Well I don’t know what took me, I mean the weather was beautiful and all, maybe it was the long walk in Mullaghmeen forest with Doggie Woggie that gave me the Munchies, or the fact that Ireland was playing Italy, for an ultimate football showdown in France that evening, but I started to develop some serious cravings for a good auld bacon and cabbage… I know, I know, it is one of them self satirical and self derision thing the Irish enjoy so much. The funny part is, Brittany has very similar dishes; not one, but several! ( some are frankly gross, like that one rolled in bread dough and then boiled in a cloth, from an Island where I used to work). Some of France’s most famous traditional dishes, like Choucroute, Potée or even Garbure are just different versions of Bacon and Cabbage… Here is the way I make mine…
The sun is shining today on the isle or Ireland, gently flirting with a 19°c. The Willow Warblers, Chiffchaffs, Blackcaps and all the Hirundinidae (Swallows and Martins) are back from Africa. My blind cat “Wilson” decided to make friends with my neighbours cows and after two months, we finally have a Government that nobody really wants or democratically voted for. An Independent politician from Co. Kerry has joined the climate change deniers’ list with a fine statement that I expected to hear from a pub pillar after a couple of scoops, just not in the Daíl (National Assembly). As you can see, all is good in “Iwerzhon”, so good that I decided to turn off the radio, enjoy watching my cat making new friends and make a quiche… Just like that!
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?
Well apart from our National anthems, Bro Gozh ma Zadoù (Old Land of My Fathers) and Hen Wlad fy Nhadau (Land of my Fathers), Breton and Welsh also share a love for the auld leek. My rare Breton name, meaning “The Lanky” appears for the first time in 1641 in Ergué-Armel near Quimper… Some say that we might have come from “The land of song”, like a lot of other aborigines from Ireland and England who made their way across to Brittany for a new life since the 5th century.
I often make that bread; focaccia like, it works really well with a full Irish or a healthier breakfast like this one. I also serve it when I make a curry or even Couscous, you know, for the sauce. So Hungry “B”’s bread? Here we go.
We’ve all been there, midweek is coming and Sunday’s roast chicken left overs need using. Curry, stir fry? This time I went for quiche, with a bit of sheep’s cheese from the West of Ireland. Not strong but full of wholesomeness. Ok, from scratch, here it goes!
Before being catapulted into adult life, we were taught a couple of life saving skills. After lunch, wait at least two hours before you go swimming in the sea, never EVER drink white after red, it takes ten minutes to get a hardboiled egg from the boiling point, spaghettis are cooked when they stick to the wall, how to make a vinaigrette, and, what was going to separate the men from the boys, the sheep from the goats; how to make your own mayonnaise. In a region almost surrounded by water, it was only going to be a matter of time before a friend or a family member would ask nonchalantly while preparing the crab claws and meat: “You do the mayonnaise, yeah?” You knew then that the last task of your right of passage had come before you.
I must admit, the journeys to my native Celtic peninsula have become a slightly sporadic affair in the past few years; the time between visits is getting less frequent. They say that life gets in the way, and I get the odd “oh sure, you are one of us now!”, or almost. The truth be told, we all have to cast anchor some day, voluntarily or not, or simply coming to terms with the inevitable. As a teenager, I often dreamed of my perfect place to live; lighthouse keeper of Ar Men, rock of all rocks at large of Sein Island, self sufficient in Swedish Lapland’s Sarek National Park or even honorary Highlander on the western Hebrides islands of Scotland. They say that Bretons never leave their native land… They bring it with them. I suppose this is true, there is a Gwen a Du flag (“White and Black”) hanging at the back of my office chair, a Breton map in the living room (old fashioned, but really neat!) and a hell of a lot of Atlantic sea salt in “the press” and butter in the fridge! The stripes to this Zebra…
Classic Breton Crêpes
Autumn is trying to come back, pointing its nose through my window. Time for the ultimate comfort food, perfect with the blackberries I gathered at the back of the house … If I have any left, as I can’t stop eating them, I might gently stew a few and pour over my Breton Pan Cakes!