Posts Tagged With: cooking

A Musical Week in Clare, Ireland

I have lived for the past 2½ years on the coast near Spanish Point in County Clare. There has been a constant stream of visitors during this time. Some were family, some good friends but some were strangers. Some stayed for a night, some for more than a week. All leave as life long friends.  I have hosted 76 guests, many more than once.

They are all people I meet through music, or the music session, or during my travels in Ireland. They have come from Ireland, Australia, France, Germany, Switzerland, Spain, United States, UK, Canada, Japan, Brazil, Denmark and Czech Republic and each has a story. Every single one of them has enriched my time here and it has been a joy to have met, enjoyed their company and shared a shared passion for things Irish.


French Windows


Just last week I hosted three wonderful friends, Julie, Romain and Anna from Carcassone in the south of France. Of course we played tunes, that’s what they came for, but we cooked, imbibed, sampled cheese (sorry, fromage!), and exchanged stories.


The sun came out on the last day.  Lunch on the porch.


Cheese, wine and bread from Carcassone.  View from Caherush. 



It didn’t matter that it rained. I am grateful that we were able to experience an ideal slice of Clare music and musicians in the week they were here. This is what is so special about this place. So many memorable moments, but come next week and it will be the same, but completely different.

So many highlights. Sunday. A pub session in Miltown Malbay at Hillery’s with Conor Keane and Jackie Daly firing on all cylinders, Julie and Romain brought some elegance to the proceedings as they danced a mazurka, French style. Monday.  Fitz’s Bar in Doolin, Tuesday. The cosy Cooley’s House in Ennistymon. On Wednesday a trip to Ennis – a chilled out session at Brogans did little to prepare my guests for the madness of Moroney’s in Ennis where the victorious young Clare hurling team were in full voice and there was some fiery sean nos style dancing from Canada, US and Ireland. A visit to the Burren Thursday and sharing some tunes stories, songs and poems in the kitchen of the irrepressible Oliver O’Connell . And they joined in on my regular Thursday house session with some local West Clare musician friends. The craic went until 4am.  Situation normal.  Oh and what a way to finish! A phalanx of pipers led by Blackie at the Friday Piping Heaven Piping Hell session in Ennis.


Sunday.  Jackie Daly, Conor Keane and Dave Harper at Hillery’s Bar in Miltown Malbay.



Sunday. A French mazurka in an Irish pub.


Monday.  Tunes in Fitz’s Doolin.  Photo Anna. 


Monday.  Fitz’s


Tuesday.  Cooley’s House.  Ennistymon.  Photo.  Anna.


Wednesday.  Eoin O’Neill, Brid O’Gorman, Jon O’Connell.  Brogan’s Ennis


Wednesday.  Anne Marie McCormack, Marcus Moloney and a member of the young Clare hurling team.  Moroney’s Ennis.


Thursday.  Joining Oliver O’Connell in his kitchen.  Photo Anna.


Thursday.  House session at Caherush.  With John Joe Tuttle, Ciaran McCabe and J-B Samazan. 


Friday.  Piping session, Blackie O’Connell, Tom Delaney and friends.  O’Connell’s Bar, Ennis,


For me these musical experiences are enhanced immeasurably when I am joined by those who approach the music with the same ardor as me. It is my privilege indeed to host such people.


New friends.


Blue and green. 


Categories: My Journey, Sessions | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Trish’s Soda Bread

Soda Bread is made in a few countries other than Ireland but it remains quintessentially Irish. So I decided to learn how to make it. Never refuse an invitation is one of my rules here in Ireland so when Trish from Lahinch offered to show me I jumped at the opportunity. What is Soda Bread? It is a simple quick bread that uses sodium bicarbonate (what the Irish call ’bread soda’) as the leavening agent instead of yeast. It relies on mixing buttermilk (weak acid) with the soda (alkaline) to produce tiny carbon dioxide bubbles which cause the bread to rise. It does not need kneading or time to stand. It has an Australian equivalent in Damper widely made in rural Australia and popular with indigenous Australians.

Trish's Soda Bred - the final product

Trish’s Soda Bred – the final product

Here is Trish’s Recipe which she got from her mother and who knows how far back it goes beyond that.  Trish’s recipe uses half and half white flour and wholemeal flour but it can be mixed in any proportion depending on taste. It’s very simple – here goes. Take 20 ounces of mixed wholemeal and plain flour and add one heaped teaspoon of bread soda. Crush it between the fingers to break up the lumps. Mix. Add buttermilk, a little at a time, and lightly mix until consistent slightly sticky dough is attained. Salt is optional. Make into a ball with a little flour on the bench and flatten into the desired shape and place on a floured baking tray.  Make fairly deep cuts into quarters and place into a preheated oven at 200˚C for about 30-35 minutes. Check regularly in last five minutes. Tap bottom – a hollow sound means it is cooked! That’s it. The proof is in the pudding and it was delicious with Kerry butter and Irish Cheddar or spread with Clare jam (Strawberry and Baileys!). I had a go and mine was made with just white flour and with raisins (about 3-4 oz). Pretty proud of it – check the final photo. It’s in the freezer so yet to taste it. Thanks Trish for taking the time to open another window for me on the real Ireland. Give me half an hour’s notice if you’re coming to visit and I’ll have a hot loaf ready for you!


1. Add 10 oz wholemeal flour


2. Add 10 oz plain flour


3. Add heaped teaspoon baking soda


4. Add buttermilk


5. Mix to make dough


6. Round and flatten to shape


7. Quarter


8. Place in oven at 200 deg


9. Tap bottom to check if cooked


10. Ready to serve


11. Portions can be frozen and eaten later


12. Sliced soda bread delicious with butter and jam


13. My version of Trish’s soda bread with white flour and raisins

Categories: Real Ireland | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

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