Watch out on RTÉ One tonight for a programme called Home which features none other than finger-lickin’ Monica Sheridan! I discovered Monica or, rather, one of her cookbooks in a second hand bookshop in Athlone last year and Monica’s Kitchen is a treasure indeed. As well as useful recipes it is full of entertaining opinions – my favourite is her take on boned chicken: “Frankly, I wouldn’t recommend it, but, if you want to see green in the eyes of the women and hear the praise of gluttonous men ringing in your ears, well, here goes.” – and ahead of her time recipes and ingredients (anyone for foie gras and risotto in 1960s Ireland?).
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Cookbook sections in secondhand bookshops can be a little hit or miss. There’s always a pile of microwave cookbooks – no one, for some reason wants to hang onto these dodgy and dated texts – a scattering of horrible diet books and often lots of ancient Family Circle publications, with their “triple-tested in the test kitchens” claim, but, rarely something that you actually want to cook from, let alone buy. Still, I live in hope, so a recent trip to Athlone had to include a browse in the local secondhand bookshop (I still haven’t discovered its name) which turned out to be a most amazing example of its kind.
Very important to have Lots of Stuffing.
As a result of developing and testing these recipes for my recent Christmas cookery demonstration at Bulgaden, the Husband came home from the brewery on more than a few days to be faced with a dinner of assorted stuffings. You know what I discovered? Pile a plate high with stuffing, add some hearty salad on the side – something like this Crunchy Apple ‘Slaw or Broccoli, Tomato and Avocado Salad would be good – fry an egg in chilli oil, slide it on top and, hey presto!, you’ve got a real meal.
With St Patrick’s Day being tomorrow, one’s thoughts turn to food. Specifically food of an Irish sort, which includes, naturally enough, all things potato. So when I was reading through my recently acquired copy of Margaret Bates’ Talking about Cakes with an Irish and Scottish Accent, her recipe for Potato Apple Cake caught my eye. She said it was a delicacy from the orchard districts of Co Armagh but didn’t give an exact recipe, describing it as two rounds of potato cake sandwiching an apple filling and cooked on the griddle.
Our first weekend of the year under canvas couldn’t exactly be called an unqualified success. We did actually remember to pack the sleeping bags (and Anzac Biscuit morale) but, despite such forethought, it wasn’t exactly the weather for camping in the west of Ireland. The heavens opened early on Sunday morning, raining us off Achill Island and we had to retreat to an old-school bed & breakfast in Westport back on mainland Mayo. At least we managed to have a cold, but fine, Friday night breaking our journey at the ever-reliable Lough Ree campsite in Ballykerran, near Athlone before moving on to the beautiful-on-a-fine-evening Seal Caves Park in Dugort on the north side of Achill Island. We cooked dinner outdoors on our little gas burner – a typical simple one-pot camping meal of Clonakilty Black Pudding, roughly chopped mushrooms and baked beans – and drank red wine in the still-warm late evening sunshine, feeling like summer had finally arrived.