While in New Zealand, staying with the Husband’s parents, our nearest café is actually a winery called Fossil Ridge. We pass the small vineyard on our daily walk (sometimes several times a day as the Husband tries to balance lots of eating his mother’s fabulous food with regular competitive brother-in-law weigh-ins!) and the walk does occasionally get a little interrupted. An attractive wooden building, set amidst olive groves and overlooking a pond covered with water lilies, the cellar door is a relaxed setting to enjoy a selection of platters and light lunches to accompany its wines.
Cook ahead, shop ahead, think ahead – those are the main points of Carmel Somers’ first cookbook. Somers is the chef/owner of the Good Things Café, an acclaimed restaurant and popular cookery school in Durrus, West Cork. Eat Good Things Every Day, however, is not in the least bit cheffy. It is all about simple family dishes, often lifted with an unexpected ingredient: an apple in a cabbage stir fry with pork belly, bananas fried to accompany a Cuban rice dish, raw rhubarb tossed in a salad with cucumber and mint.
From Burdass-Reared Wold’s lamb to Ampleforth Abbey Apple Tart Tatin, Andrew Pern’s Black Pudding and Foie Gras is as firmly rooted in the food of Yorkshire as his Michelin-stared establishment is embedded in the village of Harome. Andrew’s Star Inn is a 14th century country pub in North Yorkshire which opened 13 years ago. He laughs as he recalls that it all started with just three people – himself in the kitchen, his wife Jacquie working front of house and her mother behind the bar. Now they run a total of seven interlinked businesses in Harome, including self catering cottages, a deli and a butcher’s shop, employing some 120 people.
I’ve always liked to bake. As soon as I was old enough to co-ordinate reading recipes and using a wooden spoon, I was anxious for any cake-making excuse – and most of them involved copious amounts of chocolate. Over the years there have been many good chocolate cakes, from my early attempts using chocolate-flavoured cake covering and marg to (when I started paying for my own shopping!) butter and 70% dark chocolate. This cake, however, although it may not look like much, stands head and shoulders above the rest.
Driving to Galley Head Lighthouse is a bit like a magical mystery tour. Although easy to see from a variety of locations along the West Cork coast, the lighthouse – like an ever-receeding mirage – seems to disappear from sight the closer you get. Eventually, however, after driving constantly south of Clonakilty, past numerous private property signs and along a low-lying road, protected on either side by stone walls, you get to where you can drive no further. The lighthouse stands at the tip of a peninsula, surrounded by the sea, and the lighthouse keeper’s house that we were staying in is part of a two-sided structure that shelters the parking area at the front from the northern and western winds.
Birthday cakes are, almost inevitably, chocolate–based in my family. It is undoubtedly the default option, beloved by everybody, not least by the birthday celebrants. This year, however, we were to celebrate the mother’s (January) birthday on an unseasonably bright February day and – unusually – I wasn’t in the mood for chocolate baking. After a discussion with my normal cooking-partner-in-crime, the Little Sister, and inspired by the amount of citrus fruit in the shops, I went down the orange and almond road instead, making a light but very moist cake. It seemed, at the time, to be the season for lighter cooking – an idea promptly destroyed by subsequent appearances of hail, ice and snow.
During my first couple of years in Dublin, I worked on Great Denmark Street, just off the top of O’Connell Street. At that stage, there weren’t many lunch-friendly places around the northside so, if catching up with friends for lunch, the usual thing was to meet outside Trinity (cue Caroline legging it down O’Connell Street, over O’Connell Bridge and up Westmoreland Street at the rate of knots at 12.55pm) and go from there. One of my favourite places to go with the Tax Advisor – if we could grab a seat – was Cornucopia on Wicklow Street. We would fill up on warming winter soups, my favourite Spanakopita or hearty quiches, always with a big debate over which salads to choose. After a feed there, the Tax Consultant used to be terribly impressed at the fact that he didn’t get hungry all afternoon long.