The new Bridgestone Irish Food Guide didn’t see the Husband and I wrong on a brief trip to Carlow this weekend. Just released, it is a compendium of food producers, delis, markets, cafés and restaurants up and down the length and breath of the country. This is Sally and John McKenna’s eighth edition – the last one was published in 2004 – and it is a lovely chunky book, rammed full of great eating and an essential companion for any trip in the country.
A recent request for the Gingerbread recipe from the first of Paula Daly’s McDonnell’s Good Food Cook Books brought back a host of memories. This was a cake that was often made at home, first by my mother and then, when I was allowed to get stuck into more complicated recipes, by me, standing on top of a chair to stir the sweet, sticky mixture (and sneaking tastes whenever I could!).
Thanks to Slow Food Dublin for an educational, entertaining and delicious evening at last night’s Malaysian food cookery demonstration and dinner. With four trips to visit my family in Malaysia over the past five years, I’ve enjoyed every opportunity to sample the foods on offer and Mee Goring, Roti Canai, Teh Tarik, Kaya and Murtabak are just a few of the things that I love to eat while travelling there. While there may not have been any Teh Tarik or Roti on offer last night, chefs Rama and Mat Ju cooked up a storm in front of the crowd – yummy Mee Goring, morish Onion Bhajis, a well-flavoured Vegetable Curry, and Dosai – fermented lentil and rice pancakes – with Coconut Chutney. After the demonstration, we feasted on a buffet which also included slow-cooked Beef Rendang, Nasi Lemak or Coconut Rice, and a few savoury additions – crispy ikan billis (dried anchovies), hard boiled eggs, chutney, peanuts and fresh cucumber.
West Cork is undoubtedly a fantastic place to spend time in even if, as happened to us on last week’s communal honeymoon, it pours for most of the time. We were lucky enough to be staying in a wonderful cottage on Ardagh Castle Goat Farm but, with eight of the Husband’s family nearby in Baltimore and another half-dozen English Engineers staying out on the Sheep’s Head Peninsula, there wasn’t much time to properly appreciate the beautifully restored cottage! We did, however, get a chance to feast on the owner’s crumbly, Wensleydale-style Ardagh Castle Goat’s Cheese. A picnic hamper of Norfolk food specialities from two of the English Engineers yielded up a tube of Letheringsett Watermill Spelt Biscuits which had enough sweetness to marry happily with the cheese. Ardagh Castle Goat’s Cheese is only available locally around Baltimore and at the Saturday farmer’s market in Skibbereen but I’ve managed to export a large chunk of it to North Cork.
Life is busy – but, despite a routine that involves week-long neglect and frenzied activity at the weekend, the cottage garden is thriving! The Boyfriend is a member of the Irish Seed Savers Association so we got a few different types of potatoes from them, planting Cara, Ratte and Arran Banner varieties, along with some Roosters that sprouted in the bottom of the cupboard in March. They were all – apart from the Roosters, which is a more floury variety and an accidental planting – chosen deliberately for their blight resistant and waxy properties. So far the blight resistance, together with the blight-spray ministrations of a very helpful neighbour, seems to be working so hopefully there won’t be a reprise of the Great Irish Famine in Ballyvoddy (still, there’s always rabbit for the eating…)
Last night, Anne Kennedy of Greatfood.ie and I, in need of a glass of wine and some food, ended up – at her suggestion – at the newly decked out and recently reopened Shelbourne Bar in The Shelbourne on St Stephen’s Green. My memories of the old Shelbourne, admittedly after a couple of dynamite martinis in the Horseshoe Bar in the depths of winter, was of a gradually-getting-shabbier, heavy-with-tradition place. A grand old dame of Dublin, it was long overdue a facelift – although perhaps not one that went hand in hand with an American hotel chain. The Shelbourne Bar, where we ended up, is now a comfortable, light, bright L-shaped room on the left as you enter the hotel.
Wine, wine and more wine – if that’s what you’re looking for then the recently opened Olesya’s Wine Bar on Dublin’s Exchequer Street is the perfect place. With a long wine list, which includes choices from Georgia and the Lebanon alongside a good selection of new and old world wines, there’s plenty to choose from, should you wish to imbibe by the glass or bottle.
This is the book for anyone who has ever gone to Paris seeking French food and been completely waylaid from their Coq au Vin by the rich variety of ethnic restaurants in the city. With a far-flung variety of former colonies and protectorates, Paris is a melting pot for people and cuisines from all over North Africa, Asia and the Middle East. When we were there last year we spent a lot of time exploring the food available at places like the café at L’Institut du Monde Arabe, grabbing pastries from a spectacular Algerian bakery called La Bague de Kenza (subsequently written up in the New York Times, with recipes, and there’s also some great photos on Lulu Loves London) and trying to find a much-recommended restaurant called l’Afghanistan in the 11th arrondissement.