Bespoke Irish Tour Curator and lover of all things Irish , Rachel Gaffney created Rachel Gaffney’s Real Ireland Podcast. Every episode Rachel celebrates Ireland’s Hidden Gems, pays homage to the true Irish spirit and highlights the new generation of the island’s movers and shakers.
A Closer Look at Irish Food with Rachel Gaffney
“It’s a food revolution. I’ve never seen anything like it. [Everyone] has been doing their part to elevate the standard of Irish food to one that is comparable, if not better than, French and Italian cuisine. So why are we not getting that message in America?”
Rachel Gaffney challenges America’s perception of Irish food in the third episode of her show, Rachel Gaffney’s Real Ireland. Irish food, however, is just one of the thirteen topics featured in her show, all of which celebrate Ireland’s hidden gems, pay homage to the true Irish spirit, and highlight the new generation of the island’s movers and shakers
Gaffney began episode 3 with advice about scheduling travel to Ireland. She offered the advice not to fly in and out of the same airport:
“A lot of people think they have to fly in and out of Dublin or fly in and out as Shannon, but it really helps if you fly into one airport and out of the other. You get to see a lot more this way.”
Gaffney offers another piece of traveling advice:
“You can do [TSA] pre-clearing in Dublin and Shannon. You’re basically on American soil in the airport, so when you land the United States, it’s just like being a domestic flight, which is great after a long flight.”
She then confronted the approaching St. Patrick’s day, and without being a “killjoy,” scrutinized America’s image of Irish food:
“I Googled ‘Irish food,’ and under images of Irish food, … I see the obligatory corned beef and the sausages. It’s not good [and] not fair on what’s actually happening and what’s been happening in Ireland over the years. It’s a food revolution. I’ve never seen anything like it. [Everyone] has been doing their part to elevate the standard of Irish food to one that is comparable, if not better than, French and Italian cuisine. So why are we not getting that message in America?”
To transform America’s false perception of Irish food, Gaffney asks the audience to post imagery of Irish food to social media with the hashtag, #IrishFood. She continued by highlighting her experience at BrookLodge, a restaurant dubbed one of the top 100 restaurants in Ireland by the Sunday Times.
“I was sitting [at BrookLodge] and was working on my laptop and thought ‘I’m just going to do some writing about this.’ To tell you that it’s organic and the food is wild is an understatement. I took out my phone and got video footage of poultry … wandering around the back of the hotel … happy doing their own thing.”
“They forage everything from wild garlic to pine needles [to serve at BrookLodge] … One of the things I had that was delicious was their duck eggs.
If you’re looking for a place to stay in Ireland, if you want to go somewhere you can swim, relax, spa, and enjoy the food, BrookLodge has [it all].
They also offer foraging and cooking classes there and have a beautiful Church at the end of the grounds, which you can get married in.”
Gaffney then showed the audience images of delicious food from her trip to Ireland, explaining their flavor and significance:
“This is a bowl of soup that I had at Ballymaloe house and cooking school. I mean when I say, ‘it’s just a bowl of soup,’ it’s not just a bowl of soup. It’s the way they presented it … [it’s] about all of the ingredients … [it’s] sustainable food, which is really important.”
She then introduced one of her friends, Imen McDonnell, whom she met on social media and will be joining her on her tour to Ireland from Sept. 7th to 15th. McDonnell was an American producer before marrying an Irish farmer and writing her book, “The Farmette Cookbook: Recipes and Adventures from My Life on an Irish Farm.” She has gained a loyal following on social media as well, amassing over 50k Instagram followers. Gaffney praised McDonnell’s as “incredible” and “written beautifully.”
Gaffney explored various recipes in McDonnell’s book and turned to her recipe on tea brack, which she called ‘Diviners Brack.’ She explained the Irish origin of the bread:
“Breac is Irish. Translated into English, it’s brack, [which] means speckled. So when we take raisins and dried fruit and a cup of hot tea and soak the two of them and leave it for an hour. The fruit absorbs the tea and gives the cake more flavor. You can put some butter on there and eat it with some hot tea.”
Beyond the quality of the recipes in McDonnell’s book, Gaffney explains how she explains the stories behind the recipes in the book:
“Something that struck me when I read this book is that I have read so many Irish cookbooks written by Irish people. And there’s something very special about this because it’s written by an American. She is wearing her American hat when she’s explaining everything in the book: … the stories behind [the recipes] and the colloquialisms, [which] is very important to a recipe. So I love the book.”
Rachel talks with Scott Sirianni, Regional Director American Airlines about the company’s inaugural flight from Dallas to Dublin June 6th.
Rachel talks about what (and how!) to pack in your suitcase when you travel to Ireland. What are the essentials you can’t forget about before you leave? Which are the most useful apps when traveling abroad, and what’s REALLY worth the money?
The Road to Ireland
Gaffney’s brand began with traditional Irish butter shortbreads. Growing up in Cork, Ireland, her mother’s special shortbread cookies were central to celebrations. When Gaffney moved to America in 1996, she made them for parties of her own. Soon friends began to ask her to make them for gatherings, and Irish shortbread cookies became her signature. She began to sell the cookies in markets and gift shops around Dallas and later to major specialty grocers including Central Market and Lunds & Byerly’s.
As she produced the shortbreads in greater quantities, Gaffney realized the use of premium butter was key to flavor and consistency. In the early days, she threw away hundreds of cookies that didn’t meet her standards. “You can’t take shortcuts to achieve the product I want,” she says. “You can’t use refrigerated or frozen dough – it doesn’t taste the same. One thing I will never do is add preservatives.”
“When I moved to the United States, I noticed that peoples’ perception of the Ireland I knew, the Real Ireland, was, to say the least, a little distorted. I began ‘Rachel Gaffney’s Real Ireland’ with the mission to educate and entertain people,” Gaffney says.
Today, Gaffney has a line of products that showcase the best of her Real Ireland including a line of kitchen textiles—aprons, dish towels, hot pads and more—produced by the legendary Charles Gallen Irish Linen.
Gaffney teaches interactive cooking classes across the country, including an appearance on “The Martha Stewart Show.” Gaffney is a member of Stewart’s “Dreamers into Doers,” a community that celebrates talented and creative women who turn their dreams into careers they love.