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The Last of the Summer Wine

View Out My Irish Window (c)2013 La Domestique

The weather has turned cooler and a bit blustery here in Cavan. We’re coming up on my favorite time of year: autumn. I can feel a change in the quality of the light, more golden and soft. My focus has shifted inward, away from long summer drives and tending to my little herb garden. Instead I’m examining my nest, stocking up on home decor magazines and tidying up around the house. The nesting urge is stronger this year than it has been in a long time. Not knowing what to expect from an Irish fall and winter, I prepare myself for the darkness that will come and the damp chill I’ve been told will settle in. It all sounds so dismal, but I love bad weather — taking shelter in my warm, cozy home with a cuppa tea and a good book.

For now I’m enjoying the last of the summer wine. I’ve been greedily grabbing as many tomatoes as I can from the vegetable lady at my local farmers market in Cavan. It’s important to be first in line at the market, because the tomatoes go fast. I try to leave a few tomatoes for the other customers, but it’s hard to resist the lumpy heirlooms and rich plum tomatoes. I carefully carry several pounds home and my kitchen is filled with the musky aroma only a sun-ripened, garden-fresh tomato gives off.

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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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Strawberry, Spinach, and Quinoa Salad with Balsamic Vinaigrette

Spinach and Quinoa Salad with Strawberries and Balsamic (c)2013 La Domestique

Happy May Day to you! Here in Ireland, spring has been slow to reveal herself. Though the weather has been unseasonably cool, I do see a bit more sunshine and the breeze feels a tad warmer with each passing day. I’ve been waiting for the morning frosts to depart so I can plant my herb garden. We’re renting a house after years living in the concrete jungle of an apartment complex, so I’m looking forward to having room for growing plants and a shed to store bags of compost and gardening tools. Here in Cavan we’ve got a lovely local bookshop,the Crannóg, where I picked up a copy of Grow Your Own Crops in Pots, by Kay Maguire and the Royal Horticultural Society. Are you into container gardening? Please do share any tips or plants you love to grow in the comments section.

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Greetings From Ireland and a Recipe for Blueberry Parfait

Blueberry Parfait (c)2013 La Domestique

Greetings from Ireland! We arrived in our new home town of Cavan yesterday and the sun has been shining the whole time (which I’m taking as a good sign). Cavan is in the north, just 15 minutes from Northern Ireland. It’s marked by rolling green hillsides dotted with fluffy white sheep and spotted cows. I like it out here. It’s quieter and more laid back than the big city of Dublin. I will say though, ever since we got off the plane everyone has been so welcoming! People are very friendly and kind here. They do talk fast and I’m often looking towards the husband for translation of what was just said. Hopefully I will quickly develop an ear for it. We’re staying in a B & B owned by a family with three very young boys running around. The whole family is lively and fun and our bed is comfy so I’m quite happy. This morning the mother made us a full Irish breakfast, which was a real treat (rashers, black and white pudding, broiled tomato, Irish bacon, eggs, brown bread and scones)! The husband felt like he was finally back home again.

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Celebrate Spring with Pasta Primavera

Pasta Primavera (c)2013 La Domestique

Happy first day of spring! I am so excited for warmer days, gardening, and eating tender spring vegetables. How about you? One dish I look forward to enjoying this time of year is Pasta Primavera, or “Spring Pasta.” This dish is a celebration of all things green, open to variation based on what’s available at the farmer’s market or what you have to harvest in your garden. I’ve combined asparagus, baby zucchini, basil, chive, and parsley, but peppery arugula leaves, peas, leeks, spring onions or ramps would be lovely substitutions. Lemon adds a bit of brightness and crushed red pepper contributes a surprisingly welcome heat. Crumbled soft goat cheese serves as a creamy, tangy garnish.

Serve Pasta Primavera at room temperature – it’s perfect for entertaining friends al fresco. Take advantage of the first warm day that comes your way with a bottle of crisp, refreshing white wine and a leisurely weekend lunch on the patio. Buon appetito!

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Irish Brown Soda Bread and a Big Announcement

Irish Brown Soda Bread (c)2013 LaDomestique

Today I’ve got a recipe for Irish Brown Soda Bread to share with you, not just because St. Patrick’s Day is fast approaching,

but also in celebration of some big news! As the Irish say, Come here to me, wait till I tell you.

You may have noticed things have been a bit quiet around here at La Domestique. That’s because we’ve had a lot going on behind the scenes.

We’ve been doing a lot of wishing, a lot of hoping, and a lot of planning. We’ve been pacing and waiting.

Now the wait is over and IT’S ALL HAPPENING!

We are moving to Ireland!!!

I’ve mentioned before that the husband was born and raised in Tipperary, Ireland, and we’re thrilled to be moving back to his home country.

I’ll be sharing more details as we find a new home and get settled. We’ve purchased one-way plane tickets and we leave on April 1st!

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About Jess

Jess O'Toole is La Domestique

Hi, I’m Jess, aka La Domestique. No matter how busy or cooking-challenged you are I can help you live the good life and enjoy fresh, healthy meals at home every day. Find out more

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