Away with the fairies of Ireland

There’s a lot of mythology in Ireland. A lot. There are banshees and piseogs and leprechauns and lands of eternal youth but of all my favourite pieces of folklore are the fairies.

People hold the fairies in such high regard that road routes have been altered because the construction workers would not build through a fairy fort. To alter or damage a fairy fort in any way was guaranteeing yourself gross misfortune and right up to the 1950s housewives in rural Ireland would shout before throwing the washing water out the door in case a fairy was passing by.

Living in Dublin doesn’t mean you’re any further away from the fairies and in a park very close to where I live I love to visit the Fairy Tree.

The Fairy Tree

The tree is a home for the fairies in the woods around Marlay Park in Rathfarnham, a suburb of Dublin, and is a place for people to leave notes for the little people or small gifts to keep them onside!

The Fairy Door

 

The detailing on the tree is amazing – it never fails to make me smile and though I know how it came to be there and know better than to tell anyone I believe in fairies I always peek in the window, knock on the door and say hello to the little ones!

 

The Fairy Tree Window

The best Irish brown bread recipe ever

One of my favourite things growing up was my mum’s brown bread straight out of the oven covered in butter with slices of cheese slightly melting on top. I craved it more than I craved chocolate and is definitely where my love of butter began.

Mum made her brown bread every single week without fail and it was eaten at every opportunity. When I started baking, recreating her brown bread was my inspiration.

Being a cocky young thing though I was always sure I could find my own recipe that would somehow be better but it was a foolish endeavour and in the back of my mind I knew it.

So I finally asked for the recipe and was rewarded with the best brown bread imaginable. Here is Celine’s original recipe. Like all my mum’s best ones it’s hand written and stuck in the back of her recipe binder. Improvements have been made over the years and the recipe tripled because when bread is this good you obviously have to make it three loaves at a time.

Irish Brown Bread

I made it this weekend because I wanted to convert her ounces to cups (I’m pretty sure nobody but my mam and I still measure things in the 1970s) and I planned to make just one loaf. I was still in the middle of that one when I knew already I’d make a second one. You have to, it’s that good.

So here’s what you’ll need:

2 & 1/4 cups of wholemeal flour

3/4 of a cup of plain flour

1 tsp salt

1 tsp baking soda

2 tsp baking powder

2 tbs bran

1 tbs wheatgerm

1/2 pint buttermilk

1 egg

2 tbs olive oil

1/2 tbs honey

Mix all your dry ingredients together in a bowl, mix all your wet ingredients together in a jug, then tip wet into dry and combine them thoroughly.

My mam says to tip it out and need it a little bit but to be honest it’s quite a wet mixture and is just very messy if you do that. I added about another half handful of flour to my mix because it was really very wet but you don’t have to. I did two types of loaf to show you one round, one in a loaf tin. In both cases I took some plain flour and dusted the baking sheet and the inside of the tin, this stops it sticking. Here’s the round loaf so you can see how wet and sticky it is…

 

 

uncooked round loaf

And here are the two loaves just before they went in the oven. The slashes are to help them cook evenly but there’s an old story that says that cutting a cross into the top of the loaf is blessing the bread, you’re supposed to prick each of the quarters then to ‘let the fairies out’ which is important if you don’t want fairies trapped in your loaf.

 

 

two uncooked loaves

 

You bake them in a 200c oven (just under 400f) for bang on 40 minutes (though for some reason I always check everything I cook at the time I’m told to and without fail give it five minutes more) and there you have it – the perfect brown bread!

Now, I know that people can be very protective of their mother’s brown bread and that you might massively disagree with me but trust me, this is not only delicious but foolproof and much nicer than anything you’ll bake from a packet.

Here’s a final picture – sliced and covered in butter (someone on Twitter quite rightly pointed out that I like a little bread with my butter). I bet you’re craving some right now.

The best brown bread ever

 

* This is how foolproof it is, I had no plain flour and used strong bread flour. It was still perfect. The last time I made it I had no olive oil in the house (I have no idea why) and used some melted and cooled coconut oil. It was still perfect. In fact I liked the coconut oil version so much I might stick to that in the future but you know, it’s foolproof so use what you have. Make it once with the recipe above and then when you realise how easy it is knock yourself out with your adaptations.

Recipe: Wild garlic pesto

I was walking Kramer this morning in the Phoenix Park when it started pouring rain. I ran for cover under some trees and was busy cursing the weather when I smelled something delicious. I realised I must have been really close to lots of wild garlic and so started wandering around to find it. Lo and behold there was a ton of it really close by so I picked a huge bunch without giving it a second thought. I got home put it in a colander and gave it a really thorough wash. Then I thought… mmm pesto!

Wild garlic

This isn’t as mush a recipe as a collection of ingredients thrown together. Keep tasting as you go along and when it’s delicious it’s ready.

 

Ingredients

Wild garlic
Pine nuts
Parmesan
Olive oil
Black pepper

Throw everything in the blender. For a bowl full of wild garlic I added just less than a quarter cup of pine nuts and a full quarter cup of parmesan. I kept adding oil until it was the consistency I was looking for.

I washed a jar I had in the press with boiling water to sterilise and filled it with the pesto.

I’m planning on boiling some baby potatoes and covering them in the pest for dinner tomorrow. I’ll be serving them with roast chicken and some garden peas for a summery take on a roast dinner.

I already know it will be delicious!

photo 2

 

The Perfect Dublin Day

I love Dublin. Like my parents I was born and bred here. We have no country cousins and most of my childhood memories centre on the city. We would lie on the floor in the Hugh Lane Gallery painting waiting for my mum to finish shopping, we collected stones for the garden on Donabate beach, our Santa was in Arnotts, good make-up was bought in Brown Thomas, the smell of hops meant you were in town proper.

I still love the city and my perfect day is hard to pin down. It depends on what you’re doing, whether it’s a shopping day or a wandering day or a party day. But I’ll try.

The Quays, Dublin

Get up early – not always easy in a city with as many pubs as Dublin has – but a walk through the city streets before the day has started is wonderful. All the better if it’s a clear morning after a rainy night – my favourite type of morning. To start I would head to Capel Street for coffee. It might be one of my favourite streets in town. The first time I lived alone my apartment was around the corner and Capel Street had everything I could want: good coffee, great Chinese takeout, furniture shops, antique shops, nail places and old Dublin women selling fruit from prams. The flower market is around the corner too. You really don’t need anywhere else.

Anyway I’d start my perfect day with coffee in Brother Hubbard. Well coffee and breakfast because I’m always hungry but I would try and limit myself because if it’s my perfect day I want to go for brunch, but anything on the Brother Hubbard menu is going to be good and you’ll leave happy (and caffeinated!).

Because we’re really close to the Luas line I’d jump on and go for a cycle in the Phoenix park. Hop off the Luas at Heuston Station and walk around the corner to the entrance of the park and hire a bike from the place at the gates. The park is huge but I would go to the first roundabout, take a left, zoom down the hill and explore from there.

The Quays, Dublin

You’ve done a workout so it’s time for brunch!! Get yourself back into town and head for Whitefriar Grill. I recommend the ham hock benedict but you can’t really go wrong here either. Oh, if you did go out the night before one of their Bloody Marys will cure you.

Time to go shopping now. There are so many great shops in Dublin but if I had to choose I would go to Brown Thomas, Folkster, Scout and Avoca. Then I would get all thoughts of clothes out of my head and spend about an hour in Fallon and Byrne. This food store in an old telephone exchange is one of my happy places. Shop for great food on the ground floor. Head downstairs for wine and tasting plates and to the top floor for lunch or dinner. But we’re only shopping right now so I’m staying on level 0.

Time for an afternoon snack so I’m going to The Wollen Mills a new eatery in a very old building on the quays. It’s part restaurant, part cafe, part bakery and all very good because it’s the sister business of The Winding Stair next door one of my favourite restaurants in Dublin.

Head along the Liffey now and hop on the Dart at Tara Street. My ideal Dublin day will always, always involve the sea so it’s time to go coastal. My favourite beach is the Hole in the Wall in Sutton and you’ll see it from the train as you head to Howth.

Walk the pier, wander around the village, go for a pint and then find yourself some seafood. I’d go to the Oar House. All the seafood is supplied by Dorans, which means it’s barely out of the water and is delicious. Get the platter and die happy.

Guinness

I’m going to be honest now, I’m fit for bed but if I’d a bit of energy left, I’d have a few more pints in Howth (making sure to get the last Dart back into town) or return to the city centre and set up shop in The Long Hall.  And I definitely wouldn’t be getting up early the next morning!

 

Main Image: Shutterstock
Images: Jennifer Stevens

Wedded Bliss

I still smile whenever I think about our wedding. It’s going to sound very cliche but believe me when I say it was the best day of my life. To be surrounded by so much love was overwhelming and I laughed and grinned and hugged my way through 13 hours of bliss!

We got married at Christmas which is pretty much my favourite time of year. You’re never guaranteed great weather in Ireland, even in the height of summer and I love a good crisp Irish day so December was perfect for me. All our friends and family were home from their travels for the holidays and we were able to give people a great day out in that strange few days between Christmas and New Year. I wouldn’t change anything about our day. The venue was perfect, Ballymagarvey Village is very close to Dublin while still feeling like it’s in the middle of a country. It’s an old mill house which has been renovated to the highest standard and outbuildings have been converted into guest accommodation, a bar and the function room. You have the whole place to yourself and your guests wander around as if they’re at a vintage house party. I still love my dress, the food, the weather, the atmosphere – the whole thing was all I could have wished for and more.

Here are some pictures (my husband is on the shy side so it’s just me) and I’ve mentioned all our suppliers at the end.

 

Bride Jen

 

Ballymagarvey Village

My Wedding

The Flowers

Bride Jen

 

Venue: Ballymagarvey Village www.ballymagarvey.ie

Dress: BHLDN www.bhldn.com

Flowers: The Garden Powerscourt thegardenpowerscourt.ie

J&M Letters: https://www.etsy.com/ie/shop/busybeevinyl

Photographer: Amy at http://www.rubistyle.com

Guaranteed good weather for your wedding

Did you know that there’s one sure fire way of getting good weather for your wedding? It doesn’t involve hiring fighter jets to disperse rain clouds or flying the entire wedding party to sub saharan Africa. No, the best way of guaranteeing good weather on your special day is by placing a small, headless, religious statue under a bush the night before.

The tradition of placing a statue of the Child of Prague in the front garden is generations old and is practiced all over the country from Kerry to Dublin to Donegal. Unlike many Irish traditions that are localised everyone in the country has hear of this one and would be more than happy to go along with it. Sure, it can only help, right?

Some people used to think that taping a coin to the underside of the statue would bring the house good fortune but that’s less widely believed than it’s ability to ward off storm clouds. It is said that the statue will only bring you good luck if the head falls off it but be careful, uncle Timmy kicking the head off the child especially for your wedding will do no good – the decapitation must happen by accident.

Good luck!

The Child of Prague

The Child of Prague