Ah, to be this free on a summer’s day in the woods. Chasing bubbles, splashing in the swimming hole, catching fireflies and singing by the campfire. Summer is here, or was on my recent visit to the US.
Back in Ireland and I’m sitting here in a flannel shirt and quilted vest by the fire, listening to a dismall weather forecast. Like they say, “you don’t come to ireland for the weather!” But, no bother, for now the sun is shining and I’m happy to be back in this country of amazing and breathtaking beauty. This morning a gorgeous pheasant flew by the window and a new born donkey came to say hello last night, drawn in by the light in the window. The garden is sprouting new veg. every day and it’s time for creating some summer delectables to share with you. For now it’s off to the Farmers Markets to gather some ingredients for dinner. On Fridays there’s Ennis in Clare and Kinvara in Galway and on Saturdays, there’s the Doolin and Ennistymon markets. All offer a wide variety of fresh local produce, veg.,fish, meats and even handcrafts. check out www.clarefocus.ie for what’s going on this weekend. Up the Banner!
The Irish autumn has been full of warm, sunny days and crisp cool nights. After a busy summer of cooking and struggling through another rainy season it’s been a pleasure to get out and visit good friends. This beautiful, very robust girl of only 10 months is the best example of a vegetarian diet that I’m sure I will ever see! Reared on fresh homegrown vegetables, fruits, grains and irish dairy products and the west of Ireland’s fresh air she is the picture of good health and activity, interested in everything around her. A real tribute to both of her parents for such good cooking, love and care. So, if you any doubts about whether a vegetarian diet is a healthy one for babies, take another look at her! If you know the right combinations of foods and diversify your menu to make it tasty and nutritious it can be done.
These two cuties are also reared on homegrown veggies and a healthy diet, surrounded by geese, chickens, ducks, goats, sheep, goats and cows on their small farm in Clare. Free to roam, they are full of spirit and adventure and love to help out in the garden and sell the veg from mom’s roadside stand.As I drive around Ireland, finishing up this season’s book business, visiting shops that are selling Coming Home To Cook I hear a lot about the hard times we are facing here and it’s sad to see a country that had such recent boom sink back into poverty yet again. The world wide recession hits a small country especially hard, as does the greed of big business. But, I’m seeing a lot more polytunnels in the yards, more land being rented as community gardens and hear a lot about getting back to basics and keeping it simple. I wonder what Ireland will be like a year from now?
The days are getting shorter and the sun is setting earlier in the west. The sun is finally shining, as predicted! The roads are lined with scarlet fucsia, orange montbrecia and up in Donegal the indomitable heather covers the mountains and valleys alike. Blackberries, rose hips, sloe berries, and hazelnuts are ready for picking along the hedgerows. Traveling through West Cork I marvel at the green of the meadows. I notice how the cows are such communal animals, standing, sitting, always in pairs or groups. They glisten in the sun after two months of grey skies and steady rain. Was that a smile on that Kerry cow’s face? It certainly is on this new little donkey, and I bet Fina is smiling, too!
Awesome detective work by Paul of the cool veggie blog Eat Like a Rabbit. He got a link to my posting – Win a Cookbook – on Twitter from a blogger in Australia! He stuck with it and through Google maps and some other search engines discovered that I was at the Fairway Market in Red Hook, Brooklyn on a recent trip back to the states. Congratulations Paul, enjoy the recipes, stories and photographs in Coming Home To Cook.
The first person who guesses the exact location of where I am in this picture wins a copy of Coming Home To Cook.
Here’s some clues: I am eating a potato knish…I am technically in a harbor…..an Irish Immigrant built the warehouse behind me in the mid 1800’s, where coffee and cocoa beans can still be found in the cracks of the floorboards…it was taken today, April 27, 2009.
Let me know by going to comments. I will confirm and send out a signed copy asap. Good Luck!
Ireland still has a “sketchy” reputation for food despite the advances in local restaurants serving fresh, seasonal foods sourced from local producers. Farmers Markets are bursting with interesting foods from farmers, cooks and from the demands of our diverse population As I travel the country promoting Coming Home To Cook and doing cookery demos I meet all kinds of people who are interested in new recipes and different ideas for cooking from our spectacular bounty of produce. Ireland has a long growing season, recently extended by the emergence of tunnel gardening. Allottments are on the rise, giving those of us living in flats the opportunity to grow our own. And, new restaurants are opening in West Clare that are committed to serving fresh Irish foods. So, if you’re a tourist coming to Ireland for a holiday, search out the little local restaurants and Farmers Markets for the real experience in Irish food. And, look for the Food Festivals, there’s loads of them around the country from now through October. For some helpful sights in Co. Clare, go to Clare Focus and Slow Food Clare Check out Irish Seed Savers for news about native Irish plants and what’s in season (and it’s a great place to visit) and keep checking back here for updates and see my links for Irish food sites as well as Irish sites. For food news around the country check Good Food Ireland and Discover Ireland The most comprehensive Farmers Market list can be found at Bord Bia which is the website of the Irish Food Board.
Sorrel is a common wild plant that grows in fields in Ireland. There are several different varieties. Terry Dunne has a bumper crop of sheep’s sorrel behind his cultivated gardens and I bet if you look around you’ll find this or clover sorrel (small leaves that look like a 4 leaf clover),close to home. A fresh picked leaf tasted salty and tart and a salad of mixed greens with a lemon infusion came to mind. Young spring sorrel is best used raw and summer sorrel is good in soup, stew, cream sauce and steamed as you would spinach and chard. It is high in Vitamin A and C, potassium, calcium and magnesium and is a natural laxative (if eaten in large quantities). Here’s a recipe for sorrel cream sauce. Wash and dry 4 packed cups of sorrel leaves Coarsely chop the leaves and sute in 3 Tbl. butter until completely wilted. Into 1 cup of hot vegetable stock add 1 cup of light cream or creme fraiche. Boil until sauce begins to thicken, add 1 TBl. of plain white flour, sea salt & cracked black pepper to taste, sorrel leaves and cook until thick. This sauce is lovely over blanched fresh garden vegetables, for use in cream soups or over the savory dinner loaf from Coming Home To Cook for a delicious dinner entree.
I spent the Paddy’s Day weekend at the beach in Wexford. This part of Ireland is known as the sunny southeast and it certainly was with 4 days of blue skies and warm temperatures. The sea, the green fields and meadows all sparkled capturing a special spring awakening. The highlight of the weekend was a visit to Terry Dunne’s beautiful home in Duncormick. Terry is a weaver and master gardener who creates extraordinary tapestries and sculptures, using many plants that he grows. But, to just say that about this gracious and talented Irish man is not enough. What really amazed me is how much he has created in the last six years. It was then that Terry bought this abandoned stone cottage that had weeds growing up from the earthen floors. He went to work moving out the spirits (!), rethatching the roof and renovating it into a home that is warm, cozy, inviting and near perfection in it’s decor, artwork and ambiance. But, that’s just the house. He added on a light filled studio for his weaving and went to work on the gardens, creating a masterpiece of wild and native plants, a vegetable and herb garden, a rainbow of colorful flowers, trees and shrubs. He planted a celtic circle around which he grows willows that he uses in his artwork. My companions had the job of cutting the “sallys”, the willow branches, while I roamed around taking pictures of this little piece of heaven. The sallys will be used in a course he is giving on living structures, such as igloos, archways, and fences. The pictures are from left to right: a view of the cottage with cut willows in the foreground, notice the variety of color in them. Terry the weaver at his loom. Yarn used in his weaving. Ivy on the shed window. Bog Myrtle in the shed. The patio with the original cottage and studio to the left of it. The beginnings of the vegetable garden: corn salad and pak choy. Hearts ease also known as goldlace primula. Species tulip. It was one of those days that serves as an inspiration for one’s own creativity and to experience what nature has to give to us. When I make a few extra bob I’m buying one of his turf baskets. Beautiful! The next posting is on wild sorrel which his back fields are full of! check out Terry’s website at www.terrytheweaver.com
Warm brown bread right out of the oven, with Irish butter and a proper cup of tea with fresh cows milk, what could be a better way to start the day? Joan’s homecooking is one of the many reasons I love visiting the farm in Cork. When asked for her recipe she gave it to me in “saucerfuls”. So, after watching carefully I broke it down to this:
4 cups wholemeal and 2 cups plain white flour, 1 tsp. salt, 1 Tbl. bread soda, 1 Tbl. brown sugar, 8 Tbl. cold butter, 2 1/2 to 3 cups whole milk or buttermilk. Mix together dry ingredients. Cut in cold butter until crumbly. Pour in milk until all is well blended. Form into a round loaf, cut a cross into the middle and place on a greased flat pan. Bake in a 180 or 350 degree oven for 45 minutes to 1 hour. Eat hot with lots of butter!