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 cliché, 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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Buckwheat Breton Cookies ” Mullingar”

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Buckwheat Breton Cookies with Basque cider

When I am looking for a bit of inspiration, especially for a recipe, I like to go for a stroll; it could be a walk in the forest, a spin in my car, you get the idea. Yesterday, I decided to drive to Mullingar, I needed to go for a haircut, and get some Buckwheat flour. I drove the back roads, through the vast turf plains of the midlands, barren and stripped to the bone in a less romantic way that one might be used to, but it gave me a colour to start my story…

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Bacon and Cabbage

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Bacon and Cabbage

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…

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