I believe that this time of year is for planning holidays… I can’t blame you really; if you lived in a country like ours, having our fair share of wind, rain and snow that is never really over until the end of March or even April, you’d be thinking of sunnier shores. Saying that, and while you are behind your computer, you might want to check Brittany out; not only you would make an excellent choice of destination, but you will also realise first hand, what global warming is all about… You see, Brittany has been plagued for years with a reputation of a cold, windy and very rainy country… I blame the Parisians. When it is cold and miserable in their beautiful city, I’d rather be on the Atlantic coast and get a full blast of South Westerlies while looking at a demented sea. Sadly, it is no more – or not as much- temperatures have risen, frost and ice are a rare occurrence, there is a vineyard on the outskirts of Quimper, and yes, you might get the odd shower… Sometimes. But this is the least of your problems…. And I want you to be prepared, that’s all!
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…
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”…
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…
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:
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.
( Iwerzhon means “Ireland” in Breton… I wrote this song in 2011 at the back of the Irish recession… Enjoy).
Iwerzhon ma Iwerzhon
Now twenty years since I’ve been gone
I left you without say goodbye
Didn’t do it, didn’t even try
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!