Simple Salmon & Links I Like

It is a lazy Monday evening with rain rhythmically tapping on the window and a fire crackling in the hearth. I am catching my breath for 10 minutes as my salmon parcels cook in the oven.  They make for a simple weeknight dinner that is both healthy and tasty, the kind of dish that is perfect to start the week with. Loads of flavour, no guilt.  To be honest this dish hardly represents a recipe at all but nonetheless I will share it.
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Serves 2

Ingredients:

  • 16 cherry tomatoes
  • 1 courgette, thinly sliced
  • 1 red onion, roughly chopped
  • 2 cloves of crushed garlic
  • 2/3 Tbs basil pesto
  • A handful of fresh basil
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and Pepper

Method:

Preheat the oven to 200C. Cut the tinfoil into two rectangles, large enough to comfortably fit the salmon fillets and vegetables. Lightly drizzle the tinfoil with olive oil.  Place one  salmon fillet in the centre.

In the meantime, half the cherry tomatoes and place them in a bowl.  Add some thinly sliced courgette and some finely chopped red onion.  Scatter in a handful of torn basil.  Mix everything together.

Spoon the vegetable mix onto the tinfoil, closely surrounding the salmon.  Season everything with salt and pepper and dot the salmon with a little pesto.  Wrap up the foil to form a parcel and bake for 20 mins or until the salmon is cooked and the vegetables are tender.

Serve the salmon in its parcels with some sweet potato fries and steamed green beans. Relax and enjoy.

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After dinner, I like to curl up for a half an hour and catch up on some reading. Today I am revisiting some of the offerings from last week’s explorations in the virtual realm that made me think, or smile or just linger for a few moments.  I hope they have the same effect on you!

First off, would you let a kitchen timer control your life?  Look at how this writer fared out when he did exactly that.  It wouldn’t be for me but he proposes a thought-provoking thesis.

These stories from The Guardian of conversations that changed people’s lives are some of the most entertaining anecdotes I have read in a long time. Read them here and ask yourself what one conversation changed your life.

I know most of the world is now familiar with the John Lewis 2015 advert but this one from 2013 is still my favourite.  Love the cuteness of it The Bear and The Hare

Dr Seuss, along with Winnie the Pooh, offers a wealth of wisdom to carry through life and with the mania of Black Friday and Cyber Monday, maybe we need a little reflection on the words of the reformed Grinch

“Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before! What if Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store. What if Christmas…perhaps…means a little bit more!”
–Dr. Seuss, How the Grinch Stole Christmas!

This drawing is just too cute!

I will definitely be ordering a couple of these best-selling books for some light holiday reading, as I spend a few weeks relaxing with my husband and our dog in our little holiday cottage in rural Ireland, close to my mum and dad.

I decided that this brown sugar cinnamon french toast (from Jillain Harris’ Blog) may be worth every single one of the 10,000,000 calories but it will have to wait for another day, as the overripe bananas sitting in the fruit bowl prompted me to make Chocolate Chip Banana Bread instead – my second cake in a week. I also have a loaf of wholemeal bread cooling on the rack. This baking thing may well become a habit, I just love the sweet smells wafting around the kitchen.  Simple pleasures are surely the best kind.  As Thoreau remarked, “Our life is frittered away by detail. Simplify! Simplify!”
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Simple Sunday Pleasures.

I love that every week has a Sunday, in the same way that I groan a little about the fact that they each have a Monday. Sunday is one day where I feel excessive laziness is justifiable.  So in the spirit of relaxation I find some time to cuddle up and read a little poetry.

Today, at the end of a week dedicated to gratitude and being thankful, I spent a little time reflecting on Sheenagh Pugh’s, “What if This Road”. Why?  Because to me the poem is a wonderful metaphor for life’s journey. Many, many days our road is familiar and well travelled and yet still life retains the ability to surprise us and knock us just a little off our stride. Usually when we least expect it. In reality, there is little in this world we can be entirely certain of and Steinbeck’s best laid plans, like most of ours, often go awry. But would we really want it any other way?  Is some of the magic of life not its inherent unpredictability?

What If This Road

What if this road, that has held no surprises
these many years, decided not to go
home after all; what if it could turn
left or right with no more ado
than a kite-tail? What if its tarry skin
were like a long, supple bolt of cloth,
that is shaken and rolled out, and takes
a new shape from the contours beneath?
And if it chose to lay itself down
in a new way; around a blind corner,
across hills you must climb without knowing
what’s on the other side; who would not hanker
to be going, at all risks? Who wants to know
a story’s end, or where a road will go?

~ Sheenagh Pugh ~

Today I am cooking for one, so a traditional Sunday roast may be a little excessive.  Instead I have opted for a warm and comforting cottage pie, that can bubble away in the oven, filling the house with its meaty, wonderful aromas. I am using Nigella’s recipe, just reducing the quantity and swapping beef for lamb (because that is what I have in the fridge). There is just something almost soothing about fluffy mashed potatoes, that is just irresistible to me on miserable winter’s evenings.  And dinners that make perfect lunches are so welcome at this time of year.

I am also doing a little online shopping for these very cosy looking ASOS PJs 

Image 1 of ASOS His & Her Robot Tee & Legging Pyjama Set

Some simple MAC eyeshadows

And procrastinating between a city break in Edinburgh or Amsterdam for early 2016.

I hope you are having a great Sunday too xxxx

 

Baking my first Cake…

 

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“You’ve got this life and while you’ve got it, you’d better kiss like you only have one moment, try to hold someone’s hand like you will never get another chance to, look into people’s eyes like they’re the last you’ll ever see, watch someone sleeping like there’s no time left, jump if you feel like jumping, run if you feel like running, play music in your head when there is none, and eat cake like it’s the only one left in the world!”  C. JoyBell C.

I love this concept and as appreciating life goes I don’t think I do too bad a job.  My problem is I simply don’t have enough cake in my life, mostly because pottering in my kitchen almost always leads to the production of something savoury as opposed to sweet.  There is good reason for this – the ad hoc nature of cooking suits my particular brand of chaos far more than the precision of baking.  My ability to create mouth-watering desserts appears to have got lost during the creation process as the chocolate mousse, the tart tatin, the apple pie and the pavlova that all found there way to the nearest bin will attest to. But today is the day to start to right this wrong.

And so I am currently in the process of baking my first cake. I selected carefully, knowing my limitations and deduced that the simplest looking option was a Lemon Drizzle Cake.  Added bonus, I love this not too sweet, perfect with coffee, offering.  And so it begins….

As I don’t bake, I have no real equipment, so creaming butter and sugar by hand was a fairly vigourous and slightly painful way to start the day.  But I got there with tortoise steps and a few rest stops.  The rest of the cake mix seemed pretty straight-forward and licking the bowl was nostalgic and reassuring.  So in to the oven it went.

Then the panic phase….the recipe says 45 mins.  45 mins is up.  I don’t think it is cooked!!!! Leave it in longer? Will it not burn?  Maybe it is supposed to be a little wobbly?  Ask google!! The skewer is not clean.  Leave it in longer….panic!

Ok so left it 10 more minutes, with obsessive checking and I think it’s done….or burnt.  So just have to make the drizzle and let it cool.  Then coffee and the taste test.  Feeling nervous!!!!

From a purely visual perspective..it looks like a cake, albeit one a ten year old might make.  I wasn’t quite precise enough with the lining of the tin and so the edges are a  little imperfect…lesson learnt for next time. As for the taste?  A very pleasant surprise, it cut perfectly, the drizzle is wonderfully tart, the cake itself sweet and buttery.  If I were to make it again (and I definitely will) I would add some lemon juice as well as zest to the cake batter itself.  Otherwise a success topped with some lightly whipped cream…sweet and delicious!!

Here is the link to the recipe, it is by Tana Ramsey and I found it on the excellent BBC Goodfood site.

I have now polished off several slices to the mellow, quirky sounds of the Whitestripes, a little of The Lumineers, Colbie Caillat’s Bubbly and a steaming coffee.  I was also flicking through “Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?” for some light-hearted reading and nodding in agreement with phrases like:

“One friend with whom you have a lot in common is better than three with whom you struggle to find things to talk about.”  

That type of friend is the perfect person to share a slice of lemon drizzle cake with.

Have a great day.  Eat Cake.  Maybe even bake one!!!! xx

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I am thankful for…

Did you ever wake up and just know it was going to be a bad day?  You had a sixth sense or you created some sort of self-fulfilling prophesy because you gave this random feeling oxygen. And then the day played out exactly as you feared it would.

Today was one of those days.  A day when the weight of negativity felt a bit like a concrete block must feel on the back of a ladybird.

But on finally arriving home and closing the door on a day best erased from memory, I remembered that today is Thanksgiving on the other side of the Atlantic.  And so I hit on the perfect form of catharsis – stop, re-evaluate and realise just how lucky I am – everyday.

So here is my top 5 things to be thankful for:

Positive People:   Everyday I am inspired, elevated and motivated by the positive people in my life.  These people who not only make me reach for the stars but will lift me up on the days when I feel just a little too short to get there on my own.   I am so lucky to be surrounded by a little group of people who radiate that type of positivity.

Books:  “Books wash away from the soul the dust of everyday life”. 

Hobbies come and go.  Today I like to blog, tomorrow I may like to knit. I have plans to learn to bake cakes.  But books are a constant.  They are my friends, when people feel a little too much.  They are my favourite escape, my path to relaxation, my door to a million different lives. I don’t remember a time when this was not the case. I thank my mum for making stories and libraries part of our lives.  “The House At Pooh Corner”, when I can only have been about seven,  became my most memorable Christmas gift ever but I have got a book in a stocking for every one of the 36 Christmases I have lived through.  Despite all the classics that came after, and the innumerable books I have consumed, digested and forgotten, I still believe there are few occasions where Piglet and Pooh don’t have sage advice to offer.

Food:  I am a little obsessed with food.  I like to browse menus for restaurants I will probably never go to.  I read reviews of meals other people eat, in countries I have never visited.  I stare into the plates of other diners.  I own more cookbooks than I have shelves for. I wander around supermarkets everywhere I visit, to see what unfamiliar foods I might be missing out on.  I love to cook and be cooked for.  I love to eat in and go out to restaurants.  I find food extremely social but I am happy to eat alone.  Food is sensual and soulful.  In fact it one of the few daily experiences that stimulates all five senses.  We devour it with our eyes, its textures are multiple and diverse, it delights the nostrils with aromas that can make the mouth water, we hear it sizzle, crunch or pop and finally it tantalizes our taste buds.  Magic on a plate!!  How could I not be thankful?

food

Health:  Fingers crossed this doesn’t jinx things but I have great health.  I am rarely sick and seem to fight colds and flus off with ease.  I live life generally pain free. I take this for granted sometimes but I know it is a very precious gift. Wellness allows me the energy and zeal to attack each day and live a life that is generally incredibly happy and fulfilled.

Travel:  Anyone who thinks travel, especially travelling to live and work, is easy, has never left home. But travelling is incredibly rewarding and has taught me as much, if not more, than formal education ever could. It opens my mind and my heart.  It makes me inquisitive and empathetic.  It challenges me in so many ways.  I have never put a bag on my back, hopped on a plane or looked for a job in a foreign country and not learnt from it. The chance to travel made me who I am today, by making me realise that I am just a dot in a huge picture, but every dot makes it own mark!  I am the only person who can shape the impression I leave on life’s canvas.

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So there you have it….just five of the many things I am currently most grateful for.  What makes you smile and realise how lucky you are??

 

Winter Fashion

 

Winter clothes are my favourite. I like to feel snuggled in.  Think thick tights, woolly scarves, knee high boots and soft worn-in jumpers. Clothes that make the weather almost irrelevant. This weekend, I admit I went a little crazy with River Island’s seasonal offerings and bought all four of the pictured items.

But surely this is justifiable considering how versatile they are. Both the black and white plaid dress and the pink and grey tunic just need chunky black tights and comfy ankle boots to create a complete casual outfit; perfect for work, shopping, casual coffees…the list is endless.

Team the paisley skirt with a little cashmere cardi and some heels and I am set for Sunday dinner with the family or a casual drink with my other half.

And finally slip on a pair of OTK grey suede boots, thick grey tights and a chunky necklace and the grey sweater dress will work perfectly for a cheeky red wine with the girls or a catch-up with my sister-in-law over hot chocolates and marshmallows.

I love River Island for on-trend, affordable fashion and almost never leave empty handed.  If you feel the same, keep an eye out for their Flash Deals between 12pm and 2pm all this week or check out their amazing Black Friday offers in the sale section of their website.  I just picked up this fab navy bag for an incredible €30. Just add jeans, a cute top and a warm jacket.  xxxx

Irish Stew: Comfort in a Bowl

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My mother will find it deeply amusing when she discovers that not only do I occasionally cook Irish stew but now I am sharing my (her) recipe for this nostalgic dish.  You see stew for dinner is something I have complained about since I had enough words to complain. And even before this I apparently spat it out unceremoniously.  In fact I have been known, even in recent times, to turn my nose up at a steaming bowl of Ireland’s favourite comfort food. Simply put, I have never been a huge fan of meat that is slow cooked to that melt in the mouth texture, something that appears to place me firmly in the minority.

That said there are days when the air is damp and cold, I am tired from the stresses of the workplace and it seems like it is dark every time I step outside the door. These are the days when stew simmers on my stove. Today is one such day.

Stew is a childhood dish, its aroma is a memory, its preparation returns me to a different kitchen in a different home, where someone else lovingly chopped spuds and peeled carrots. It is a dinner that needs to be eaten with a spoon, that refuses to be rushed and that is indestructible to even the most novice of cooks.  And, despite my personal preference for pastas or risottos, steaks or sea bass, curries or crostini, there are still occasions when meat, potatoes and veg, cooked together slowly in one pot are just what the doctor ordered.  These are the days when food is about more than just taste, it is about home, simplicity and comfort.  So as the casserole dish bubbles away in the oven, I thought I would share my recipe for Ireland’s signature supper.

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Ingredients:

2 glugs of olive oil
4 lamb chops
1 onion, peeled and roughly chopped
2 parsnips peeled and roughly chopped
1 generous sprinkle of dried oregano
3 large carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
1 l (1¾ pints) beef or lamb stock
A handful of potatoes, peeled and quartered
A sprinkle of fresh parsley
sea salt and ground black pepper

Method:

Preheat the oven to 180°C.  Place a large, flameproof casserole pot over a high heat, add the olive oil and brown the lamb chops. Reduce the heat to medium–high, add the onion, potato, parsnip and carrot and simply toss with the meat for a minute or two.  Sprinkle in the oregano and pour over the stock, season generously with sea salt and ground black pepper and bring to the boil.  Cover the dish and place in the oven to cook for about 1 hour or until the meat is tender.  Sprinkle with chopped parsley and serve from warm bowls with buttered bread if desired.

And as you eat or read, think on the late Seamus Heaney’s wonderful poetic offering “When All the Others”, where mother and son prepare food together in the room that to me is the unquestionable heart of the home. They create far more than a meal that morning, they create a memory that lives on even after death.  Food brings families and friends together…it does not just sustain, it nourishes us in every possible sense.

When All the Others by Seamus Heaney

When all the others were away at Mass
I was all hers as we peeled potatoes.
They broke the silence, let fall one by one
Like solder weeping off the soldering iron:
Cold comforts set between us, things to share
Gleaming in a bucket of clean water.
And again let fall. Little pleasant splashes
From each other’s work would bring us to our senses.

So while the parish priest at her bedside
Went hammer and tongs at the prayers for the dying
And some were responding and some crying
I remembered her head bent towards my head,
Her breath in mine, our fluent dipping knives–
Never closer the whole rest of our lives.

So while I do not love the taste of stew, I love where the sight and smell of it transports me.  To the kitchen of my childhood, watching my mother and taking for granted the love she was adding to each meal she prepared for us.

Do we all have meals like that?  Meals that transport us to another place. Meals that are about something far more special than simply taste.  xx

 

Blogs: Light-hearted Inspiration

 

“She had always wanted words, she loved them; grew up on them. Words gave her clarity, brought reason, shape.” – The English Patient

I love reading. The written word has always captured my imagination in a way moving pictures never really could.  I read the classics and poetry, award winning fiction and popular fiction, newspapers and magazines. But in recent years I have also devoted a lot of time to the reading of blogs. Lifestyle blogs, travel blogs, food blogs and fashion blogs.  Like bite size glossy magazines with limitless diversity, blogs have given me hours of pleasure and so it was probably a logical leap for me to finally make the move from consumer to creator.

The motivation to create my own blog came in no small measure from reading so many of yours.  I love peeking through the windows of the lives of all you bloggers out there.  I enjoy the diversity of subjects, the tried and tested recipes, the travel posts, the reviews, the fashion and beauty advice and the inspirational ideas that you share.  I laugh with you and cry with you.  I agree with you and disagree with you.  I envy you and empathise with you.

And since starting to create my own content, I have found myself devouring even more of yours.  And so here are some of your words and images that have inspired me in the past week.  They come with thanks to all of you who tap keys in the different corners of the world, in order to share just a little of your story with all of us.

  • These dinner party tips shared on one of my all time favourite blogs, A Cup of Jo, inspired me to confront one of my greatest fears, hosting a dinner party!!!!
  • Any post that validates my love of coffee and chocolate is the rainbow on my showery day. Check it out here
  • Despite being in close proximity, I have somehow never made it to Scotland. Reading Lela’s travel guide to Edinburgh made me want to rectify this situation very soon.
  • Fleur Danielle’s list of things to put a smile on your face definitely had the desired effect on me.
  • Steve McCurry’s incredible photos of Afghanistan left me speechless.
  • A little festive reading list that for me would be a little track back in time to rediscover words that taught me to love words.  The timeless classic Little Women was one of the first novels I remember falling completely in love with.
  • And a winter recipe to make with love, for those you love.

Keep writing, keep posting, keep inspiring xxx

 

Perfect Sundays: Food & Fiction

Austin Clarke tried to encapsulate the beauty of The Planter’s Daughter by describing her as “the Sunday in every week”. The metaphor works for any of us who believe Sunday to be the jewel in the week’s crown.  It is a day where laziness seems appropriate, as the day stretches out in front of us, allowing us time to reflect on the week that was and look ahead to the one that will be.  Of course we all spend it differently but here is a little flavour of my perfect and thankfully, pretty typical, Sunday.

After coffee and a browse through the papers, the dog generally gets a longer walk than normal in a nearby forest.  We are lucky to live very close to two stunning woods, where the dog can run freely and we can stroll behind watching random squirrels scamper up nearby trees.

Unsurprisingly, today our woodland friends were mostly invisible, hibernating no doubt in some cosy hollow somewhere. But sleeping squirrels aside, on dry crisp days like today, it makes for a pretty perfect start.

Although my church-going is sporadic at best, I do like to feed the soul a little on Sundays.  To this end, I usually try and find a few minutes to indulge my passion for poetry.  Today, I cleared a few minutes to revisit the work of Pablo Neruda, the wonderful Chilean poet immortalised in the classic movie, Il Postino.  Neruda’s work makes me wish I could read Spanish, for as wonderful as it is in translation, the romance must be a surreal notch higher in his personal vernacular.

The choice for today was Sonnet 17, where Neruda considers love. http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poem/179257  From my very first reading, I really connected with Neruda’s view that love is a feeling, not an entity to be explained or described.  There is something secret and intensely personal about the way we love someone…something that is ultimately inexplicable to anyone else, even the person who has made us feel such intensity.

The soul looked after, time must also be devoted to nourishing the body.  I like to plan a little for the week ahead.  Today that involves preparing a batch of healthy and delicious granola.  I am currently favouring this recipe from The Little Green Spoon,  http://thelittlegreenspoon.com/2014/02/03/gluten-free-cashew-granola/  and enjoy it during the week with Greek yoghurt and fresh berries.

On weekends, I generally favour simple lunches that leave time for long, slow-cooked dinners.  So on this winter’s afternoon, we had simple tomato bruschetta, made with cherry tomatoes with a sprinkle of finely chopped red onion, garlic and lots of fresh basil.  This was seasoned and marinated in Italian extra virgin olive oil and a little aged balsamic vinegar.  We served it spooned generously on toasted sourdough bread, drizzled with olive oil.

As for the rest of the day I am reading this book, by a blazing fire, possibly with a steaming cup of coffee and a delicious slice of chocolate Swiss roll.  I will listen to a little of this while preparing dinner, a very traditional bacon and cabbage.  Later  I plan to curl up with Netflix in something like this pyjamas with these slippers. Love Mint Velvet xoxo

How do you spend your Sunday?  Here’s hoping it is fabulous  – the perfect blend of relaxation and productivity x

 

Simple Supper for my Mother-in-Law

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My in-laws are visiting this weekend and as they were arriving late Friday night, I wanted to serve them something warm, comforting and satisfying.  I was looking for a recipe that would be a welcome at the end of a long car journey yet not a full dinner. Something in the simple winter supper realm. After some minor deliberation, I decided on Jamie Oliver’s creamy mushroom soup and it was a real success. It is simple, tasty and can be prepared in advance and just gently reheated.  I served it with a loaf of homemade brown bread, still a little warm from the oven.

Creamy Mushroom Soup (adapted from Jamie Oliver)

Ingredients:

  • 2 packs of mushrooms finely sliced (I used one chestnut and one button)
  • 1 onion finely chopped
  • 3 cloves of chopped garlicchopped-herbs-18253206
  • 2 stalks of finely chopped celery
  • A good handful of finely chopped parsley and thyme
  • 1.5 litres of good chicken or vegetable stock
  • Salt & Pepper
  • 200 ml of cream

Method:    Clean and slice the mushrooms thinly. Heat a glug of olive oil in a large soup pot. Add the onion, celery, garlic, parsley stalks, thyme leaves and mushrooms, place a lid on top and sweat gently until softened.  Pour the stock into the pan and bring to the boil. Turn the heat down and simmer for 15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, then whizz with a hand-held blender until smooth. Pour in the cream, bring just back to the boil, then turn off the heat. Check the seasoning. Serve from warm bowls with a sprinkle of parsley and a swirl of cream.

The accompanying brown bread, is usually prepared by my husband and a staple in our house.  It couldn’t be more simple.

Hubby’s Homemade Brown Loaf

Ingredients:

  • 225g Self-raising flour
  • 225g Wholemeal flour
  • A half tsp of baking soda
  • A pinch of salt
  • Half a pint of milk
  • 1 small hazelnut yoghurt
  • 1 egg

Method:

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees Celsius.  Mix all the dry ingredients in a large bowl.  Mix the milk, egg and yoghurt in a separate bowl.  Then simply stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients.  Pour into a greased loaf tin.  Bake for 45 minutes.

Eat and Enjoy xo
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10 Foodie Gifts from Co. Kerry, Ireland

 

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Before I create the wrong impression, I don’t hate Christmas.  It wins most of us over in the end. Even Ebeneezer and The Grinch eventually had to concede to joining in the festivities, so what hope have I of resisting the seasonal cheer?

As it happens, I am quite partial to a warm mince pie, drizzled with cream, by a blazing log fire.   The smell of baking ham on Christmas Eve comforts me.  The twinkle of fairy lights makes me smile. The Pogues, “Fairytale of New York” brings tears to my eyes because it is tinged with memories of Christmases past, good times and more poignant times.

But…I know you sensed the but….the Christmas obsession that appears to now start in September, does irk me….a lot.  This makes me seem a tad Bah! Humbug! It creates the impression that I am more team Scrooge than team Santa. And I am really not. It is just that the inextricable link that seems to exist between a spiritual holiday and crass materialism leaves me a little cold.  Do homes really need to be Winter Wonderlands to be festive and welcoming?  Do gifts really need to be so extravagant to be meaningful?

Yet I do love to shop.  And I love food. And I have always loved picking out  gifts to put a smile on someone else’s face.  So I admit, Christmas as a holiday has a lot going for it.

This year, in an attempt to reconcile my conflicting views on the season of goodwill, I have decided  to look particularly at gifts that are local to the area I grew up in.   It is my personal compromise.  Not too showy, made with love, supporting the local economy.  These will be my gifts of choice. And to start off some fabulous finds for the foodie in your life.

  1. Lorge Handmade Chocolate, Kenmare.  Choose from a vast array of irresistible handmade chocolate or even a chocolate making class.  http://lorge.ie/shop/
  2. Harty’s Jelly.  The Original Pepper Jelly elevates a cheeseboard into something really special.  http://www.hartysfoods.com/products_hartys_foods.html
  3. A gift voucher or a hamper from Tralee’s fine food emporium, Kingdom Food and Wine.  There are few gifts that I would prefer to unwrap on Christmas morning.
  4. Dingle Gin, with some tonic and a lime.  If I wasn’t sipping champagne from my vintage teacups with the girls, this would be the perfect alternative.  http://www.dingledistillery.ie/
  5. A seafood hamper that includes organic smoked salmon and the to die for seafood pate from Quinlan’s, a family company who fish, cook and sell the finest of seafood.  http://www.kerryfish.com/quinlans_fish_shop/
  6. Anyone who thinks ice cream is not a winter food doesn’t make enough warm apple crumbles.  And this is ice cream made with love, the kind of ice cream that cures a broken heart. Ice cream that begs to be eaten straight from the tub, under a duvet, with a soppy festive movie.  Think “The Holiday” or “Love Actually”.  Dear Santa, please, please can you send me a year’s supply…  http://www.murphysicecream.ie/
  7. Some beautiful pottery hand-crafted by Louis Mulcahy.  Because beautiful food longs to be served on beautiful dishes.  http://www.louismulcahy.com/
  8. Artisan ingredients for a Christmas Morning Full Irish.  The tiny village of Annascaul produces not just black pudding but high quality sausages and rashers.  Just add free range eggs from your nearest friendly farmer or farmers’ market.  http://www.annascaulblackpudding.com/
  9. It’s Christmas, you can have a craft beer with breakfast if you like.  A great gift for the beer enthusiast in your life is a selection of local craft brews like this one from West Kerry.  http://dinglebrewingcompany.com/
  10. Finally, one of my favourite kitchen accessories is an Ambri wooden chopping board.  Great for preparing food, great for serving food, great to look at.   Made with beautiful local wood and carved with a real passion for the product being shaped.  http://ambrichoppingboards.com/