A Tour of a Cemetery

I was back in my home city of Dublin last weekend and for once was blessed with some good weather! Mide – she of the ‘Discover Dublin’ mini-tours (only available on request) suggested a visit to Glasnevin Cemetery, followed by a pint and a toasted sandwich in the Gravedigger’s pub (AKA Kavanagh’s).

For anyone visiting Dublin, I would highly recommend it.

2014-05-30 14.47.13

The girl who gave us the tour, which lasted around 1h30mins, was really helpful, clear and interesting, it goes without saying that a bit of knowledge of Irish history is helpful but even if you know nothing about it the tour is still great. She had plenty of interesting nuggets of information – thinks I didn’t know for example:

  • Charlie Chaplin visited James Larkin when he was imprisoned in America – in my google search to find more information on this I discovered this blog: http://comeheretome.com/2011/04/28/time-to-move-charlie-to-oconnell-street/ which I’m now going to spend hours browsing through!
  • Maud Gonne’s son Sean MacBride co-founded Amnesty International
  • At the exact moment Charles Stewart Parnell’s body was being lowered into the grave a white light passed through the sky and was seen by a large part of the 200,000 people who attended.  Only in recent years did research show that a meteor passed through the sky over Dublin at that exact moment..
    2014-05-30 15.56.15

We headed to Kavanagh’s, aka the Gravedigger’s Pub which is at one of the gates of the Cemetery – this is a fascinating place, it has been in the same family for 7 generations (we learned this on the tour – it’s so famous it’s in the tour!) The toasted sandwich did not happen, instead we indulged in some tapas – how terribly continental and not at all Irish! BUT it was delicious, and the staff were so friendly.  Not only that, but a mere week later and this was published – as Mide said we capture the zeitgeist!

Here are a few snaps of what we saw on the day …

The Women

2014-05-30 16.14.01

Kitty Kiernan

 

 

2014-05-30 16.04.01

Elizabeth O’Farrell

 

 

The Men

Daniel O'Connell Coffin-1

Daniel O’Connell’s Coffin – I touched it for good luck as is tradition

Daniel O'Connell Coffin-1-2

Michael Collins

De Valera

De Valera

 

Advertisements

Easter in La Rochelle

“The spirit of La Rochelle is to sit on the terrasse of a café watching the sun on the water.  This is a very important thing to do and should be done often and for long spells. ” – Míde Ní Shúilleabháin

La Rochelle (72 of 76)

And so it was that with such sage advice we ventured south for La Rochelle, France.  Having been inspired by Alison from Cheeseweb’s post with suggestions for Easter getaways we decided to visit Míde’s old home.  I am ashamed to say that although she lived there for a year I never managed to get down there to visit.  But I sure hope to return one day with Míde in tow (I don’t think it will take much to persuade her).

So – it’s a 7 hour drive from Brussels, which is a fair whack, but we left Brussels on Thursday afternoon and stayed just outside Orleans Thursday evening, meaning we split the journey in half – we did the return trip in one go (fair play to the driver) but it wasn’t too bad.

In La Rochelle we stayed in Un Hôtel en Ville.  The location was perfect – just around the corner from the Vieux Porte.  We were actually in the annex part of hotel which was a separate building, it was fine, rooms were newly renovated with some of the old beams featured in the decor for a bit of charm.  The floor was a bit creaky but I imagine that’s the case in most of the bulidings in La Rochelle!  The staff were nice – though I only really dealt with one lady who checked us in – she was English which might be reassuring to anyone with minimal French!  Breakfast was €9.50 each I think, but we didn’t avail of it.

We enjoyed a lunch of galette in one of the restaurants on the Cours des Dames – which afterwards I saw Mide suggested were not the best, but we were hungry and just excited to sit outside and look at boats so it was perfectly fine.

La Rochelle (9 of 76)

After that we wandered – it was a bit of a dull day – but it was nice to discover the town, everywhere is pretty, you can’t go wrong.

La Rochelle (19 of 76)

La Rochelle (36 of 76) La Rochelle (25 of 76)

We ate in dinner on Rue Saint Jean de Perot, in CAFÉ DU THÉÂTRE, 12 rue Saint-Jean Du Perot, which was lovely, we both had red snapper – delish.

La Rochelle (40 of 76)

Saturday morning we hired bikes and headed off to Ile de Re. It’s a nice cycle, though we did go through a very industrial looking area just before we got to the bridge but it was brief and any dust we picked up there was blown away as we cycled across the sea.

La Rochelle (43 of 76)

We went as far as La Flotte, but half way there we came across Fort de la Pree

La Rochelle (49 of 76)

…. which was displaying a sign saying that there were FREE COGNAC AND OYSTERS!

La Rochelle (46 of 76) La Rochelle (47 of 76)

 

And sure why not…. ( we did not indulge in the oysters, I wish I was braver or liked them because the general area of La Rochelle/Ile de Re seems to be an Oyster-lovers heaven).

On to La Flotte – where we indulged in what was fast becoming a favourite activity: sitting, eating and drinking.

La Rochelle (51 of 76)

 

La Rochelle (66 of 76)

A couple of glasses of wine later we bobbed (this is what you do when you’re un peu tipsy) around La Flotte before cycling over to Sainte Marie de Re on the other side of the island and sat in the sand for a while before heading back to the bridge.

La Rochelle (1 of 1)

The wind had picked up and I maintain that side of the bridge is definitely steeper than the other side so I didn’t really enjoy the return journey all that much (let’s blame the brandy and wine).

We were hungry, but not THAT hungry when we got back so off we went to Brasserie des Dames where we got a very reasonably priced planchette of charcuterie and bread, they also provided blankets against the cold.

 

Guess what? It was almost time to eat again.  To be honest I was filling up fast so fancied a bit of tapas. So we found El Asador.  There was a rugby match playing on the big screen and it was very relaxed – it makes sense now that I’ve investigated the website – it’s owned by a couple of rugby players.  The waiting staff did have very big shoulders…

The food was fine, I was too full to enjoy it (eyes bigger than belly etc etc)!

Sunday – as is traditional this was a day of rest. And once again involved quite alot of sitting, eating and drinking…

We sat with a take away coffee and croissants looking out over the Vieux Porte, then moved over to a prime spot in the sun at Le Pass’Port where we whiled away a couple of hours and local cidres (it was after mid-day – don’t judge please).

With great intentions to explore the market we left it a bit late and things were closing up, but the weather was so lovely we sat at another cafe: A la Gerbe de Ble, Rue Thiers, 17000 La Rochelle.  Once again we indulged in a planchette

Planchette-1

BUT – once again I regretted not loving oysters because check this out:

IMG_20140423_160323

Oyster lovers – go to La Rochelle!

We then headed to Parc Charruyer.  This place is lovely, it is almost meadow-like with daisies and buttercups – I always remember as a child being sad when the grass was cut int he summer and there were no daisies left – so this made me happy.

Parc-2

Parc-1

It was a lovely place to relax, read, watch the world go by (and digest until the next meal which is basically all we seemed to do in La Rochelle, eat and then wait until we were ready to eat again).

Eventually we were ready to eat again 🙂  We found this place: Ludoti, which was lovely, it had a nice atmosphere – I had pasta with Gambas and pesto which was very enjoyable, Colin had lamb which I believe was just as nice.

There are so many restaurants in La Rochelle, but in fact alot of them have similar menus so we quite liked this place which was a bit different.

La Rochelle – go there. Just go there.

 

 

A trip to Terschelling and a Chicken and Mushroom Pie

Well I recently mentioned the event I attended at The Hotel organised by Brussels Food Friends.  It was really enjoyable and inspiring (who isn’t inspired whilst eating cake?).  I won’t say much more about it as it was written about much more eloquently than I could by several others already so READ ALL ABOUT IT as they say…here, and here, and here.  And if anyone is interested in attending the next one watch this space!

Thank you Sylvia for suggesting it – look how happy we were:

Sylvia and Jane (1 of 1)

So yes I started this blog to try and get Mary to give me recipes – she is a busy woman so they have been few and far between, but I’m hoping to get a few more from her! After a while I just thought why not use it as a place to keep recipes I have used and liked, so I remember to make them again and they don’t get lost in space and time…

Another thing I’ve wanted to do is keep a record of places I’ve been in case

a) I ever want to go back or
b) somebody else is interested in going

I know I am very lucky with the amount of travelling I get to do, if it isn’t with work it’s with Belgium GAA, one is free, the other is not – but both are filled with activities that are not very touristy such as … well … work and playing sports.  It does mean you get a taster of a place and that you might like to go back to some time in the future so it’s important to keep a list of places you stayed, restaurants you visited etc so it sounds like you know what the hell you are talking about if/when you ever do go back, or indeed recommend it to somebody else!

Of course, on the odd free weekend I do just travel for pleasure, and that’s what we did a couple of weeks ago when we went to the island of Terschelling in the north of Holland.

You need to get a ferry to the island, and these ferries go from Harlingen, which is about a 3 hour drive from Brussels (more if you decide to go on the day when the Trade Unions are protesting in Brussels…)

From Harlingen, which is a cute little town itself, you can take the ferry which is run by this company: Rederij Doeksen.  Their logo is a smiling seal – I liked.

There is a fast ferry and a slow ferry, we got the slow one over as we arrived too late for the fast (snel) ferry, it takes 2 hours and the fast one just 45 minutes.  I’d suggest calling the Ferry company to get the times as the website said something different to what was actually running.

Here is the slow ferry…

Boat (1 of 1)

Once you get there, there is a bus service which seems to run very efficiently and cost less than 2euro each way.

We stayed at the Walvis Vaarder Hotel.   It was lovely I would highly recommend it. Especially for the amazing open fire in the bar, the funky font used for the room numbers and the tasty local cheese:

2014-04-05 23.31.47  2014-04-05 20.38.47 Island (2 of 2)

We hired bikes for a very reasonable price and cycled all day in the sunshine!

Island (1 of 2)

As it turned out this was taking place while we were there: http://www.fjoertoer.nl/.  We weren’t 100% sure what it was but it involved alot of walking during the night, and alot of jolly Dutch people!

We managed to catch the fast ferry back on Sunday and were back in Brussels at a very civilized hour so I had time to make Jamie Oliver’s Chicken and Mushroom Pie.  Now, this is from his 30 Minute Meals book.  I’m doooobius as to whether it is possible to make any of them in 30 minutes, he tells you to do things ‘quickly’ alot, and also suggests using the food processor for everying including chopping mushrooms and spring onions.

Now this might be quicker to do, but it takes alot longer to wash a food processor than a knife!

All the same, it is still quick and easy to make… and tasty

Ingredients

  • 4 x 180g skinless chicken breasts
  • a knob of butter
  • a bunch of spring onions
  • 150g button mushrooms
  • 1 heaped tablespoon plain flour, plus extra for dusting
  • 2 teaspoons English mustard
  • 1 heaped tablespoon creme fraiche (I used fromage frais)
  • 300ml chicken stock
  • a few sprigs of fresh thyme
  • 1/3 nutmeg, for grating
  • 1 sheet of pre-rolled puff pastry
  • 1 egg
  1.  Cut the chicken into 1cm strips.
  2. Heat a pan with some olive oil and the butter, add the chicken and cook for about 3 minutes
  3. Roughly chop the spring onion and mushrooms (in a food processor if you want to: eye-roll)
  4. Chicken Pie (1 of 6)
  5. Add to the pan with 1 heaped tablespoon of flour and stir.
  6. Add  2 teaspoons of mustard, 1 heaped tablespoon of creme fraiche and 300ml of chicken stock and stir well
  7. Pick the thyme leaves and stir into the pan with a few fine gratings of nutmeg and some salt and pepper.
  8. Simmer for about 10  minutes
    Chicken Pie (3 of 6)
  9. Lightly dust a clean surface with flour and unroll the sheet of pastry
  10. Use a small knife to lightly crisscross and score it.
  11. Take the pan of chicken off the heat, tip the filling into an ovenproof baking dish slightly smaller than the sheet of pastry.
  12. Cover the filling with the pastry sheet, tucking it in at the edges, then brush with the beaten egg.
  13. Cook at 200C for about 15 mins.

Chicken Pie (5 of 6)

Jamie serves it with some peas and mashed carrots which are very tasty, I might stick them up at a later date.

I stir-fried some brussels sprouts, courgette, brocolli, corn and caramelised onion – it was an experiment and it was tasty!

Chicken Pie (4 of 6)

Chicken Pie (6 of 6)

The Story of the Travelling Brownies…

Well – it’s been a while. Too long.
Too busy? Too lazy? You decide!

This is the story of a batch (love that word) of Brownies that made it’s way from Brussels to Paris and back to Parc du Cinquantinaire, where I then paid 2Euro to taste them. (DISCLAIMER: I may have tasted a crumb whilst in Paris – but celebrating winning the Six Nations Championship will work up an appetite).

Since circa 2007 Belgium GAA and FC Irlande  have been joining forces to help the people of Brussels, Irish and otherwise, celebrate our national day, and raise a few bob to help the running of our clubs in the process.

On whichever Sunday falls closest to the 17th March (AKA St Patrick’s Day) the kind, or foolish people in the Ecole Militaire allow us to use their terrain de foot in Parc du Cinquantinaire.

It started off with a few games of Gaelic Football, hurling, camogie and soccer with a bar and some food being sold along the sidelines.  Obviously Guinness was involved, and large green hats.

St Patrick's Festival-018 St Patrick's Festival-019St Patrick's Festival-096 St Patrick's Festival-009

Luckily for us, the people of Brussels seemed to like this and every year, as the rain kindly stayed off for most of the day, their numbers increased.  We added things like bouncy castles, kids games, cake and sandwich stands, more green things – this year was amazing – there was even a stage with excerpts from ‘Annie’, Irish dancers, and musicians.

Unfortunately I spent the Saturday in Paris and was only able to join the festivities around lunchtime where I got snap happy with my camera:

St Patrick's Festival-024 St Patrick's Festival-033 St Patrick's Festival-054 St Patrick's Festival-075 St Patrick's Festival-092

Paris was a total drag, like totally. It was sunny, people were smiling, Ireland won the Six Nations Championship, we celebrated with a street party thanks to the French Police kindly closing it on our behalf.  WORST WEEKEND EVER.  As you can see below, I was not a happy camper.

Rugby Paris 2014-27

Anyway, I still wanted to contribute to the Cake stand in Parc du Cinquantinaire – so I chose something that would last (as I was assured by Sylvia that brownies were the way to go.  It was to be my first attempt, and twas a success (IMHO).

So I made the Brownies Friday  night, packed them into my overnight bag and brought them with me on the Thalys to Paris.  They survived, one disappeared circa 3am – a certain Colin Byrne was suspected, but I turned a blind, green-tinted eye as I fell into bed with dreams of Brian O’Driscoll, Rob Kearney (drool) and Gordon D’arcy’s mighty fine beard.

Sunday morning, bright and early, they were packed into the bag (note: they did spend their time in Paris in a fridge!) and duly delivered to Sylvia’s cake stand.  Then I gave her 2Euro and bought one right back 🙂

Malheuresement I didn’t take any photos of the actual brownies – rookie mistake.  But here is the rest of the delights on display and the dedicated volunteers selling their wares!

St Patrick's Festival-049 St Patrick's Festival-050

So after all that, I only got a little taste BUT I was very impressed – if I do say so myself.

So here is the recipe – if only so that I remember to make them again!

Avoca Brownies

Ingredients

  • 225g unsalted butter
  • 225g dark chocolate (55 per cent cocoa minimum)
  • 4 eggs
  • 225g rich dark brown sugar
  • 110g plain flour
  • 80g nuts (hazelnuts/pecans/walnuts  – I only had hazelnuts and slivered almonds so I improvised with these)
  • icing sugar

Method

  1. Melt the butter and the chocolate in an ovenproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water.
  2. Whisk the eggs and sugar until thick and pale – this will take about 10 minutes and can be done in a mixer with the whisk attachment. I did it by hand – be prepared to work  hard!
  3. Stir in the chocolate/butter mix.
  4. Fold in the flour and nuts.
  5. Pour into a greased and lined cake tin (30cmx20cmx5cm) and bake for 30-35 minutes at 170C/Gas mark 3.
  6. Remove from oven, cover with a damp tea towel and leave to cool.
  7. Cut into squares and dust with icing sugar

 

Chicken and Brocolli Gratin

How is it mid-November already? This year is flying, though I say that every year – is that what happens the older you get?

I have just spent the weekend in France – and why not? It’s only 2 hours down the road, we stayed in a very nice, small Chateau (well on the grounds of one anyway!), ate a 6 course meal, went champagne tasting and came back to Brussels with plenty of bottles clinking in the back of the car.

DSC_0409

Our fancy meal was fancy, there was St Jacques (I’m not a big fan unfortunately), fois gras – the cooked version, pidgeon, frogs legs – you name it.  Probably not my favourite but you only live once!  I only took a photo of the pidgeon and frogs leg, and the dessert – which was very tasty 🙂

2013-11-14 21.10.49 2013-11-14 21.54.55

The following day, the sun came out and we found the Route de Touristique Champagne – it was beautiful:

DSC_0371 DSC_0372 DSC_0375

Apart from that, the day consisted of jambon-fromage croissants, croque-monsieurs and champagne tasting, after which we weren’t able for another big meal so instead got some (more) cheese, charcuterie, baguettes etc and enjoyed that with … some more champagne 🙂

DSC_0389

The weekend consisted of alot of cheese and bread in various forms so I thought it was time to eat some veg in preparation for the week ahead….

This is an oldie but a goodie.  I think the first time I enjoyed broccoli was in this particular dish, it’s very tasty and a great way of getting your greens in.

It can be made various different ways – using a whole chicken, or just chicken breasts – having tried both I think the whole chicken option is better, there is more flavour.

It can be made cheats-style by using tinned soup for the sauce – mushroom or chicken are best, and the condensed version I think also works best.  This has alot of flavour but be sure to use good quality tinned soup as the cheaper ones can be very salty.

I went back to basics yesterday and made a sauce from scratch – I went by the Avoca recipe but also added some curry as this always gives an extra nice flavour!

DSC_0427

Ingredients

  • 1 whole chicken (or 6 chicken breasts)
  • 1 Spanish Onion or 2 normal onions peeled and chopped
  • 2 carrots peeled and chopped
  • 2 celery sticks chopped
  • a few sprigs parsley and thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tablespoon of black peppercorns
  • 300ml double cream
  • 120g Roux (60g flour 60g butter)
  • 1 teaspoon of curry powder
  • 1 head of broccoli divided into florets
  • 25g butter
  • 75g cheese grated (cheddar or another strong cheese)
  • 150g breadcrumbs

Method

  1. Place chicken in a large saucepan with the onions, carrots, celery, herbs, peppercorns and enough water to cover.  Bring slowly to the boil then reduce heat and simmer until the chicken is cooked ( about an  hour for a whole chicken, 20 minutes for chicken breasts)
  2. Remove the chicken from the pan and leave to cool.  Strip the meat from the bones, tear up into large bite size pieces and set aside.
  3. Strain the cooking liquid into a saucepan and boil until reduced to 600ml. (I actually left the veg in, and put the chicken bones back in whilst doing this – I didn’t boil all the way down to 600ml as I had alot but I let it boil for about another 20-30mins.  Next time I might add a 1/2 a stock cube at this point for extra flavour).
  4. Add the cream, (at this point I also added a heaped tsp of curry powder) return to the boil then whisk in the roux a little at a time to form a thick sauce.
  5. Blanch the broccoli in boiling water until just tender, then drain and refresh under cold water.
  6. Stir the chicken and broccoli into the sauce and season to taste.
  7. Pour this into an oven proof dish.
  8. Melt the butter and mix with the breadcrumbs and cheese.  Spread over the chicken dish.
  9. Bake in a preheated oven at 180degrees C for 20 minutes or until brown and bubbling.

DSC_0423