Crème caramel

Crème caramel

Damn it! I have been looking for my Crème caramel recipe for ages now until I finally found it yesterday, hidden in one of my multiple note books, in the drawer of my office desk. Twenty years since I have done any, the last time was a little bit of me, my dessert legacy in an Italian restaurant on Dominic Street in Galway. I used to work for a guy, originally from Sicily but with a distinctive Swiss German accent, almost as confusing as putting Crème caramel on the menu of a place making fresh pizzas and pastas! But hey! Between my lentil and carrot soup at £2.95 and that traditional French dessert, I can safely say that it had a way to draw the crowd in.

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Thanks a Brunch!

Veggie Brunch

It has been a year now since I have renounced eating meat. It has been in my mind for the past six years, I may well have spoken about it before, well maybe not as directly but yes, it has been one year. Apart from that time in October 1st where I was invited by Chef Richard Corrigan at his own table, in his own restaurant and a beef Wellington might have been produced; it was Sunday brunch, my last real Sunday brunch, nearly a year ago. As I am typing this few short lines of my introduction, I can feel a frisson down my spine, and I swear, I clearly heard Anthony Bourdain whisper in my ear: ” you did good man, you did good…”. Is it cold here? Did you feel that?

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Breton Cranberry Cookies

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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North by North West

Traffic Jam in Mayo

I haven’t been very well for the passed three weeks, a bit of a dose I often get in Spring, people say it is the change of season, I blame the “put the clock forward for a bit of light” malarkey; this messes me up big time! I mean, seriously? Who had the brain wave? A former French President claimed it was to save energy, I think there is something much more sinister behind it, a hidden agenda… I told you I was feeling feverish. Anyhoo, instead of taking a good rest, I went gallivanting in Killybegs with a healthy stock of paper handkerchiefs, and the week after my colleague “Murph” and I had planned to visit a few customers out west, and a cheese and wine tasting in Letterkenny. It was on the card for a couple of months, and the sensible thing would have been to stay at home; I really wanted to go, helping my colleague of course, but I also wanted to see what was happening out there. Sniffling and coughing I went, stubborn like a pig headed Breton, delusional like a teenager who keeps believing that “it’ll be alright”! Thinking about it, I must have been a charming traveling companion, trumpeting like John Coltrane one minute, sounding like a husky hoarse Barry White an other. Our first stop was in Oughterard, a lovely shop in the heart of the town, O’Sullivan’s…

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The Chimney Sweeper

The Chimney Sweeper

Summer 1995, Galway; I guess this could be the sequel to the “Fleá na bPratai” story. Having moved a couple of months before to the City of Tribes, I had tried to work in some of the multiple cafés and small “restaurants” the town had to offer, without too much luck. Lack of confidence and experience in the domain surely played a role in my misfortune, but believe it or not, the summer that year was so hot, that there was very little trade during day time. Our landlord Mícheál was a nice guy, he popped in sometimes for a cuppa – and to pick up the rent- , a former Irish Army Peace Keeper, a “Blue Helmet” with squinting blue eyes; he would suss you out, like a Blade Runner before you could even open your mouth.

– “I hear you are finding it hard to get a job in our fine City; how are you on a ladder?”

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Fleá na bPratai

“Fleá na bPratai” meaning Potato Festival…


Organic potatoes
Organic potatoes

A “Potato Festival” you said? I know, only in Ireland you might think? But the story is a little more complex than that I am afraid. It started in the summer of 1995; my girlfriend had been assigned for a five months placement in Galway Co. Council, water quality department, if you don’t mind, with the white lab coat and goggles… But enough with the romance here, I, had to find a job! Or actually design myself one. My ornithological and wildlife guide experiences wasn’t going to put food on the table, not in the “City of Tribes”, not on this Island, not for now. And before anyone puts anything on the proverbial table, we needed to find a place to live for the summer. 1995, the best, hottest and sunniest summer since ever… I am serious, people still speak about it! And as I am looking outside the window, they probably will do so for another twenty years!

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A wee mousse

Chocolate Mousse
Chocolate Mousse

I was 25 when my mother passed; she was just three weeks in her 50th birthday. I received an early phone call. The morning was early and bright, brisk and clear like the streams pouring out of neighbouring Connemara’s sterile and alkaline lakes. Between two sobbing sentences, my beautiful sister asked me to come home from my adoptive Galway. Time was running out and the unexpected news started to sink in. As I don’t fly, I travelled to Rosslare Harbour to catch a cargo ship. For £60, the Panther II gave you a cabin to yourself and three meals. It was an unsung way to travel at the time, the company didn’t advertise for a service mostly reserved for truck drivers, but in the meantime, didn’t object to the odd pedestrian crossing the channel. It was like travelling in time, travelling in style and honesty as the recent “Tiger” started to roar. As soon as we passed Tuskar lighthouse on our port, a school of common dolphins leaded the way at the bow, I looked at the sunset, dwelling at the inevitable. I was trying to forget about my canned grapefruit segments and the dry chicken Maryland we had for dinner when the ship’s Chef/ Barman brought me a ramekin of his homemade chocolate mousse. It is such a groovy dessert, but in time of need and hardship, old fashioned puddings feel like an unspoken hug. I think he knew what was going on… People of the sea know them things,no matter where you are from!

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Lemon Breton Biscuits

Last Thursday, I was missing the ocean. It happens from time to time and like Baudelaire once wrote: ” Free man, you will always cherish the sea“. I was hungry for freedom I guess, and facing difficult times. The ocean always provides me with good advice, the Atlantic with some comfort and Breton biscuits a mini hug around a cup of coffee. The day after, I came back to my wee cottage in the midlands with amazing pictures and a savage need for a spot of baking…

Lemon Bretons ready to bake
Lemon Bretons ready to bake

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