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Posts tagged ‘Ireland’

Comfrey Cottage Chervil & Chive Vichyssoise

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I love Tipperary. Especially in the summer.

Despite the drought we’ve been experiencing these past weeks, things are still fairly green. Each day, the sky is an array of gorgeously arranged clouds. My kids run around the yard (well, two out of three of them run… the baby bum-shuffles), playing in their playhouse and making mud pies, Pat is busy fixing things around the farm and helping his dad milk the cows.

And me? I’m on “holiday” from The School of Food. Which actually means I’m run off my feet chasing after children, hosting playdates, writing articles (like this recent one for Irish Country Living on the Keenan Brothers, who grow heritage grain), selling cakes and sausage rolls at the Thurles Farmer’s Market and doing pop-up restaurant nights with Lucy at The Green Sheep.

So I’m still working, I guess. Just not teaching! I will be taking a proper holiday next week and the week after – we will be going “glamping” in County Clare with the kids. We are so excited; can’t wait to tell you all about it.

Lucy and I also recently signed up for Traveling Spoon. If you don’t know what that is, it’s  sort of like airbnb… but for food! Visitors can peruse the website depending on which country they’re visiting and choose from a selection of unique dining experiences. Some experiences are in people’s homes, while others – like ours – are in private dining establishments. When we get a reservation, Lucy and I close up the cafe and prepare the long, wooden communal dining tables for our guests.

We offer three types of experiences: a cooking lesson, dinner and local beer pairings, just dinner, or just dinner with beer pairings. We only take one group of visitors at a time, making it an intimate, unique travel experience.

The menu changes with whatever is in season and tasting good at the time, but last week, when we fed a group of Americans (visiting via Irish Fireside bespoke tours – a fantastic travel experience in itself!) the menu was this:

Comfrey Cottage Chervil & Chive Vichyssoise

Crawford’s Farm Pulled Chicken Empanada

John Lacey’s slow-roast Lamb Shoulder with Buttered Turnip, Crispy Kale and Gastrique

Ripe Cooleeney Cheese with Cherry Consomme, Walnuts and Lavash

Sweet Ricotta Dumplings with The Apple Farm Strawberries and Raw Lavender Cream

The menu featured all local (like within 50km of Thurles) ingredients and the group we had were all so wonderful and fun. They enjoyed their food (and beer pairings from White Gypsy Brewery) and even serenaded us in between courses.

I thought I would share the recipe for our first course because it’s so low-maintenance to make – it actually intensifies in flavour as it sits in the fridge. A classic French Vichyssoise is a chilled, creamy, mild leek and potato soup. It’s lovely.

At this time of year, in Tipperary, my friend Sarah at Comfrey Cottage has an abundance of bright, flavoursome chervil. I love its mellow, refreshing flavour – with a squeeze of lemon and a handful of chives, it literally transforms a classic into something entirely new and exciting.

This will keep in the fridge for up to four days. Do not add the fresh chervil until the soup has chilled – otherwise the lovely green colour will turn grey and the flavour will be less vibrant.

*If you can’t get fresh chervil, you can substitute with: 1 bunch flatleaf parsley, 1 bunch fresh dill, 1 bunch fresh chives, 1/4 bunch fresh mint

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Comfrey Cottage Chervil & Chive Vichyssoise

Ingredients:

1 Tbsp rapeseed (or olive) oil

1 Tbsp butter

3 leeks, pale green and white bits only, finely sliced

1 large onion, finely diced

3 stalks celery, finely diced

4 large potatoes, peeled and cubed (keep submerged in cold water until ready to cook)

4-6 cups/1L hot chicken or vegetable stock (depending on how thick you like your soup)

1 cup/250ml heavy cream

salt and pepper, to taste

Juice of one lemon

1 large bunch fresh chervil (around 200g)

1/2 bunch fresh chives

Directions:

  • In a large, heavy-bottomed pot, heat 1 Tbsp rapeseed oil and 1 Tbsp butter over medium-high.
  • Gently cook the leek, celery and onion together until pale and translucent – you don’t want them to brown, just soften and cook through.
  • Add the potatoes and gently cook, stirring regularly, for another 3-5 minutes.
  • Add 4 cups of hot stock (reserve the extra for after, in case you want to thin out the soup) and bring to a gentle simmer.
  • Simmer the soup for 20-30 minutes, until the potato is completely cooked through.
  • Add the cream, stir, remove from heat and allow to cool for 1 to 1.5 hours.
  • Once the soup has cooled, transfer for the fridge and chill completely for 1-2 hours.
  • Add the chervil and chives – allow to steep into the soup overnight or for at least 3 hours. Continue to chill in the fridge.
  • In small batched, blend the cold soup completely in a vitamix or good quality blender. A hand blender would probably work, but I haven’t tried.
  • Once completely blended, season with salt, pepper and lemon juice to taste.
  • Continue to chill until ready to serve, Garnish with chive flowers, nasturtium, a drizzle or oil and microgreens.
  • Serves 8-10 people (starter size, approx. 200ml per person).
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Maple Walnut Scones

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People often ask me if I miss living in Canada. I’ve been living in Ireland now for almost five years. I have three great kids, a house we’re fixing up, a big garden (and more gardens planned), a small business and lots of friends and family milling around.

So yeah, it’s safe to say I’m usually too busy to be feeling homesick for Canada. That said, I recently got my kids their Canadian citizenship and, this year being Canada’s 150th birthday (if you’re First Nations, though, I should add that Canada is thousands of years older), I started feeling a bit nostalgic with all the celebrations and activities posted all over my social media streams.

Canada Day is July 1st, so it’s already happened. I didn’t do anything on the day to celebrate. Sometimes I host barbecues, bake a cake and have my friends over for Canada Day, but this year – having just had a baby – I wasn’t really feeling it. Too much, too soon.

But I can’t say Canada hasn’t been on my mind lately. So while I don’t miss living in Canada, there are a few things about Canada (or just Cape Breton, really) I miss in general:

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  1. Lobster season: May to July in Cape Breton. Lobsters everywhere you look. Lobster boil dinners at every small community hall. Lobsters being sold right from the boat. I love lobster, and I really miss eating it when it’s at its best. That also goes for mussels, scallops, haddock, salmon, chowder… and the list goes on. I know Ireland is surrounded by ocean, but there isn’t great seafood in landlocked Tipperary!
  2. The beach: Cape Breton has so many gorgeous beaches. By July the water is warm enough to swim, the sand is golden and fine-textured and the beaches are relatively isolated. I love Irish beaches, but find the water is usually a bit too cold and most beaches a bit too crowded.
  3. The restaurants: I love lobster and seafood. I love the places that prepare these foods as well. The Rusty Anchor in Pleasant Bay (where I once had some decadent lobster poutine with a cold beer; one of my most favourite meals), The Dancing Goat in Margaree, The Herring Choker in Nyanza, Charlene’s Bayside in Whycocomagh, The Bite House in Big Baddeck – all of these places make amazing Cape Breton food and deserve all of the accolades. I miss these places.
  4. My friends and family: Obvs. I love and miss my *very large* extended family. Aunties, uncles, cousins, nieces, nephew, brothers – I miss them all.
  5. The weather: in summer, it’s warm enough to swim in the river and in the ocean almost every day. On the East Coast, though, it’s not as hot as it would be elsewhere in Canada. We have the ocean to keep the temperature moderate (like, 35°C and under). A great deal warmer and sunnier than an Irish summer, but still comfortable (I don’t miss black flies and mosquitos, though).10631983_387625851388458_1137852623_n
  6. Wild Blueberries and good Maple Syrup: I miss these things very much. The fruit in Ireland is lovely, but the blueberries here don’t compare to the blueberries in Cape Breton.
  7. Canadian beer and wine: in Nova Scotia there is a wine appellation called Tidal Bay. It’s located close to where I went to university. The wine is gorgeous. Once, a sparkling wine called (Benjamin Bridge) Nova 7 beat out actual, expensive champagne at a tasting I attented in Toronto. It’s that good. The beer in Ireland is great, so I don’t miss Canadian beer that much; just certain kinds.
  8. Homestyle baking: I know I do a lot of Cape Breton-style baking here in Ireland, but I miss other people’s baking. Namely from the cafes I mentioned previously, my aunties and older people from around my community.

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Speaking of homestyle baking, I especially love East Coast scones. Large, triangular, sweet with a crunchy sugar or glazed topping, scones in Cape Breton are indulgent – often made for sharing – and perfect with a cup of strong tea.

I whipped up these maple walnut scones with another nostalgic food in mind – ice cream! I love the ice cream at home. It’s not soft serve like a 99 here in Ireland, it’s hard and comes in a million and a half flavours; one of my favourites being maple walnut.

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No need for butter and jam on these scones. The glaze is thick enough to ensure the right amount of sweetness in each bite, and the walnuts are toasted in the oven and then soaked in maple syrup. Perhaps most importantly, the flavour is nostalgic enough to get me through to my next visit home.

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Maple Walnut Scones

Ingredients:

2 1/2 cups/375g Plain Flour

1 Tbsp baking powder

1 tsp sea salt

1/4 cup/60g light brown sugar

1/2 cup/125g cold butter, cubed

1 large egg

2 tsp vanilla extract

1 cup/250ml cold buttermilk

For the glaze:

2 cups/500g Icing Sugar

1 tsp vanilla or maple extract

3 Tbsp good quality maple syrup

Splash of heavy cream

Toasted walnuts, soaked in maple syrup

Directions:

  • Preheat your oven to 200°C (400°F). Line one or two baking sheets with parchment and set aside.
  • In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, salt, brown sugar and cold, cubed butter.
  • Using a pastry cutter or your fingers, cut/rub the butter into the dry ingredients until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Make a well in the centre of the butter/dry ingredient mixture.
  • In a large measuring cup, measure out the buttermilk, then add the egg and vanilla. Mix to combine.
  • Add the wet ingredients to the well in the middle of the dry ingredients. Using a wooden spoon or just using your hands (your best pastry tool!) mix the wet into the dry until just combined (mixture should be on the wet side – if it’s dry and crumbly add more buttermilk!).
  • On a lightly floured surface, turn the dough out and knead lightly for one minute. Form into a ball and allow to rest for 10 minutes.
  • Using more flour for dusting and a rolling pin, roll the dough out into a thick rectangle (you want to get 8-10 scones out of this dough at most). At least 1.5 inches thick.
  • Cut the rectangle into 8-10 smaller rectangles or triangles. Transfer to the prepared baking sheets. Using a pastry brush, lightly brush the tops with milk and sprinkle a bit of sugar over each scone.
  • Bake the scones for 20-ish minutes. Let cool slightly on a rack.
  • Make the glaze: in a mixing bowl, combine the icing sugar, maple syrup, maple extract (or vanilla) and about a tablespoon of heavy cream. You want the glaze to be thick, but still be able to drizzle it over the scones. If the glaze is too thick for your liking, loosen it up with a bit more cream.
  • Dunk the tops of each scone in the glaze, or spoon the glaze over each scone allowing the excess to drip down the sides. Top with toasted maple walnuts. Allow glaze to set slightly before eating (if you can wait that long).
  • The scones will keep no longer than two days, so make sure you eat them right away!

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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?

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.

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).

Zucchini Parmesan, aka REASONS WHY I HAVEN’T BLOGGED IN AWHILE:

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  1. I’m busy. That’s a bit vague so I’ll elaborate: I’m working full time, writing a weekly column for The Tipperary Star, renovating the farm house, raising a busy toddler and feeding what sometimes feels like the Irish army. Not that I’m complaining; I’m just busy, ok?
  2. My mom and dad are here. My mom’s been here since early July, which is around the time I started saying “OK, I really need to write this blog post”, which hasn’t really happened… My spare time is generally spent with them, and not blogging. Gimme a break, I really only see them once a year! It’s nice seeing Maeve interact with Nana and Grandpa.
  3. WE’RE RENOVATING THE FARMHOUSE. My Dad is a super-carpenter extraordinaire and my Mom is mad into interior design, so why wouldn’t we renovate while they’re both here? My house is currently torn apart in many ways, but the wall I wanted gone is gone and the flooring is completely done (no exposed concrete anywhere!) and my dad has up-cycled numerous beautiful, but slightly worn, pieces of old furniture we didn’t want to part with.
  4. I’M COOKING FOR AN ARMY. I know I’m repeating the last two points, but this is seriously taking up a lot of my time – from elaborate breakfasts in the morning to evening feasts. My parents are doing a lot of work here, so why wouldn’t I spend a lot of time cooking lovely food for them?
  5. Oh yeah. Probably the biggest reason I haven’t blogged lately? I’m pregnant. And parenting a toddler. And exhausted. I’m like, so, so, exhausted. I’m halfway there, though, and we are getting excited to introduce Maeve to her new sibling in early January.

The thing is, I have too much to write about. I’ve been eating such great food this summer and big life changes are coming our way.

Weather-wise, this summer in Ireland has been total and complete crap. Cold, rainy jacket weather all summer. Things are starting to dry up a little as we prepare for September (and our second cutting of silage; gawd help me) but the window for hot, sunny beach weather has definitely passed. Oh well.

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This coming week we’re takin’ off on an epic road trip, starting in Belfast and ending at Electric Picnic (one of Ireland’s biggest annual music festivals). Friends from Canada arrive on Sunday and we’re taking them along the Wild Atlantic Way, eventually doing the Ring of Kerry (something I’ve never done) so watch this space! My next post is bound to be a big one.

In the meantime, here’s a summer recipe I make each year when the zucchini (or courgette, depending on which side of the ocean you’re living) is ripe and plentiful and I’m wondering what the eff I’m going to do with ALL THE COURGETTE (or zucchini!). I make this several times during the course of the summer, actually, since it’s the only way I can get my husband to eat zucchini (courgette!).

Honestly, if you just follow the first part of the recipe you’re good. Just eat the fried zucchini with some sea salt. It makes your belly happy. If you’re ambitious (and can hold back), THEN you should make the casserole – it really is worth it.

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Summery Zucchini/Courgette Parmesan

Ingredients:

2 large zucchini, thinly sliced

1 1/2 cups AP flour

3 eggs, lightly beaten

2 tsp salt

1 tsp black pepper

1/2 cup rapeseed oil (or olive oil), for frying

2 balls fresh Buffalo Mozzarella (I use Toonsbridge), torn into small pieces

1 cup freshly grated parmesan

1 bunch baby spinach, washed

For the sauce:

1 large onion, thinly sliced

2 cloves garlic, crushed

1 Tbsp tomato paste

1 tsp chili flakes OR 1 tsp fresh chili paste

2 8oz cans crushed tomato

1 tsp dried oregano

2 Tbsp rapeseed or olive oil

2 tsp sugar

Salt & Pepper, to taste

Directions:

  • Make your zucchini fritters: season the flour with the salt and pepper; mix. Lightly coat the slices of zucchini with flour, then dip each slice in the beaten egg. Heat the oil in a deep frying pan (I used a wok) or saucepan and shallow fry the egg and flour-coated zucchini slices until golden brown. Add more oil to the pan if necessary, and fry them in batches – not all at once. Let them drain on paper towel when they’re fried.Set aside.
  • Make the tomato sauce: heat the oil in a medium sized saucepan. When it’s hot, add the onions. Allow them to fry, stirring occasionally, for about 8 minutes, until they’re tender and translucent. Add the garlic and chili; cook another minute. Add the tomato paste and canned tomatoes;bring to a simmer. Allow the tomatoes to cook down, stirring occasionally, for about 30 minutes. When the sauce is thick and bubbly, add the sugar and oregano. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Set the sauce aside until ready to use.
  • Make the casserole: preheat the oven to 400 degrees (200 degrees Celsius, no fan). Add a bit of sauce to the bottom of a casserole dish. Layer half of the zucchini fritters, spinach, Buffalo mozzarella, Parmesan and more sauce. Repeat until everything is used. Top with the rest of the sauce and lots more cheese.
  • Bake for 40 minutes to 1 hour. The cheese should be golden brown and the sauce should be bubbly. Chop some fresh herbs to garnish and serve hot with lots more Parmesan cheese, freshly ground pepper and some al dente pasta. Serves eight hungry souls. Makes great leftovers, but you probably won’t have any.

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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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