What a difference a year makes…

 

Well – it’s been so long since I blogged that wordpress looks different so it will be a surprise what this looks like once published!

I have been lazy, and busy, but mostly lazy, though making a person and taking care of said small person is surprisingly time consuming!

Which is all the more reason why I must start doing this again, I need to be even more organised in the kitchen I realise as evenings are much busier than before… and this really has been a useful place for me to keep coming back to recipes which worked for me!

However, today I will start with dessert – providing nourishment for a small person has made me crave all kinds of sugar and I’ve started baking more than before, now I’m no Sylvia but since she is fecking off for a few months if I keep practicing maybe by the time she gets back I’ll almost be as skilled as her.

Probably not.

Mary B gave me Brenda Costigan’s cookbook a few years ago.  I have a few wonderful Avoca books, Nevin Maguire, Jamie Oliver and I’ve made stuff from them all, though I mostly like to browse them.  But I realise that I’ve made more from this book than anything else, it’s been really useful so I recommend it!

Blackberry Sponge

Fresh or frozen blackberries can be used, or fruit of the forest which seems to be a bit easier to find her in Brussels (thank you Colruyt).

Just make sure the filling is hot when putting the sponge on top as this will help to cook the sponge underneath more quickly!

Ingredients

  • Fruit Filling:
  • 1 heaped teaspoon cornflour
  • juice of 1 orange
  • 350g frozen blackberries or fruits of the forest
  • 25-50g caster sugar, or to taste

Sponge:

  • 110g butter, softened
  • 110g caster sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • few drops vanilla essence
  • 110g self raising flour

Serve with whipped cream or ice cream

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 190.  Lightly grease a wide ovenproof dish (1.2 ltr capacity) and place in the oven to heat.
  2. For the fruit – blend the cornflour into the orange juice and put into a saucepan with the fruit.  Stir over the heat until it comes to the boil and thickens slightly.  Sweeten to taste with the sugar but leave the flavour quite tart to make a nice contrast with the sponge.  Keep hot.
  3. For the sponge – using a hand-held electric beater, beat the butter in a bowl, add the sugar and beat well.  Beat in the eggs one at a time along with the vanilla essence and a little of the flour each time.  Then stir in the rest of the flour.
  4. Pour the hot fruit into the hot dish.  Drop small spoonfuls of the sponge mixture in an even layer close together all over the fruit filling.  It won’t be possible to spread the sponge over the fruit but don’t worry, it will spread out itself during the cooking.  Stand the dish on a baking tray in case any juice bubbles out at the edge.
  5. DSC_0277 DSC_0283
  6. Bake for 30 minutes, until baked right through.  The sponge should be golden and springy to the touch, but it’s very important to check that the centre is cooked -pierce the centre with a knife, and if no doughy particles cling to it, the sponge is cooked.
  7. Serve hot or cold with a lightly sweetened whipped cream or ice cream.

Sadly I have no photo of it ready-to-eat as I was too busy …. eating it.

I would like to thank the Academy, and Sylvia for inspiring me to get going with this again, but most of all this little guy for snoozing long enough to allow me to write this….

DSC_0314

Advertisements

A Random Photo

I don’t have much to say – and there’s no recipe today, but if I don’t start posting something my blog may be shut down!!!

So, in the hope that this will push me to start actually doing something with the photos I’ve been taking… here is a one of beautiful Fermanagh, Ireland on a frosty, sunny late December morning:

Fermanagh_morning

Slow Cooker Chicken Curry & Lemon Cheesecake

I hope I still remember how to work WordPress – it has been too long since I posted anything – *hangs head in shame*

I’ve been busy preparing to move apartments – I will be very sad to leave the beautiful Chatelain which has been my home for so many years – but looking forward to a change and being closer to friends….and hopefully discovering lots of cool new places on the other side of the city…. watch this space!  (not too closely though, as it’ll probably be another age before I post again – #worstbloggerever)

I recently bought a Crock Pot/Slow Cooker – I love it, it’s like a magical machine that makes you dinner while you do other things – freakin genius!

I’ve made  a few things and will post in due course – but this is my most recent (and I remembered to take photos – don’t get too excited, as soon as the food was ready to eat I forgot about photos so there are no ‘finished product’ photos.

Once again – #worstbloggerever

Curry

Slow Cooker Chicken Curry

Ingredients

  • Small handful coriander leaves
  • 1-2 tbsp olive oil
  • 3-4 cloves of garlic
  • 1-3cm knuckle of fresh ginger, peeled
  • 1tbsp garam masala
  • 6 tomatoes, chopped
  • 3 chicken breasts, diced
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 pepper, sliced
  • 1-2 sweet potatoes, diced
  • 1-3 chillies, depending on personal taste
  • 1 stick of lemon grass, peeled (I omitted this as I don’t like lemongrass… though I might include it next time!)
  • 50g red lentils
  • 200ml coconut milk
  • 3tbsp Greek yoghurt
  • zest of lime (I also added juice of 1/2 the lime too)
  • Chopped coriander

Method

  1. In a food processor add ginger, garlic, chilli, olive oil, coriander, garam masala and tomatoes.  Whizz until you form a paste – though mine was quite watery due to the tomatoes so I wouldn’t have described it as paste – but it turned out fine! (Store in fridge or freeze until needed).
  2. Remember to cut the vegetables and chicken into equal size so you get a more even cook.
  3. Place all the ingredients into the slow cooker apart from the Greek yoghurt and lime.  If the curry is too thick, add a little water.
  4. Cook on low for 6-8 hours ( 6 was plenty for me), or on high for 3-4 hours.
  5. About 30 an hour before serving I felt it was a bit watery so I added some cornflour (about 2 tsp mixed to a paste first with some of the cooking liquid).
  6. 20-30 minutes before serving, stir in Greek yoghurt, chopped coriander and zest of lime.
  7. Stir and serve on a bed of rice (I used basmati).

It was felt by my dinner guests that there was something missing (I forgave them after) – so I’ll include the lemongrass next time, and I might add a teaspoon of ground coriander too – and see what happens!!!

And now for dessert……

Curry and Cheeseckae-2

Lemon Cheesecake with Speculoos Base

This was kind of a combination of about 3 recipes…

For the Base…

  • 160g Speculoos biscuits
  • 75g butter
  1. Melt the butter and crush the biscuits, then add them to the butter and pour into a round tin, preferable with a removable base.
  2. Now – the recipe for that base said to cook this for 8  minutes at about 160degrees. Which I did, and it worked out ok, but I’m not sure if it was necessary – next time I’ll just chill the mixture once it’s been placed in the tin…. trial and error!

For the filling

  • 700g Marscapone Cheese
  • 2 lemons, juice and zest
  • 200g caster sugar
  • 4 tbsp icing sugar
  1. mix the mascarpone cheese, lemon juice and zest and caster sugar and icing sugar together in a bowl until well combined. Do not mix the mixture too much as this will cause it to split. Taste the mixture and add more sugar, to taste.
  2. Spoon the mixture into the tin on top of the chilled biscuit mixture and chill in the fridge for at least 2 hours.

For the Topping

  • Juice of 1 orange
  • 350g frozen fruits of the forest
  • 50g caster sugar
  • 1 heaped teaspoon cornflour
  1. Put the orange juice and frozen berries into a saucepan.  Cook gently to thaw, then add the sugar and stir to dissolve.
  2. Blend the cornflour with a dribble of water and some of the hot liquid from the saucepan.
  3. Mix well, then stir the cornflour mixture into the berries in the saucepan.
  4. Bring to the boil, stirring to thicken.  If a thicker consistency is required, more cornflour can be added (in the same way).

 

Barbecue Gingered Chicken

It is BBQ season after all isn’t it??

I am a fan of marinades and I’ve used this one a good few times – there is chicken currently bathing in it in my fridge as I write.

This is from Barbecues and Grilling by Anthony Worral Thompson – a great book that I’ve had for a while but I really want to start making a few more things from it in the coming weeks, so if they work I’ll stick them up here!

Ingredients

  • 4 chicken breasts with skin on, if preferred
  • 5cm piece fresh ginger, peeled and grated
  • 1 small onion, grated
  • 1 large red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed with a little salt
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 tablespoons honey

Method

  1. In a small bowl, combine all the ingredients for the marinade mixture.
  2. Set aside the chicken breasts in a shallow dish and spread the mixture over them.  Cover and marinate in the fridge for at least 2 hours, preferable overnight.
  3. Remove from the fridge up to 30 minutes before cooking
  4. Cook the chicken on the barbecue grill, skin-side down first, over high heat for 7-8 minutes.  Then turn and cook on the other side for a further 7-8 minutes, basting occasionally with the marinade juices, until lightly charred and firm to the touch.

I actually cut the chicken breast into strips…. voila!

Before

After!

Running to Stand Still: Toasted quinoa, lentil and poached salmon salad

My first reblog (aka steal)… made this last night, delish. My favourite part was when the quinoa popped! Thanks Sylvia!

goingtobrussels

In his book, Notes on a Small Island, Bill Bryson, who I revere and adore, laid claim to the title “Lord Lather of Indecision”. If you haven’t read it yet, sort that out. I’d loan you mine, but it is precious because SIGNED COPY:

20140521_233548

Anyway, my point is that if I had a title, it would be something along the lines of Princess Procrastinate of Dither. Decisions do not come easily to me and I will avoid making them in as many ways possible (for example). However, the big birthday of the year is just around the corner and I need to put down the book and start making decisions. What to do, where to go, what to say, what to think. Ideally, I would have a very bossy opinionated Personal Assistant to say “Do this”, “Apply for that”, “Go there”, “Talk to him”, “Stop doing that”, “Wear this”…

View original post 618 more words

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

 

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)

Ode to a Mother

For the day that’s in it – well in Ireland anyway!

Today is what is officially known as ‘Mothering Sunday’.

A Hallmark holiday along with Father’s day, Valentine’s day etc etc? Perhaps, but so what, from what I can tell Mothers are never ever even close to being as appreciated as they should be so they deserve the day – and much more!

Yesterday I met up with alot of other Bloggers at an event organised in The Hotel by Brussels Food Friends  (omg check me out, I’m a blogger apparently).  It was a really lovely afternoon and I’ll write something more about it soon.  But during the course of the afternoon I had to explain why I started the blog – which of course involved Mary B.  So I thought no better time to write something about her.

The first question is – what should I call her?

Growing up I called her Mam, then I went to a school where everyone said Mum.

When I say it it sounds like Mom, though usually I write Mam. My sister calls her Mum, I think my brother is in the same dilemma as me.  Dad is so much simpler. Let’s stick to Mam for now – for old time’s sake!

Anyway before she was anyone’s Mother, she was Mary Dromgoole.  Her own mother’s maiden name was Jane Thornberry.  Then she married Brian Brennan and has been Mary Brennan every since.  Though she sometimes wistfully talks about giving up her glamorous maiden name, and once mentioned if we ever ‘named’ our house she liked the sound of ‘Dromthorn’. So here we are.

Somebody once asked me who I admired most in the world and I said it was my Mam.

This is because she is quite possibly the kindest, most selfless, hardest working, most thoughtful, most caring, warmest, loving and as a result happiest people I know.

2008_0324Image0208

 

There are a million examples of her fabulousness – here are but a few;

1. She makes snow angels.

Mam

2. She came to Belgium with her friend to visit me after I got my tonsils out, I went to bed early and left her having a drink somewhere on Rue du Bailli with her friend, and woke up to the sound of her bringing Sylvia  in for a glass of wine.  She had bumped into her on the way home.

3. She takes care of my friends when they are ill.

4. She never gives up on us. Ever.

5. She puts hot water bottles in my bed when I visit Dublin. Often wrapped up in my pyjamas

6. She comments on stuff on Facebook, and signs it.

7. She tweets Jamie Oliver:

Untitled

On top of all that, she is the best daughter, sister, aunt, sister-in-law, daughter-in-law, wife and friend that anyone could ask for.

2012-09-29 00.52.05

Obviously, I am biased, but I don’t care. If and when I ever have a family of my own, I can only hope to be half as good a mother as you have been to us.

Thanks for everything Mary B,

Happy Mother’s Day

Love you forever

Jane xxx

Of course – behind every good woman is a hero of a man… to be continued!

2006_0825Image0003 DSC_0607 DSC_0627

 

 

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