Harvey’s Borscht Ballad

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Borscht and Gort na mona goat’s cheese with buckwheat honey

I could start this little story – listening to the news I have now decided to turn off- with the words of Bob Dylan “Hard Rain”, how appropriate as another year is about to roll over this week for me, “The same old story” Billie would whisper, so hell with that I say, and decided to pay a little tribute to an old friend of mine, and how we ended up, my Mother, sister, Harvey his brother and I in a Russian restaurant on my last birthday in my “cosy-cushy” hometown of Vannes…

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“March of all Weathers” Roasties

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Roasties with eggs and Goat’s cheese

St Patrick’s Day came and went, like every year. A day I used to look forward to, especially when I still lived in Brittany, filling my dreams to be with Celtic romanticism, a  session of music in the “Glasgow Pub” on Verdun Avenue, around a pint of Coreff beer from Morlaix… We did craft beers before it was cool. But the Irish National Day is now an event I tend to shy away from, not in a bad way, it is simply a case of “been there, done that and got the kiss-me-I am- Irish T-shirt”. From Sligo, under the “Free our political prisoners” banner, to Galway and the colourful and pride of the the city of tribes “Macnas”, street performers and their inimitable drum rhythms, to the Dublin parade followed by a few quiet pints before night sets… Yes, done all that, and the memory I have kept from them all apart from my Armorican “joie de vivre”, is that it seems to be always “bleeding cold!” …

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Vegetarian Cottage Pie

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Vegetarian Cottage Pie

There has been another weather alert issued for the isle of Ireland, this time it is for cold and snow. I am pretty sure someone on the radio mentioned the words “blizzard” and “accumulations”. Some people are getting a bit edgy, stocking up on water and food, just in case, all the weather drama queens out there… uh? Ok, I must admit, I get pretty excited too and yesterday, I did chop a bit more wood than usual but hey, I really don’t fancy doing all this on Wednesday, snow up to my knees and in -7c winds, or at least according to the gospel of Saint Evelyn from Met Eireann, our weather forecasters ( the new Rock’n’Roll stars in Ireland since hurricane Ophelia, you should see them walking down Grafton street, with their confident swag and dark sunglasses, shooting from the hip at every steps), our shepherds… Some even say that it could be – at least for a while-  like the winter of 2010!!! Ta-Ta-Ta… Yes, you read well, 2010 was bad, it was the year the lakes froze solid…

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Beluga lentils Warm Salad

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Beluga Lentils Warm Salad

I live in a very interesting place, far enough from my Breton homeland full of Menhirs (standing stones) and Tumulus (cairns), another 800 kms apart. Humbling and interesting thought one might say; descendant of Neolithic tribes, this Breton found himself a comforting home among other far fetched cousins. I guess a lot can happen in 5000 years, but still, it sometimes makes me smile when I contemplate the irony. Not far from where I am writing these words, and in full view – if I was to stand on the roof of my 100 years old cottage that is – proud and time defying are the hills of Loughcrew, better known as “Sliabh na Cailleach” or “Slieve na Caillaigh”, the Hill of the Witch… Full of legends, Loch Craobh named after a hidden lake snugged somewhere in its footstep; the home of St Oliver the martyr, so much blood spilled on a land wrongly taken and yet [ also wrongly] given by Cromwell to some of his Lieutenant… Funny word “Lieutenant”; meaning in French “the keeper of a place” or something like that. But let’s not dwell about this head case. Folks around here call the area “The Stones”, in a walking distance of the house – if you are brave enough- a passage grave, gateway from one world to another; the inside chamber gets illuminated by the sun twice a year, during the autumnal and spring equinoxes, revealing amazing petroglyphs of sun cycles  … Like I said, a magical place, a portal to the “Hereafter”…

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Cajun Veggie Stew

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Cajun Veggie Stew

It has been a very sad week I must say. I am not going to extrapolate or elaborate out of respect for the directly concerned, plenty of tears and some kind laughter while reminiscing a memory for the love of a loved one, the unimaginable loss of a good soul now lost. Yes, it’s been a sad week… And a cold one too! It went right through me and believe it or not, I can take cold… To be honest, I have no choice. I remember the words my geography teacher once said to us, reliving his memories with us in a bitterly cold classroom, January 1985… While doing his military service in Germany ( if you were a bit of a hot head, they sent you to cool down there, or in Brest, either or, extremes from East and West, destinations with reputations…), he told us about different types of “cold”. Us pupils, listened to every word, his chattering misdemeanor, master of the banter and the unmistakable Corsican hand gestures, punctuating each sentence.

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Flamed Tart Swirls

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Flamed Tart Swirls

I finally woke up, sometimes this week, between two storms, to the sound of silence. It was like opening my eyes after a bad hangover but the pain and the noise were absent, gone. December is a demanding and merciless mistress if you let her have her ways. It wasn’t the tantrums of “Caroline” or the caprices of “Eleanor”, never mind “Dylan” I looked at bemused – yet entertained- from my shelter. For over a month, I woke up, showered, shaved, turned on the lights, raising the curtain while others raised their glasses to “what a great year it has been” and a confused elephant in the room murmuring ” why are we doing this again?” … The pre-show cacophony before sending the overly made up clowns, controlled stage fright and a clap from the ringmaster with a slap on the shoulder for another great performance. Then it was dark again, I could still smell the burning dust from the stage lights, feeling and touching the quietude and tranquility of my room… It felt good. I took some vitamin B and D this year, to face the squalls of the cheery season and it worked like the charm of a good friendship; the reassuring words from my busy cooking years’ colleague “right behind you buddy” resonating in a synchronised tempo, or that girl from Indiana, stranger that I will (hopefully not) never meet, from shores I will (probably) never see… Your words and time have been my lighthouse, my “Ar Men”, three blinks of light in the darkness of night… As a thank you Stephanie for your kind “Amistad” and time, I want to dedicate this recipe to you.

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Celeriac soup with Cashel Blue cheese and roasted chestnuts buckwheat crêpe

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Celeriac

I Finally managed to find a little bit of time to post this recipe I did a few weeks ago. Now entering the final week of utter madness at work, this will help me to take my mind off for a bit, and for those who read my previous story, I am getting my car back today, which I hope will leave me worry free for a while. After a cold spell, the Isle of Ireland is enjoying milder temperatures, it is Monday morning, a touch of frost and a few rays of sunshine are piercing through the sash windows. The fog has lifted and I’ve just finished playing “Gallows Pole” on the guitar.The head is clear now, I can welcome today…

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