Conchiglioni Butternut Squash “Al Forno”

Conchiglioni "Al forno"

I went for a walk last Sunday; “a walk?” says my alter-ego ” more like a freaking pilgrimage!”. Ok, ok, a pilgrimage so… I like to sleep with the window open, no matter what the season, how cold or windy the weather is, I listen to the sound – or rather the consequences- of our blue home rotating… I woke up and all was calm, the sky was blue and I found myself inextricably drawn outside, I wanted to feel it, be a part of it… I put my walking shoes on, and like “Travis” in “Paris, Texas”, I started to walk…

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Cardinal Points

When I am in that mood, I keep on going; I hate turning back, I get bored so I try to do a loop, a great way to discover your neighbourhood, a way to reflect, a “communion” a friend of mine called it once. I realised that my little spin was going to take me on a 12 km journey, on hard tarmac. I didn’t care, the mind was talking, and I felt a wee project drawing itself near my parish of Dromone, the old church and grave, a Divine motivation, a pilgrimage, self inflicted flagellation and pain… When my mind is set on something, I never turn back. Us Bretons, are known in France as the most stubborn folks on the planet… Hence the expression “Breton head”…

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Boyne Valley Blue Fritter

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Boyne Valley Blue Fritter, with beetroot leaves pesto and blood orange…

I have been living in Co. Meath since late 2002, “The Royal”, a County full of history, legends and myths. Home of some neolithic settlers, reminding me sometimes – and for obvious reasons- of the early art and petroglyphs both our cultures share. You probably heard of the cairns of Loughcrew, or maybe even Knowth and Dowth? But I am sure you have heard of Newgrange, Solstice and equinox sun beams getaway to the other world, another world. And right bang in the middle, lies the legendary Boyne River…

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Chicory Gratin

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Chicory Gratin

Here is a little chicory recipe to illustrate my previous post/ story called Chicory Endeavour ; the pun is in the fact that chicory is also known as “endive”; ok, ok, a bit far fetched maybe? Anyhow, I decided to make this recipe with a cheese we mature at work, called “15 Fields”, a raw milk cheddar from co. Waterford that we age for 6 to 8 months. It works really well in cheesy sauces, or like in this case, a rich Béchamel sauce, perfect for this French classic called “Gratin d’Endives”. It sometimes includes ham, but this time, I decided to leave it out. In pictures, and step by step, this is pretty much how it went… First, you need to gather your key ingredients:

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Chicory Endeavour

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Young Hungry Breton preparing his steamed veg

I woke up one morning, in this big bare one room bachelor pad; a friend had given her the keys, you know, to water the plants and open the windows once in a while, until he would come back from abroad… It was a small but cool place to crash in, a secret space for young broke and starving lovers. My girlfriend was already up, making coffee and smoking Pall Malls while listening to “Barbara”… The rain was battering the old zinc roof and I kept staring at a painting of ” Keith Haring” precariously hung beside the portable gas rings, just over the sink; Prevert came to mind and while Brest was calm at last, Sarajevo was getting battered. It was 1992, I was twenty and free, with a girl five years older than me, hiding from nothing – or rather from a future too scary to contemplate-right in the heart of the Breton Capital.

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Smoked Haddock Buckoulibiac

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Smoked Haddock Buckoulibiac, with beetroot hummus

After a February outing to the north-west shores of co. Sligo, looking for Barnacle Geese, I was trying to find a dish reflecting the Polar circle, something with Northern flavours I guess; I got inspired by “ Coulibiac”, a salmon and rice dish in puff pastry from Russia but quite popular in Scandinavia. I used instead Smoked Haddock from West Cork, and a buckwheat flaky pastry to reflect my Breton origins. I also made it to a size that could be easily brought for a picnic, after a long winter stroll birdwatching along the west coast of Ireland, for example that is… Here it goes folks!

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Bipolar

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Yellow Strand Sligo

I have been putting it off for a while, or rather meant to do it for some times and somewhat forgot; Well over twenty years now in fact. But the other day, the idea of going on a wild goose chase, travelling to the north west of the island to witness the wonderful ballet of Barnacle Geese, had been resuscitated by my friend Jonathan Shackleton. I must have mentioned it in one of our conversations, and as he was soon to be heading back to Antarctica for another few weeks’ round as a guide and lecturer, time was ticking, and by the time he’d come back, they would probably be gone back to Greenland. He rang me a couple of days before to confirm, and Sunday last, we finally went.

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