July 2014

Would he be an overbearing, arrogant Frenchman?

Would he be an overbearing, arrogant Frenchman?

I had some trepidation growing in me as our pre-arranged meeting with Stéphane Gabart, the author of the delightful My French Heaven blog loomed. The arrangement was made some months before our trip to France in July. As the time got closer, I found my psychosis growing and was asking myself “What if he is a pompous French git?”, “What if he lords it over us with his superior French attitude?” “What if he doesn’t speak English?”, “What will we talk about?” I allowed the pressure to build and build inside my head right up until Stéphane greeted the Wife and myself at his beautiful home. “This is a mistake.” were the words that nearly escaped my lips as we got out of the car to meet the man.

FIgs with blue cheese and honey (1 of 1)No, this is not a mini series about Napoleon’s fun in Russia in 1812. For this year’s holiday, we were lucky enough to spend some time in one of the most heavenly places on the planet. As the vagaries of life prevented us having had a break since 2012, we were in need of complete R&R. For this, we went to stay with Helen and David Furniss in their fantastic ‘Keirmasi’ gites. Over the years, we have stayed with them a number of times and it has proven to be an idyllic place for a badly needed French Retreat.

Extreme prawn stock (1 of 9)The last time we had Dublin Bay Prawns was after the Dublin Bay Prawn Festival (imagine dreaming up such a thing). Having driven out to Howth and back again, there was not time to make prawn stock. So, I thought the best thing to do was to freeze the shells and heads for later use. In my mind, later can mean any time in the future. That is, unless the Wife decides that there was not enough space in the freezer and my prawn shells have to go.

Crab Carbonara (13 of 13)One man’s meat. It looks like I have completely forgotten what I am supposed to be at here. Meat should be beef, lamb, pork, venison, buffalo and various parts of big things that run around on four legs. They usually frighten us two-legged ones when we see them in the wild. Right? Well, yes and no. Yes, that might be one’s interpretation. It might have even been my interpretation at one stage. But now, I have broadened the brief and I am officially including anything that once lived. This is because I have been preparing and cooking poultry, fish and an occasional (very occasional) salad as well as the more robust horned ones that tend to chase us around the place when we visit the countryside.

Barbecue Rack of Lamb (9 of 9)It seems that my “Ireland’s Greatest Ingredients” series is gaining some traction. I was happily cooking, writing and posting about the fantastic foods we are so blessed to enjoy in Ireland. Happy, that is, until I got the call from the Section for Magnificent Dining Experiences. Yes, such a Section really exists.  It is housed in a secure area in a sub basement below the Department of Agriculture. Secret access is through warren-like passages hidden behind a false freezer door in the kitchens of a well-known Molesworth Street hotel. The secrecy is vital, I am told, to protect the Section from the now regular attacks by disgruntled farmers who, depending upon market pricing and rainfall levels, overrun the Agriculture offices with sheep, cattle or pigs.

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