Friday, November 17, 2017

Irish Food

If all goes as planned, by the time you see this I’ll be back in West Cork, admiring the “improvements” to the cottage, including the very large rock, and collecting food supplies.

My husband hasn’t been there in a year, and my daughter, who will be joining us, hasn’t visited Ireland since 1999. Back then I remember a lot of terrible watery stews, all apparently based on the same recipe: Irish bacon (more or less like our ham), cabbage and potatoes. Place in a large pot, cover with water, and boil for a week or two. You could find it about anywhere in the country. (I will concede that the soda bread and local butter were always good.)

My, how things have changed! I was listing for my husband the places I wanted to revisit or visit for the first time on this trip, and far more than half turned out to be either restaurants or food vendors. At least my daughter has grown up to be a foodie, and is now a professional baker, when she isn’t acting with small theater troupes, and I want to show off to her what the Irish chefs have achieved since she was there last.

I’m torn between going to restaurants, large and small, versus buying fresh ingredients and cooking in my own tiny kitchen. When I acquired the cottage, the first thing I bought was a water-color from a local artist. After that I went straight to equipping the kitchen, before I bought more than a couple of pieces of essential furniture (a bed is handy, when the floor is concrete!). I’m getting by with the original appliances (although I am so coveting a Neff Slide-and-Hide stove, as seen on the Great British Baking Show—I think there’s room for it), but I’ve acquired decent cookware from a variety of second-hand dealers. And of course a hot-pot and French press for coffee, and a microwave.

Skibbereen Farmers' Market
I’ve raved about the Skibbereen Farmers’ Market before. Seafood, two tables of local cheeses (I’m partial to the gubbeen), locally smoked salmon, the lovely cookie and sweets baker I just discovered this past summer, bread in shapes I can’t even describe, vegetables that were picked that morning, plus assorted "tat."

Seafood, including monkfish!

This is only half the cheeses they have.
Mind you, this market has been there for centuries, literally—it is not the brainchild of a marketer who decided to create a magnet for upscale blow-ins (those pesky furriners who buy up the local properties—I don’t count as one because my name’s Connolly, and I had “people” in the area). People of all ages and descriptions show up at the market on a Saturday, then sit and chat. There’s a antiques dealer I’ve gotten to know (in his spare time he’s an editor and writes mysteries), and various people who have odds and ends to sell (at a very good price!). At this time of year there may be a jumble sale at the church on one side of the market. This isn’t food shopping—this is an experience. Which is why I always plan to be in the area for at least two Saturdays. 

And I adore the local supermarket, Field's SuperValu, which has food and more. 

Field's vegetable section: "Golden Wonder" potatoes
The candy aisle is six feet high and twenty feet long.

The baked goods are wonderful.

And this time of year you can get fresh game!

Oops—no recipe here! But I’m plotting one for my post next Friday, the day after Thanksgiving. Don’t yet know what it will be (turkey is unlikely—the Irish save that for Christmas--but maybe a pheasant?) but I’m hoping I can figure out how my 1950 cast-iron Rayburn cooker works and produce something edible.

My cooker (I've cleaned it up a
bit since). Fuel goes on the left,
and you bake on the right. I'm
still trying to figure out what some
of the other parts do!
Wish me luck! 

Oh, right, books. It's definitely a week for the County Cork Mysteries!

The trade paperback format for Cruel Winter will be released on December 12th (just in time for holiday giving!), and . . .

the next book in the series, Many a Twist, will be released in hardcover on January 9th! Read more about it here.

I won't give anything away, but a lot of old questions will be answered.


  1. Looking forward to Many a Twist! Love your old cooker!

  2. Many questions answered? Good! Your stove scares me. I'm not sure I'd try to cook in something so formidable looking.

  3. I can't wait for Twist to arrive. Enjoy your visit "home" and come back to us refreshed in body and soul.

  4. That is a market worth getting out of bed for!
    What is "tat"?
    Please post some pictures of the artistic breads.
    What is the usual fuel for your impressive oven?
    Have a wonderful time.

  5. So looking forward to Many a Twist!
    In my traveling days, I went to Ireland every year. My favorite meal was Brown bread with bacon and cabbage!

  6. Thanks for the great Irish food update. I want to hop on a plane and join you! Cheers. MJ

  7. Thanks for the quick peek at the setting for your wonderful Irish series. I’ve read 2 of them. #2 and #3. I guess my library didn’t have the first one. You cover the “back story” so well that I didn’t feel I had missed anything majorly important. Looking forward to the next one. Looks like I have a few to go before the new one is released. Fun to see the settings you describe. The cooker looks challenging! Good luck...enjoy!

  8. Your setting for the series sounds great!