Da­rina Allen

Irish Examiner - Weekend - - News - Da­rina Allen www.cooking­is­fun.ie dari­naallen.blogspot.ie

EV­ERY now and then there’s a mo­ment, a mile­stone which can in­di­cate the end of an era. For me a re­cent ex­pe­ri­ence in a West Cork vil­lage was just that. I popped into the shop to buy a car­ton of but­ter­milk to make a loaf of soda bread, I searched the shelves to no avail and when I in­quired at the till the lovely lady told me whim­si­cally, “ah sure, there’s no call for that, sure no one around here bakes a cake of bread any longer”.

It was just a small thing but I was al­ways re­as­sured by the pres­ence of but­ter­milk in lo­cal shops, an in­di­ca­tion that the tra­di­tion of bak­ing a loaf of soda bread was alive and well in the parish. It’s a long time since one could buy an en­tire sack of flour in a vil­lage shop but it’s still pos­si­ble in the one and only shop on Inis Meáin, which hope­fully in­di­cates a rich bak­ing tra­di­tion among the is­landers.

We cer­tainly en­joyed Ruarí De Bla­cam’s de­li­cious brown soda bread at Inis Meáin Suites on a re­cent visit.

The food in the lit­tle restau­rant there is pure and de­li­cious, home grown veg­eta­bles, herbs and flow­ers from the gar­den, a taste of the pro­duce of the is­land and the lo­cal coast­line. The Inis Meáin Suites are booked up al­most a year ahead but the good news is that the restau­rant is now open to non-res­i­dents from Wed­nes­day to Satur­day. (www.in­is­meain.com) Some of the stand­out dishes on the menu dur­ing our re­cent stay were mack­erel carpac­cio with an Asian dress­ing, thinly sliced raw mack­erel caught a few hours ear­lier in the crys­tal clear wa­ters off the coast – ut­terly sub­lime. I can’t un­der­stand why we don’t see more fish crudo on our restau­rant menus.

The squid with black squid ink may­on­naise was also su­per de­li­cious, as was the beet­root salad served three ways and a plump ten­der lob­ster claw with aioli and rocket leaves. All sim­ple, el­e­men­tal cook­ing made with su­perb fresh pro­duce — no foams, gels or skid marks on the plate — just beau­ti­ful fresh flavours and sim­ple pre­sen­ta­tions, a breath of fresh air.

Well, back to bread. Many of you al­ready know how to bake but for those of you who don’t, let me tell you how easy it is to make a loaf of soda bread, made in min­utes and out of the oven in lit­tle more than 30 min­utes. So next time when you need bread, just turn on the oven. You wouldn’t have found your car keys and be back from the shops by the time it’s baked and cool­ing on a wire rack, fill­ing your kitchen with the ir­re­sistible smell of crusty home­made bread that you can guar­an­tee will nour­ish your fam­ily. I in­clude trea­cle bread and white soda bread for you to try.

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