Butternut Squash Gnocchi

Butternut Squash Gnocchi with mushroom and whiskey sauce

You know, when it comes to legends and superstitions – or rather popular beliefs- Brittany is not too far off Ireland in that department. Hollsent is our Hallowe’en, when we celebrate the dead, the departed to another world but the rules don’t always start and end in October! Oh no! We have a whole lot of characters that most of us take very seriously, oh yeah! We have of course An Ankoù, from the old Celtic God of Death Ankouvos, the tall, skinny and lanky valet of Death, patrolling our beautiful country at night to collect the passed over souls with his horse, as meager as him,  his squeaky carriage for the lift. If you are unfortunate enough to cross his path at night, well, it was nice to meet you as you are probably on the list and I think it’s too late I am afraid… If you hear the creaking of his cart’s axle, the tip is to run away in the other direction, home will do, hide under the duvet and keep singing “lalalalalala…” and you might have a chance to live for another year!

Choice 16
Some poor guy…

Then we have the less known “Yannick An Od” or “Little John of the Strand” now there is a funny character; not as lethal but quite tricksy! If you walk on the shores at night and you hear someone calling in a playful manner, chances are it is Yannick An Od; if you answer him back, he will travel – and very fast- half the distance separating you to him(seriously don’t), then he will call again. If you are unfortunate enough to respond, he’ll be right there he’ll give you a hiding, a correction to remember and a mistake never do be done again, unless you are into that kind of thing…

Yannick An Od playground, Bigouden Country, Finistere, Brittany…

There are also some rules you must follow, and they are so many that I wouldn’t know where to start! One I can vividly remember, and since I have been out at night during my Birdwatching years on the Island of Hoedic, is that you should never whistle after 10 pm while walking near gorse bushes… You see, when Bretons pass over to the next world, they go into a spiritual waiting room; some call it purgatory, but it was then known as penitence, until your fate was to be decided. The souls of the departed, spirits known in Brittany as Anaon and they all serve their time in the gorse. It isn’t a good idea to disturb the anaon, unless you want to become one pretty pronto; just don’t whistle in the gorse after 10 pm, I mean come on, that’s fair enough!

Choice 4
Gorse in Loughcrew, also know as “Yellow Furze”

We almost have the same Fairies, leprechauns and others sharing this land yet on a parallel world. We call them “Korriganed” or simply “Korrigan”; which is interesting knowing the number of Corrigans in Ireland, I do know a couple! They are quite playful, mischievous but are also known to be able to help you if you are in trouble. We also have the equivalent of the “Banshee”, the white witch who calls at night in a terrifying shriek… Recent studies (my own) show that it was probably the poor unfortunate Barn Owl and if you haven’t heard a Barn Owl’s calling at night, it is quite eerie and ghostly, white silent hunter, so silent in fact that you wouldn’t know it had just passed you… A pity that this poor animal had such a bad reputation with natives from all over Europe and the Americas, barer of bad news… I think we are over it now.

Choice 14
Moon eclipse, a perfect night for the Banshee…

To finish, I couldn’t go without speaking about Dahut; she was hot and lived her life to the full without anyone complaining! Dahut was the daughter of King Gradlon from the City of Ys, now long gone, swallowed by the ocean. Some folks think that Ys is in fact Douarnenez, the western Breton City and get away to the Cap Sizun, others believe that it was Atlantis… To be honest, I think it’s gone. Kêr-Is in Breton, was like a giant party city, and Dahut knew how to “keep it lit”. Drinking, music and debauchery was norm which didn’t really please early Saint Gwenole who ordered the king to run away from the city as it was being punished by higher forces, engulfed by the seas. Gradlon ran away with his daughter on his magical horse called Morvarc’h ( sea horse) but Dahut fell into the coming waves and Gradlon survived… If you listen well, you can still hear her calling on some stormy nights! I don’t want to be controversial or anything, but apparently, Paris was named after Kêr-Is, the City of Ys or “Pareille á Ys” ( same as Ys) became Paris… But I know that they will never accept that… Their loss!

Choice 19
The Beautiful Dahut – on a church overlooking Douarnenez

Anyway, I hope I didn’t scare you too much! Here is my Hallowe’en recipe, I decided to drift away from the usual pumpkin and went for butternut squash instead, here it goes:

For the gnocchi: You’ll Need ( all organic)

  • 1 medium butternut squash
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 250 g of pasta flour
  • 2 egg yolks
  • salt and pepper
  • olive oil

How to?

Cut the butternut squash in half, crisscross it with a knife but make sure you don’t pierce the skin at the bottom. Sprinkle some olive oil and bake in a hot oven ( 200 c) for 30 to 40 minutes with the garlic cloves in their skin. Cut the bottom of the cloves and the tip of the squash before doing so…

Butternut Squash and Garlic

Scoop the butternut squash in a bowl and squeeze the garlic out. Mash the lot into a bowl, add a sprinkle of olive oil and season with salt and pepper…

Mashed Squash…

In a bowl, put the flour, egg yolks and butternut squash together…

Gnocchi coming …

Knead the whole thing into a beautiful dough and add flour or water if to dry or wet. Rest in the fridge for an hour…

Dough is ready

Roll the dough in a couple of “cylinders”, ready to be cut…

Dough cylinders

Cut the dough into thumb nail size pieces, do not hesitate to use a bit of flour…

In the making…

Use the back of a fork to make a funky gnocchi design; this time, I pressed on the four corners to make little rectangles if you know what I mean; if you don’t, here is the picture…

Finally Gnocchi

Put the gnocchi in a pot of salted boiling water for about 7 minutes. To be honest, once they pop up to the surface of the water, it means that they are done… Sieve, cool, and set aside…

For The Whiskey Sauce: You’ll Need

  • about 6 button mushrooms
  • 1 garlic clove sliced
  • a pinch of dill
  • a drizzle of soya sauce
  • 10 cl of Irish Whiskey
  • a pinch of dried dill ( fresh if you can)
  • 25 cl of fresh cream
  • salt and pepper
  • olive oil

Slice the mushrooms and garlic together with salt, pepper and dill. When golden, pour a dash of soya sauce and the whiskey together…

Sauté the mushrooms…

When almost reduced, pour the cream and let it simmer until thick enough. Put the cooled gnocchi in, sauté or toss for a bit and serve with fresh Parmigiano Reggiano ( parmesan) shavings…

Butternut Squash Gnocchi in a mushroom and whiskey sauce

Keep Well and Eat Happy

Slán Tamall




Chocolate and Banana Tart

Banana and Chocolate Tart

I don’t really go back home to Brittany often and if I do it is in September, sometimes in May, but most likely in September. Nine years ago, we went in October, almost to the date and around my sister’s birthday. The weather was amazing and my Father drove all of us to the North Western coast of the Celtic peninsula, an area I have always been a bit less familiar with, yet with breathtaking beauty, giant boulders of granite,  cute villages and lonely lighthouses…

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Chili Sin Carne

Vegetarian Chili

” You know what would be great lads? Let’s sail our 130 ships to invade England, but instead we will go by Scotland and we’ll take them by surprise by coming from the West of Ireland… It’s gonna be great, who’s in?”. And so I was amusing myself imagining the unlikely conversation between a Spaniard Captain and his crew somewhere in the 16th century while standing on Streedagh beach in Co. Sligo, just off Grange. A place where one can still see at low tide, a wreck of the Spanish Armada, some 430 years ago, quite humbling standing there really, 24 ships were lost in the campaign and around the coast of Ireland due to bad weather and treacherous shores, poorly mapped then and where the survivors at Streedagh met a very grim fate at the hands of the locals and some “Red Coats” joining the killing spree… It must have been quite a sight, and I was there, standing on the strand, taking it all in and thankful for more peaceful times, well at least here and for now.

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Roasted Cherry Toms and Pea Quiche

Roasted cherry tomatoes, fresh peas and goat’s cheese quiche.

It was a funny day yesterday… I was enjoying my breakfast, a nice mug of breakfast tea in one hand, the other holding the left side of my face, elbow on the table while listening to the usual gobbledygook on the radio, bis repetita placent blabla that it becomes quite entertaining and then voosh! Lights and radio out, silence broken only by the cats purring somewhere under the table. I just cursed a bit but without real conviction, accepting while looking at the ESB reminder pinned on the “do not forget” board in front of me and for the past ten days. The skies were grey, raining and humid, it was going to be a long afternoon… No TV, no internet, too sad out to go for a walk or even a drive so I did what I do sometimes, sat in the hall of the cottage and went through six boxes of pictures, a life documented like many others, six boxes and something like 25 years in the making, moments I remembered a bit more than others, I couldn’t stop…

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Leaving Glenveagh and Saffron Scones

Glenveagh National Park, Donegal, Ireland

I had my first real interview radio yesterday; not about work, just about me and my Hungry Breton Alter-Ego. It was quite fun, exciting and intriguing to have a producer and radio presenter interested about my life! During the pre-interview of the “Late Lunch with Gerry Kelly”, the lady asked me a few questions about myself and what caught their attention was my time I had spent in Glenveagh National park, summer of 1991, working on a clearance project of the cute but deadly Rhododendrons that has plagued Ireland since it had been introduced from Asia… Rhododendrons acidify the soil and create erosion as a consequence, as pretty as it may look, it is a curse for native species… If you want to hear my interview, click on the link, it starts at 32:50…


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Fresh Fig with toasted St Tola and Aronia coulis

St Tola goat’s cheese with fresh ripe fig and aronia coulis.

Not a lot of people know this, but I grew up in a school until I was ten years old. My Mother was a teacher and we had moved a fair bit by the time I reached the age of five. Questembert first, after I was born in the Sacred Heart Clinic in Vannes, just off Roosevelt avenue, then Belz, not too far from Auray where a Guineafowl kept on chasing and terrorising me, where my child minder used to call me “Figure de poire”, “Pear Face”, a nice lady though… Then finally Vannes. By the time I was five, I had lived in three schools. In France at the time, a teacher didn’t earn a lot of money, but one of the perks of the job came with a descent amount of holidays, and a “logement de fonction” ( work accommodation) for the whole family, until you were senior enough and with a reasonably comfortable income to get your own…

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Sea Buckthorn and Aronia “Eccles Cakes”

Seabuckthorn and Aronia Eccles Cake

I know, it’s a strange one; what on Earth took me to decide to make Eccles Cakes? I have never been to Manchester, I actually never went to England either, one of these “too close yet too far” thing, it just never happened. I remember selling them in a cheese shop I used to work in, the owner was from London I think, very, very British if you don’t mind me saying and if that even makes sense… Something “very French” probably suggests a certain “je ne sais quoi”, a cliché, some guy on a bicycle with onions hanging out and a Mariner’s top… Hang on! Isn’t this the description of an “Onion Johnny” from Brittany? Well that’s just great! Something “very Irish” tends to be a bit pejorative, an unpleasant trait and thankfully only used and identified by the locals… So, very British uh? By Jove, I am not sure… All I know is that you don’t need to go too far to experience the echoes of the old empire around here, so when niece Tara visited last week, I suggested a little stroll on the grounds and garden of Tullynally Castle, three hundred and fifty years in the making… I don’t know if you’ve heard of the Irish mythology “The Children of Lir”? Oidheadh Chloinne Lir, tale of a jealous step mother who turns her King of a husband’s children into Swans… Well, that is pretty much there, over looking Lough Derravaragh in Westmeath…

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