Setting New Year Intentions!

Clifden at New Year

Well, Happy New Year! “Let’s hope it’s a good one”! We are very lucky in that we celebrate two New Years. One at Samhain, which is the Celtic New Year and then at January 1st. Both times are important to me. The Celtic New Year is important because I love to connect with the Wheel of the Year and with aspects of my ancestors. This is when I set intentions of a more spiritual nature. On January 1st, I set intentions for the goals I want to achieve during the year. I think, that with all the energy from everyone around the world, who are all setting intentions and making resolutions, it is a good idea to hitch a ride on all that energy. This year I am starting off by dedicating the month of January to health and diet.

New Year in Connemara

To this end I am juicing more regularly, practising a bit of yoga, doing more stretches, incorporating some meditation (which I am not at all good at) and trying to get to bed earlier and to rise earlier. I like some of Donna Eden’s exercises and I must say they really work for me.

I lost my cooking mojo this last couple of years and so haven’t perhaps eaten as well as I could have. You know what it is like when you get stuck in cooking the same old, same old and then you lose interest in your food. My daughter bought me a new cook book full of really simple recipes and lots of vegetarian ideas so I am looking forward to using this book and getting back in to the swing of cooking.


Usually I juice once a day, for breakfast time. Now I am juicing two or three times a day. I have been wholeheartedly into juicing ever since some years ago, when I watched a film by Joe Cross, “Fat, Sick and nearly Dead”. You can watch the film here – Joe makes a green juice and while my juices are also based on green vegetables, I like to add carrots and beetroot. Both are high in anti-oxidants – Vitamins A, C, E and Betacarotene, and both support the liver. As these juices are so rich in nutrients you can literally feel the goodness flooding your body as you drink.

Vegetable Juice

I am also cooking with barley as it is very alkalysing for the blood and can help prevent or alleviate inflammatory conditions such as arthritis. So simple to cook! Just cover with water, bring to the boil and then let it simmer until it is soft but still has a little bite. You can make Lemon and Barley Water which is brilliant for the urinary system and it can help with cystitis and other complaints. You can make a stew, a casserole or stir-fry, add it to soup or sow it as a spring green and make Barley Grass juice. I love the taste and I feel clean after eating it.

As a challenge to myself I am also exploring recipes from the ancient past. Potatoes did not arrive in Ireland until the 1600s and before then, the main staples were barley and oats. How did my ancestors use barley and oats and what did they cook them with? In a previous life when I was a history teacher I invited a re-enactment group to the school to speak to first year students about life in ancient Ireland. They spoke about diet and brought in some foods to try. Barley, oats, wild leaves and berries, fruits and nuts were some of the staples. Barley would be cooked and served with onions and wild leeks, perhaps alongside some meat. Pork was most often eaten but other meats such as mutton and venison were also enjoyed. Cheese and other milk products, known as white meats, were also very popular including sour milk, curds, whey and buttermilk. Here are some verses from a poem of the tenth century which describes all the wild foods a hermit living in the woods enjoys without stepping too far from his hut.

The Hermit’s Hut

….around its close the wood sheds its nuts upon fat swine

A tree of apples of great bounty,…huge; a seemly crop from

small-nutted branching green hazels, in clusters like a fist.

Fruits of Rowan, black sloes of the dark Blackthorn; foods of whorts,

spare berries…

A clutch of eggs, honey, produce of heath-peas, God has

sent it: sweet apples, red bog-berries, whortleberries.

Beer with herbs, a patch of strawberries, delicious abundance,

haws, yew berries, kernels of nuts.

A cup of mead from the goodly hazel-bush, quickly served:

brown acorns, manes of briar, with fine blackberries.

In summer with its pleasant, abundant mantle, with good-

tasting savour, there are pignuts, wild marjoram, the cresses 

of the stream – green purity!

Barley is a great substitute for rice as are Oats. We recently purchased some whole oats – groats – which are the unprocessed oat. Usually we eat rolled oats, (oat flakes) which are definitely very good for a person, but we decided to try the groats as they are the more traditional way of eating porridge. The groats are the seeds and I will sow some of these to grow my own crop. As a seed, the groats are a little hard so they need to be soaked the night before cooking. The other day we had a lucky accident which led to a new taste experience. I had planned a stir-fry with barley for dinner and we intended to have a porridge of groats for lunch, after a breakfast of juice. We found that we were not really hungry enough for porridge and so the cooked groats were put to one side.

Cooked Oat Groats

At dinner time, I prepared the stir-fry by cooking cumin seeds and onions in the wok, adding celery, carrots, peppers, courgette and garlic, some chilli flakes and salt and pepper. But I had forgotten to simmer the barley!!!


Instead, I mixed in the cooked oats and stirred them in well, making sure they were heated through and infused with the flavours I had added. Wow! This meal was surprisingly delicious. I think it was reminiscent in some way of an ancient style of porridge. Our ancestors ate porridges at all times of the day and so porridges could be savoury or sweet. We love honey or brown sugar in our breakfast porridge, Scottish friends prefer salt. Now I know that you can add anything you like to porridge.

Dian Cecht was the healer and surgeon of the Tuatha dé Danann – the people who ruled Ireland before the Celts arrived. Dian Cecht had his own special recipe for porridge which I intend to try next. As Dian Cecht was the healer, his porridge is medicine as well as food and it was reputed to address various disorders including stomach upsets, sore throats and colds, worms and other issues, and probably any nervous system issues. Oats are full of B vitamins which nourish the nervous system. Apart from the groats, his porridge contained Dandelion, Chickweed, Wood Sorrel and Hazel Buds. Sounds tasty! And of course, all those additions to the oats would have brought huge healing benefits.

My diet is improving, I’ve been cycling and walking, I’m doing a little yoga each morning. I just need to stick to my programme and keep going. Already I am feeling cleaner within and more focused. How are you getting on with your resolutions or intentions?

Terri Conroy
Danu's Irish Herb Garden

Tel: +353 086 378 1306


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