Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Just Before You Go, Summer.....

Well, these last few mornings there is a definite autumny shiver in the early air, the top of Bray Head has a wooly cap of damp clouds just sitting on it, and the milky sunlight filters through the apple boughs that are literally bowing under their swag. School is looming, literally imminently, and we are getting ready to embrace our first autumn in a house with heating in it! Suddenly, my love for this season has grown tenfold.
Fittingly, a whole new chapter is beginning for me, in so many ways I couldn't list them here, their microscopicness adding up to a Significantness that thrills me and excites me and has me revving to go.

But first, as a Last Blast before that school business is upon us, and to celebrate the return of my man, we took ourselves off on a little adventure, back across this island of ours again, this time out into the west of Ireland. Poor Jay missed all our traipsing and trekking, all our adventuring on beaches and down boreens, and all the fine, unexpected weather we had, so we just had to squeeze something in. And if this mild weather continues into the autumn, we will just do the same, we will take it and run with it for as long as we can.

We rolled along the winding roads, under those white skies that shower occasional fine rain, that sit high and hard above us, not gloomy, but with a bright glare that turns the landscape into a glowing, magical vista. Everything about it so familiar to myself and Jay, though it's been two decades since we were here, and I found my heart filled with fondness, with tender memories of those young things we were when last we walked the streets of Galway city. Oh how we have changed!

And of course, there had to be a beach, and an extra special one this time, a glowing wonder of a coral beach, the likes of which I'd never seen. The water appeared tropical in it's hues, set as it is against the glow of the coral sand, but I can vouch that it is by no means tropical! It was cold! But in we got, regardless, and it was delicious.

We took a winding road back, the scenic route, stopping whenever we fancied. Meandering, I think is the word, and I savoured the pleasure of unhurried meandering, for I know it is coming to an end now, for another year.

But in the midst of my lament for the end of summer, I admit, I have never felt so ready to get back into the swing and routine of school, of all that autumn brings.
In spite of missing Jay, or perhaps because of it, along with the good weather, we have had The Best Summer Ever. We had to, or it would have been unbearably lonely without him. I have never been more grateful for the brilliant timing of a Random Act of Nature, for this out of the blue amazing summer we had, for it allowed us an excuse to make the most of it, and get out there and enjoy it.

And so, back home now, it's the first day of school, for some, and as I sit with my steaming cup, looking out my window at the slightly worn and fading green that looks partied out and hung over,  the early morning sun is now creeping over the top of the headland, and I hear the first stirrings upstairs, the creak of floorboards above my head, the murmur of sleepy voices. 
And so it begins.

Thursday, 22 August 2013

Date Oat, And Orange Squares from Milkmoon Kitchen.

Sweet things. They are the challenge for me, and while I don't have much of a sweet tooth anymore, I still like to provide treats for Jay and the kids that are healthy, and that I can eat, if I feel like it. I have two children who will devour any treats I make, and two who won't, unless there is chocolate involved. Anything too healthy looking they won't even look at. This here is something I love to make when I do feel like something sweet, and even if the two fussy ones won't eat it, the rest of us do, with gusto.

This recipe is from one of my favourite books, Blazing Salads, which is also a vegetarian, wholefood deli at 42 Drury St. Dublin. When we were living in Dublin, they had a restaurant in the Powerscourt Townhouse, and I would go miles out of my way, if I had to, to get some of their pumpkin, sweet potato and almond turnovers, or their brown rice balls with aduki beans. It was our number one place to meet certain friends, people who equally appreciated their, for it's time, groundbreaking cuisine. Gosh, I miss that place.... These days, any time I get into the city they are still on my list of places to visit, any time I can.

Dates do have a pretty high sugar content, so have a high GI content, but they have so much other good stuff in them like fiber, calcium and potassium, that it makes them a wonderful, occasional treat.


985g pitted dates
140ml fresh orange juice
240g organic fine oatflakes
120g brown rice flour
90g ground almonds
1 orange
150ml natural sunflower oil
50ml organic apple juice concentrate

Oven: Gas 5, 190C, 375F


1. Wash the dates, place in a pot and add water up to level with the top of the dates. Place a lid on top, bring to the boil, lower the heat and simmer for 20 minutes. Stir 40ml of the fresh orange juice and mix until smooth. Set aside.

2. Oil a 23cm (9in) square baking tin and line the bottom with greaseproof paper. Oil the paper.

3. In a mixing bowl mix the oatflakes, rice flour, and ground almonds together. Using a zester, remove the rind of the orange and mix with the dry ingredients. Stir in the sunflower oil, apple juice concentrate, orange juice, and the juice from the zested orange into the dry ingredients. Mix well.

4. With dampened fingers, press two thirds of the mixture firmly into the baking tin. Spread the dates on top. Gently press the remainder of the mixture on top of the dates.

5. Bake in a preheated oven for 40 minutes, or until golden. Allow to cool and slice into about 12 pieces.

 Even though it has the same mixture on top and on the bottom, baking it makes the top golden and crumbly, while all that orange juice soaking into the bottom makes it deliciously damp and moist.
It keeps for a few days in the fridge, if it lasts that long without being eaten, and is delicious for breakfast the next day, especially with a good dollop of natural yogurt, for those who fancy it.


Sunday, 18 August 2013

Holding Fast.

I'm afraid I'd have nothing more to show you here but more beaches, for there have been many more since last I wrote.
There has also been occasional rainy days, though there is a faint whisper of autumn in the morning now, and the apple tree in the garden is laden with red, ripening fruit, and we are beginning to tingle with that sense of urgency now, to cram in as much Summer as we can before the leaves begin to turn.
Yet again, Jay has been away for six weeks now, has missed this marvelous summer we have had, all the way across the other side of the world, in Australia. We have kept ourselves busy, true, but it's not the same without him.

Portrait Of My Sleeping Husband.
(I did this of Jay just before he left)

We are counting the days until we see him, and then there will be yet more cramming while we ignore the calendar that goes on counting down without us, to the return of School. That we will ignore, yes, until the last possible day, and take ourselves off again, over the mountains to visit some dear friends, and then on until we reach the other side of this island.

We will not think of that other S word until the bell rings and we really have to.

In the next day or so, I will have something new to share. And maybe some of those beaches.