Valentine’s Day

Valentines Hearts Here at Ice Cream Ireland, we’re fans of Valentine’s Day, which is coming up fast. Love is always a good thing to celebrate, and loved ones can always use the extra attention. Besides, any tradition that involves eating chocolates is a tradition I can happily get behind. 

So what is Valentine’s Day anyway? A bit of history:

The Romans Know How to Party

Valentine’s Day is probably based upon the Roman holiday of Lupercalia, a fesitival celebrating the Goddess Juno Februa. The name probably comes from Lupus (wolf in Latin) in honour of the wolf that suckled Romulus and Remus, who are credited with founding the city. It is said that one of the traditions including men randomly picking love poems (written by women) from an urn, and thereby selecting their partner for the duration of the festival. 

The Church Has a Better Idea 

St ValentineIn 496, Pope Gelasius I declared the 14th of February a feast day in honour of St. Valentine. Which Valentine is a bit of a mystery, as there were at least three St. Valentines, at least two two of whom are thought to have been martyred on February 14th (possibly the most important of the three was a Gnostic Christian in Alexandria, who wrote and preached about love). 

One of the most prevelant stories about St. Valentines is that he was imprisoned and martyred for perfoming Christian weddings after they were banned by Emperor Claudius II. Another story is that the daughter of his jailor fell in love with him after he miraculously restored her sight, and when Valentine was being led off to his martyrdom he left her a little note, naturally ending “…from your Valentine.” 

St. Valentine: An Irish Angle

Valentine RelicThe relics of one of the St. Valentines (Valentine of Rome) were given by the Holy See in 1836 to the Whitefriar Street Carmelite Church in Dublin, where they are stored. 

Or Is the Day Norwegian? 

In Norway, this time of year is dedicated to the god Vali, son of Odin, and called ‘Lios-beri’ or light bringing. Vali was worshipped as an archer and said to be the awakener of tender thoughts and the patron of lovers. 

Chaucer makes it literary

In 1382, Chaucer made the first literary romantic reference to Valentine’s Day in his “Parlement of Foules.” He wrote, “For this was on seynt Volantynys day, Whan euery bryd comyth there to chese [chose] his make [mate].”

Romance? Has to be the French 

The earliest surviving Valentine’s is a poem by Charles, the Duke of Orleans, to his wife, written while he was imprisoned in the Tower of London in 1415. 

Who Made It About Chocolate? 

The first Valentine’s chocolates were marketed in a heart-shaped box by Richard Cadbury in 1861. Solid chocolate as we know it was a recent invention at the time! 

Top 5 Romantic Tips from Ice Cream Ireland

Valentines Chocolates1. Spice Things Up: Make the Aztec Hot Chocolate. Both chocolate and chilli peppers are generally thought to be aphrodisiacs. 

2. Go Over the Top: Champagne Sorbet will always get a bit of attention. Serve it with fresh fruit or chocolates.

3. Get in the Spirit: Be creative in serving up some ice cream with alcohol such as the black and white cocktail, though that one might need a bit of colour!

4. Feeling Saucy? Make some chocolate sauce. Use it to dunk fresh strawberries. Of course there are other uses for chocolate sauce, but that is none of my business!

5. Chat them up: Take time for a romantic chat over a cup of coffee. Naturally, bring out the chocolates. For an extra bit of sweetness with your coffee, try an affogato.

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Irish Blog Awards – Nominations

Irish Blog Awards I am delighted that Ice Cream Ireland has made it into the voting round for the Irish Blog awards in two categories – Best Specialist Blog and Best Business Blog. Thanks for the nominations!

If you’re feeling kind and generous, please vote me into the next round, or at least cast your vote on a huge range of interesting Irish blogs here. So very much appreciated!

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Happy Birthday to I.C.I. (Me)!

Birthday Today, Ice Cream Ireland turns one. Yes, it’s been a full year since I started this blog while on vacation in Morocco in February 2006! Thanks to almost 20,000 of you who have checked out the site, and especially those of you who have found your way to Murphys Ice Cream.

There have been several high points to my first year of blogging including:

  1. It seems that they like me in Philadelphia, where it seems I’ve been chosen with 10 other sites to make up their “Best of the Web 2007 (Food).” Much appreciated indeed!
  2. Appearing in the Irish Times technology section together with other Irish bloggers.
  3. The links and feedback from so many of you. Thanks again!

I’ve put together a little poll to help me with my focus over the next year, and here it is:



Now it’s time to eat my ice cream!

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New Words – Polski Sklep

Polski Sklep Shop Dingle There are mixed feelings in Ireland about the recent influx of immigration from foreign parts. I have to say I don’t share those mixed feelings. For me, it’s a good thing. After all, historically we had more of a problem with people leaving than in coming, and it’s great to see that we have the jobs not only to keep our own here, but to attract others as well. There is a need for labour, especially in the service industry. Although we always try to hire Irish when we can, we have had some excellent non-Irish team members from the EU and further afield and have been grateful for their service.

What really makes me excited, though, is the accompanying influx of cultural and culinary influences. Asian Market KillarneyWant some Polish pickles, sausages, or herring? There has been an explosion of Polish shops, and even Dingle has one now.

Craving galangal, fresh lemon grass, exotic noodles, extra hot chilli peppers, or African spices? There is probably an Asian market near you (Killarney has a great one).

It is such a joy to peruse offerings that, until recently, one could have only dreamed about. I suggest a visit for anyone who wants to broaden their culinary horizons. For me, always looking for ice cream ideas, it is an inspiration…

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Cardamom Honey Ice Cream

Honey Cardamom Moroccan Ice Cream This time last year, I was preparing to take two weeks holiday in Morocco. And what a lovely two weeks it was. In fact, this year, I am feeling nostalgic for the desert. Or was it dessert?

Most Moroccan desserts use a combination of the following flavours – almond, honey, cardamom and rose. I decided to make an ice cream using two of the above. I think it is quite a special flavour. Here it is:

Murphys Cardamom Honey Ice Cream
1 Cup (237ml) Sugar
5 Egg Yolks
1 1/8 Cups (266ml) Cream
1 1/8 Cups(266ml) Milk
2 tbs. (10g) Ground Cardamom
3 tbs. (65g) Honey

Yield: 6 Servings

What to do:

1. Beat the sugar and egg yolks together until thick and pale yellow.

2. Bring the milk to a simmer.

3. Beat the milk into the eggs and sugar in a slow stream.

4. Pour the mixture back into pan and place over low heat. Stir until the custard thickens slightly (around 70C). Use a thermometer, as at 75C the eggs will scramble!

Honey Cardamom Ice Cream5. Stir in the honey and cardamom.

6. Refrigerate over night.

7. Pass the mix through a fine sieve to remove the cardamom bits.

8. Whip the cream.

9. Gently fold in the custard.

10. Freeze using a domestic ice cream machine, or cover and place in the freezer.


1. Since it’s a mostly cold extraction with the cardamom, it will need a bit of time, so that’s why I have the mix rest over night.

2. To pasteurise the eggs, heat the custard to 73C and keep at that temperature for three minutes. Use a cooking thermometer, though, and keep stirring! If the custard goes any higher than 76C, the eggs will scramble. Immediately cover and place in the freezer until cool.

This is going off to Meeta as part of her Monthly Mingle

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Rooibosch (Redbush) Tea

Rooibosch (Red bush) Tea We’ve decided this year to improve our tea selection in the shop, and yesterday I went to Munster Wholefoods and poked around their warehouse, looking for options. One of the things I came back with was organic Rooibosch tea (also called “Redbush” or “Rooibos”).

Tea setThis non-caffeinated tea originated in South Africa with the Khoisen tribe, who used it as a natural remedy. It’s from the red bush shrub (Aspalathus linearis) and was brought into Europe by the Dutch.

According to the BBC, it can help with headaches, colic, asthma, insomnia, eczema, etc. In South Africa, hospitals routinely give children with skin conditions a bath in the stuff as well as giving it to them to drink.

However, I’m not so interested in the bathing or medicinal properties. I think it’s a delightful drink. It has half the tannin as normal tea, which makes it less bitter, and it can be drunk with milk and sugar, lemon and honey, or straight up. If you want a cup of tea before bedtime, you don’t want the usual herbal, and you want to sleep well, this is definitely one to consider…

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Is it just a matter of taste?

Coffee beans I just came across the interesting news that Starbucks was rated lower for its coffee than McDonalds in a taste test of mega-chain’s coffees by Consumer Reports. Apparently Starbucks coffee “was strong, but burnt and bitter enough to make your eyes water… McDonalds, the winner, had the rather lukewarm review: “…decent and moderately strong. Although it lacked the subtle top notes needed to make it rise and shine, it had no flaws.” (Newsmax)

I guess if it’s good coffee you want, one way to do it is to follow the lead of Morning Coffee and Afternoon Tea and make it yourself! Me, I’m just delighted that our shops are back open and the espresso machine is waiting for me in the morning…

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New Links

Happy St. Bridgets day! I haven’t done too much in terms of links recently, so here are a few Irish blogs to keep an eye on:

Cúpla Focal – Great concept on Irish language issues. Hope it’s kept up.
Irelandlogue – Irish Travel blog.
Kerry News Blog – Does exactly what it says on the tin.
Munster Pub Crawl – A Munster pub run-down.
Small and Tasty – Another Irish food blog.
Stuff yer Bake – Northern Irish Foodie.

And Abroad:

Lobstersquad – Spanish foodie blog with stunning drawings.
Chocolate Obsession – Chocolate, more chocolate.
Su Good Sweets – A New Yorker with a sweet tooth.
Chocolate in Context – A Melbourne-based chocoholic.
Ice Cream Journal – A blog from Turkey Hill Dairy.