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.



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

1. She makes snow angels.


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:


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.

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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!

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Mary’s Lasagne

Ok so you use the Bolognese from my previous post, plus the following…..

  • 1 ltr Milk
  • 60g butter
  • 150g flour
  • 1 Onion
  • Cloves
  • Peppercorns (whole)
  • Bayleaf
  • Salt/Pepper
  • Grated Cheddar Cheese
  • Lasagne sheets
  • 1/2 teaspoon made mustard

Note – my beloved mother’s instructions on how to make this white sauce were quite vague. Below you have the measurements that the Stork Recipe Book recommends, and of course there are plenty of Roux/White sauce recipes available on the internet.  She literally just ‘throws it in’. Sigh.

Stork: 575 ml milk, 50g marg, 50g flour, 75g grated cheese (1/2 for top)

  1. Pierce the onion with the cloves, add to the milk with a few peppercorns and the bayleaf.  Bring to a gentle simmer and allow to infuse with flavour for a while – 10-20 mins
  2. Strain the milk and put it back on the hob, add the butter and flour, bring to the boil stirring continuously with a whisk, simmer for 2-3 mins until think and glossy
  3. Image
  4. Stir in half the cheese and the mustard.
  5. Dip the lasagne sheets in boiled water to soften gently.
  6. Layer as follows: Lasagne sheet, bolognese sauce, lasagne sheet, cheese sauce, bolognese sauce, lasagne sheet, cheese sauce, cheese
  7. Bake at 190degrees for 30-40 minutes.

I stuck it in the freezer for a couple of weeks and cooked it yesterday – it was delish if I do say so myself!

next time I might use slightly more white sauce, it was prefect when just out of the oven but for reheating it got a bit dry.


Mary’s Bolognese Sauce

It was my Mam’s birthday on 28th September so I took the trip back to Dublin for the occasion.

We had a lovely dinner out with the family, followed by a mini-pub crawl which included crashing my friend Michaela’s hen party, leading to an unfortunately unsuccessful search for a stripper and topped off by a birthday Jaegar-bomb bought by Eddie.

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Anyway, a good night was had by all, and after a walk on Sandymount strand to let Toby stretch his little dog legs and try to seduce some lady dogs (also unsuccessful) all traces of hangovers disappeared.  I made dinner on Sunday evening and in return, on Monday Mam kindly agreed to show me how to make lasagne.

Basically she makes a massive amount of Bolognese Sauce and uses half of it for the lasagne.  I mentioned before that there is alot of guess work in her cooking, including a certain amount of boiling over, forgetting about things etc etc, and yet somehow it all tastes delicious. It’s not fair.

That is why the below is a bit vague… but here it goes. I also include a photo from her old recipe books where the original recipe can be found, but this has of course been altered over the years…

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  • 2 Carrot
  • 1 Onion
  • 3 Celery
  • 2 Garlic
  • Bacon/salami
  • Oregano
  • 5 Tin Tomato
  • Dash of Red wine
  • Tomato Puree
  • 800kg Mince

This made about 4 servings of Bolognese and 1 large lasagna – it is currently frozen so I’ll let you know how it tastes when it’s been cooked!

  1. Chop the carrot, onion, celery and garlic and gently saute with the bacon for a few minutes.
  2. Add the tins of tomatoes, salt and pepper and simmer gently until the veg is tender.  Add 1/2 teaspoon of sugar per tin of tomatoes
  3. Blend the sauce (or if you prefer, blend 1/2 the sauce so that it is still a bit chunky) using a hand blender.  Keep some aside to use in other dishes instead of plain tinned tomatoes if you have enough, I guess you can freeze it too!


4. Meanwhile, fry the mince with some tomato puree and add to the sauce along with the red wine, salt and pepper.


5. Simmer very gently for about an hour, don’t stir! Taste the sauce as you go and if necessary add a veg stock cube for extra flavour  (this is what I’m talking about with the vagueness….)

My first attempt was ok.

It’s hard to get good quality mince in Belgium, it’s usually pure beef (so no fat = not much flavour) or a mixture of beef and pork, so I’m sure with a good quality mince it would make the difference.

Also I think I added too many tins of tomatoes – I had extra sauce (about 400ml which I froze for future), and when I tasted the sauce before adding the last tin there was a lovely flavour, especially from the chorizo, but that seemed to get last in the end dish.  I will play around with it the next time and let you know what happens!

My finished product (I have to get better at taking photos of food, this looks a bit sad).

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