Sea Buckthorn and Aronia “Eccles Cakes”

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Seabuckthorn and Aronia Eccles Cake

I know, it’s a strange one; what on Earth took me to decide to make Eccles Cakes? I have never been to Manchester, I actually never went to England either, one of these “too close yet too far” thing, it just never happened. I remember selling them in a cheese shop I used to work in, the owner was from London I think, very, very British if you don’t mind me saying and if that even makes sense… Something “very French” probably suggests a certain “je ne sais quoi”, a clichĂ©, some guy on a bicycle with onions hanging out and a Mariner’s top… Hang on! Isn’t this the description of an “Onion Johnny” from Brittany? Well that’s just great! Something “very Irish” tends to be a bit pejorative, an unpleasant trait and thankfully only used and identified by the locals… So, very British uh? By Jove, I am not sure… All I know is that you don’t need to go too far to experience the echoes of the old empire around here, so when niece Tara visited last week, I suggested a little stroll on the grounds and garden of Tullynally Castle, three hundred and fifty years in the making… I don’t know if you’ve heard of the Irish mythology “The Children of Lir”? Oidheadh Chloinne Lir, tale of a jealous step mother who turns her King of a husband’s children into Swans… Well, that is pretty much there, over looking Lough Derravaragh in Westmeath…

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Smoked Tuna Salad

Smoked Tuna salad
Smoked Tuna Salad

Last Thursday, I went to give a talk and a tasting with the staff of a famous restaurant in BlackLion, Co. Cavan… ( ok, if you must know, it was MacNean House), lovely people, beautiful place, amazing Cavan countryside on the way to Leitrim and Sligo, literately a stone throw with the Fermanagh border, Belcoo, or what the locals euphemistically call “The North”… You’ve got to love it! I enjoy doing these cheesy talks, but somehow I feel a certain anxiety and apprehension, I hide it well, I face it well but this leaves me in a paradoxical discomfort. To remedy this – at least for a while – I like to abandon myself, switch off and return to my first love, wildlife, nature, ornithology. The day before, superb sunshine out, I headed for Westmeath, Lough Derravaragh to be precise….

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