Where the Oatmeal comes from

Years and years of eating porridge and flapjacks, of collecting tokens from the packets, and only now I visit the source of all this delicious oatmeal. It dawned on me that many of the farmers on the east coast of Ireland were growing oats for the factory.

It took a visit to the Waterford Greenway, linking Waterford

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to Dungarven on a 48km stretch of disused railway for me to make the connection between my breakfast , the mill and the crop grown to make it.

Sitting in the Coach House cafe near Kilmacthomas, I felt I had to walk at least some of it if I was to get bragging rights for having been on the Grenway.

So I walked the 1 km to Kilmacthomas village. Signs for the Mill but no actual sighting. Reillys traditional butchers where you can see them making sausages. No card machine-I was nearly checking to see that they had switched to the decimal system. Had to buy some wagon wheels eventhough they were made for children. A round of sausage meat with an circle of black pudding in the middle and finished off with pastry trimming as the wheel rim. I baked one later in the oven and they were a real treat.

But back to KIlmacthomas and the Oatmeal. I wandered down the hill to the river. I was able to get back to the greemway by walking up to the Kilmacthomas viaduct. Enormous arches holdung up the now disused railway line.

Up here I could look beyond the village. There in all its industrial magnificence was the Flahavans oat mill. I looked below and saw the river. Duh! Mill – has a millrace. Seems obvious but of course it would have originally been powered by water.

It is a beautiful setting and looking over my other shoulder, I could see the village. I had an ‘Under Mildwood’ moment when I observed the comings and goings of the place from a distance.

It was a revelation to me that my chilhood bowls of porridge had come from here. I would say there is not a child in Ireland who has not sat dejected in front of a bowl of porridge and been told not to leave the table until its finished. The misery of seeing snakes coiling in the bowl while anothe bite is forced down. This food has become aclaimed for its low glycaemic index in latter years and it has enjoyed a revival unparalled by any other food except maybe avocadoes.

And still it comes from a mill on a river in a splendid corner of our beautiful country.

Espresso Brownie

Anything chocolatey and gooey in the centre – delish
With the hazelnut and dark chocolate this recipe has healthy credentials.

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Does Espresso in a brownie make them breakfast?
They are nice enough to have anytime of the day but maybe that’s stretching it. What ever about that, they really are delicious…..
Please be brave and take them out when they are still gooey in the middle as that is the hallmark of a really delicious brownie!

Cuts into 16
Oven at 180C

50ml good quality espresso
200gr dark chocolate
150gr butter

150gr sugar
3 eggs

50gr plain flour (You can substitute almond flour or an other gluten free flour of your choice)
100gr hazlenuts, toast gently, skin and chop

Melt the chocolate, butter and espresso gently over a bain marie
Whisk the sugar and eggs together
Fold in the flour followed by the melted chocolate mixture
Add the hazlenuts and pour into a greased lined tin approx 10″ by 10″
Bake for between 15-20 minutes. This is because all ovens…

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Up By Napper Tandys House

This Sunday I went walkabout in Dublin’s oldest streets. Researching the price of organic cherry tomatoes, I made for the Dublin Food Coop. From Thomas Street, I passed throught Meath Street and The Coombe. Quiet and clean swept it being a Sunday, the redbrick houses are history in themselves. The families that grew up there, the messages bought, the workers arriving in , scraping theit boots on the built in irons that still protrude from the redbrick at foot level.

The men who arrived home without work during the lockout and strikes of 1913 – the stories those walls could tell.

IMG_3017Google maps brought me to the market – a buzzing hive of activity. Tourists from all over th world had found their way to this hub of crafts, music collections ,coffee and food.

Cherry tomatoes were to be found @ €5 per kilo. Sourced from Spain so methinks there is a gap in the market for Irish Organic Cherry tomatoes.

 

Break my heart at Breakfast

Apricot jam -v Marmalade

unopened jar of Apricot Jam bought by mistake

Did you ever cut open a brown scone, butter it and reach for the marmalade only to find the orange spread you ladle on is Apricot jam masquerading as marmalade?

The illogical anger as your taste buds struggle and yearn for the zest and buzz of marmalade is matched only by the disappointment that your breakfast on your breakaway has been partially spoiled. The anticipation of the perfect breakfast scone has been unfulfilled and you look around for someone to blame.

How could anyone think the bland smoothness of apricot would fool me? Who actually made the decision to substitute the real thing with an inadequate replacement. Better by far to say ‘We do not have marmalade’ than to lead one down or up the garden path and lull one into a false sense of consumable confiture.

It is actually not jam at all  or jelly as they call it in the US.  The real thing was sliced in a manual slicer attached vice like to the kitchen table  Seville oranges came in once a year and the annual ritual would rotate between the Rayburn where the slices would bob around in the preserving pan, pounds of sugar added until it was decanted into sterilised Jam jars  and oh the smell!

In times of need when the real thing was all eaten, mother would make it out of a tin .  Delicious !  Only when all else failed did we buy a pot of marmalade.

The sausages are eaten, the second cup of coffee is poured but its all gone up in a puff of smoke.

Is it worth talking to the waitress? Will this only serve to fuel the anger, underlining the unfortunate start to the day.

Or does one just bottle it up and buy ones one jar of the real stuff at the local shop.

Did you not know that ‘I was a morning grouch – until I discovered Little Chip marmalade ‘. One of the best pieces of advertising ever.

So remember- serving Apricot Jam can be responsible for morning grouches all over the world.

Islands of my Dreams

WHAT DOES IT LOOK LIKE TO YOU?

Is it only me or does everyone see the land mass nearest them as the first island they looked out at as a child?
When I look out at Howth, I see Cape Clear. When I look at Clare island off Luisburgh, I see Cape Clear.
I think the shape of these land masses is similar. Ridges left after the glaciers slid their way through valleys to eventually melt into the sea.


Their height is similar – not a very scientific observation but it gives me more to go on than nostalgia for my faulty perception.
Or is it just wishful thinking- to be back in those days when your horizon was bordered Cape Clear, when the day was regulated by high tide so we could jump off Colla Pier.
The walk past Hannah Fleury’s house, its perennial garden laden with scent , where her gorgeous golden retriever would curl on her back, beseeching us to rub her belly where her nipples felt velvety and nubbly under our fingers.
We would pick up a swarm of files there that would pester us for a few fields. Our towels would round our heads, we must have looked like a small group of nomadic berbers, tans and freckles and sunburnt, instead of the mahogany skin of the desert inhabitants.
We loitered at the pier, in fact we loitered everywhere. I cant think of a single other thing we did. We cycled, speeding down the 30’ gradient up at Caherlaska,, and freewheeling up the other side, seeing how far we could go without pedalling.
We would later cut those hills out and dump our bikes in the heather and go across the springy turf and jump goat like over the rocks until we reached the holiday bungalow.
Never going straight in to the house, but instead climbing directly on to the asphalt roof of the garage and in to the attic space, almost entirely filled with a table tennis table made of plywood and hung around with sheep skins drying on the rafters.
The smell of those pelts is with me today, an acrid, earthy type of odour, inhaled deeply by us with whatever other dust and particles were in that roof space as we sped around the table, becoming more accurate every day with our serves and volleys.
Dinner was almost invariably fresh mackerel cooked whole, with four scores across the sides and grilled or fried with butter.
Served with liberal lemon juice and potatoes, we left the house as soon as possible after dessert, squeezing every last minute out of the long evenings with the stunning sunsets lasting any time up to 11.30.
Maybe that is why I always think of Cape clear when I look out at the horizon from Dun Laoghaire. We were kings of our world for those few uncompromisingly lived weeks where natures backdrop knows no half measures.

December Sunshine in West Cork

img_2108What an end to the year! This day was slipped in as an extra as if we are not really coming up to the shortest day of the year.

Fuschsia still bloomingimg_2102sunrise dramatic and temperatures abnormally high.

It is so sad to hear of the death of another prominent figure AA Gill restaurant critic of the Sunday Times  he entertained us so well with his incredibly witty columns  His last insight into the compassion of a NHS nurse said so much about his true nature.

He knew that compassion is not something you can pay for .  He got that from the public sector and I hope it gave him some comfort in his last agonising days. On a beautiful day like today it is hard to believe that such suffering exists.

His only desire was to have more time with his family . A lesson for us all as we rush around getting ready for Christmas .

 

 

Gooey Chocolate Cakes

Nigella says ‘before you even take off your coat break the chocolate into pieces and melt in a bowl over hot water’. image

Her writing adds excitement  to the recipe and gives you a story to visualise when you make these cakes.

I found the recipe in ‘How to Eat’ by Ms Lawson and I have been making it since Andrew was seven. He makes them more than I do now, impressing his friends by treating them to an indulgent treat. They have been made in an assortment of mugs over the years when we could not get a set of ramekins together. So the Tom& Jerry mug , the charity mug from the cathedral fundraiser and the one stolen from the Europa hotel have all had chocolate dripping down their sides obscuring the lettering with a crusty layer of deliciousness.

My father loved Nigella so much with her uninhibited sensuality as she described tastes and indulged her passion for food. She has such a gift for communicating pleasure! Even the name for these cakes describes exactly what they are in down to earth language.

Thank you Nigella for reaching three generations of my family in such a positive way!

NCAD Community Garden

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When you walk up off the Oliver Bond street parallel to Thomas Street and go through the tall metal gates, you leave behind the city and enter a mini garden of paradise.

Order has been brought to chaos with rows of vegetables stretching out in raised beds and more chaos has been created with the mountains of composting material being gathered daily by Tony Lowth whose brainchild this project is.

The cycle continues with the compost being spread on the ground ceating no dig beds with minimal weeds. It is a pleasure to work this soil. Rich and friable , dark but light to the touch, its fertility is evident in the abundance of lettuce, leeks and kale still growing in November.

Tony is no stranger to social change and he has a plan to create employment out of waste.  The practical application of labour to waste ground is no random idea but is carefully thought out.

IN the meantime, the backdrop of the citys noise – sellers in Meath Street calling out, Christchurch playing the Bells of the Angelus at noon and the visual  impact of graffiti on the gardens walls remind you where you are. In the heart of the oldest part of Dublin and not 500 metres from where Robert Emmet was hanged, a farm that out forefathers would be proud of is thriving.

Vegetarian Paradise

Cafe Paradiso is the most aptly named restaurant in Ireland.

It takes you to a world of fresh food cooked with care and expertise. It introduces your taste buds to stimulating flavours and your eyes to natural colours of bright greens , reds and orange.

Using a base such as haloumi or coucous, the dish is built up with beluga lentils or surrounded with chick peas

Hazelnut gougeres were divine as nutty starters – balls of delicate flavour to mop up the delicious sauce.

Lyndas buffalo mozzarella was delicate and refreshing with a clear taste. We both admitted to having thought buffalo referred to the size of the cheese,not the fact that it actually came from real buffalos near Macroom County Cork. Lynda never thought that there had of course to be female buffalo!

We loved the delicious thin crackers with seeds in top that were placed in the middle of the table. The waitress kindly jotted down the recipe and we will both produce our version and see who produces the better cracker.

The service was excellent and the restaurant was full from 5.45 pm.

Great value.  €102 between us including the bottle of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc.

We finished the night in the Bodhran on Oliver Plunkett Street – which we were informed by a barman in the Imperial is “the best street in Europe”. Who were we to argue? There are not many pubs in this country where you would walk in to hear Lou Reed followed by a mix of classic tracks from Blondie to , of course, Rory Gallagher

Nothing like a good dose of nostalgia!!

Cafe Paradiso certainly was not something that would have succeeded when I was growing up in Cork

its surely a sign of our growing appreciation of good foods and sustainability that it has such a huge reputation in Ireland and abroad .

As the big healthy man himself said- I’ll be back!