back to my roots, literally go back to my roots and visit my homeland. This was an easy trip to plan with the help of the internet and an extremely useful site. WWW.DISCOVERIRELAND.COM
This is a very well thought out site with many hidden gems. I urge you to peruse.
You know, I think we assume (on both sides of the pond !) that because we speak the same language that things will somehow be the same. WWW.DISCOVERIRELAND.COM explains everything from customs,smoking bans,pets and climate. These all help to make your vacation a great vacation.
There is a tab on this site 'PLAN YOUR VISIT'. Here is where you can plan your adventure. If you go deeper into the site, you will discover
GOLDEN TREKKER . Now here is one of those hidden gems I mentioned above. If you are over 66, wait for are entitled to free travel across the Island of Ireland on mainline and commuter trains until December 31st 2010. Yes, you read correctly, FREE TRAVEL. You can also avail of the Northern Ireland Golden Trekker until September 30th 2010. I traveled by train and will chat about that later as I write about my two week adventure.
I flew from Dallas to Chicago and from Chicago to Dublin with American Airlines.
Aer Lingus is the national airline of Ireland but unfortunately there arent any direct flights from Dallas to Ireland.
And so began my journey. Sunday June 13th I set out to quite literally rediscover Ireland and what an adventure I had...........So come join me on my visit to Ireland and hopefully it will inspire you to visit, reconnect or simply learn some things you never even knew about my REAL IRELAND.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010


In this fast paced society, we are always trying to 'get ahead'. Ahead of the curve, ahead of ourselves, ahead in school and ahead in business. By trying to get ahead in business we are trying to outmaneuver our colleagues and competitors.In doing so, I think we tend to loose sight of who we truely are and what we are really and truelly about. Recently I have encountered quite a bit of interest in my business. The questions I am asked frequently...."What Is Your Brand Message?" "Why the name Rachel Gaffney's Real Ireland?" "What are your core values?" and so on. I understand the neccessity for building your brand or the architecture of your brand so that all who work with you can deliver your message . Whilst branding sessions are important,the simple message is often the best. So what is RACHEL GAFFNEY'S REAL IRELAND?

I was born in Cork City, in Southern Ireland in 1969. As a toddler I lived in Blackrock and was educated by the Ursuline nuns. I wore a navy blue uniform, with knee length socks,wore a gaberdine coat and beret for mass on Friday's. I played hockey and tennis and went on school trips abroad to France & Switzerland. On Saturday's, I took the number 7 bus into town to meet my fiends for coffee. I studied the Irish Language (which was mandatory in schools)along with Biology,Chemistry,World History and French. I was the oldest of four children and we all played an instrument. Not very well but nonetheless music was mandatory for a period of time in my home. I fought with my siblings. My younger sisters were often cramping my style and my baby brother could do no wrong ! I tried to get into bars with fake identification with my friends and loved to go to Rugby matches. We ate fish every Friday (like all good catholics !) and every Christmas our kitchen was a treat for the senses.I had a passion (and still do) for Irish Literature, Speech & Drama and my sisters played the violin and cello terribly ! Every Summer we rented homes on the beach either in Ardmore,Co waterford or Schull,Co Cork. I entered the Young Scientist competition and won my first cookery competition at 11 years old. I made Pineapple Upside Down Cake ! I liked to cause mischief and truthfully still do ! Manners were drilled into us. I picked blackberries in the rain. Ran away from home and only made it to my grandmothers house ! I went to my first concert in Dublin to see David Bowie. I ate raw gooseberries and suffered for it later ! I wandered the beaches looking for shells and was fascinated by tides. I can still smell the sea air. A fond memory.

I tell you this because this is who I am. I never met a leprechaun. I too watched the 'Quiet Man' with an air of nostalgia wondering who these people were !I never saw green beer until 1996 in the U.S ! Whats REAL is whats true of Ireland. The Ireland I know. You may stand at the bus stop and someone will strike up a conversation with you. This is sincere. We are a genuine people. If we are not interested we simply won't bother. Instant Gratification was not something I knew.I worked for what I had. I was by no means poor growing up but that still did not matter. I watched as my mother made one piece of meat last for two meals. This was the smart thing to do.
Although, knowing that every Monday was, 'leftover night' didn't always excite me. Stale bread was made into 'Bread & Butter Pudding' served with hot homemade custard.Education was and still is the cornerstone of the Irish Family (along with religion)

Quality resonated with my mother. I remember every Christmas getting a new 'outfit'. All four of us were fitted for our dresses,coats and trousers. Always in a boutique. My mother taught me this saying which I still live by 'Buy Cheap....Buy Twice'
Think about it for a moment. When I married, being on a bridal registry was not all that common, so I was at the mercy of our guests ! But,oh how glad I am now. This generation somehow knew that the toaster and kettle was not the gift to give. We were bestowed with gifts such as the 'Foxford Car Rug' which at the time, even I thought was a stretch. Now it is a constant companion for me. A company founded in 1892 and one that is truely associated with quality. This 100% Connemara wool rug has been to football games in Soldier Field Chicago, Rugby matches at Twickenham and even Lacrosse games in Dallas. The Pure Irish Linen tablecloth with its magnificent hem stitch has seen many a dinner party and more than its fair share of red wine spills but has washed beautifully and rewarded me with an elegant look each and every time.

Your REAL IRELAND is somewhere within you. It's what your parents taught you. Its the places you visited, the schools you went to. It's how you teach your kids and how you feed them. Its how you take pleasure from the little things. Its back to basics.
So, I guess what I am trying to say is that the REAL IRELAND is the Ireland of today. It always embraces the past and allows it to be intertwined into the present. We have come a long way. We have historically endured so much as a nation. Each and every time we bounce back. My own personal opinion is that it is in our genes. Not only do we survive but we thrive. In the words of William Butler Yeats....BEING IRISH HE HAD AN ABIDING SENSE OF TRAGEDY WHICH SUSTAINED HIM THROUGH TEMPORARY PERIODS OF JOY

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Rachel Gaffney's Traditional Irish Shortbread Cheesecake | Belo Interactive Newsletters

Rachel Gaffney's Traditional Irish Shortbread Cheesecake | Belo Interactive Newsletters

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Whether born and raised in Cork, Ireland or Dallas,Texas, we all have our childhood memories. At times, we are told that we are wearing rose colored glasses when recalling them but I think Mother Nature has a kind way of helping us remember.

One of my earliest memories, is the 'Sunday Drive' An excursion to break the monotony of the rainy day or a subtle way of reinforcing culture? Who knows what the reasons were for my parents, but they served us well.
Only 13 miles away from our home was the ancient historic town of Kinsale. Dubbed the 'Gourmet Capital of Ireland' this town hosts thousands of tourists each and every month. Known for it's restaurants,beaches, historical monuments and breathtaking scenery, Kinsale for me was the home of the '99' (Ice Cream Cone)and a place to run wild with my siblings . My parents parked the car at 'Charles Fort'and released all four of us. Running wild among the famous ruins, we played Hide and Go Seek, paying little or no attention to the historic significance of this once important stronghold, during 'The Siege of Kinsale' in 1601.
Climbing the walls, weaving through the ruins and all the while taking in the fresh sea air.

Immediately following this ramble was a stop at the infamous 'Bolands craft Shop' on the corner. Here we lined up for our reward. Our 99 ! A whipped vanilla ice cream cone, made from the finest Irish milk, topped with a chocolate flake. Now, a grown woman living in the U.S, I long to roam the store, foraging for Irish treasures !

Moving on, we walked to 'Actons Hotel' Here we walked along the raised walls, jumping from one to the other, ignoring the beauty of this spectacular view. Or did I? The very fact that I can now remember every detail serves me well. Actons is located in Kinsale town, overlooking the harbor. Fishing boats and sail boats fill these waters in every bright color you can imagine.

Kinsale was the town my parents took all visitors to. I have had many a walk with my siblings, my granny, my grandaunts and my French foreign exchange student !
When I was old enough to drive, it became the stomping ground for my friends and I on a Sunday afternoon. When I moved to London and brought my then boyfriend, now husband, to Ireland, Kinsale was a must see. At that time, the Old Head of Kinsale was simply that ! Now it is "The Most Spectacular Course On Earth" according to LINKS MAGAZINE 1999.

It was established in 1997, rising hundreds of feet above dramatic cliffs surrounded by the ocean on all sides. Earlier last month, when I appeared as a guest on 'The Martha Stewart Show' among all the photographs of me as a youth, the producer chose to use a picture of me with my brother, with The Old Head of Kinsale in the background.

If you go to Ireland and I strongly urge you to do so, then Kinsale is a must see. Here you will form your new memories. If you do go, then please share your memories............

Sunday, March 28, 2010


Recently, I visited New York to appear on 'The Martha Stewart Show". March 16th to be precise.
The night before the show,Lauren Braun Costello, friend and Author of 'Notes On Cooking' and 'The Competent Cook'took me for dinner.
What a dinner it was. Our shared love of those molluscs they call Mussels was more than indulged at 'Flex Mussels'
Growing up in Cork,Southern Ireland, mussels were abundant. As a young child I used to throw them against rocks to watch them explode. At times they merely bounced back in to the sea ! Now, living in Dallas,Texas,I cringe at the thought of the waste.
The Blue Mussel is a native of Irish waters. Our temperate climate is ideal for them to thrive in the cold water. Mussels are fast becoming more and more popular,for their sweet meaty taste. They are packed with protein and easy to prepare.

'Flex Mussels'located in the Upper East side is a gem of a restaurant. Lauren and I shared a goat cheese salad with simple greens,roasted beets,candied walnuts,apples and a citrus vinaigrette.
They (Flex Mussels) source their mussels fresh from Prince Edward Island,Canada.
Like Mussels in Ireland,these too are cultivated. Why is this a good thing?
Unlike the mussels I had as a young child, the mussels are grown on a vertical rope/strand which means they do not touch the seabed. They tend to be free of grit and sand !
For my entree, I had Bombay Mussels. They came in a large pot,infused with Indian Curry,garlic,cinnamon,star anise and white wine. An abundant suppply of fresh bread made for lots of dipping !
For dessert we ate their famous home made doughnuts. Rarely does a meal leave me so happy and suffering from such withdrawal ! I urge you to try 'Flex Mussels' 174 E82nd St, NY

Tuesday, March 2, 2010


On days like today, the following scribbling is often a reflection of the swirling activity in my mind and writing it seems to be somewhat cathartic ! As I revisit the world of raising capitol for my business I seem to be faced with many, who really dont seem to understand my brand. Am I not explaining it well? Is it not there in black and white or is customer service something that seems so basic to individuals that it is overlooked?
Born and raised in Ireland, I was never a stranger to hard work. My father ran a chain of 'Newsagents' as they were called then. From an early age, I stocked shelves,cleaned floors, wiped down counters and put out the newspapers. Not so glamorous. I watched or rather lived the customer experience through my father. He was and still is the shining example of what large companies such as 'Nordstrom' adopt for their brand............
One of the shops my father owned was located in the Mardyke Parade, Cork City. Extremely lucrative at the time as it was next to a hospital and University College Cork Campus. These were the days , long before gift shops in hospitals and vending machines on college campus ! Also nearby was a shelter for battered women. I was acutely aware that my father treated every single person with the respect they deserved. The person buying flowers and chocolates for the patient did not take precedence over the homeless woman spending 5p on a lollipop for her child.
Gaffney's in Cork was a brand in my mind like Nordstrom. It was the customers experience.
From here, I worked in a butchers at the age of 18 slicing meat, whilst still studying.My father told me that if you are going to slice meat for a living, "Be the best meat slicer there is" He was so right. Take pride in your work. The customer will feel this.
In 1990, I moved to London and worked for 'The London Tara Hotel' which was owned then by 'Aer Lingus' , the Irish Airline. Standards were high. Training was rigorous. They mirrored the standards my father Tony Gaffney instilled in me.
In 1992, in walked the Director for Marketing Services for Coca Cola Great Britain. It was late at night and my shift was almost over. I remember this American all too well. Tired and agitated. With every reason to be. His family were stranded in Paris. They were being transferred to London and there had been a hiccup with Visas. Not knowing this at the time, I was ready to leave. This man had to be checked in. At the time he did not have access to a bank account etc. I was also a cashier. At that moment in time I made a decision. I did not call a manager. This man needed my help. At best I was going to help him, at worst he was a scam artist and I would be down money in my till.
However , having spent years growing up with my father and working under the management of Eoin Dillon (London Tara) I felt safe to make my own decision for this customer. This is why I mention Nordstrom. 2 years ago when I was struggling to pay bills for my business, I took another job working at Nordstrom working evenings and weekends. Having climbed the ranks in Sales & Marketing over the years, it was at first a little tough to go back into basic customer service training. I decided that I needed to learn something here. I did. I learned that Nordstrom is not a good store because their Chanel make up is better than that of Neiman Marcus !
The customer matters...............End of story. Yes, it really is that simple.
Now as the owner of my own company, Rachel Gaffney's Real Ireland my brand is everything to me. My brand will tell a story. The people working for me are my brand. More than the logo and the color scheme. Whilst,these are important to me, the experience my customer receives is in actual fact the brand.

In case you are wondering, the Director for Marketing Services for Coca Cola Great Britain moved back to the United States to become National Vice President, Sales for Hills Pet Nutrition, then Vice President National Accounts for Coors Brewing Company. How do I know this about Peter Leahy? Peter Leahy,is now partner and COO for Rachel Gaffney's Real Ireland

Saturday, February 13, 2010


When St Patricks Day approaches, the stores beging to stock their shelves with 'Irish Soda Bread'. Only one small problem..........It's NOT IRISH SODA BREAD !
Nope, sorry to burst your bubble but it simply isn't Traditional Irish Soda Bread! Consider it's origins. We were a poor nation. This was an easy to make all-in-one mixture that was made with buttermilk. Buttermilk being a by product when making butter. Wholemeal flour was more widely available. Baking Soda was added as a leavining agent.
The average Irish home in the 1800's did not have an oven so thay baked the bread in a pot known as a 'Bastible'. This pot was hung/suspended over an open fire and baked.
Raisins were never used. These were imported and if anything were a luxury for the Irish. When white flour was added, this was indeed for a special occassion.
There are various myths/reasons behind the sign of the cross. Some think it was done to "let the devil out". Others say it made it easier to divide and was a symbol for "Breaking Bread". Being a catholic country, I'm pretty sure it did indeed have religious implications, however the baker in me also says it had a lot to do with the chemistry of baking........distribution of heat !

Recently, I gave the recipe to Chef and Cook Book Author Lauren Braun Costello. Lauren has written 'Notes On Cooking' and 'The Competent Cook'. Founder of Gotham Caterers, she has also worked as a private chef,culinary instructor,recipe tester for 'The joy of Cooking' food stylist for 'The Early Show' and has appeared on 'The View'. I asked her to let me know what she thought of this recipe when she made it.
So, true to her word she did !
We both made the bread last week. Lauren in snowy New York and I in snowy Dallas !
Here is what she wrote.

"IRISH SODA BREAD IN THE BIG APPLE............This bread screams 'hearty' from the outside in. It's nutty and earthy flavor is a far cry from the currant and caraway-studded sweet bread we consider, perhaps erroneously, to be Irish Soda Bread. This authentic version has an honest,unambiguous taste of a rugged and rich homeland. Just good,old fashioned BREAD! And with a healthy spreading of salted Irish Butter...lets just say it won't last long. But that's ok. It's easier than pie to make!"

3 1/3 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 cup all purpose flour
2 tablespoons wheat germ
2 teaspoons rolled 2 teaspoons rolled oats for sprinkling
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1 egg
2 tablespoons canola oil
1/2 quart buttermilk

Pre Heat Oven to 375 degrees.
In a large bowl mix all dry ingredients. Make a well in the center and add liquid ingredients. Mix together well, trying not to handle too much. Form a ball gently with your floured hands. Do not work this bread like traditional yeast breads. Sprinkle with remaining oats.Place on a lightly greased baking sheet, make a cross in the bread with a sharp paring knife and bake for 45 minutes. Cool on wire rack.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Thursday, January 14, 2010


As many of you know, food is my love, actually food is my passion. It comes in so many forms. For the most part,my days are consumed with feeding my family and not always 'Dinner Parties' and 'Cooking Classes'! Recently I was in Minneapolis teaching a class and was making 'Lamb Follain' (Follain is the Irish word for wild or wholesome) During this class a gentleman from the front row commented that my husband must be a lucky man ! Of course,he assumed that my husband was indeed being served this food on a daily basis and this man was ready to leave his wife for me !
Not so fast ! I quckly corrected him,and explained that he doesn't receive this food on a daily basis. My family get 'Shepherds Pie', 'Stews'and of course the infamous Take Out'as I have two very active boys and cannot be in the kitchen all the time.
What they do get however, as an ingredient,is me.

To some this may sound a little trite, but I have never been more serious in my life. When you put yourself 'into' something it is always better.You can just taste it.All that matters to me is that the people eating it enjoy it.
Yesterday morning,I decided to start dinner at 8am because I had a busy day ahead which included reading a book that afternoon (reason for this blog post)collecting the kids from school, basketball practise,conference call with New York oh and did I mention that my husband was out of town, wish the gentleman from the front row could have been with me !

In making my 'Shepherds Pie' yesterday morning, I needed black pepper. I had run out so ,when refilling my mill, I got a little carried away. I purchase my black pepper in bulk as I use it constantly,(even my 12 year old is a pepper mill freak) When emptying the pepper corns into the mill, I spilled many. I decided to look through my hoard of empty jars and look for one that would hold them instead of the utilitarian container it came in. The visual filled me with such pleasure. I tell you this because even the seemingly mundane task of filling a peppermill can be something more for me.I loved to see the array of peppercorns layered in my new jar!Do what you love. When you do what you love,I think you do it well.

So, the book. Yes the book. I am going to New York next week and through a friend I was introduced to a lady by the name of Lauren Braun Costello. This is a lady I have not met ,but I feel like I know her well. She was the owner and Executive Chef of Gotham Caterers in New York, Recipe tester for the 75th anniversary edition of 'Joy Of Cooking',culinary producer,food stylist and so on. Her accolades are many.
Yesterday I picked up and read in it's entirity her book 'Notes On Cooking'
I sat in the coffee shop by myself,watched the world go by and read her book cover to cover .This book does not contain recipes ."Notes on Cooking is an essential primer of immediately useful and utterly relevant guidance that can help anyone become a better cook-without a single recipe" as it says in the inside jacket.
Note #16 was it for me "Don't TRY to be different" I love this and live this. Referring to openeing sentence regarding passion,when you are also doing what you believe you really never need to be'on' so to speak.

Why did I waffle along about my peppermill earlier? As I sat there with my coffee I came to #17 "Embrace The Mundane". Lauren tells us to "not bemoan the pedestrian tasks.Find pleasure in peeling a carrot,steaming rice,searing a steak,prepping,cleaning"
CLEANING,CLEANING??!! When I had finsihed preparing my dinner yesterday,I cleaned my countertops with 'Dettol'. For any Irish people reading this,you will know this trusty cleaner all too well! I find it in the import stores and costs more than a bottle of wine,but gives me huge pleasure! It reminds me of the home I grew up in.Quite literally,I inhale the fresh clean smell as I go,igniting my senses.

Our senses reward us when we allow them to. Lauren's book not only made me realise that it was perfectly ok to be excited about peppercorns and a bottle of Dettol! There are 192 notes in this book, and 16 & 17 did this for me,imagine what they can do for you..............I urge you to reward yourself by reading her book.

Friday, January 8, 2010


This morning,when I opened my email, I received confirmation from ANCHOR HOCKING stating that they had shipped out 3 pallets of product to the 'Safe Horizon' shelter in New York. They have graciously donated 24 sets of Bakeware, 24 sets of Mixing Bowls and 24 sets of glassware. Thank You so much Anchor Hocking. For this cook, I must admit to being more than surprised by the fresh and new updated look to their products. Who knew they had so much to offer. Dont forget to check out their web site.

Another shout out must indeed go to the fabulous Mike Michalowicz aka 'The Toilet Paper Entrepreneur'. I kid you not. Mike has a wonderful web site Mike's down to earth and more importantly, very real look at business is refreshing,funny and oh so honest! Mike has been a frequent guest on CNBC's 'The Big Idea' by Donny Deutsch. Mike has been there and done that. Started a business, struggled ,toiled hard and sold businesses.
He too has agreed to donate to the shelter. He has already shipped 55 Inspirational books to the shelter for each and every women to have. He will also be meeting with the Dreamers in New York and giving each and every one a copy also.
This is beginning to look like Oprah's Favorite things !!!!

Lastly,I want to say "Thank You" to Stephen Redford Sales & Marketing Director at the Hotel Indigo in Chelsea,New York for agreeing to arrange a special rate for us Dreamers. Ladies will be arriving at the hotel on Monday Jan 18th and I'm pretty sure more than 1 or 2 will be meeting in the Rooftop Bar...............

Thursday, January 7, 2010


Well,the countdown is on. 12 more days before the Dreamers meet in New York ! What began as a simple idea has spun into what can only be described as 'Charlottes Web'
Each and every woman, around the country has toiled away in their own area of expertise. In my earlier ramblings I talked about how this group of 'Dreamers' decided to meet in New York. We are now 12 days away from this event. On Tuesday Jan 19th I will be teaching a cooking class in Martha Stewart Omnimedia's building in Chelsea along with Lisa Umansky from Polka Dot Pound Cake
During the cooking class we will be making food that will be served for an 'Afternoon Tea' that afternoon for all 40 Dreamers and for the women from the 'Safe Horizon' shelter in New York.
This afternoon is one that should be filled with promise,inspiration and even a few tears, I should suspect.
Through the Martha Stewart web site 'Dreamers Into Doers'we have all gotten to know each other just a litle bit more.
I know that Terry Grahl, who lives in Michigan,began 'Enchanted Makeovers' ,forsaking her succesful Interior Design business for those that needed a new start.
I know that Peggy Gaffney,my namesake has visited Ireland with a group of nuns and has shared her wonderful memories with me.!I know too that Peggy, who owns Kanine Knits will be speaking at the event talking about her experience , turning a struggle into a profit
Just yesterday, I spoke with Kathy Hamrick in West Virginia. Kathy owns Ms Mollys Appalachian Salsa. We initially spoke, because I will be using her wonderful Salsa & her hot peppered jelly with nice warm fresh Irish Soda Bread. I think it's ok for me to say that we connected on so many more levels. We are both mothers of 2 boys and Kathy has the years of experience that simply left me wanting more. Kathy has had her hardships too. We have both experienced what it is truely like to stay TRUE to your product. So many ways of making it cheaper, or so they tell us!!! If , of course we dont use REAL ingredients. Kathy has experienced personal injury in her own life, leaving her with a disability and a formidable spirit.
Jolene Mack, located in PA runs many businesses including her event planning business and her infamous Bed & Breakfast bungalow 'Quite The Stir' in historic Gettysburg.
Jolene too, has a formidable spirit. Funny how we are all intertwined, or is it?
Just last December, I visited Minneapolis to teach a cooking class in 'Lunds & Byerly's' culinary school. Prior to the class, I had lunch with the fabulous Kim Lampe aka 'The B*A*G Lady'
Kim is connected to Terry in Michigan etc etc etc...AND NOW we are ALL connected.
OK,I surely met my sister ! The secret is out, I discovered that Kim shares the same fettish as me, yes you guessed it we both have this insatiable desire,need & lust for RUBBER !!!!!!!!!! When I was pregnant with my second, I used to wander through the car tire department in Sears just to touch,feel and smell the rubber. Now, how we discovered this about each other, I will surely never know.
This is of course,is just the beginning of the journey. I have a feeling this will evolve even more. There are more Dreamers, many more Dreamers and donors and sponsors,whom I will get to soon. Keep Dreaming people...just keep dreaming.