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Posts from the ‘Day Trips’ Category

Galway City & Dog’s Bay

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This past weekend Patrick and I were treated to a child-free weekend away in County Galway. I say we were “treated” not because this trip was planned or paid for by anyone else, but because my amazing sister-in-law offered to take on our kids for the weekend. With baby #3 mere weeks away, how could we refuse?

We booked into the Westwood Hotel, which isn’t very central but the rooms are comfortable, clean and affordable and the hotel is conveniently located off Galway’s main ring road. I love Galway, but I admit – I don’t like driving in Galway.

The downtown is a tangle of pedestrian-only quays and alleyways. Many of the roads you can drive on are so small and congested I get panic attacks just thinking about them. It’s nice to drive to the hotel, park the car and just take a taxi into the downtown (no designated driver needed, either – not that I’m indulging these days).

We arrived on Friday evening. We needed a babysitter for the kids, of course, but we also needed someone to milk the cows for the weekend (farmers don’t really get days off!) so we were lucky to have people to cover both areas. Patrick helped with the evening milking before we set off – not a big deal, since Galway is just a little over two hour’s drive from the farm.

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Homemade Miso!

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When we arrived, we checked into the hotel and then took a taxi downtown. We had one thing on our minds: sushi. There are a few options for Japanese food in Galway, but I had been following Wa Café on Instagram for some time and wanted to give their fare a try. They recently made the Irish Times’ 100 Best Places to Eat so we knew we were in for something good.

We ordered nearly the whole menu (I’ve said before; we’re Japanese-food deprived here in Tipperary!), consuming several types of maki roll, a big bowl of Toyota-style ramen and a bento box featuring the most addictive, flavourful Karaage chicken and crisp vegetable tempura.

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The next day we were up early, so we did some shopping downtown before brunch at Dela. This cozy restaurant was buzzing with activity. I hate queues, but our meal was so worth the 20-minute wait. I ordered bacon + crab potato cake with poached eggs, hollandaise, toasted brown bread and salad. It hit every mark for me – flavourful, properly seasoned, well-priced and the portion size was perfect.

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After brunch we took a drive out to Connemara. Honestly, the day was so beautiful – sunny and warm – it would have been a crime to not find a beach. I had read about Dog’s Bay in the Irish Independent as it topped Ireland’s 30 Best Beaches, so we thought we’d check it out – even though it’s a full hour and a half from Galway city.

After driving through gorgeous, boggy, barren, mountainous, sheepey Connemara, we turned off the road about 20 km from Clifden. A winding road took us past Ballynahinch Castle and the cutesy village of Roundstone before we reached Dog’s Bay.

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To say this beach is beautiful is an understatement. The coral sand is pure white. The water is so turquoise it looks about 20 degrees warmer than it actually is. This beach could be in the Bahamas or Maldives – you would not expect to see it in the middle of County Galway’s rocky landscape. We’ll be returning here again and again – next time with the kids.

That evening, we indulged in a seven-course tasting menu at Loam. True to it’s moniker, Michelin-starred Loam specializes in the tastes and terroir of the Wild Atlantic Way. They use produce and meat from local farmers, make their own charcuterie and surprise/delight diners like me with interesting and beautifully balanced plates of food.

We loved the “pasta” made from very-delicately-sliced squid, served with a soft egg yolk and a deep roasted onion broth. The local sirloin was served tartare-style, but it wasn’t like any other tartare I’ve had. The earthy beef was paired with anchovy, crispy onion and fresh ramson & sorrel – it was actually refreshing. For one of our two dessert plates, we loved the Chanterelle mushroom ice cream with parsley sponge and chocolate-hazelnut crumb.

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Parting gift: a copy of the evening’s menu (comes in handy when you’re trying to remember each course!)

Those were our stand-outs from that night’s menu, but honestly – I loved the whole experience. We very rarely opt for tasting menus in restaurants because, more often than not, you leave feeling bloated and over-full. If you opt for wine pairings, you often end up with four unfinished glasses of wine you have to chug before dessert. Also? Sometimes. It. Just. Takes. Too. Long. I don’t want to be waiting 30 minutes between courses. We’re parents of young children and we WILL fall asleep at the table.

Loam has its guest experience down to a science. We were finished in roughly two hours, enjoyed the engaging, smart (but understated) service, LOVED the food and didn’t feel overstuffed (but also didn’t need to indulge in any late-night snacks). The one star from Michelin seems a bit stingy, actually.

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We went straight to bed after dinner and left early the next morning. I actually missed my kids; can you believe it? It was another beautiful day at the farm and I couldn’t wait to spend it with them.

Have you been to Galway recently? What were some of your favourite spots?

A Gastro-Weekend in Cork

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I can’t believe it, but I’m officially on maternity leave. This pregnancy has completely flown by, and I’m feeling a bit unprepared, so it’s a good thing that I have a few weeks off work before Christmas to try and get my life – not to mention, this blog! – organized.

I spent a weekend in October in Toronto. It was my first time back since Patrick and I moved in 2013. I was so excited to see my friends, my brother, my sweet baby nephew. One of my dearest friends got married in a beautiful ceremony and I’m so glad I could be there.

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Hong Kong-style Fried Chicken & Waffles – Patois, Toronto

Another chef-friend had opened a gorgeous little restaurant specializing in Caribbean-Asian cuisine, so of course I ventured over for brunch and ate everything on the menu (I’M PREGNANT, OK?). Patois is a great spot – I still dream about the fried chicken and Hong Kong-style waffles and Kimchi “pieriogi-style” potstickers.

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Pieriogi-Style Kimchi Potstickers – Patois, Toronto

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Cookie Butter-Stuffed French Toast – Patois, Toronto

Despite getting to see everyone and eating delicious food, I was really happy to get home to Tipperary. Who knew how impatient I’d gotten with traffic? And cities in general!

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Wandering Kilkenny Castle’s grounds

We also went, once again, to the Savour Kilkenny Festival of Food over the October long weekend. It was great, as always. Maeve had a great time, Patrick & I went out to Zuni for a delicious dinner and we all enjoyed the sights and sounds.

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Enjoying the food at Savour Kilkenny!

More recently, Patrick and I took a weekend away to get some Christmas shopping done and some kid-free time to ourselves before #2 arrives in early Janurary. We spent the night in Cork and enjoyed some amazing food.

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My delicious masala dosa from Ayer’s Cafe – picture taken at Ballymaloe Litfest, May 2015

While we’re spoiled for fresh ingredients here in Tipperary, we are definitely Asian-food-deprived (unless you count the local Chinese & Indian takeaways… which we don’t).

For lunch, despite Storm Desmond wreaking havoc all over the country, we trudged through the wind and rain to get to Iyer’s Cafe on Pope’s Quay. I love Iyer’s! I first tried their dosas and samosas at Ballymaloe Litfest 2015 – they tasted so amazingly authentic; I couldn’t get them out of my mind. As soon as we had Cork booked, I knew I’d be taking Patrick there for lunch.

We had a samosa chaat bowl (samosas with fresh chickpea, veggie and popped rice salad in a big bowl), masala dosa (a type of Indian crepe made from a batter of soaked lentils, served filled with spiced potato, chutneys on the side and a bowl of soupy masala sauce to pour over) and fried chili gobi (spiced cauliflower fritters) to share and were not disappointed. Iyer’s specializes in Southern Indian cuisine, all vegetarian or vegan, all authentic.

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Chicken Gyoza – Miyazaki, Cork

And speaking of authentic… later that evening, on the tip of fellow food blogger and my buddy Cork Billy, we went to Miyazaki Takeaway on Evergreen St. for some Japanese food. This was one of the best meals I’ve had in Ireland, and some of the best Japanese food I’ve had… well… ever! That’s including what I’ve eaten in Japan (is that blasphemous?).

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My Tempura Prawn Roll – Miyazaki, Cork

This place is tiny with minimal seating (there’s a counter with a few stools if you want to eat in). BUT the kitchen is open-concept and you can watch the very-talented chef at work while you wait for your yaki-udon and katsu-don.

I need to make this clear: Miyazaki’s food is Michelin star quality. My tempura-prawn roll was filled with fresh veggies and microgreens (not just for garnish; where they can be annoyingly superfluous – they added SERIOUS FLAVOUR to the roll).

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Japanese-style Fried Chicken don buri (front), pork yaki-udon (back) – Miyazaki, Cork

We had one of the evening’s specials – Japanese style fried chicken don buri (in a rice bowl with fresh veggies, egg, broth), pork yaki-udon (stir-fried noodles), chicken gyoza (dumplings) and a hand-roll each. It was the best date we’ve had in years – sitting on a few stools at the counter. The only thing missing? Some ice cold Sapporo.

Our Cork weekend, despite the terrible weather, was a total success: we relaxed, ate amazing food and got a huge chunk of our Christmas shopping completed (with minimal arguing!). It’s a very easy 1.5 hour trip from the farm, so we’ll be back for more food really soon.

*Look, I don’t normally do gushing reviews like this as an entire blog post, but the places mentioned above do wonderful work. I will say that I wasn’t asked to write any of these reviews; I was just really impressed and wanted to share my opinion. I hope you get to check them out, too, and let me know what you think!

 

 

 

Making Our Wild Atlantic Way

Cliffs of Moher

Cliffs of Moher

So we recently took a road trip around Ireland. Let me set the scene for you all:

Four middle-aged Canadians, one young(ish) couple and a crazy two year old started off here at the farm in Tipperary. Early the prior day, we realized we were supposed to collect the last Canadian couple from the airport THAT MORNING and not the following morning as we had previously thought. We had less than two hours before they were due to land when we made the realization, and luckily we’re only 1.5 hours from Dublin airport (Tipp is just so darn central!), so it was a very unplanned but ultimately successful trip to the airport and back with said Canadians.

The next day, we loaded up into two cars and headed to Belfast (via Dublin airport to get a larger rental car for the Canadians). Belfast is about as far from Tipperary as Cape Breton is from Halifax (in Canada). That is to say, four hours. Luckily, the kid slept after Dublin airport (YOOK AT DEE AIYOPWANES MUMMY!) and awoke just as we were entering Belfast.

Maeve & Grandpa on the Belfast City Tour

Maeve & Grandpa on the Belfast City Tour

Maeve & Nana at The Crown Pub

Maeve & Nana at The Crown Pub

After lunch at the Crown Pub (when you’re visiting for the first time, you gotta!) the group split into two – one group did the city bus tour with the kid while the others visited the Titanic Museum. We were only staying one night, so tough decisions had to be made. We got to see a lot of Belfast in a very short amount of time and we had a beautiful day for it.

Carrickfergus, Co. Antrim

Carrickfergus, Co. Antrim

My Dad on the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge

My Dad on the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge

The next day we got up bright and early and did the Causeway Coastal Route to the Giant’s Causeway. This is one of Pat’s and my favourite drives in all of Ireland. I know it’s technically not the Wild Atlantic Way, but it’s beautiful – running through quaint seaside villages with both mountain scenery and stunning ocean views. Of course we took the Canadians to the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge before reaching the causeway.

After a quick lunch stop in Portrush we made our way to Sligo.

Strandhill, Co. Sligo

Strandhill, Co. Sligo

Shell's Cafe, Strandhill

Shell’s Cafe, Strandhill

Yup. All. The. Way. To. Sligo. In one afternoon. You see, the Canadians only had ten days and this was the best way to cram everything in.

So we made it to Sligo and spent the night at the Clarion (great hotel – it’s in a really old building that I heard was possibly once an insane asylum!). After letting Maeve swim in the bathtub for awhile, we met Pat’s brother and his wife for dinner. The next day, we had brunch at Shell’s Cafe in Strandhill. It’s a quirky little seaside cafe that serves delicious food. Strandhill is just outside Sligo, on the coast.

After Strandhill we made our way to Lisdoonvarna, Clare. Yes, you read that right. All. The. Way. To. Clare.We were tapped for time! I don’t think my Dad has forgiven me for vetoing his idea to drive through Connemara on the way – it just would have taken way too long.

Burren Smokehouse

Burren Smokehouse

The fish platter at The Burren Smokehouse Pub

The fish platter at The Burren Smokehouse Pub

So we got to Lisdoonvarna (through The Burren! It was beautiful!) and the first thing I wanted to do was eat. We found the Burren Smokehouse, which is famous for it’s delicious smoked salmon. The smokehouse also runs a small pub down the way, so we went there for lunch. I had a hot-smoked baked salmon fillet with spinach, potato and mustard cream sauce. Just lovely. This is actually the best smoked salmon I have ever had (and I have a brother who smokes his own salmon – sorry Matt!).

Maeve and I found a playground (EHGROUND MUMMY? ME GO EHGROUND?) while the others blew a tire on their way to the Cliffs of Moher. At least it was a nice day. I hear it was the fastest tire change anyone had ever seen. They made it to the Cliffs and back, and we all piled back into the car and made our way to Listowel in County Kerry.

Yup.

All. The. Way. To. Listowel.

From Sligo.

I will probably never do a roadtrip like this with a toddler ever again. We went through a lot of chocolate to keep her happy. And the Frozen soundtrack on repeat.

Once we got to Listowel, though, it was smoother sailing. We stayed with Pat’s Auntie Bridget who has a beautiful farm house in the middle of the countryside. She fed us and gave us comfortable lodgings, and we all had a good night’s sleep.

Overlooking the Conor Pass, Co. Kerry

Overlooking the Conor Pass, Co. Kerry

The next day we went to Dingle. We went by the Conor Pass. I didn’t know what to expect, but I’ve heard enough folk snicker about it being a scary road so I was a teensy bit prepared (way more than the Canadians in the car behind us, anyway). When the road started getting higher into the mountains I thought, “Yeah, ok, I can handle this.”

Then the road got a bit smaller. By a bit, I mean from two lanes to one. With no guard rail. On the edge of a rocky cliff. WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU MEET SOMEONE COMING IN THE OPPOSITE DIRECTION?

Hot Langoustine Roll heaven

Hot Langoustine Roll heaven

Murphy's Ice Cream!

Murphy’s Ice Cream!

It was an amazing drive, though, and one I’ll take visitors on again. We made it to Dingle in one piece and had an awesome seafood lunch at Danno’s Pub (hot langoustine roll, anyone?) followed by a *very large* ice cream from Murphy’s (their Irish Sea Salt ice cream is one of the best things that’s ever happened to me, and I’m not exaggerating).

Innisfallen Island, Killarney, Co. Kerry

Innisfallen Island, Killarney, Co. Kerry

We relaxed back in Listowel and stayed another night, driving to Killarney the following morning for a little tour of the lakes. Our boat dude took us over to Innisfallen Island where we disembarked and wandered through the ruins of a 7th century monastery before surprising a large herd of deer – the island’s only current inhabitants. Maeve and I threw some stones in the lake before we headed back to Ross Castle and back to the car.

Deer on Innisfallen Island

Deer on Innisfallen Island

From there, we had some lunch and went home. Yup. Back. To. Tipperary.

I told you we were pressed for time!

Truthfully, we could have stayed longer. There’s so much to do and see. But Pat and I were really looking forward to our camping weekend at Electric Picnic, and we had to be home by Friday. The Canadians just left the other day, spending their remaining time in and around Tipperary and Kilkenny (because why wouldn’t you? Everyone loves Kilkenny.).

So, that was our trip, sorta kinda going around the Wild Atlantic Way. Do not attempt to do this kind of roadtrip with a toddler, that is my best piece of advice (or, at least, have a running list of playground locations for each pit-stop).

Derg Cheddar Stove-top Mac & Cheese

17815155688_ba31eb834d_z I hear tales of 30 degree weather in Canada right now, but here in Ireland it still feels like winter. Yes, we have some lovely weather for the month of April, but as my father-in-law says, “That was our summer, right there.” I’m currently bundled on the couch in my housecoat; a cat curled so far into my hip he’s almost invisible. There’s a fire in the fireplace and outside it’s absolutely dismal – wind, rain and very low temperatures. So much for our Irish summer! We’re busy on the farm, as always. We’re beginning to plan for cutting silage, but the growth is not as good as it should be due to the colder weather. We’ll have to wait for nicer weather to do that, anyway. Between our jobs, home life, farm work and Maeve being with her child minder during the week I barely have time to even think about blogging. But I need to keep this website going. It’s my portal to the rest of the world. And I love sharing our lives with you all (and thanks for deeming it interesting enough to follow!).

Diva Bakes stall at Ballymaloe Litfest

Diva Bakes stall at Ballymaloe Litfest

A few weeks ago I went to Ballymaloe Litfest. I’ve been going since the festival began – for about three years – and I have to say, it just gets better and better. The guest speakers, amazing chefs, food writers and food producers who come to the festival make it even more special. This year I ACTUALLY MET ALICE WATERS. For real. She is just as lovely in person as she seems, which is refreshing. She signed a book for Maeve, who will receive said book when she is off to university (yup, I’m going to keep it that long). I’ve looked up to Alice Waters for years and was thrilled to hear her speak and meet her.

The gorgeous falafel from Rocket Man

The gorgeous falafel from Rocket Man

My delicious masala dosa from Ayer's Cafe

My delicious masala dosa from Ayer’s Cafe

The food at Litfest was better than ever this year. The Rocket Man from Cork always impresses with their fresh salads and pickles, but this year they were doing falafel flatbreads which went down an absolute treat. I had an AMAZING dosa from Iyer’s Cafe in Cork – the best I’ve had outside of Asia, in fact – and we got Maeve a little wood-fired pie from Volcano Pizza. So, so good.

The love folk from Ayer's Cafe - such amazing Indian food!

The lovely folk from Iyer’s Cafe – such amazing Indian food!

Miss M was a bit out of sorts, so we couldn’t stay as long as we wanted to, but before we left I loaded up on Arbutus Bread (some of the best loaves in Ireland) and Cloud Confectionery marshmallows (they come in so many awesome flavours!).

Loved all the pickled/fermented product on display from My Goodness

Loved all the pickled/fermented product on display from My Goodness

When we got home we were a) committed to never travelling with a toddler ever again and b) exhausted. We needed some comfort food. I had a block of delicious Derg Cheddar, made just down the road in Nenagh (this cheese is amazing – made only from raw, summer milk when the cows are at pasture; it’s aged but manages to taste creamy and sharp all at once). I decided to make stovetop mac and cheese with crispy garlic breadcrumbs and it saved our lives.

18002974775_4dab097404_z Derg Cheddar Stovetop Mac and Cheese Ingredients:

½ lb pasta

60g plain flour

60g butter

1 bay leaf

½ L full fat milk

½ Tbsp Dijon mustard

Pinch of nutmeg

500g Derg Farmhouse Cheddar, grated

Salt & Pepper

For the breadcrumb topping:

500g fresh breadcrumbs

60g butter

1 clove garlic

Salt & Pepper

Chopped fresh parsley, thyme, chives and/or basil

Directions:

  • Heat a large pot of salted water to boil for the pasta. While the pasta is cooking, start the sauce:
  • In a medium-sized, heavy bottomed saucepan, melt the butter. When it starts to bubbles, add the flour and mix well. The mixture should look a bit doughy – this is called a roux. Let the roux cook for one minute, then add the bay leaf and half the milk.
  • Using a metal whisk, stir the mixture until it thickens completely. Make sure you’ve beaten out any lumps, then add the rest of the milk.
  • Allow the mixture to slowly come to a boil, gently whisking the entire time (the bottom will stick and burn if not!). When it comes to a boil and thickens, remove it from the heat.
  • Stir in the Dijon, salt and pepper, and finally, the cheese. When all is melted and combined, give it a taste and adjust the seasoning as desired.
  • When cooked, strain the pasta and toss with the cheese sauce. Make the breadcrumbs:
  • In a large pan, melt the butter and add the finely chopped garlic. Let it cook for 30 seconds, then add the breadcrumbs. Cook the breadcrumbs until the butter has been absorbed and they become golden brown and crunchy, stirring often. When finished, toss with the fresh herbs.
  • Serve the mac & cheese is bowls with the breadcrumbs sprinkled over-top. This makes four large servings.
We love Ballymaloe!

We love Ballymaloe!

Five Minute Mango-Coconut Semifreddo

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Up until a few days ago, we’d been enjoying some amazingly warm and sunny spring weather here in Ireland.

Warm breezes, new blooms in the garden and sunny skies greeted us day after day in a stretch of uninterrupted beautiful weather. Everyone in Ireland knows to take advantage of good weather while you can – my dairy farmer father-in-law got his fields fertilized and between he, my husband and even a little help from me, we got lots of necessary jobs done around the farmyard.

We’re still waiting for two babies to make their appearance, but mostly the calving season has come to an end. We can all calm down a bit until silage season (gulp) starts in June.

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A few weekends ago Pat, Maeve and I strapped ourselves into the car and took off for Lough Derg; a large lake which borders counties Tipperary, Clare and Galway. It’s pretty big. Actually, it’s the second largest in the republic – and boy, is it beautiful.

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Coming from Cape Breton, Lough Derg really reminded me of the Bras D’or Lakes – especially on this particular, sunny day, as it was dotted with sailboats and sea-doos. We drove to the picturesque village of Killaloe (pronounced kill-a-loo) in County Clare and took a walk with Maeve along the shoreline. We then drove to the village of Garrykennedy (yup, a village named after some dude, I’m guessing) for lunch at Larkin’s Pub.

Fish and Chips at Larkins

Fish and Chips at Larkins

Larkin’s is a great spot for lunch on a sunny day. They’ve won multiple awards for their pub-grub; the patio is ENCLOSED which means when your kid is finished eating (way before you are) she can run around on the grass and you don’t have to worry about her escaping; they have great, local craft beer on tap and, last but not least: they are also home to an artisanal ice cream company, meaning you can grab dessert to-go and take a walk around the beautiful village.

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The ice cream company is fairly new, but are already doing really well. They’re called Boyle & Co. and they make their ice cream from Tipperary cows, just down the road, near the town of Roscrea. If you’ve tasted Tipperary butter (which is rich, creamy and so much better than any butter I’ve ever had) then you’ll have an idea of how amazing this ice cream tastes.

I ordered a few cones for us, as well as some ice cream in tubs to take home. I thought I’d make a semifreddo.

Lots of semifreddo recipes involve making the ice cream base from scratch, which is GREAT if you have time.

But I don’t. Have time, that is. I have no time.

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And anyway, why make your own base when you have such an amazing product at your fingertips? This recipe is a bit Caker Cooking (love this guy’s blog; click on the link!) – meaning it’s mostly assembly, with very little skill required.

It would be a fun recipe to make with your kids but, at the same time, the results are fancy enough for a summer dinner party dessert. I made this semifreddo with coconut ice cream and mango sorbet, but you can use any flavour combination that tickles your fancy.

And yes, it really takes five minutes to make. Longer to freeze, but definitely five minute to make.

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Five Minute Coconut-Mango Semifreddo

Ingredients: 

500g Boyle & Co. mango sorbet

500g Boyle & Co. coconut ice cream

125ml spiced rum OR mango/orange juice

12 store-bought (or home-made, if you’re feeling wild) ladyfingers

1 orange, peeled and sliced whole (garnish)

1 mango, peeled and cubed (garnish)

Directions:

  • Line a loaf pan with plastic wrap, leaving plenty of overhang (you’ll want to cover the semifreddo entirely in plastic when it’s assembled).
  • Allow the ice cream and sorbet to soften at room temperature. When soft, spread the mango sorbet on the bottom of the lined loaf pan. Top it with six ladyfingers that have been lightly dipped in rum or juice.
  • Then spread the softened coconut ice cream over the ladyfingers. Again, dip the remaining six ladyfingers in run or juice, then press them lightly into the coconut ice cream layer.
  • Cover the semifreddo tightly with the overhanging plastic wrap and then put the whole thing into the freezer. Freeze for at least four hours or overnight.
  • When ready, gently remove the semifreddo from the loaf pan and unwrap. Garnish the top with the sliced orange, cubed mango or any other fruit you like (a few mint leaves wouldn’t go amiss here, either).
  • When ready to serve, slice with a sharp knife that has been dipped in very hot water, then quickly dried. The hot knife will slice through frozen things more cleanly.
  • Serves 6-8, depending on how thick you slice.

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Easter Weekend: Egg Hunt, Fota Island & Lunch at Market Lane

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We had the best Easter long weekend. Like, ever.

I know it was ages ago, but I still wanted to share the experience.

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First of all, we had gorgeous summery weather all weekend. Family came home, eggs were hunted, chocolate was eaten, large meals were eaten, beers were had with friends at the pub (thanks to the surplus of babysitters hanging around the farm) and we managed a day trip to Cork, to visit the Fota Island Wildlife Park. The child obviously adored the trip to the wildlife park – which we were sharing with nearly every other toddler in the country (I mean, the SUN WAS SHINING. Where else were they going to go?).

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Pat and I may have enjoyed our lunch at Market Lane in Cork a bit more. It was warm enough to sit outside. There were street musicians playing everywhere. My lamb curry hit the spot (especially in light of all those beers I drank the night before) and Pat’s pork belly burger was equally amazing. Maeve had a spoonful of soup and then ate my poppadoms while spying on indoor diners through the window.

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Market Lane (and the city vibe in general) made me wish for a few moments that I lived in Cork. Then we got home to the farm – it was bathed in beautiful sunshine, the dog was napping at the doorstep, the cat was hiding in the bushes and the cows were munching away at the green grass. And I figured Cork wasn’t that far away if I ever needed a daytime-city escape.

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And Tipperary is most definitely home.

Pouding Chômeur

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Ah, springtime on an Irish farm. Idyllic, no? The best time of year, right?

Well, sort of. It’s calving season. Which is both wonderful and CRAZY BUSY all at once. Add to that: one weekly newspaper column, event planning, my day job, one 30th birthday weekend in Mayo, one husband gone to Boston for a week, one very busy (and often hangry) toddler and a seemingly endless stream of minor illnesses, you can see where the last month went for me.

Things are finally starting to calm. My garden is growing. My head is clearer. I can do this life thing.

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Waiting for the Paddy’s Day Parade

Paddy's Day breakkie with the cousins

Paddy’s Day breakkie with the cousins

A few weeks ago we celebrated St. Patrick’s Day in Templemore, Tipperary. In classic style there was a parade (which is generally more like a vintage tractor show around these parts) and lots of excited children. This year we actually knew some of the kids in the parade, so it was nice to see familiar faces and shout out to them.

Delphi Resort

Delphi Resort

Connemara, County Mayo

Connemara, County Mayo

The following weekend, I made the trek up to Delphi Resort in County Mayo. The resort is found near Ireland’s only fjord, in the heart of Connemara. It’s pretty bare-bones as it’s meant to be a family-friendly, cost effective adventure resort but I really liked the suite I shared with four other ladies – it was warm, the beds were comfortable, the shower was great and the views are spectacular.

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We took advantage of the lack of television and cellular service and tried our hand at ziplining. I’ve ziplined before so I knew I wouldn’t die, but heights aren’t really my favourite thing. Still, we all had a laugh and my sister-in-law had a great birthday weekend.

After our weekend at Delphi I was treated to a visit from a couple of dear friends from Canada. I met my friend Genevieve over ten years ago when we were both in the music program at Acadia University. She and her husband Scott have been good friends with Patrick and I since we all lived in South Korea, then Toronto. It was so great to see them.

Chicken with Harissa & Lemon Bulgur Salad at Cafe Sol in Kilkenny

Chicken with Harissa & Lemon Bulgur Salad at Cafe Sol in Kilkenny

I took them to visit the White Gypsy Brewery in Templemore where brewer-extraordinaire Cuilan showed us around and gave them some samples. Then we went to Kilkenny for a look-around and lunch at the gorgeous Café Sol (I’m still dreaming about the warm bulgur salad with harissa & lemon – yum).

As great as it was to see my friends, I was also extremely excited to see that they had brought me a gift from home – pure, unadulterated Nova Scotian Maple Syrup. Ireland has lots of wonderful ingredients available to me, but maple syrup is just not one of those things. It often tastes watered down, or like it’s been cut with regular table syrup.

Anyway, when I saw that Gen and Scott had brought me maple syrup I could only think of one thing:

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POUDING CHÔMEUR

This is my all-time favourite dessert. It’s basically a French Canadian maple syrup baked pudding. And it’s… everything you could ever want. It’s moreish. Gooey, warm maple syrup caramel soaked into a light, spongy cake. You can add a bit of crème anglaise or lightly whipped cream over the top, but it’s hardly necessary. This pudding is simple perfection at its best.

Yes, it’s terribly sweet. But it’s also made with maple syrup. so it’s not sickeningly sweet.The Quebecois, apparently, came up with this recipe during the Great Depression, hence the name – pouding chômeur, or, poor man’s pudding.

It would hardly be a poor man’s pudding now, with the price of quality maple syrup being what it is, but the name still sounds nice.

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Pouding Chômeur

Ingredients:

1/2 cup butter, softened

1 cup brown sugar

2 eggs, room temperature

1 tsp vanilla

2 cups plain (or AP) flour

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp sea salt

1 1/3 cup whole milk

For the sauce:

1 cup heavy (whipping) cream

1 cup really good quality maple syrup (that’s important)

1 tsp vanilla

Directions:

  • Preheat your oven to 350 degrees (180 degrees Celsius, no fan). Grease a medium-sized casserole dish (or rectangular cake pan) with butter. Set aside.
  • Cream the brown sugar and butter together until light and fluffy. Add the vanilla and mix. Add the eggs one by one, mixing after each addition.
  • In another bowl, mix the dry ingredients. Alternate adding the dry ingredients and the milk to the sugar/egg mixture (dry, milk, dry, milk, dry). If you’re using a stand mixer, whip on high for 20 seconds once all the ingredients have been added. This aerates the batter and brings everything together. If you don’t have a stand mixer, just make sure everything is whipped up nicely with a whisk.
  • Pour the batter into the prepared/greased dish.
  • Make the sauce: using a heavy bottomed saucepan, bring the maple syrup to a boil and reduce by 1/3. Add the vanilla and cream and return to the heat. Allow the mixture to reduce and thicken slightly (cook for about 3 minutes; the mixture should lightly coat the back of a spoon).
  • When the sauce is ready, carefully pour it all over the batter. I say carefully because a) the mixture will be very hot and b) if you don’t pour it evenly it’ll just make a bunch of holes in the batter.
  • Transfer the pudding to the preheated oven. Bake for about 40 minutes – when it’s finished, the cake will be on top and the sauce will be on the bottom. The top will be springy to the touch and golden brown.
  • Serve warm with lightly whipped cream or crème anglaise. Or hey, just eat it straight out of the pan with a spoon like I do.

Bon appétit!

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