It was July 1996, I had moved a couple of months earlier in Galway, over staying my welcome from my West Belfast friends I had met the previous summer. The company and the craíc were good which didn’t entice me to find my own place. I didn’t take up too much space, a sleeping bag behind the sofa and a few boxes in the corner, a safe little space, peaceful… But the peace got broken that night in July; a stand off over the annual orange order parade in Drumcree, outside Portadown in County Armagh, escalating in riots that spread across the North, resulting in two deaths and hundreds injured. The North was on lock down and the house turned into a refugee centre, friends literally fleeing violence, others, holidaying in the south, unable to go home. The TV was on all the time, the radio and the huge anxiety was palpable when the phone rang in the middle of the night, fearing for the safety of a loved one as most of them had experienced at some stage. I was going to throw a bit of humour on the whole thing, calling this post “Orange is the old Black”, but instead this story inspired me to do a little recipe, with butternut squash, a cheese from Newtownards in the North, called Young Buck Buckwheat from Brittany, and fresh fennel from the garden, to more peaceful times, may long it continues!
I think I have been sleeping for the passed three days; I know that when I went to Dublin last Monday, I wasn’t feeling too hot and by Wednesday, I was migrating from bed to sofa. A simple bug, nothing serious, but all the fatigue I had accumulated in December finally got the better of me. In my diurnal oneiric deliriums, I had some pretty crazy adventures; I roamed far and wide, met interesting people and discovered wonderful lands only known to me. I travelled back in time revisiting simple moments of peace and happiness, the beach of Erdeven and the glistening of its ocean when the winds come from the East, an apple cake cooling on the kitchen windowsill of the old school we lived in, my little sister falling in a ditch while playing hide and seek in the forest of Broceliande… I woke up feeling temporarily restored, recharged like an I-phone after hours on life support, refreshed but hungry. While I was dwelling about the reality of the irrational, another memory came back to me. When I was a kid, and only if I was sick, the recovery dish was always rice, with butter and lemon juice. Sometimes with a bit of fish or ham, but often just like that; it made me smile and I started thinking.
Young Buck Blue & Beef Salad
The other morning, I got one of my blurry “flashback in time” moments, as I too, grew up between farmlands and sea. August was a month for salads and every member of my family had their own signature dish, between Dad’s couscous tabbouleh, Mother’s simply sliced tomatoes with chives and vinaigrette or the amazing – yet groovy – tuna, sweet corn, green pepper, hard-boiled egg and rice special of Grand Ma… Summer was intense with freshness and simplicity. I too aspired to greatness to have, one day, my own designer salad… It’s a Breton thing. I came close several times, but yet remained unsatisfied, like the young buck I was. But I seem, the other day, to have nailed it, a salad that would reflect the Irish terroir of the midlands … Here is the recipe A Chairde, and a picture to speak for itself.