Well, it didn’t fail to come, to the joy of small and big kids ( like me), we got a full week full of snow. Not that little fluffy dandruff , no, no, I mean knees deep stuff, blizzard and drifts, enough to be marooned in my little cottage, with 12 cats, a dog and plenty of food and water. This Breton takes no chances; I knew what was coming and “be careful what you are wishing for” kept on ringing in my head… My, my, this was a first for me, full of drama and wasn’t it just beautiful?
( 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
Today is a special day, my event horizon, November 6th… How could I ever forget this date that will probably start to fizzle out from now on, like the sleeves of my old favourite woolly jumper from Donegal. November 6th, when I closed the door on childhood and adolescence to start another, like a young flightless guillemot jumping off a bottomless cliff, I had to take the plunge, take control of my life at last and become my own man, sticking my middle finger in the process to all the critics and detractors who discouraged me…
Nah,nah,nah,nah, nah “Chocolat Day”… I can’t help to have this Simple Minds’ tune in my head… With chocolate day almost over ( how did I miss that? I like chocolate too you know?), it had to be only one thing; Pear Belle Hélène. When my parents brought us to the restaurant when we were children, or to the crêperie, the meal wasn’t complete with this wonderful dessert, made of poached pears, ice cream, Chantilly, hot chocolate sauce and topped with dry roasted nuts… Here is how I do mine; it is only fair after all!
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!
This has to be my little Masterpiece, I designed that recipe over 10 years ago, making it a bit more special every time. The idea behind was to make and marry cheese and dessert together; if you have ever been asked for the option in a French restaurant, you will understand. That way, you keep everyone happy… First, you need to get yourselves some pears, but since they are going to be cooked in wine, make sure they are not too soft!
I love apple compote. It reminds me of my grand parents’ house, where we used to make batches and batches with the apples of the garden. Where I am from, apple compote is mostly used at breakfast, on bread instead of jam, to flavour a natural yogurt or inside those wonderful “turnovers” my mother used to buy after school… Another thing that is synonymous with Brittany, is a love for salty caramels… Oh yeah. I got some beautiful cooking apples at the weekend and decided to put the two together; sure, what could go wrong with those flavours?
I am often being asked the question. “What do you miss most about home?” Especially when one has like me “Nationalité Française” printed on his passport; they automatically assume it is food. I was recently over, two weeks ago in fact and as I was about to enter the car deck of Brittany Ferries’ “Pont Aven”, I asked myself the same question. Could it be the “Joie de vivre”, that Anglophile cliché that I can never recall coming out of a compatriot’s mouth? I don’t think so. And frankly, when you look at the head of certain people I know, let me tell you, there ain’t no joy of anything, or maybe the “joie de complaining” about everything.
They say that Carbonara was designed to feed Italian coal miners… “The black faces”. I don’t know if it’s true, but if I was a coal miner, I am sure I would wolf it down after a day down below. So yes, like a lot of legendary dishes, there are a lot of speculations about one of the most cooked pasta recipes in the world. All I know is that it is the first dish I cooked, it has evolved since and sometimes I add extra bits, it has also saved my life a few times, a dish that should be at the final exam of any leaving Certificates… Here is my father’s recipe, one I tend to follow…
If there is a dish that has been made by at least three generations of women in my family, it has to be Blanquette. Funny name for the proverbial duvet cover of comfort foods methinks, but I think it refers more to the colour that the dish, which in its final stage, rewards the eye with a beautiful white colour and silky texture.
It is traditionally made with veal but the availability in Ireland is next to nil. On another note, I do not care too much for it, partly for ethical and anthropomorphism reasons… Don’t ask.