The Taste of Cavan, Ireland

I’m feeling very lucky at the moment. When we moved to Cavan Town (population 5,600) I expected lots of rolling hills and sheep. I didn’t expect to find a passionate community of artisanal food producers and chefs in the greater County Cavan (population 52,900). Recently the people of County Cavan came together for the second annual Taste of Cavan event to showcase artisanal foods and talented chefs. Over two full days butchers sold sausages, bakers touted pies and Irish soda bread, cheesemakers brought their wheels, ice creameries scooped cones, jam makers sold preserves and a chocolatier traded her confections. Local chefs and celebrity chefs gave cooking demos. The Irish Countrywomen’s Association held a summer berry pie competition, Corleggy Cheese featured their Caven-bert, and the iconic 99 made it’s debut in adorable cupcake form. For me, the highlight of the weekend was meeting Clodagh McKenna, someone I’ve admired since I first saw her show, Clodagh’s Trails, on public television in America. Clodagh is an entrepreneur, a cookbook author, restauranteur, and Irish foods advocate. Her enthusiasm is contagious, and I love that Darina Allen dubbed her, “The woman who makes things happen.” I heartily suggest all my American friends check out her cookbooks, Clodagh’s Kitchen Diaries and Homemade: Irresistible Homemade Recipes for Every Occasion.

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Poached Fish with Tomato-Saffron Broth and Garden Vegetables

Poached Fish with Tomato Saffron Broth (c) 2013 La Domestique

Back in April I arrived in Ireland with all my worldly possessions packed into two suitcases, including my cherished copper fish poacher. Snatched up at a second-hand shop, it’s one of my favorite finds. I especially love the detail in the handles shaped like fins and the tiny metal fish perched atop the lid. The hours leading up to our flight were fairly traumatic as I tried to stuff the few belongings I hadn’t sold into our unforgiving luggage. At the last minute clothes were thrown out and tough decisions were made as I lingered over what I couldn’t bear to leave behind. It’s a strange thing, parting with all the stuff you’ve accumulated over the years. I dove into the process head first, fully committed to the idea of starting over. In the end, it is “just stuff,” but to this day I do grieve letting certain things go. A friend advised us not to put our home in a storage unit because that makes it harder. She said keeping memories stored in the States is like keeping part of your heart there and you’ve got to make the leap into a new life without reservation or you’ll never have a fighting chance. Our possessions mean home, and home is where the heart is.

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Spanish Tortilla with Red Peppers, Chorizo and Manchego

Spanish Tortilla with Red Peppers, Chorizo and Manchego (c)2013 La Domestique

I’ve got a real thing for Spain (I told you this before).

The language, the small plates and brash flavors, the artisanal meats and cheeses, afternoon siesta, eating late- I love it all.

Lately I’ve been obsessed with roasting red peppers. Maybe it’s a  yearning for the sultry heat of high summer? The weather has been quite pleasant here in Ireland, but it doesn’t feel like the blistering hot summers I’m used to. Whenever the sun breaks through the clouds I sprint outside and roll up my jeans to soak up a few rays and it feels like heaven.

I’ve never been crazy about roasted peppers, but the craving struck me and now I’m preparing them a couple of times a week. I slather the capsicums in oil and toss onto a baking sheet placed as close to the broiler as I can get it. In minutes their heady aroma escapes the oven and fills my kitchen, making my mouth water. Occasionally I open the door, turning the peppers so their skin blackens and blisters evenly. After about 20 minutes I pull them from the oven and drop into a large glass bowl, covering the peppers in plastic wrap so they steam. This makes it easier to peel the thin skins after the peppers cool. There’s something meditative about gingerly removing the outer casing to reveal their soft, meaty insides. It’s a fiddly task, like peeling a hard-boiled egg, but I take my time and marvel at the beauty of it while carefully scraping out the seeds. When I think of roasted red peppers I think of Spain. I think of Grilled Spring Onions with Romesco Sauce, marinated red pepper salads, and gazpacho. If you follow La Domestique on Instagram you may have noticed I cook a Spanish tortilla about once a week. From what I understand, this large, flat skillet “omelet” is traditionally made with just onions and sliced potatoes, but it occurred to me that roasted red peppers would be delicious in a tortilla with smoky Spanish chorizo and savory Manchego cheese.

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Bon Voyage with A Suitcase and A Spatula

Raspberry Croissant Bread Pudding, photo (c)2013 La Domestique

Bonjour! Today we travel to France with Tori Haschka’s new cookbook, A Suitcase and A Spatula! I’ve followed her beautifully written recipe blog, eatori, for years and couldn’t wait to dive into Tori’s debut book of “recipes and stories from around the world.” The book is divided into 4 chapters dedicated to breakfast, then summer, winter and finally, dessert. Tori tells the tale of traveling the world with her other half, The Hungry One; each page a new destination with a story (sometimes funny, sometimes serious, always touching) and a recipe. She has a way with words, demonstrated perfectly in the book’s intro, ” More than a photo, a journal entry or a pair of souvenir cufflinks, it’s the food that keeps the journeys alive.” 

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How to Combat Veggie Boredom for Great British Chefs

Strawberry and Fennel Carpaccio (c)2013 La Domestique

Hello there! I’m sad to have been so quiet for the last couple of weeks here at La Domestique, but I was very sick in the hospital with a stomach bug. The husband took great care of me and our new Irish friends and neighbors were so kind and supportive. I’m feeling much better and excited to share some of my latest work with you today. It’s National Vegetarian Week in Britain, and the fantastic website, Great British Chefs, invited me to contribute a blog post celebrating vegetables. You’ll find my piece, “How to Combat Veggie Boredom,” on their website. I had a great time thinking up bold and punchy flavor pairings for unique vegetable dishes. It’s all about playing with color, highlighting seasonal flavors, and adding a variety of textures to the dish. Click the Great British Chefs icon below to find inspiration on cooking with vegetables in season right now as well as two of my original recipes: Strawberry and Fennel Carpaccio and Grilled Broccoli with Black Olive Tapenade.

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