From City Streets to Cow Paths

Friday, May 8, 2015

Imen McDonnell, author of the blog Farmette.

It all began on a wintry night in Minnesota when the beautiful and talented Imen, on a well-set career path in TV and film production, met a handsome Irishman visiting a mutual friend in Minneapolis. A few days later, when the man left for his home in Ireland, he sent a brimming basket of flowers to the desk of this bonny producer, asking her to be his Valentine. Two years later, Imen followed Richard to his farm in Dunmoylan. She left behind her career, her friends, her country, and, in fact, everything that had formed her identity to begin a new life as a farm wife in the idyllic Irish countryside. From the streets of Los Angeles and New York City to the cow paths of Kilcolman in County Limerick, this woman has traded her high heels for a sturdy pair of Wellingtons, her spacious office in the city for a farmhouse kitchen.  But she has no regrets.

Imen McDonnell's story is beautifully portrayed in both words and photographs on her blog, Farmettte.  She is currently writing her cooking memoir, Farmette, Recipes & Adventures from Life on an Irish Farm to be published by Roost Books and released in the USA, Ireland and UK in Spring 2016.

Tea, anyone? Teddy, a faithful Airedale Terrier, helped Imen with the transition to a new country when days were long, friends were few and well-set Irish traditions were being reckoned with.

Helping husband, Richard, move cattle to a new grazing pasture.

A celebration with fairy cakes and tea in honor of being chosen as a finalist in the 2015 Saveur Magazine Blog Awards.

One of Imen's biggest challenges:  "Finding my way around a kitchen and becoming a home cook in a world where traditional trumps quick or convenient." 

Keeping the farmer happy with his favorite dessert - swirly, fruity meringues with cream.

Today's farm lunch is Sea Breams from the local fishmonger, stuffed with citrus, fennel, fresh dill, oregano and thyme.  

What better way to celebrate spring than with syllabub, made with Dry Cider and accented with rhubarb and rosemary?

Son, Geoffrey, joins her on foraging expeditions in the fields and woods of Dunmoylan.  (Daniel Boone is alive and well in Ireland)

A summer picnic of potted smoked trout, soda bread and farmhouse cheeses to drink in the Irish sunshine and pure air.

One of the perks of living on a farm - fresh milk and cream every day. Ice cream, anyone?

A young farmer chef in training as Geoffrey helps to make roasted turkey sandwiches for a crew of hungry farmers.

Father and son, enjoying a romp in the creek that runs through the fields of this farm that has been in the McDonnell family for generations.

A walk on Ballybunion Beach

The man who stole her heart


Grits and Ramps
Today I built a bridge between wild Irish soul food and an eponymous soul food from the American south. And, it was SAVAGE. We collected a modest amount of ramps, cleaned, and simply dipped in a bit of olive oil for the grill, then served them charred and hot on a bed of creamy, cheesy, country grits.
Country Grits with Grilled Wild Irish Ramps
Serves 4
1/2 cup/75g of yellow, stone ground grits (can substitute polenta or coarse ground maizemeal if absolutely necessary, or just order grits online at Amazon)
2 cups/500ml boiling water
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup sharp cheddar cheese, grated
15-20 freshly cultivated wild ramps (could sub spring onion here if you don’t have access to ramps)
1 tbsp olive oil
Sea salt
Light a charcoal fire in your grill and allow coals to get white hot, or prepare and oil a grill pan. Coat the wild ramps with olive oil. Set aside.
Stir grits into a saucepan of rapidly boiling, salted water. Cook and stir until the boil comes back up then over and continue to cook for 5-6 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in cheese, cover, and let sit on stovetop while grilling the ramsons.
Place ramps on your grill and cook until just charred. Remove and set aside.
Spoon creamy grits into individual bowls, top with 4-5 grilled ramps, sprinkle with sea salt and serve.
Scullery Notes: When digging ramps, unless they are scarce in your area, be sure and get the whole root where the most profound flavour is found. The leaves are also great for making pesto, and the bulbs are great pickled and used for dirty martinis! Be mindful of how much you are taking from the land in relation to what is available to you. Never forage on the side of busy roads or where there is a lot of foot traffic which can be contaminating.  

Irish Cream - the real deal
Irish Cream
Makes 24 ounces
1 cup heavy cream
1 tsp. instant coffee powder
½ tsp. cocoa powder
¾ cup Irish whiskey
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 (14-oz.) can sweetened condensed milk
Combine 1 tbsp. cream and the coffee and cocoa powders to make a smooth paste. 2. Slowly add remaining cream, whisking until smooth.
Add whiskey, vanilla extract, and sweetened condensed milk; stir to combine.
Pour into a 24-oz. jar and keep refrigerated until ready to serve, up to 2 weeks.
To serve, pour into a tumbler filled with ice.

Imen McDonnell is currently writing her cooking memoir, Farmette, Recipes & Adventures from Life on an Irish Farm to be published by Roost Books and release in the USA, Ireland and UK in Spring 2016.


  1. The grits recipe sounds simply delicious. I happen to be planning a ramp hike this week. Perfect timing!