Wednesday, August 29, 2007

One Local Summer - Week 10

Still no photos as I still haven't managed to retrieve my camera from little bro. However, I did finally manage to roast that chicken and it's delicious. Pulled the rest of the meat off the bones today and am making stock with the carcass, which is also a good excuse to use up the last few veg in my fridge before going away. I'm off to Germany to WWOOF for two weeks. Heading over on Friday and will be singing on Saturday in Limburg with choir - we're singing Dream of Girontius again with the German choir who came over to Dublin in May for a performance of it here. Have the rest of the weekend to spend with friends and then on Monday will be heading off into the unknown to spend two weeks on a farm with people I've never met before. I'm trying not to think about it too much as I think I'll just get nervous. I know it's going to be physically challenging as well as I'm so unfit but I'm planning to bring much gusto with me and hope that helps.

So, to my local meal this evening. Cold roast chicken with fresh garden peas and chutney.

Chicken - from Coolanowle (60 miles)
Green tomato and lemon chutney - McNally's Farm (30 miles)
Peas - from my back garden. Yum.

Is this the last week of OLS? I can't remember. However, I expect that I'll be eating a fair amount of local in Germany - it'll be interesting to see what kind of a set-up it turns out to be. As far as I could tell from the description they grow mostly herbs. I'm hoping the onion harvest is already underway though because I remember Zwiebelkuchen (onion cake) from around this time of year with great fondness but can't quite remember if it was a bit earlier or later than this.

I'm not sure how much I'll be posting until after my return - bis zum nächsten Mal!

Sunday, August 26, 2007

One Local Summer - Week 9 - part 2

I wrote the post down below as Part 1 as I fully intended to have at least one more local meal to talk about by the end of the week. I did but all leftovers from previous weeks (going on holidays next week so trying to use up everything from the freezer) and eh, basically, bread and cheese.

I did remember to take the chicken a bought a couple of weeks ago out of the freezer this morning. Have been in work much later than planned though so am meeting my brother in town to use up some vouchers for Wagamama I have. If the chicken is actually defrosted by the time I get home I will cook it and use it for sandwiches and other meals during the week. So there is a very, very slight chance that I will get a photo up of something I've cooked this week.

I've worked all weekend but have made some real progress. Bloody filing. I actually enjoy filing (think there's a closes librarian in me somewhere) but when you're trying to work someone else's filing system and it doesn't seem to make sense it's tough. I've been here three years now and still had a few bits that I'd never been able to find places for. Have just about cracked it now and although I've spent nearly the entire weekend here (one of the few non-raining weekends we've had!) I am glad to have done it and will be able to relax far better when I'm away (am trying to mitigate any don't-want-to-go-back feelings ahead of time, not sure two weeks WWOOFing in Germany will do much for my feelings of (dis)content at living in Dublin).

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Irish Green Gathering

Haven't managed to post about the Irish Green Gathering yet. I do intend to and will hopefully get to it this weekend. I can certainly say that it was the muddiest weekend I've every spent! Roll on our Indian summer - we must surely be due one!

One Local Summer - Week 9 - part 1

Well, no picture to prove it as my brother borrowed my camera (he's gotten some work recently as an extra for The Tudors and wanted to take some photos of himself in the frilly shirt and pantaloons) but yesterday evening after working very late I was nearly too tired to bother cooking and faced with that familiar dilemna of having no food in the house, only ingredients.

Thankfully, as my brother had come over (minus my camera, I may not see it again for a while!) I made an effort and didn't just fall into my old bad habit of ordering a take-away.

So, my local meal this week was even more simple than usual, let's just call it Plate of Veg, shall we?

Potatoes - McNallys - 30-odd miles
Broccoli - McNallys as above
Beans - not sure what type, my brother got them from a friend who picked them from his garden, I think in Wexford.
Cheese - a very nice cheddar from Tipperary, I did ask the name when I bought it from Sheridans but have forgotten again - must start carrying a notebook with me at all times!
Home-made tomato ketchup - the ketchup I made last Friday which just wouldn't thicken but was very nice as a sauce with this dinner.


For the most part I do tend to believe that things happen for a reason, rather than just coincidence. This theory always seems to resonate with me and carry me through until something bad happens. Then life is just a bitch and they're all out to get me.

Try to find the reason why my car was stolen from the driveway of my house a year or so ago? Nope, sorry, still can't do it. Don't feel it was the least bit character building and it just ended up costing me money, a lot of stress (to be honest it took me a good while to even be able to feel comfortable in the house again) and made me just that bit more cynical.

Similarly, the week before last I was out of work early one afternoon to head to a social function - you know, one of those team-building afternoon type things. I was helping one of the organisers carry things to the venue and we were running late so she decided we should get a taxi rather than walk. She got into the back of the taxi (which was stopped at a red light), the other girl with us got into the front, I had one foot into the back and the guy took off, dragging me with him for a few feet before he realised. I did feel sorry for the poor guy, he genuinely hadn't seen me (I'm still not sure how as I'm easily twice the size of the girl I was behind!) but I felt way more sorry for me. I wasn't hurt apart from a mildly twisted thumb (still haven't figured out how I managed to do that) but was in shock for a good while, partially because I couldn't let myself react much until much later that evening after the event I was going to had finished and I was heading home. But again, I haven't been able to find any good (or otherwise) reason for that to have happened.

On the other hand, I recently got a list of books from my counsellor to read as I've kind of hit an impasse in therapy and wanted something extra to do. One of these is called the Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle. I started to read this book a while ago when in a cafe having breakfast. Now, I'd rarely spend an hour on a weekend morning in a cafe but had been trying to arrange to meet my sister and although I hadn't managed to confirm a time with her I went to the place we'd normally meet and decided I'd take my time having some breakfast, wander around the market for a while and then try and see if she was coming down or not. So, I was in a place I wouldn't normally be, doing something I'd rarely take the time to do. As I was leaving the cafe, a guy sitting near the door stood up and said hello and told me that he had noticed I was reading The Power of Now, that it was an amazing book he had read a while ago and he decided when he saw me reading it that he would say hello to me when I passed. He said that he knew once he saw the book that he was looking at somebody starting a journey and just wanted to acknowledge it. I was absolutely blown away and this is the kind of seemingly random thing which can lead me to be able to believe that sometimes things just happen for a reason. It was really nice to chat to someone like that for a minute or two and it was a fantastic start to my day.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

One Local Summer - Week 8

Earlier this week I had a wonderful omelette. What's so wonderful about this omelette? It had peas and tomatoes from my very own garden in it! Absolutely yummy. Organic, free-rang eggs from Co. Meath and a tiny bit of cheese from Paddy Jacks were the only other things that went into this. The peas were a bit on the small side and there weren't many because I just couldn't restrain myself from picking them any more. There are a good few still growing on the plant so I'm going to try and wait for those ones to grow to a decent size before picking them. I definitely need to grow more peas next year. And get bigger canes to allow them to grow higher too.

Will try and get the photo uploaded soon. Am off to the Irish Green Gathering tomorrow so have a day off. Am taking advantage of being off on a Friday to go to the market in Leopardstown in the morning. Hope to get there early enough to meet my sister before she has to go for a physio appointment and to get a chicken from the guys from Coolanowle. Then rush home to cook that chicken so that I can take it with me in sandwiches for the weekend or (much more likely) to put it in the freezer to cook next week.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

One Local Summer - Week 7

This week it was another very simple meal. I've also noticed that all of my meals seem to kind of look the same. A sauce that's a kind of murky red/brown colour and a pile of potatoes. Hmmm. May try to get my hands on a chicken next week for a bit of variety. They sell out very early at the market and I'm not often up early on a Sunday.

This week I had a dish which, in my house as a kid, was simply called "mince". It was usually served with mashed potato and I wished I had mashed what I had but it was nice with just boiled potatoes too.

Beef mince - Coolanowle (57 miles)
Onions - organic, bought from Denis Healy, (not Irish, exception)
Bisto - from cupboard, still haven't figured out where it was made, either UK or Ireland
Potatoes - Irish, organic, bought from Denis Healy

Brown mince, take off some of the excess fat, add onions to fry for a minute then pour over the gravy. Leave simmering in pan while potatoes are cooking. Add more water if needed. No spices, no extra flavouring, just a plain, hearty meal like Mum used to make. In fact, I think this may be the only thing my mum ever did teach me to make (she died when I was 11 so we didn't have much time for things like cooking lessons, especially bearing in mind that she apparently hated cooking).

In other news, I now have 11 pea-pods and two of them look big enough to pick so I'm heading home now to do that and add them, along with five more small tomatoes I picked yesterday evening to a big omelette. If I still have good eggs that is. Came in to work for just a couple of hours today and have been here all day so didn't get to the market to buy more. Have gotten a lot done here but have to admit I also spent a couple of hours reading blogs. Am really enjoying catching up on the goings-on at O'Melays, a blog discovered recently when Karl left a comment here. They're building a root cellar you see and I just got Root Cellaring out of the library and am finding it very interesting reading but not always able to picture it - seeing theirs in progress is fun.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Language and accents

It occurred to me that I'm very bad at putting flesh to words. What I mean is, when I read something, I'm not very good at really picturing it in my mind - I just sort of let the words flow over me without having concrete images in my mind. This doesn't really bother me but it recently occurred to me that I do something similar when I'm reading blogs. It's slightly different though because reading a blog is nearly like having to imagine a conversation with somebody. Only all of these conversations with people end up sounding the same in my head - like me!

Considering, for example, that Stonehead is an Aussie living in Scotland, the chances of him sounding anything like me are fairly remote. And then there are all the people from the other side of the pond. For example Laurie is from Carolina and I'm not sure what accent that would be exactly except southern so I kind of imagine something like from a film that's set in New Orleans. Sorry, Laurie if that's really insulting. I don't speak like Tom Cruise in Far and Away (that was our big bank holiday movie yesterday - I ask you!), don't often sound like I'm one of the Commitments nor anything like Darby O'Gill so there's absolutely no logical reason you should sound like someone from the Big Easy :). And then there are all the little things which I know most people in the States would say differently (and I don't just mean saying sidewalk instead of footpath, pacifier instead of soother etc). I mean basil being pronounced bay-sil instead of baa-sil and so on. No particular reason for this post, just something that occurred to me. Language is a funny, endlessly fascinating thing.

One Local Summer - Week 6

I'm late again, sorry. However, I had a marathon cooking session yesterday (not really, but it felt a bit like it) and have made lots of extras so that I'll be eating local or nearly local every day this week. I also checked the place I got my white wine vinegar from as mentioned in my post on tomato ketchup below and it's from Breisach in Germany which according to ViaMichelin is 1,263 km (bit less than 800 miles) away - so definitely not local then.

First up then is bistecca all' pizzaiola which is beef in a tomatoey garlicy sauce but that description really doesn't do this dish justice so I stick with the Italian name.

For the beef, I used a housekeepers cut (which is only €10.50 a kilo, I got about 500g) cut into four slices - more or less, decent knives are one thing I don't have so it was more like three slices and some diced bits for a fourth portion. Meat was browned on each side and then put into a casserole dish. Meanwhile I chopped an onion and a couple of cloves of garlic and fried them in some olive oil. A tin of tomatoes was added to this with salt, pepper, basil and oregano and the whole lot simmered for fifteen minutes then poured over the beef and put into a low oven for an hour or so. This should normally be served with a baked potato and peas or a green salad but I had no greens so just did some potato. It was absolutely fabulous, the meat was meltingly good and very, very tasty.

Beef - from Coolanowle about 57 miles
Potatoes - organic, from market, Denis Healy sold, definitely Irish but not sure if from his farm or not.
Onion - forgot to ask, also organic, Denis Healy sold but not Irish (onions are on my list of exceptions)
Garlic - French (also an exception)
Tomatoes - I used a tin from the cupboard, Italian tomatoes so not local but have been in the cupboard for ages so I'm counting them as a storecupboard ingredient. I did intend to use the tomatoes I had cooked and frozen a couple of weeks ago but had already added them to my lentils (see below) by the time I remembered I was aiming for local on this meal! So, instead of one almost entirely local meal and one not, I have a mixture.
Dried basil and oregano from cupboard.

My second dish was not very local at all (bar the tomatoes which should have gone with the beef above!) but will last me for at least six meals I think.

Lentil stew with chorizo.

Lentils - from cupboard. Another item that's been sitting in my cupboard for ages but in Tupperware so no label to tell me where they're from. I'm pretty certain you can't get Irish lentils but that these are organic.
Chorizo - from local cheesemongers - label was blurry but I believe this was from France.
Tomatoes - Irish, bought and cooked down a few weeks ago and used from freezer
Potatoes - Irish, organice, bought from Denis Healy
Onion - as above
Garlic - as above
Rosemary - garden

I also made a broccoli and herb quiche - tried to be clever and make wholewheat pastry for this but obviously there's a different technique for making pastry using wholewheat flour so it ended up more like biscuit than anything else. Haven't tasted it yet so will be interesting to see what it's like.

Pastry made using organic Irish wholewheat flour (Co. Tipperary) and handmade butter (purchased from Coolanowle but made by a neighbour of theirs).
Eggs - Co. Meath
Broccoli - Irish, organic, bought from Denis Healy
Courgette - garden (only a mini one)
Tomato - first from the garden, a cherry tomato, half of which I ate (soooo good) and the other half sliced in two to add a bit of colour
Scallions - garden
Chives, thyme, oregano - garden

Doing a bit better on the local front for this one. Next time I think I'll just do a pastryless quiche.

I still have some mince at home which I bought from Coolanowle as well, will be doing something with that this evening. I think a bolognese style sauce made using the Irish tomatoes I bought at the market this weekend.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Best blog for photos?

Just wondering if anyone has experience of what type of blog (the free type that is) is best for a blog which would involve a lot of photos? I don't like posting photos of people I know for all and sundry to see, especially photos of kids. However, I was thinking of setting up a blog with restricted access which I and a few of my siblings could use to keep in touch and shares news, photos etc. Does anyone do anything like that already? Is it even possible to have a private blog? Any pointers on the best place to start looking into this appreciated.

Garden July 2007 or, is this blight?

How many posts have I seen with the "is this blight?" title on them over the last month or so? Quite a few, so you'd think by now I'd know what it looks like but honestly every picture I've seen and description I've read seems to be just a bit different from the last. So, is this blight?

I've taken off the few leaves that looked like that but I'm wondering whether to cut the whole plant back, wait a couple of weeks then dig up whatever's there. Or to take a chance and wait to see if any more brown spots develop. I did try to dig down into the soil a few weeks ago to see if there were any small potatoes there but only found one eensy one so to be honest I'm really not sure there's anything happening down below at all.

There were a couple of flowers on the other plant in the tyres with this one a few weeks ago but they didn't stay for very long. This opened just the same day as I noticed the brown spots though, isn't it pretty?

These other potatoes are out in the front garden, just a few old ones from the cupboard which I didn't think would do anything but they seem to like it there (even though it's in shade for a good part of the day and until this week it has been raining a lot). I'm kind of hoping these will be a crop for Christmas.

In other garden news (apart from the brown spots I found) Tuesday was a very exciting day. So, with my apologies for the quality of the photos, here's exhibit number 1:

Cue me jumping up and down exclaiming (in a weirdly high-pitched voice), "Ooh, it's a pea. I have a pea!".

And exhibit number 2:

Me: "it's gone red, it's gone red!!!". Aaah, it really is the simple things in life that can bring the most pleasure.