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.
Any excuse is a good one to visit Dingle and when it involves a Food Festival and an invitation to participate in the judging of the inaugural National Irish Food Awards, also known as Blas na hÉireann, how could anyone resist? Certainly not me and Saturday found my tastebuds at the ready to sample some of the enormous variety of foods entered into a series of blind tastings. Without the context of packaging and placement, it was a real opportunity to see what was out there on the Irish market. And it wasn’t all, ahem, work. I also got to meet fellow bloggers Val and Ollie, catch up with my former teacher Rory O’Connell, wander around the variety of food stalls scattered around the town, eat a first class meal at seafood restaurant Out of The Blue have several afternoon affogatos and sample a variety of the Mexican flavours on offer at Murphy’s Ice Cream (the Guacamole was a very surprising hit.)
Although we had at least a week of summertime flip-flop days, May seems to have regressed to the cold and damp of early April. Weather like this – today it rained for the afternoon and just didn’t stop – means a return to cold weather soup recipes, warming comfort food for wintery-feeling evenings. This lentil soup recipe – for I believe that you can never have too many lentil recipes in your repertoire – is from Domini Kemp, of Itsabagel fame (all time favourite bagel? Definitely a Mountaineer), and was published in one of her Irish Times pieces a few weeks ago. I made it that very week and we loved it but then finer weather (and PSB) came on the scene so I put away my soup recipes – but not for too long, as it turned out.
If you’re in New Zealand at the moment, you’re probably celebrating Waitangi Day on the beach or with a picnic. You could do something similar in Ireland but you wouldn’t last long on a wind- and rain-swept beach and picnics really need to be at home in front of the fire! This wintery weather lends itself very much to warming soups so, after chancing on some lovely sweet potatoes in Fermoy’s last remaining veg shop, I decided that it was time to make Meg’s Spicy Lentil and Kumara Soup – kumara is a Maori sweet potato that we eat a lot of when we are in New Zealand but can’t get in Ireland. The sweet potatoes that I picked up weren’t a bad substitute, though, I’ll definitely be back to get some more to make more kumara recipes. Now, time to make some Anzac Biscuits for a real Kiwi treat – although I guess I should really be making a Pavalova!
Super Natural Cooking: Five Ways To Incorporate Whole and Natural Ingredients into Your Cooking by Heidi Swanson (Ten Speed Press)Blogger, photographer, graphic designer and passionate cook Heidi Swanson demystifies unfamiliar health shop ingredients in Super Natural Cooking, a cookbook that drags the world of whole foods very firmly into the 21st century. Nothing is complicated, all is creative and original and Heidi is an encouraging teacher. This is a satisfyingly chunky book, designed with love and attention to detail. Must Cook: Giant Crusty and Creamy White Beans with Greens
Our last Bibliofemme bookclub – for The Rum Diaries by Hunter S Thompson – was held at my flat on a rapidly-darkening autumn evening. The previous evening had been cold and dreary as I walked home from my webmaster course so I decided to start a soup, leave it sit overnight, and then finish it off as the girls arrived. I’d recently come across a Julie Le Clerk‘s version of Harira in an old copy of Cuisine so this was a good opportunity to try it out. I had made a meatless version of this last year in Christchurch but this time I was going to make a meal in a bowl, stuffed with lamb, lentils, chickpeas and, after a look at Claudia Roden’s version of the fast-breaking soup, haricot beans.
When the days get brighter and longer, a girl’s thoughts turn to salad lunches. Based about 15 minutes walk away from any shops or cafés and blessed/cursed with a sloppy canteen, I bring my lunch to work year-round. Brown Bread and a fridge in the office are my lifesavers – the bread for toasting in the canteen and the fridge to store endless blocks of cheese for my normal lunch. Sometimes food bloggers eat boring food too! With the arrival of the summer, however, I start wanting a little more variety, particularly as the canteen is closed at the moment so I have no access to my toaster.