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Posts from the ‘Korea’ Category

Bacon & Cabbage with Parsley Cream Sauce

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Ah, Paddy’s Day.

Those Facebook memories that keep popping up remind me that St. Patrick’s Day isn’t just a fun family holiday. Things just seem to happen for me around this time of year – good things.

Luck of the Irish? Perhaps. Or maybe we’re all just in better moods because the sun tends to come out in March. The trees start to bud, my garden starts to grow, the end of calving season (and; therefore, around-the-clock cow monitoring) is in sight and the air feels significantly warmer.

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Patrick with some Irish fans in Yogyakarta – our most booze-free Paddy’s Day

This time eight years ago, Patrick and I were embarking on a three-month-long backpacking trip around Southeast Asia. Facebook tells me we were in Java, Indonesia. We just climbed Gunung Bromo, a small active volcano, and were en route to Yogyakarta – a city we absolutely loved.

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Paddy’s Day Parade in Seoul, South Korea, 2008 (strange, no?)

This time four years ago, we were getting ready to leave Toronto for good. I was very excited and a little bit worried. After all, I was nearly six months pregnant and we were both leaving good jobs behind, with no work prospects in Ireland. I loved my work in Toronto but didn’t love living in the city. I couldn’t deal with the prospect of raising my kids so far away from family. Moving to Ireland, as you may have guessed, has worked out brilliantly. We are happy and thriving (and working!).

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Beautiful Porto. Take me back!

This time three years ago we were in Portugal on our first-ever family holiday with Maeve. She was seven months old and we had a wonderful time in Lisbon, Porto and Aveiro. The weather was warm and sunny (but not too hot) and we visited with friends I hadn’t seen in years.

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Maeve and her cousins, eating green pancakes.

And this year? One of my best friends is coming to stay with her 10-month-old baby boy. When they go home, Patrick and I are going to Galway for a few nights to eat, drink and relax sans children. So yeah, March brings good things, and St. Patrick’s Day is just one of them.

I remember Paddy’s Days of the past. In university, in Korea, in (yes!) Yogyakarta and, of course, here in Ireland, I’ve had some crazy times. These days our Paddy’s Day tends to be quieter and more kid-focused. Coffee at a friend’s house, taking the kids to the parade, making green pancakes for breakfast – all of these things are quickly replacing the pub breakfasts and day-long drinking sessions of the past.

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Bacon and cabbage is becoming tradition, too. While North Americans gorge themselves on corned beef, the Irish will generally sit down to a family meal of just about anything (Chinese takeaway? I wouldn’t say no). At our house, I usually make a big feed of bacon and cabbage for us and any other family members milling around the farm.

The parsley sauce is entirely optional, but I like it. A lot of people eat their bacon and cabbage with a schmear of English mustard or the ubiquitous brown sauce, but I think it’s more of a complete meal with the parsley sauce (also, it will impress your friends if you want to make this for a Paddy’s Day dinner party). It tastes fancy but is so easy to make.

The dish is called Bacon & Cabbage, but it wouldn’t be the same kind of bacon you have with your scrambled eggs. Here, a loin of ham is called a joint of bacon. You can get them smoked or unsmoked. Just ask your butcher, or, when in doubt, get some uncooked ham. It’s basically the same thing. Bacon and cabbage is usually served with mashed potatoes, but I love boiling new potatoes with the skin-on this time of year.

Whatever you end up doing for Paddy’s Day, I hope it’s great and full of delicious food, drink and loved ones. Sláinte mhath!

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Bacon & Cabbage with Parsley Cream Sauce

Ingredients:

Bacon & Cabbage:

1-2 kg ham/bacon joint (cured and uncooked, ask your local butcher!)

1-2 large head savoy or green cabbage

4L chicken stock

1-2 bay leaves

2-3 sprigs fresh thyme

Parsley Sauce:

½ cup butter

1 clove garlic, minced

¾ glass dry white wine

1 cup heavy cream

1 tsp Dijon mustard

1 bunch fresh parsley, finely chopped

Salt and Pepper, to taste

Directions:

  • In a large pot, bring the ham, stock, bay leaves and thyme to a simmer. Simmer the ham/bacon for about 1 hour – or until the ham is cooked through.
  • While the ham is cooking, prep your cabbage: using a large knife, cut out the core and slice the head of cabbage into large wedges. Leave the wedges whole and set aside while the ham cooks.
  • When the ham is cooked, remove the ham, bay leaves and thyme from the pot. Add the cabbage to the remaining broth and cook until tender, about 10 minutes.
  • Make the parsley sauce: in a hot saucepan, add the butter and garlic. Cook for 30 seconds – don’t let the garlic brown. Add the wine and reduce by half, then add the cream. Let the cream boil and thicken for a few minutes – you want the sauce to coat the back of a spoon.
  • When the cream is thickened, add the chopped parsley and season with Dijon, salt and pepper.
  • Slice the ham and add it back into the broth with the cabbage wedges, just to heat through.
  • Depending on the size of your bacon (I usually buy a 1kg joint), this will feed 4-6 people. Serve hot with boiled or mashed potatoes.
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Nova Scotian Rum Pie

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I’ve worked under and with a lot of great chefs over the years. I’ve had mentors who were patient and generous with their knowledge and experience.

In Toronto I only ever worked for one restaurant company. I never felt the need to go elsewhere – I was treated well, paid relatively well (what cook is ever paid really well?), and enjoyed insurance and benefits most cooks never get. The best part, though, was the variety of my work and the amazing people I got to hang out with and learn from every day.

I wrote the above paragraph because it needed to be said. A cook is only ever as good as their mentor; I was really lucky to have several great chefs to learn from.

So why do I keep going back to my Grandma as my main culinary inspiration? It seems as I get older and have my own kids, I gain more and more respect for that sweet woman and what she accomplished in her life.

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On the outside it doesn’t look like she did much. She married my Grandfather at a young age, had seven kids and kept house. But I know the difference. Now that I have kids (and try to keep house) I understand the difficulties she probably encountered…

Except:

  • I don’t have seven kids. I have two.
  • I’ve never HAD to kill a chicken or grow my food. Those things are optional for me.
  • I’m financially better off than she was.
  • I don’t have a crippling autoimmune disease like she did.

I mean, I’m barely keeping it together as it is. The more I think about my Grandma, the more humbled I feel.

Especially considering the amount of time and money I put into becoming a chef. She was an amazing cook and baker. There may not have been much food in the house, but my Grandma kept all her kids fed and happy. She could take a bit of flour and sugar and turn it into something satisfyingly good.

I was watching The Chef’s Table last night on Netflix and was so inspired by the Korean Buddhist monk Jeong Kwan. Her food looks mouth-wateringly delicious, but, as it was stated in the documentary, as a cook she is completely without ego (which is so rare in our food network/social media-driven society). She lives her life simply, grows what she eats and shares what she has. Her food just happens to look like it was cooked and plated in a Michelin Star restaurant.

It reminded me of the way my Grandma would cook (though my Protestant Grandma would probably raise her eyebrows at being compared to a Buddhist; gotta stay honest). She never tried to do anything fancy, but her food always hit the spot, and she put love into everything she made.

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Before I moved to Ireland, my Aunt gifted me a cookbook of old pioneer recipes my Grandma had given to her years before. I look through it often, but not just because of the recipes – the history of my island is written in between the pages. It starts from the oldest Scottish pioneer recipes (think Dandelion Wine and Athol Brose), has a portion of recipes from New Zealand, where a lot of our descendants also ended up and ends with the kind of soul-satisfying desserts, soups and casseroles I grew up eating.

This pie kept jumping out at me. Maybe, at almost 30 weeks pregnant, I’m just really missing booze; who knows? This rum-tinged custard creation satisfies so many cravings on so many levels, and (thankfully) the booze is for flavour and not cognitive impact, so it’s safe for anyone to pig out on.

The recipe may sound daunting if you’re not used to working with gelatin, but stick with it – it’s actually really easy. The amount of gelatin in this recipe will give the rum custard a wobble, but it won’t be 100% set like Jello. More like a slightly alcoholic, ice-cream flavoured panna cotta (and who could resist that?).

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Nova Scotian Rum Pie

Ingredients:

For the Crust:

1 package digestive biscuits (about 500g), crushed (in Canada, we use graham cracker crumbs)

125g/1/2 cup melted butter

For the Filling:

1 Tbsp un-flavoured powdered gelatin

125ml/1/2 cup cold water

375ml/1 1/2 cups whole milk

2 tsp vanilla extract, divided

170g/3/4 cup granulated sugar

Pinch of sea salt

2 eggs, separated (room temperature is best)

4 Tbsp spiced rum

For the Topping:

250ml/1 cup heavy whipping cream

3 Tbsp icing (confectioner’s) sugar

Shaved milk chocolate (OR here in Ireland I used crushed Flake bars), to garnish

Directions:

  • Preheat your oven to 180∘C (350∘F). Combine the crushed biscuits and melted butter. Firmly press the mixture onto the bottom and up the sides of a springform pan (or any high-sided pan with a removable bottom).
  • Bake the crust for 8-10 minutes, until browned. Set aside to cool.
  • In a bowl, add the cold water and sprinkle the gelatin over the top. Do not stir. Set aside and allow the gelatin to bloom.
  • Using a hand/stand mixer, whisk the egg yolks, sugar, salt and 1 tsp of vanilla until well combined (pale yellow, sugar dissolved). Add the milk and continue mixing until everything is well-combined.
  • Pour the milk/egg mixture into a saucepan and slowly bring to a simmer, stirring constantly. When the mixture thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon, pour it through a sieve directly onto the dissolved, bloomed gelatin/water mixture. Whisk to combine.
  • Allow this mixture to cool in the fridge until it begins to set, about an hour (possibly longer). Whisk the egg whites until soft peaks form. Add the rum to the custard/gelatin mix and then gently fold in the egg whites.
  • Pour this mixture onto the biscuit base and refrigerate overnight or until set. Whip the cream with the remaining tsp of vanilla and the icing sugar. Top the set custard with the cream and shaved chocolate.
  • Serves 8-10 rum-loving people (like Nova Scotians! We love our rum). Store in the fridge and eat within two days.

Visiting Thurles: The Green Sheep Cafe

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*Disclaimer: This is the first part of a series I will be writing about different places I love in North Tipperary. I was not asked to write any of these articles and have not received any incentives to do so. This particular post, however, concerns a business I am actively involved in.

First let’s get some serious business out of the way:

Cooking With Craic has been shortlisted for a Littlewoods Ireland Blog Award under the Best Food Experience (Food Review) category! To become a finalist, I need to get as many public votes as possible aside from being judged by my blogging peers. If you enjoy reading this blog I would so appreciate you clicking on the button below and giving me an ol’ vote (you may be required to sign in with your Facebook account to prove you’re not a robot!).

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There. I dislike asking for votes, but I love all the wonderful support from the readers of this blog. Thanks for that!

So back to The Green Sheep. Where do I even begin?

If you’ve ever lived in a foreign country you might have had a brilliant or not-so-brilliant experience. In my opinion, whether or not you have a brilliant experience is dependent on a few things:

  1. Making friends. Real ones. You know, the kind you can complain to and laugh hysterically with.
  2. Having purpose. A job you love, a serious hobby, a volunteer gig – any of these things make you feel like you belong to the community.
  3. Having a place to hang out. The times when you have nothing to do and don’t feel like being alone in your house, you need a place to go. A place where you feel comfortable.
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Mrs C. and me, Christmas 2007, Now Bar

I had these three things when I lived in Korea – a great job, a group of amazing friends (not to mention the Irishman I would someday marry) and Now Bar – the foreigner bar where we’d all congregate in the evenings and on weekends. The bar’s owner – a fun-loving woman we called Mrs. C – was like our Korean mom.

I have these three things in Ireland, too, which is great since I don’t plan on living anywhere else for the rest of my life. Funnily enough, all three of things things include The Green Sheep.

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I initially met The Green Sheep’s owner, Lucy Lambe, via Twitter. She kept telling me to visit her in her new cafe, so, eventually, I did. I loved the vibe and the coffee (she uses single origin Baobab coffee – these guys know how to roast beans). I loved Lucy, too. She is absolutely stark raving mad (in the best way). I quickly came to realize how passionate she and her husband, Patrick, are about supporting our local food producers and how much they enjoy showcasing all the great food products made in our area.

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So the cafe quickly became my hang-out. I would buy a coffee and watch the people walking down Friar Street. I soon came to know the other regulars and became good friends with Lucy and her family. Lucy would help me find local products to feature in my weekly Tipperary Star food column and I would bake and bring things in for her and her customers to sample. Her kids became my go-to babysitters.

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The food served here is whimsical, fresh and as a la minute as you can get (sometimes you don’t even know what you’re going to get – but it’s always good). In the winter you can get warming soups and stews; during the summer the salads are full of edible flowers and herbs from Comfrey Cottage.

They sell cakes, donuts (more on that later!), specialty meats and cheeses (think Toonsbridge, raw Derg Cheddar, Gubbeen and Cooleeney), local Thurles Tarts and jams, chutneys, juices and sauces – all made locally.

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They make fresh sandwiches and salads. Lucy’s Wild Irish Shrub Vinaigrette is becoming famous. But most of all, they serve up a vibrant atmosphere, full of good conversation and fun. Customers here quickly become friends. Its proximity to the Thurles train station has brought many a stranded visitor en route to elsewhere. They come in to wait for the next train and leave laughing and waving – instant friends. I’ve witnessed this on more than one occasion.

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The Green Sheep is open Monday-Saturday from 8-6. They sometimes open on Sundays if there’s a match at Semple Stadium. The next time you’re in Thurles, stop in for a coffee and lunch – you will leave happy!

The Best Places I’ve Ever Been

Gili Trawangan, Indonesia

Gili Trawangan, Indonesia

I’ve been off work sick for about a week. It’s torture. I love being busy – I’m usually overflowing with tasks, whether its mothering my daughter, cooking, keeping the fires going (we usually have two: one in the wood stove in the kitchen and one in the sitting room fireplace), or, of course, working my actual day job at Holycross Stores and The Tipperary Kitchen. I’ve also taken up writing a weekly food column for The Tipperary Star, where I focus on a different local producer each week and create a recipe from their product. I love my life here in Ireland. I loooove being busy.

Badaling, Great Wall of China

Badaling, Great Wall of China

This past week has been a shock to my system. Relying on my husband to keep the house clean and our daughter cared for and my father-in-law to keep the fire going was, at first, torturous. But the last few days have finally seen me getting used to it. I’ve been able to take the time to reconnect with friends in Canada and in other parts of the world. I’m reading more. I’m listening to the radio and my favourite albums. It’s been a nice trip down memory lane. That leads me here, to this post. I’ve been looking back on old photos and reliving some amazing past adventures. I thought I’d share some of the best places I’ve ever been with you and tell you why they were so life-changing. Aren’t we lucky to live in an age where we were easily able to record our younger lives and experiences? OK, here are my Top 5! I would love to hear/see about yours, too.

Patrick & I at Hwaseong Fortress, Suwon, South Korea

Patrick & I at Hwaseong Fortress, Suwon, South Korea

1. South Korea  I spent 2007-10 living and working in South Korea. It was the biggest, craziest thing I’ve ever done. I was fresh out of university, mad to travel, had absolutely no money and no cares. I found a job, they paid for my flight, found me an apartment, paid the rent and then proceeded to pay me about $2000.00 CAN a month. I almost missed my first flight and Air Canada let me on the plane, but refused to check my luggage, so I literally MOVED TO ASIA with only my carry-on and my handbag. And a camera.

Halloween 2008 - Trick or Drink! Visiting convenience stores around our neighbourhood

Halloween 2008 – Trick or Drink! Visiting convenience stores around our neighbourhood. I’m the panda.

I played with five year olds during the day and partied with the other expats at night. The expats came from all over the English-speaking world. We all hung out at the same bar and there were other Canadian teachers at my school, so even though I went to Korea knowing no one, I came out of it with lifelong friends and a life partner (that’s right, I met Patrick at the foreigner bar in 2008).

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Lifelong friends.

I learned enough Korean to get by and made wonderful Korean friends, too. I miss them all the time. I need to get back there, to someday show my kids where their parents met. To a young, travel-crazy individual, I can’t recommend teaching abroad enough. I have friends teaching in Turkey right now and it looks like they’re having a great time, too, so there are plenty of options out there.

Kimchi Pots

Kimchi Pots

Things I love about Korea: THE FOOD, the lifestyle of a carefree foreigner, the amazing group of international friends (will we all ever be in the same place again? Probably not.), the low cost of living, the Korean people (including their priceless reactions to my curly hair and how protective my Korean friends were of me).

Songsan Ilchulbong in Jeju, South Korea

Songsan Ilchulbong in Jeju, South Korea

If you go you must experience: Mudfest, Jeju-do (a semi-tropical island off the South coast), jjimjilbang (Korean saunas), kimchi-making, island-hopping off Incheon, travelling along the beautiful East Coast, hiking Suraksan, eating strange, raw sea creatures (when you’re by the sea).

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Gunung Bromo after a pre-dawn hike (and slight meltdown)

2. Indonesia Patrick and I spent a month backpacking around the Western part of Indonesia in 2009. We started in The Gili Islands, then worked our way across Bali, Java and Sumatra. It was one of the best, worst and all-around craziest experiences of my life.

Borobrodur, Java

Borobrodur, Java

Patrick got a cheap (but safe) scuba diving PADI cert in The Gilis and, as a result, saw some amazing undersea creatures. I lounged on the beach and chatted with the local ladies. We ate barracuda, satay, curries, nasi goreng and copious amounts of sambal. We drank litres of Bintang beer. We lived very well for about 20 bucks a day.

Browsing the market in Ubud, Bali

Browsing the market in Ubud, Bali

In Bali we shopped for (and shipped) art. We saw dance performances and ate the ubiquitous babi gulung (roast pig stuffed with spices). We took the bus to Java and were dropped off in a random place in the middle of the night. We got a drunk taxi driver who drove five metres and then got out of the car and left us. We got another taxi and, at dawn, climbed an active volcano. We spent several blissfull days in Yogyakarta and saw ancient temples. A guy asked me to name his newborn baby.

Hanging out with the locals in Yogyakarta, Java.

Hanging out with the locals in Yogyakarta, Java.

We got spooked in Jakarta, boarded a massive ship and sailed for three days to Sumatra. We were segregated by sex (a Muslim country) and the women in my cabin thought I might be related to Britney Spears. They fed me fruit and looked inside my makeup bag.

My roomies on the ship to Sumatra.

My roomies on the ship to Sumatra.

We drove to the jungle and hung out with orangutans. One of the best experiences of my life. I popped xanax on a daily basis because I have an unhealthy obsession with natural disasters and tropical diseases. Indonesia in a nutshell.

This experience is up there with getting married and having a baby!

This experience is up there with getting married and having a baby!

If you go you must experience: Bukit Lawang (home of the orangutans), Yogyakarta, Borodrodur, Gunung Bromo (the volcano), travelling on an “ekonomi” train, eating Padang, swimming with sea turtles and giant clams, riding on the back of a motorbike “taksi”.

Pastel de nata in Belem, Lisbon

Pastel de nata in Belem, Lisbon

3. Portugal We’re coming up on a whole year since our first-ever family trip. Last year, Maeve was seven months old and couldn’t yet crawl or walk. It was the perfect time to take her on vacation as she was perfectly content to be strolled around – she would NOT be OK with that now!

Costa Nova, Aviero, Portugal

Costa Nova, Aviero, Portugal

I had been wanting to visit Portugal my whole life. Growing up in Cape Breton, I wasn’t exactly surrounded by multiculturalism. That said, my best childhood friend (and still a wonderful friend) is half Portuguese. I spent so much time in her home, with her Portuguese Dad and all of the photos, stories and culture she was exposed to. When she travelled to Portugal for visits, I always wanted to go, too.

Costa Nova

Costa Nova

So when I finally got to go last year I felt like a kid again. I got to spend time with my friend’s dad and he opened up his Lisbon home to us. We took the train to Porto and fell in love with everything about that city – the medieval, winding alleyways, the River Douro and the most delicious cheeses, wines and cured meats. Maeve was a prime attraction for locals, with her blond hair and bright blue eyes. We were cooed at and smiled to wherever we went.

Porto

Porto

We went to the coastal university town of Aviero. We spent time in Costa Nova at the beach, eating fresh seafood and enjoying the gorgeous scenery. For a first family vacation, it was perfect in every way.

Piri Piri at Bonjardim

Piri Piri at Bonjardim

Theive's Market, Lisbon

Thieve’s Market, Lisbon

If you go you must experience: Piri Piri Chicken with Creamed Spinach at Bonjardim (Lisbon), Fiera de Ladra (the “Thieves” Market) in Lisbon, Taste Porto Food Tours, Costa Nova in Aviero, pastel de nata and espresso EVERY MORNING, drinking Sagres in the main square in Porto.

No pollution control at the Tsingtao brewery

No pollution control at the Tsingtao brewery

4. China When I told my Korean friends I was going to China for my Christmas break they begged me not to go alone. “Someone will take you! They will sell you as a bride!”

Wangfujing Night Market, Beijing

Wangfujing Night Market, Beijing

Sometimes Koreans can be a little anti-China. That said, there were times, travelling alone, that I got into certain situations and remembered their words. I played on the safe side. Just so you know, though, sometimes proper taxis in China are just unmarked vans. This was my first solo-vacation (and my last, incidentally) since meeting Patrick. He went home to Ireland for Christmas and so I wanted to go somewhere, too.

Noodles in Tsingtao

Noodles in Tsingtao

Here’s the thing, though: I hate airplanes. So. Much. I will go really, really far out of my way to avoid flying. So that’s why I took a ferry to China. It took 18 hours. I was in a cabin with three women who were studying in Korea. The ferry docked in the city of Tsingtao (yup, where they make the beer). I spent a day or two there. The Germans occupied Tsingtao during the World War, which is why the beer is so lovely. I think Tsingtao would be much nicer in the summer, but I still had fun drinking beer and slurping noodles.

Temple of Heaven, Beijing

Temple of Heaven, Beijing

I took an overnight train to Beijing. The crowd at the train station was scary and I wasn’t sure I’d be able to find my car. Just as the train was announced a young woman appeared out of nowhere. She grabbed my elbows, stuck them out, and helped me push my way through the crowd. She found my car, showed me where to go and was gone before I could practice my Mandarin and say thank you.

Wangfujing, Beijing

Wangfujing, Beijing

I had no seat. A woman was sitting with her three children in four seats. She took her youngest on her lap and gave me one of their seats. The children shared their snack with me (chicken feet from a convenience store), then we all fell asleep. Every time I woke up, a different child was sprawled across my lap. Beijing is one massive contrast. Communist and strict; mystical and spiritual. Amazing sights, smells and markets. Elderly folk having dance parties in sub-zero temperatures. The Great Wall is way more impressive than Karl Pilkington said. It (and the wind) took my breath away. The Ming Tombs were cool, too.

If you go you must experience: Travel by train, Beer Street in Tsingtao, The Temple of Heaven, The Silk Market, The Summer Palace, Peking Duck on Ghost Street, Wangfujing Night Market (where you’ll find all those lovely scorpion kebabs), The Great Wall, Hot Pot, Hutongs, Beijing Park Life.

Lakes of Killarney

Lakes of Killarney

5. Ireland Can you blame me for including my adopted home in this post? Ireland has changed me. I wasn’t a mom before I moved to Ireland. I was living in Canada’s biggest city prior to moving here – concrete on concrete, business attire every day, brunching on weekends and trying to stay on top of trends. All of that changed when I moved to Ireland.

Carvery Lunch in Dublin

Carvery Lunch in Dublin

I’m happy here. I’m settled. I love the fresh, local ingredients I have available to me. I love that Dublin, Waterford and Cork are less than two hours away. Limerick is less than an hour. I love being back on a farm. I love being surrounded by a large, extended family. Ireland is home.

The Giant's Causeway, Northern Ireland

The Giant’s Causeway, Northern Ireland

If you go you must experience: The Antrim Coast, The Copper Coast, nights out in Galway, the Lakes of Killarney, wandering around Cork, Ballymaloe Litfest, quiet pubs in Tipperary, visit a farm, eat lots of butter and cheese, drink tea, hike around Glendalough, go to the Avoca in Wicklow for tea and shopping.

Rainy Day Pancake

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Pa jeon is one of my favourite foods. Since it’s known in Korea as “Rainy Day Pancake”, you’re technically supposed to eat it when it’s raining, but I’ve never really adhered to the tradition (although it did rain in Waterford yesterday!). In Korea, you eat pa jeon with makkoli – a fermented, alcoholic rice beverage that looks like milk and gets served cold in a large teapot. You share one big pancake with whomever you’re dining and drink the makkoli out of small bowls.

The main ingredient in this savoury pancake is green onion, but if you ever order it in a Korean restaurant the word “hae mul” will almost always precede it. Hae mul means seafood, often in the form of squid, mussels, bay scallops and shrimps, and is always a lovely addition to the pancake. It gets served with a soy dipping sauce; usually a combination of soy, vinegar, sugar and chilies. The outside of the pa jeon is always crisp while the inside is soft and comforting – I guess that’s why it’s such a great “rainy day” food.

The key to a crisp pa jeon is rice flour, but if you don’t have access to it (as was the case with me yesterday) regular ol’ all purpose will do the trick. If you’re ever in a Korean grocery store there are pa jeon mixes. I’ve never used them, but I imagine it’s a “just add water and veggies” kind of deal and would be super easy if you were in a hurry. Also, though, if you’re ever in a Korean grocery store, many will have ready made pa jeon on sale, often homemade by the shop owners, and they will taste a gazillion times better than the mix ever would.

This is my own recipe for pa jeon that I’ve adapted from talking to my Korean friends and acquaintances. Egg is not always included in a pa jeon recipe but I find it makes the pancake a lot fluffier on the inside. Also, when I’m feeling sneaky, I’ll grate a carrot or two into the batter with the green onion. Shhhh!

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Pa Jeon

Ingredients:

1 cup rice flour

1 cup AP flour

2 tsp salt

1 egg

1 1/2 – 2 cups water

1 large bunch green onion, washed and sliced into inch long pieces

1 tsp minced chilies

1 Tbsp soy sauce

Mixed, chopped seafood (optional)

Canola/vegetable oil, for frying

Directions:

  • In a large bowl, mix the two types of flour (again, if you don’t have rice flour use two cups of AP) and salt. Add the egg and 1 1/2 cups water; mix. The consistency should be slightly runnier than a traditional pancake batter, but thicker than crepe batter. Add more water if needed.
  • Add the soy sauce and chili to the batter and mix. Add the green onion and, if you plan to use seafood, you can add it in at this point.
  • Heat a wok or non-stick (or cast iron) frying pan over medium heat. When the pan/wok is hot, add 1 Tbsp of oil followed by 1/2 cup of pancake batter (the pancake will not be crispy on the outside if the pan is not hot enough). Fry until crispy and golden brown on both sides. Repeat the process until all the batter has been used. Makes about six pa jeon. Serve with soy dipping sauce (1 Tbsp soy sauce, 2 tsp brown sugar, 1 clove garlic, 1 tsp chili paste, 2 tsp rice vinegar).

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Ha Jin the Korean-Canadian-Irish Cat

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Another beautiful day and another breakfast out on the patio – I don’t know how I’m going to adjust when the baby arrives; for the past few months I’ve mainly been home alone with just the cat for company! It doesn’t help that I don’t have a driver’s license, but it’s on the list right after I cross off “have my life changed forever by giving birth”.

I’m not sure how the cat will react to a newborn, either. She’s been our fur baby (well, mine and then, gradually, Pat’s) for the last five years. I adopted her while living in Korea and named her Ha Jin after my favourite student, who didn’t like speaking English but did enjoy meowing like a cat.

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She was so cold when we first moved to Ireland; didn’t take long for her to discover my heated blanket.

A few months after adopting Ha Jin, I met Patrick. He grumbled as I insisted on moving her to Canada with us. He didn’t like cats. He was, and mostly remains, a dog person. I’m a dog person, too, but cats are much less work. When we move to a real house (that we own) with a big backyard, then I’ll be ready for a dog.

So Patrick and Ha Jin were wary of each other for a few years. She came to Canada with us, along with my other adopted cat from Korea, a Japanese Bobtail I called Somi. Somi was mean. She wasn’t friendly. She was loud and demanding and had a constant pained look on her little furry face. She was the dominant cat in the relationship, and Ha Jin, as far as we knew, had no personality whatsoever. She was just the “quiet one”.

Ill-fated Somi

Ill-fated Somi

After moving to Toronto, we decided to bring the cats with us on our trip home to Cape Breton for Christmas. We were taking the train, which would take about 28 hours from start to finish. The cats were coming with us, but had to stay in the baggage car with all the other pets making the trip.

I didn’t like the idea, but we bought a new carrier, put a padlock on it and put the two cats in together so they wouldn’t be too scared.

When we were about to arrive in Montreal, a voice came on over the loudspeaker.

“Will the owner of the two cats please come to the baggage car.”

Assuming they meant me, I made my way down the train, wondering what Somi had done. I was picturing her broken out of her cage surrounded by clawed luggage; Ha Jin quietly looking on.

When I arrived at the baggage car, the woman in charge (very quickly) said “I’mverysorrybutwelostoneofyourcats!” and then handed me a cellular phone with her supervisor on the other end.

He explained to me that, although he was in Montreal and the incident occurred in Toronto, one of my cats had escaped and they were doing all they could to locate her.

I started crying. I demanded to see the carrier so I could see which cat they had lost (even though I knew all along). Sure enough, reaching the carrier, I saw the door, previously padlocked, swinging on it’s hinges wide open. I looked inside to see my poor girl, Ha Jin, pressed against the back of the carrier absolutely terrified. Somi was gone.

They never found her. I don’t think they really looked. Feeling utterly helpless throughout my entire Christmas holiday, I called and called, leaving message after message. Finally I sent my best friend, who happens to be a lawyer, to the station in Toronto to demand some answers. Seeing her in her lawyer gear finally compelled them to call me back, but every conversation I had as a result began with “Well, I wasn’t working that day so I can’t really tell you what happened”.

Watchin' the news; their daily ritual.

Watchin’ the news; their daily ritual.

Needless to say, we will never take pets on a train again. I can only hope some nice person took Somi in, because after all my searching (I even got her on the local TV station) and the help of the humane society, we never even found a trace of her.

If there’s any hint of a happy ending to this story, it’s that we discovered that Ha Jin actually has a personality! She really came into her own after Somi was lost, which makes me wonder if they were lying in Korea when they told me they had to be adopted together. We realized she likes to be the only cat in the household.

Soon after, she started becoming weirdly affectionate toward Patrick. He was surprised. Since then they’ve become friends. She’s adopted him. When he comes home from work, she’s right there next to him on the couch, watching the news. At night, she sleeps at his feet. She has completely changed his mind and attitude towards cats and he had no problem forking over the dough to move her to Ireland.

She likes to sit on the wall to make sure there aren't other cats around.

She likes to sit on the wall to make sure there aren’t other cats around.

The other night as we were having dinner on the patio, she was lying down at his feet and he said, “I never knew cats could be loyal.”

I just think, on some level, she understands that we saved her life.

*Update: A few weeks after our baby was born, Ha Jin passed away from complications with feline breast cancer. She lasted a year with the illness, which is pretty good. We cherish the time we had with her; she really was a spectacular, brave cat.

Road trippin'

Road trippin’

Canada Day in Ireland with a side of Butterbean Dip

Canada Day 2009 in Suwon, South Korea

Canada Day 2009 in Suwon, South Korea

As a perpetual expat, I may not be considered the most patriotic Canadian in the world. I mean, Canada is just so big. I haven’t seen half of it and I’ve spent most of my adult life living in other countries. I could have been coming from a different country altogether when I moved to Toronto from the East Coast. My culture, the way I speak and the things I hold dear are, often, completely foreign to people from other parts of Canada. But that’s also what’s nice about being Canadian.

I have been lucky enough to spend time in several parts of my vast country. Some of my favourite spots?

Montreal. The amazing mix of culture in this city of just under 2 million brings a plethora of sights, tastes and sounds to its many neighbourhoods. Tie that into a decidedly French/European identity with a history going back to the 1500’s and you have one of the craziest, coolest cities you could ever visit. Au Pied de Cochon, Joe Beef, Les 400 Coups… the dining possibilities are endless and the food is ranked among Canada’s best.

If you’re a beer aficionado, you’ll be interested to know that next to Portland, Oregon, Montreal has the highest number of craft breweries per capita in the world. That means the drinking possibilities are also endless!

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Dipping my feet in the Pacific on Vancouver Island

Victoria, British Columbia is a small, beautiful city tucked into the South end of Vancouver Island. When your flight descends into the airport, you have the ocean on one side of you and the Rockies on the other. Victoria, to me, feels like the most British place in Canada – the folk are royal crazy, you’ll find roundabouts instead of intersections and high tea is a regular indulgence. My brother lives in Victoria and his in-laws have the most lovely house, right next to the ocean, with a beautiful garden. You won’t find a harsh, Canadian winter in Victoria, but you will have rain and overcast conditions for much of the year.

Me and my dad in Cape Breton last summer

Me and my dad in Cape Breton last summer

The best place in Canada (easily) is my home island of Cape Breton. I know I like to talk about it (a lot), but it really is special. Summer  swims in the clear, beautiful rivers, beach days spent playing in the waves and lobster & mussel boils make for a great place to visit, and an even better place to grow up. Things move very slowly in Cape Breton. You won’t have cellular service in many areas, you share the roads with moose and black bears and, often, the only thing for you to do is relax and enjoy your surroundings. And you will enjoy your surroundings. They’re glorious.

Since I couldn’t celebrate Canada Day at home where I would watch the local parade, eat BBQ and cake and, after the fireworks, go to the dance in town, my sister-in-law Monica (who, incidentally, also comes from Cape Breton. Who, incidentally, I grew up with and have been friends with my whole life. Who, also incidentally, fell in love with my brother-in-law at my wedding and subsequently moved to Ireland. Her.) and I decided to celebrate Canada Day as best we could. No parade or dance, but with BBQ, cake, plenty of cold bevvies and our Kennedy family.

The weather didn’t cooperate for much of the day, but by late afternoon the skies had turned blue and, although it was still chilly, we bundled up in sweaters and enjoyed Canada Day out in our backyard in Waterford.

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I made the Canada Day Cake, which was a doubled recipe of my Tres Leches cake, hastily masked in Chantilly cream and patriotically decorated with Irish strawberries. I also made some braised, shredded mole chicken legs, a pasta salad made with arugula walnut pesto (my rocket is outta control – I was able to make about a litre of pesto with it last week) and a smokey butterbean dip. The dip was delicious and the recipe will follow this post – it’s a great alternative to hummus if you don’t have chickpeas or tahini on hand.

Mole Chicken and Monica's Potato Salad

Mole Chicken and Monica’s Potato Salad

We're in Waterford, so we use Blaa as burger buns, natch.

We’re in Waterford, so we use Blaa as burger buns, natch.

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Walnut Arugula Pesto Pasta Salad with cherry tomatoes, buffalo mozzarella, peppers and scallions

After the BBQ, we lounged around the backyard playing charades and having a laugh. And, thusly, Canada Day was celebrated in a very Irish but nonetheless special way.

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Smokey Butterbean Dip

Ingredients:

2 240 g cans of butterbeans, drained and rinsed

3/4 cup natural yoghurt

1 Tbsp butter

1 onion, thinly sliced

1 hot chili of your choice, finely chopped (I used 2 tsp of chili paste)

1 Tbsp smoked paprika

1 tsp cumin seeds, toasted and ground

1 tsp coriander seeds, toasted and ground

juice of one lemon

salt and pepper, to taste

Directions:

  • In a food processor or blender, add the drained/rinsed butterbeans.
  • In a saucepan, melt butter over medium heat and add onion and chili. In a small frying pan, toast the cumin and coriander seeds and set aside to cool. When cooled, grind in a mortar and pestle or coffee grinder reserved for spices.
  • Add the smoked paprika to the onion and chili. Cook through. Add the ground cumin and coriander to the saucepan. Cook together for one minute.
  • Add the lemon juice to the saucepan and allow the liquid to reduce slightly.
  • Add the onion mixture to the food processor/blender with the butterbeans and blitz.
  • When the mixture has been thoroughly blended (no chunks of onion, etc.) move the contents to a bowl and blend in the yoghurt. The dip should be smooth and spreadable, but not too thick. Adjust the consistency with more yoghurt if  necessary. If the beans aren’t blending together easily in your blender/food processor, use a drizzle of olive oil to loosen things up.
  • Season the dip with salt and pepper. It’s important not to season before this point as the butterbeans may already be a bit salty. Wait until all the components are put together, then taste and season accordingly.
  • When serving in a big bowl, I mix another 2 tsp of smoked paprika with extra virgin olive oil and drizzle it over the top of the spread.
  • *This is a great dip for raw veggies, flatbreads or corn chips. I like using it on my sandwiches instead of mayo and it makes a KILLER grilled cheese with some gouda and good quality sourdough.
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