Well, I’ve taken the plunge. Notice has been given at work. Going away parties (the Baggott Inn’s self-serve Guinness taps proved particularly popular), dinners and drinks have been partaken in. After ten years living in Dublin and five years in Cork city, it’s time to return to the country. This weekend, the Husband and I move out of our horrible little Dublin flat and, in less than two weeks, on 17 September, I start the 12-week certificate course at Ballymaloe Cookery School.
Unless absolutely necessary, I tend to avoid bed and breakfasts. I’ve stayed in many around Ireland and most experiences are nothing to write about – unless in a negative manner. Last year’s May Bank Holiday we were forced into B&B accommodation in Westport by weather unsuitable for camping. After we spent the evening avoiding a particularly racist guest, breakfast was enlivened by talk of the May Day flowers that had been left for our piseog-loving landlady. There was a landlady in Navan who thought we were only staying one night and could only offer us bed, no breakfast, for the second night. The best of the lot, however, has to be the Carlingford B&B where the bedroom was painted blood red – the walls, the ceiling, the skirting board, the bathroom even had a matching red toilet and bath! Most disturbing, I spent the night having nightmares about being trapped in a womb.
Dishes that we cooked or were cooked for us as children always hold a special luster. I had a set of kids’ cookery cards from Irish sugar company Siúcra which had great recipes like The Last of the Mohicans Baked Beans (think the recipes were based on classic books!) and a desert of bananas warmed in a sauce made of orange juice (Swiss Family Robinson Bananas, perhaps?).
Beware when you’re sowing seeds. Especially if, as happened to us, you’ve ordered them from the Irish Seed Savers Association or Brown Envelope Seeds and every single last one of the seeds sprout forth. We planted way too many in March, didn’t thin the seedlings enough, and now have copious amounts of kale, purple sprouting broccoli and leeks for later in the season so I’m keeping my eye out for recipes for those (will definitely have to check out some of Sarah‘s ideas for the broccoli!). The squash is trying to escape from the confines of our rabbit-proof fenced veggie garden while I try to figure out what to do with armloads of silverbeet.
Just a reminder that the Festival of World Cultures kicks off tonight in Dún Laoghaire. It is taking place all weekend with lots of free music and plenty of good eating. Slow Food has a stand in the Cool Earth eco-fair in the Town Hall so, if you’re interested in learning about SF – and tasting some products from artisan producers! – call in over the weekend.
Chocolate Chippies are big in New Zealand. Also known as a chocolate chip cookie, none of the Husband’s family gatherings are complete without a box – or several – of these small addictive biscuits, made by the Husband’s Mother or Sisters. When we were in Nelson in January, I spent time going through the Husband’s Mother’s great collection of recipe notebooks, taking down details of dishes I have enjoyed in the past – especially Gracie’s Brown Rice and Chickpea Salad and the Chocolate Chippies.
After discovering a leak in the ceiling of our bedroom in the Dublin flat on Monday and subsequently having to spend the night on the floor in the kitchen, neither the Husband nor myself were in any particular hurry to get back there on Tuesday evening. Heavy rain plus no umbrella (the Husband) and flip flops (me) didn’t help morale on our walk home so we decided to meet in Ranelagh and try out the recently opened wine bar – Wine Upstairs – over Tribeca. The restaurant is always buzzing, as it was last night, but, after we had shaken our bedraggled selves off, stashed my umbrella and walked up the stairs, we arrived in an airy room, with lots of tables, plenty of bottles of wine on display – and no other people. Stashing ourselves in the corner by the New Zealand wines, the Husband looked at wines while I devoted myself to a perusal of the short, but well formed, menu.
For anyone who is interested in the relationship between food and farming in Ireland, the annual Euro-toques National Food Forum and Fair – entitled Reconnecting: Farming, Food & Rural Communities – will be taking place at Brooklodge Hotel in Macreddin Village, Co Wicklow on Sunday 2 September. On this year’s panel are Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food Trevor Sargent; UK organic movement pioneer and champion Helen Browning; Gerry Scully, the programme manager for Rural Development with Teagasc; Irish Farmers Journal columnist and farmer Peter Young; and Ross Lewis, chef/proprietor of Chapter One Restaurant and Commissioner of Euro-toques Ireland.