Breton Cranberry Cookies

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Breton Cake Cookies with Cranberries

I traveled a bit today, while staying in the comfort of the cottage; that said, it wasn’t that far either. I rang my friend Gráinne, a girl from Connemara; some call it Furbo, I call it Na Forbacha as it should be, and I don’t say Connemara either, just Conamara, the folks of the sea… Rebel from a battered land, a beacon of love when all you have left is a phone number you can call at anytime, when all is lost, when all seems dark. She would give everything to you, before herself; I felt ashamed to share or even compare my hardship and problems to hers, but it was good; good to hear that western accent, the humour smiling at the face of destiny. I feel quite blessed to know her and having shared those precious moments that makes our special selves “philanthropists”  … This one is for you mo chara…

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Beluga lentils Warm Salad

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Beluga Lentils Warm Salad

I live in a very interesting place, far enough from my Breton homeland full of Menhirs (standing stones) and Tumulus (cairns), another 800 kms apart. Humbling and interesting thought one might say; descendant of Neolithic tribes, this Breton found himself a comforting home among other far fetched cousins. I guess a lot can happen in 5000 years, but still, it sometimes makes me smile when I contemplate the irony. Not far from where I am writing these words, and in full view – if I was to stand on the roof of my 100 years old cottage that is – proud and time defying are the hills of Loughcrew, better known as “Sliabh na Cailleach” or “Slieve na Caillaigh”, the Hill of the Witch… Full of legends, Loch Craobh named after a hidden lake snugged somewhere in its footstep; the home of St Oliver the martyr, so much blood spilled on a land wrongly taken and yet [ also wrongly] given by Cromwell to some of his Lieutenant… Funny word “Lieutenant”; meaning in French “the keeper of a place” or something like that. But let’s not dwell about this head case. Folks around here call the area “The Stones”, in a walking distance of the house – if you are brave enough- a passage grave, gateway from one world to another; the inside chamber gets illuminated by the sun twice a year, during the autumnal and spring equinoxes, revealing amazing petroglyphs of sun cycles  … Like I said, a magical place, a portal to the “Hereafter”…

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Cajun Veggie Stew

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Cajun Veggie Stew

It has been a very sad week I must say. I am not going to extrapolate or elaborate out of respect for the directly concerned, plenty of tears and some kind laughter while reminiscing a memory for the love of a loved one, the unimaginable loss of a good soul now lost. Yes, it’s been a sad week… And a cold one too! It went right through me and believe it or not, I can take cold… To be honest, I have no choice. I remember the words my geography teacher once said to us, reliving his memories with us in a bitterly cold classroom, January 1985… While doing his military service in Germany ( if you were a bit of a hot head, they sent you to cool down there, or in Brest, either or, extremes from East and West, destinations with reputations…), he told us about different types of “cold”. Us pupils, listened to every word, his chattering misdemeanor, master of the banter and the unmistakable Corsican hand gestures, punctuating each sentence.

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Flamed Tart Swirls

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Flamed Tart Swirls

I finally woke up, sometimes this week, between two storms, to the sound of silence. It was like opening my eyes after a bad hangover but the pain and the noise were absent, gone. December is a demanding and merciless mistress if you let her have her ways. It wasn’t the tantrums of “Caroline” or the caprices of “Eleanor”, never mind “Dylan” I looked at bemused – yet entertained- from my shelter. For over a month, I woke up, showered, shaved, turned on the lights, raising the curtain while others raised their glasses to “what a great year it has been” and a confused elephant in the room murmuring ” why are we doing this again?” … The pre-show cacophony before sending the overly made up clowns, controlled stage fright and a clap from the ringmaster with a slap on the shoulder for another great performance. Then it was dark again, I could still smell the burning dust from the stage lights, feeling and touching the quietude and tranquility of my room… It felt good. I took some vitamin B and D this year, to face the squalls of the cheery season and it worked like the charm of a good friendship; the reassuring words from my busy cooking years’ colleague “right behind you buddy” resonating in a synchronised tempo, or that girl from Indiana, stranger that I will (hopefully not) never meet, from shores I will (probably) never see… Your words and time have been my lighthouse, my “Ar Men”, three blinks of light in the darkness of night… As a thank you Stephanie for your kind “Amistad” and time, I want to dedicate this recipe to you.

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Celeriac soup with Cashel Blue cheese and roasted chestnuts buckwheat crêpe

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Celeriac

I Finally managed to find a little bit of time to post this recipe I did a few weeks ago. Now entering the final week of utter madness at work, this will help me to take my mind off for a bit, and for those who read my previous story, I am getting my car back today, which I hope will leave me worry free for a while. After a cold spell, the Isle of Ireland is enjoying milder temperatures, it is Monday morning, a touch of frost and a few rays of sunshine are piercing through the sash windows. The fog has lifted and I’ve just finished playing “Gallows Pole” on the guitar.The head is clear now, I can welcome today…

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Beet Bourguignon, a November Reflexion

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Beet Bourguignon

I have really enjoyed November this year, savouring its days, seasonal and dark, I took a Baudelaire or even Verlaine approach to the descent into the inevitable darkness… Or was it Boris Vian? November is special to me, I decided to cherish it, it suits my mood as I have always been a winter child, excited by storms and snow showers, scouting by the Velux window of our old home for something to happen… November is a month of anniversaries, Ireland is now the place where I have spent most of my life; hard to even write – or rather read that- as I am typing. Like few, I have been blessed with two lives, that is the way I see it, a gift. November is also a month for the departed, the month my mother quite suddenly passed away. Before her time, at 49, I heard the news on a cold Monday morning, 09:30, my sister crying on the phone. Twenty years ago now, I left Galway, crossed the country in a diagonal to Rosslare Harbour, boarded a cargo ship for Cherbourg. Twenty hours at sea to reflect, while the British navy and its warplanes were exercising in the channel, Common Dolphins escorting us in the strangest of ballets… When I arrived, the custom officer couldn’t believe his eyes! A lonely pedestrian walking out of a boat in the middle of the night! When he saw me hugging my sister and my Dad, he knew it was best leaving it alone… I was too late. The last time I saw her, was eight month earlier, crying as she waved goodbye from the platform of Vannes’ s station, a train taking me back to another boat bound for Ireland. That was the last image, and I know now that she knew it was “adieu”. Like Leo Ferré said: ” Train stations are stupid” ( “Les gares, c’est con”) and Jacques Brel has a wonderful song about “Orly”. But you know what? I still love November, I transformed pain into cherishing these incredible moments. I don’t know if it made me stronger, but it taught me a lesson or two, about love and humility. This recipe – and since I am now on a veggie diet- is dedicated to her; Marie Lou, who used to make the best Beef Bourguignon… Ever!

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Buckwheat Lemony Madeleines

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Lemony Madeleines

I realised the other day, that my mother would have been 70 years old just a couple of weeks ago. Scary thought! Through the reeds and willows of the lake, I swear I heard her laugh at the idea. “Me? 70? Haha… I’ll always be young!” Yes, I could see the irony as each year and now the twentieth anniversary since she checked out, brings us closer at last… Or at least in this weird binding of two generations, bitter-sweet and salt on the wound that will make you cry first, then in time will heal… Somewhat, somehow. I could hear that laughter again through the phragmites, but this time, I am pretty sure it was a little grebe, letting me know that he knew I was there…

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