When I opened the big gate of adolescence, a frightening squeak from a giant cast iron secondary school entrance welcomed and absorbed me in a solemn vacuum. Of course, and like today, there were kids who just wanted to blend in, ride those teenage years under the radar with minimum collateral damage, wanting to be acknowledged and noticed, yet having the skills to keep your cards close to your chest; not showing too much, dodging rain drops and other potential scraps or punches because you looked at, or aggravated with smart words a tougher kid with social or rather deeper personal issues than yours. Some built themselves with a strong and bold shell: Punks, Goths, Skinheads and Red Skins (the left wing ones; their Doc Martens were burgundy rather than black), right down to a couple of old fashioned black leather jacket bullies with learning difficulties, easy enough to manipulate if you knew how to; keeping them sweet by sharing candies, giving a few test wagers that would up some grades, preventing them from repeating the class… Again. I was a “bullet dodger”, or at least that is what I have been called once by that big fucker – who was actually pretty smart- as he tried to pound my face into the granite wall of the refectory. I used words, and it seemed to work.
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!
“Bara-Kornek” means “bread crescent”in Breton. A Hungry Breton’s creation…
To celebrate the apple season and the end of September, I wanted to do something a bit special. Also to illustrate my previous story I posted a couple of days ago, “Boxin The Fox”, when I had to raid an orchard as I was so hungry on the road… I hope you will like it, this is not a traditional recipe, rather original… You never know, it might enter a Traditional Breton cookbook one day?
First, I decided to make a nice flaky pastry, cut them into discs, fill them with homemade thick vanilla custard ( or Crème Patissière) and gently stewed cubed apples from the garden… This is how it went!
It was a few years ago to the date, August 2010 in Dublin airport. I was picking up my Uncle and his wife for what was going to be their first visit in Ireland; the second time only I was going to meet him. This was a special moment, a reunification after so many years of tears and sorrow, questions unanswered and self inflicted silences. By hugging each other in the busy terminal, we were finally making peace on behalf of our own stubborn late mothers, unaware of the tragedies that had unfolded before our time, keepers of only a few pieces of a puzzle, fragments of broken lives; this jigsaw was going down!
As promised, here is the recipe for my Cherry Flan Tart( or is it Cherries Flan tart?), featured in one of my previous post a couple of days ago in “The Cherry Picker”.We are right on cherry season, so many memories, especially in my Grandparents’ house, climbing the tree by the terrace and gorging ourselves with this wonderful summer treat! Before you ever start to do this dish, make sure you taste the cherries first. If they lack zing or a bit of body, you can soak them in some Kirsch or even lime juice for a couple of hours. It will give your tart an extra dimension when it comes to the final taste. Just dry them well before putting them in the cast, that’s all. But hey… First things first, the secret to a great tart, is a great homemade shortcrust pastry. And this is how I do mine…
The great thing about schooling in France has to be the canteen. No lunch box here, I am talking proper refectory, with chefs, commis and a couple of lovely dinner ladies. Believe me; I have eaten in worse restaurants, with worse service! The head chef, Mr Raymond, was a big brash colourful character, quite partial to kids who acknowledged and complemented on his trade; as a reward, he would look at you with a doubtful pouting frown and a raised eyebrow, before topping your plate with extra sauce or roasted potatoes.
My aunt often says to me that my mother was great at cooking meats; her beef Bourguignon was to die for and the treat for my father, on a cold Sunday, was her osso buco with flageolet beans and boiled potatoes. I guess I took it for granted, as children do, with a nonchalant face while playing with their fork, unaware of the love that was actually put before them. When she passed in 1997, I was only 25; at that stage, I had made my first baby steps in the kitchens of Sligo and Galway, before I got a phone call, before I had to sail away to say farewell, but that moment was never to be as she left before me. I inherited though, some lovely memories and a scrap book full of tender mess and quirky recipes from days long gone. My only regrets? I wish she could have seen Ireland, an Island she loved and supported through the “troubles”, through the struggles… She really did! The other one I guess is, that I would have really loved to have cooked for her… Just once. “But hey! Listen to me! This wasn’t meant to be no sad song” as legend Paul Brady puts it so well… We’ve heard too much of that before… We sure did!