St Tola Raviole and the Chinese TV Crew

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St Tola Raviole and spinach broth

I can’t believe it has been three years already; I was sitting on the garden table, sipping on a nice coffee and honey, just the way I like it when the phone rang. ” 9 am!” I thought, “can’t a man enjoy a wee bit of peace before heading to work?”. It was a lady from Fáilte Ireland, the National Tourism Development Authority of Ireland if you prefer, “Fáilte” meaning “Welcome”; by the sounds of things it seemed to be important and it came from the top, well you know, top enough! A camera crew from China, CCTV to be precise were touring Ireland; they wished to stop at my work place and wanted me to speak about cheese…

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Bogland Ratatouille

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Ratatouille, chickpea burgers, grilled aubergines and baked potatoes with bocconcini mozzarella di bufala…

I can’t remember the last time we talked about water restrictions in Ireland; well apart from the obsolete and dilapidated water pipes exploding here and there, water shortages due to dry and prolonged weather conditions are not that usual. A more common affair now in Brittany, my homeland getting drier, often mocked once by the Parisian clique for its long and often tempestuous rain spells but yet, they never forgot to pack their cute yellow raincoats. Ok, about that, let me be clear here: unless you are on a fishing boat, we do not wear yellow raincoats. We wear Cotten salopettes with shell jackets on top ( I have the whole uniform, I just don’t get to wear it that often), they are yellow, on a boat only, not to go to the market and pretending to be a local, it’s like a big giveaway, don’t do that! I suppose we get the same here this time of year, Aran jumpers and Donegal tweed caps… Well maybe in the more touristy parts of the Island, here in the midlands, we do not see much of that, and yesterday, as I was admiring in dismay the queue for the car wash, I thought the message didn’t quite sink in… Boglanders, you gotta love them!

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Smoked Haddock Cajun Rice

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Smoked Haddock Cajun Rice

Ahhh… Summer! After hurricane Ophelia 8 months ago, some dramatic snow falls in March, we are now getting a proper heatwave; and I don’t mean 19 c heatwave, no-no, I mean proper nearly 30 c which hasn’t been seen since 1976… I remember it you know, summers of 1976 and 1979, forest fires everywhere; we almost got caught up in one once, scary really! The Canadair Fire fighting planes flew all the way from the south of France to Brittany… But what I remember most, is all these long hours swimming in the sea, or at least learn how to, with my sister and my Dad, Mum carefully watching us from the safety of the shore…

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“Cherry Times” a June Tale and a Goat’s Cheese Soufflé recipe

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Goat’s Cheese Soufflé with cherries

I don’t know what it is about June, forget about July and I may as well scrap August altogether, taking the risk of being quite unpopular with people around me, I must say that I don’t deal with summer – or whatever they call it here- very well. The idea of contemplating these three long months, feels like bracing myself for a quiet and deadly storm, “Waiting around to die” from Townes Van Zandt keep on a ringing when I should be happy, when I should be whistling to the dog and the cats in the kitchen ” Le temps des cerises”, Cherry Times… Cheery times! Now I get to think about it, it’s a beautiful, seasonal and yet a pretty heart wrenching song too. I mustn’t have been the only one so, the summer takes as much as it gives I guess, and June gives so generously!

– “Come on Captain sail on that ship of yours through them dark troubled waters, you hear?”

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Sole Searching

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Lemon Sole “Grenobloise” style

After nearly two years, 20 months to be precise, my father popped in for a couple of days. I am not a great traveler I must admit and due to unexpected setbacks this year (bloody car), going to Brittany for a week wouldn’t be financially very wise. So Brittany came to me, smiling as usual, more zen than me and debonair, with each time whiter hair; I am now the same age he was when he first visited me in Sligo, all these years ago. Sobering thoughts, well, at least something was these last few days!

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The Fouace And The Trust

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Fouaces and salads

As the annual Dawn Chorus approaches, I remembered a lovely story from years gone by, a story of ornithology, environmental convictions and a rare bread that has now been almost lost. Once the pride of Vannes and its county ( or Department as we call them), I wanted to recreate this recipe from memory. Not an easy task… The action takes place in 1988 I think, I was 14 or 15, wishing to be 16 or 17, like we all once did. I was – since the age of 11- passionate about wildlife and especially ornithology, the study of birds ( please don’t start, I have heard all the jokes about it!)… One day, I got my first telescope, two years after my first pair of binoculars that lasted me nearly 20 years… Life was sweet!

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The United Colours of Cork

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Marlborough Street, Cork City

This is a funny one I know; I have been leaving in Ireland for over 23 years now and the only time I have made it to Cork City were mere pit stops, waiting for a bus to Dublin somewhere in 1996 where I think I went for a stroll and a pint by the river Lee, another time to catch a shuttle to Ringaskiddy, essentially to board a ferry to Brittany. I remember waiting for a train there once too, probably in 2000, after spending a holiday with my Dad and my sister in Glengariff. I almost made it two years ago during a work trip to West Cork but the time was against us. Cork is a big County, the West part of it alone is as far as it is beautiful, far from its Capital that is, a county and a City synonymous with an  avant-garde understanding of food, a little Irish “Marseilles”, with a cacophony of accents, colours… A cosmopolitan city – the way harbour metropolises can often be- with such variety of shades; with ingredients like that, it was only going to turn out into something amazing. When it comes to food, it didn’t disappoint and it is of no surprises if it is considered by many as the “Food Capital of Ireland”, despite some proverbial Towers of Babel having a go at the title ( I call them “Baby-bel”) it can rest tranquille and assured of a bright food culture future…

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