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WISE IRISH BLOG

Stories of Friendship, Family, Fun and Food.
All the way from the Emerald Isle!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Hi Honey! I'm coming home early and do I have a treat for you!

How it all works
by
Móna Wise
Scene One
Act one


Picture me standing at the kitchen sink preparing our evening meal,
dropping everything to grab my ringing mobile phone
.



Myself: Hello?

Himself: Hi honey, it's me.
I am coming home early and do I have a treat for you!

Myself: Oh, great! What is it??

Himself: Well, it is unforgettable! I will be home in a few minutes.


End scene with me returning my mobile phone to the charger and
conjuring up visions of a lovely Italian Barolo or beautiful piece of foie gras or
even some baked goodies he created and was racing home to share with me.
Gotta love my romantic hubby!

I would love to continue with the rest of this story but as you can see from the above sometimes a picture really is worth a thousand words!!!

Who, I ask you - in their right mind would just saunter in home from a days work with a bloody pigs head under his arm and not expect a certain level of disgust or horror from his family???
Only Ron. And to be honest, I was the only one that felt a little 'turned off' by the whole thing because I had set my sights slightly higher I guess??

What on earth possessed my handsome Chef to even want to do something with this beast? Well, he had read (and re-read) his Art of Eating rag (issue no. 80) and it was all about American Charcuterie - The cooked. www.artofeating.com


One of his favourite pieces was on something called Brawn. It is the cooked meat from a pigs head that is seasoned and pressed into a loaf/terrine shape. Supposedly it will be one of the tastiest things we have ever eaten.

Right now he (Jack named him Bob) is in the pot with a few carrots, onions, bay leaf, garlic, green peppercorns, salt, pepper and a few cup fulls of Franks Red Hot sauce. It takes several hours of cooking, and several hours of refrigeration, then someone gets to pick all the meat of the skull (Cathyann - when are you getting back to Galway???), then, after all this waiting around - it may be ready to eat by Sunday??

Thankfully it is happy hour where I am right now!

That is all the WiseWords I have for today,

WiseMóna

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Here's a little planning to cheer you up!

I am pretty sure that I have been fighting the 'back to school blues' this week. Not that I am 'not' excited about going back to school - because I can't sleep from that excitement - but I have started to feel really guilty about leaving our 'happy family' lifestyle behind. Being Irish, it is my birthright to feel unimaginable guilt therefore I have been plaguing my dearest darling this week, with all my 'worries, woes and what if's'. The most recent one, was how would we manage to arrive home each day at 6pm and whip dinner together and get the kids to bed by 7.30pm when it has been something I have spent most of my 'lazy' days of summer doing - ALL DAY LONG!

Nothing like a calm and humorous husband to drag me back to reality and remind me that most couples in the real world are working full time and have more than 2 children and all survive.

His suggestion was a little menu planning and it brought us all right back to our restaurant days when we would gather once a week with our staff to discuss our weekly menus!
Already salivating are we?

Monday, August 31st, 2009
Black Bean and Sweet Potato Chili
with local cheddar cheese, our homegrown onions, Jojo's Guacamole and some home made corn chips.

Kicking off the week with this spicy dish will surely get our juices flowing. I realise it is still August, but in Ireland you can have Chili all year round because we live on the coast and it is always a lot cooler around these parts - even in the summer!
Tuesday, September 1st, 2009
Quiche Lorraine
One of Ron's longtime favourites. He loves it because you can make it in advance and it is one of those dishes that no matter what you put into it, it always turns out yummy.
Ours will have leeks, maple cured ham, gruyere and some of those lovely lovely eggs from our girls out back!
Wednesday, September 2nd, 2009
Turkey Burgers with spicy portabello's on some homemade baps.
Served with Sweet Potato Fries and curry ketchup! (can't wait for this one!)
Must be all the rain around here and moisture, but we have found that Ireland (for sure) has the best mushrooms on the planet. The intense flavour of the portabello's that we source at our local market on Saturdays is one of the meatiest flavours (for a mushroom) we have ever encountered! Not to mention, they are Rory's favourite!

Thursday, September 3rd, 2009
HAPPY BIRTHDAY GRANNY!
Meat Pie with redskin buttermilk mashed homegrown potatoes and sauteéd spinach!
The details on this pie are vague, as we have to see what meat looks good at the butcher before he commits to beef/chicken etc. In saying that, I am sure that between the pastry and the veg. and gravy in the pie - no matter what meat ends up in there, it will be a crowd pleaser! There is even the idle threat of Bread Pudding or Pavlova for dessert if Granny joins us for dinner!
Friday, September 4th, 2009
Pizza, Pizza, Pizza with lots of salad and beers!
To wrap up our first week of this new schedule, Ron feels certain that the pizza oven will be ready for its first trial run - even though the pizzas coming out of the 'housewife oven' are not too shabby at all!

Once again, the blues have been blasted into oblivion and I feel like I can take on the problems of the world again, now that y'all know we will not be wasting away to nothing around here!
Plus, if you are thinking about stopping by, you can pick which night to do so!
That is all the WiseWords I have for today,
WiseMóna



Sunday, August 23, 2009

The boys - hard at work on the oven!

As summer draws to an end so does the oven project (I hope!). My brother Kenny stopped over on Friday to offer assistance in removing the sand mold from the oven.

This was a delicate operation as the clay is still rather wet and has only been in place a little over two weeks, but both of the men felt that in order for the oven to fully dry - circulation of air inside the 'cave' was necessary.
Thankfully, all went well and it did not collapse on top of them. There are one or two hairline cracks (to be expected) but overall the oven is looking great.

Due to the wetter climate around here, we are keeping a heavy tarp on top of it (when it rains) as Ron has not yet decided just how he is going to finish it. He did speak with a guy earlier this week who recommended he look at a Lime/Clay putty mix, so it could end up looking like the outside of a little cottage - all whitewashed. This would give it a rainproof barrier but allow it to breathe at the same time!

The good news is that he is planning on lighting a few fires inside the 'cave' this weekend in order to prime the oven. He is still very hopeful that it will be fully functional before Kenny's wedding (September 19th) and ready to feed the masses when the rest of the family descend upon us for a few weeks!
The children are more than eager with excitement and anticipation and are certain that the first bite of perfect pizza will be 'worth the wait' ! Here's hoping!
That is all the WiseWords I have for today,
WiseMóna

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Family and Community Nurturing

I have gotten a lot of emails over the last week from y'all wondering how and where Ron got started with this pizza/bread oven business. A million years ago when Ron was still working at Chateau Pomijie in Cincinnati, Ohio - a wine tasting trip out west to sunny California where he saw a beautifully designed bread oven sparked his interest.

He has thought long and hard about this over the last fifteen years and has drawn out several different versions of his oven plans . When we moved back home to Ireland and went to the Bórd Bia www.bordbia.ie National Organics Conference (September 2008) and discovered COB building, this style of sustainable building spurred him to 'get started'.

He called up our local library to get the above book The Cob Builders Handbook as it was out of print (at the time) and although he finds Ms. Becky Bee to write like a "scary feminist" she has guided him through his project thus far teaching him all he has needed to know about building with Cob.

The other book (above) The Bread Builders he sourced was co-authored by Alan Scott/Daniel Wing - Alan (www.Ovencrafters.net) designed that pizza/bread oven Ron saw in California all those years ago. This is a great read with him speaking of the importance of family and community nurturing, which no doubt I do believe has always been my husbands mission in life. This book makes one want to drop what one is doing and run outside to the oven to bake a loaf of unbelievable bread, then invite the whole world over to share it.

If you are thinking about taking on this project, you need a lot of patience because this can take a while (depending on the climate) and be forewarned, working with COB (Clay/sand/straw) is a messy mucky job to be enjoyed by the whole family (even if you are the Mum/Wife that is responsible for cleaning it all!)

The upside of all of this is you have something sustainably built (not to mention affordability) that will last for generations to come. Your family, your friends and neighbours will enjoy every last crumb.

That is all the WiseWords I have for today,
WiseMóna

Monday, August 17, 2009

Any one for breakfast in bed?

It has been almost thirteen years since Ron and I shared our first breakfast in bed. Over the years I have blogged & written shamelessly about the importance of togetherness sometimes to the jest or ridicule of many of our friends. It doesn't even phase me what others think.

Sharing a few quiet 'childless' moments in bed daily with my sweetheart, sharing a cup of coffee and a bite to eat has always been the nicest way to start our day. I think most couples give way to the race and pace of a more hurried lifestyle and perhaps we are just that bit too lazy sometimes - but I hope it is something we can preserve as we meander through the next phase of our life!

A few evenings ago my brother came over for dinner with his future in-laws. He is all but wed at this point with his big day less than a month away. His in-laws (the Wynne family) are from Dublin and are really a lovely addition to our always growing and changing family.

Pete (father-in-law) was telling us about a rare delicacy from County Cork called 'Hot Buttered Eggs'. I suppose because we live our lives so immersed in the food world, we were all surprised that not one of us had heard of this tasty treat!
Going back centuries here in Ireland (apparently only in County Cork - way down south) this delicacy was born during a Lenten period. Apparently the farm wives would station their children outside the hen house awaiting the clucking of an overly excited hen alerting the world that they had just created yet another masterpiece.
Those eggs - still warm are have (amazingly) very porous shells. The eggs are then massaged in buttery hands and apparently this acts as a preservative barrier which would last through the duration of lent (40 days and 40 nights for those heathens out there) and upon use would have developed quite a buttery taste!

Armed with all the essential items - 2 children waiting outside the hen house, lots of soft Kerrygold butter and a hungry husband - we decided to give it a whirl!
Around here we do not keep our eggs in the fridge so after leaving them sit for several days impatience got the better of my handsome chef and he was begging for his 'Hot Buttered Egg' this morning for breakfast.

Being the 'good wife' that I am (ha ha ha) I figured as he had worked his butt off last week on our lovely bread/pizza oven then the least I could do was whip up a little egg love for breakfast.

Two soft boiled eggs and some homemade brown soda bread (toasted) later - what is our consensus on the Hot Buttered Eggs?

Only one way to find out folks, let me know when you are coming for a visit!
That is all the WiseWords I have for today!
WiseMóna




Sunday, August 16, 2009

A cobbing we will go!

What to do with all these weeks of holidays is something my dearest darling has been pondering for over a year now. For a while there, he was almost opposed to having so much 'time off'! Having grown up and spent most of his working career in the US, 2 -3 weeks of holidays was as much as he would have taken.

Earlier this summer he took a week off when some of our old friends/neighbours from Cincinnati came to visit and it was a real treat for them and us. During that week, he and my brother laid the foundation for Ron's Wood Fired Bread Oven.

Just this past week, he took another week off and thankfully got some co-operating weather to 'wrap up' this project. He has spent his time off working his butt off, and in a couple of weeks we will be able to taste the fruits of his labor. (It will take that long to dry/cure).

He has not worked alone! With his two trusty helpers right by his side, they have mucked in (literally) and created quite an oven! As Ron has said several times over the last few weeks this is only his 'first' oven, and once this one is seasoned and cooking, he will turn his attention to the next one which I am guessing will be at my Brother Kenneth's house - or perhaps at my brother-in-laws in France as he is quite eager not to re-invent the wheel but steal the idea!

The final phase is here now for my handsome Chef. He is currently working on a glaze (Terra Sigillata) for the exterior coat. Had we lived in a drier climate (like Florida) you would not need to protect it from the elements, but here in wet and rainy Ireland, it is best to 'roof' it.

I would not say he feels to rested after another week of holidays - but he sure is happy. We have had a lot of fun with the kids this week, and now with him going back to work I can shift to unwinding them a little and getting all three of us ready to return to school on August 31st - which feels like it is just moments away.

Stay tuned fellow food lovers, that first loaf of bread and perfect pizza is just a few days away!
That is all the WiseWords I have for today,
WiseMóna


Friday, August 14, 2009

Wise Food Alert!

Moroccan Chicken to die for!

I tried my hand at this style of chicken dish the other day. Our friend Laurien had given us a lovely little supply of Saffron so we wanted to utilise it to the best of our ability. My handsome Chef did not have a recipe at his fingertips and told me to 'wing it'! So, here is exactly what I did and to my credit (I am sooooo humble) it really was one of my finest creations! He is soooooo proud of me!




A word of caution - when handling raw chicken please please please make sure to wash your hands and work space thoroughly even if you have kids hanging off your apron strings! (had to put that in there to keep the Chef happy!).

Ingredients

1 tsp Paprika, Cumin, Cinnamon, Cayenne, Coriander & Saffron.
2 teaspoons Fresh ginger (grated)
2 tablespoons Honey
Grated zest of one lemon
Juice of one lemon
Olive oil,
Salt & Pepper
Carrots (4 medium)
Onions (2 medium)
Garlic (at least one bulb - yes the whole bulb, not one teeny little clove)
Cilantro (a bunch)
Chicken Stock (2 cups)
Crushed tomatoes (1 can)
Mixed beans (2 cans)
Kalamata Olives (as many as you like - pitted)
Whole Chicken (any size you like) I decided to use my favourite pot/dutch oven because I can prepare everything then just walk away for an hour while it cooks!
Start by preparing all your vegetables (peel onions/garlic,carrots etc.) Rub the chicken down with salt/pepper and throw some of the garlic cloves and lemon zest and freshly grated ginger into the cavity.

Place the raw chicken into the pot and throw in the onions, carrots and garlic. Pour in olive oil and rub into the chicken.
Get all your dried spices and start sprinkling it all over the bird. I mixed all mine into one bowl and sifted it over the bird so it looked a little dusty but well covered.
Put the chicken into a really hot oven for 20 mins. until it has started to turn nice and brown.
Pull it out then pour in the beans, the chicken stock and the can of tomatoes. It is OK if the tomatoes smother the chicken. Place the lid on the pot and put it back in to oven at 180 C for 45 mins (this depends on the size of the chicken).
Go off and have a lovely glass of crisp white wine - our favourite 'house' wine after 15 years is still the Fiano di Avellino. Just unbelievably fantastic, year, after year, after year.

After the time has elapsed and you are half way through the bottle of wine, take the dish out and give it a good mix! Add in the olives, drizzle the honey over the top and a knob of butter would not hurt for finishing touches!
Let it cook a few more minutes (if you think it needs it) and then take it out of the oven and let it rest for ten minutes while you heat a loaf of crusty bread, whip up some salad and oven another bottle of wine!
Seriously, it looks this good, and it tastes way better! The beans give it plenty of 'filling' so you will not be hungry for a week!
Happy dining fellow food lovers,

That is all the WiseWords I have for today!
WiseMóna

Monday, August 10, 2009

A smattering of pictures from the hard work accomplished today!

video

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Is this the BEGINING, or is this the END???

Henrietta: So Grace, what do ya think this is??
Grace: Hmmmm, not sure Henrietta, but I am sure it's for us!

That is exactly what everyone else around here is asking Ron - 'What exactly is that?'

Well folks, he has finally done it. He has started to build his bread/pizza oven! He sent away for the plans for said oven over fifteen years ago, and is finally getting around to building it. Does this tell you that the man has set roots so deep he has no intention of moving ever again and will cite said oven as the main reason!

As one can only imagine, this is an arduous task and thankfully there is no shortage of helping hands around here to keep Ron on his toes.

My brother Kenneth has stopped by on several occasions to help in the construction of the foundation of this monstrosity - sorry - oven, and thankfully it is starting to look like it might be finished before the end of the year!

You see, this is no ordinary oven folks, this is a COB bread oven. Cob (of clay and wattles made) is a mixture of mucky grey clay, sand and straw. You mix it all together (on a tarp with your feet) and then slowly (it takes several weeks) build your dome shaped oven.


Now that we have a lovely foundation that is seriously load bearing, the construction of the oven has begun. At some point, I will have Ron sit down and write a little piece to go with each picture so if any of you out there want to build your own it will be a piece of cake - ha ha ha!


If nothing else, it makes a damn fine dance floor for the kids right now and the hens have taken a liking to sheltering underneath from the rain or sun!
That is all the WiseWords I have for today!
WiseMóna

Friday, August 07, 2009

Summer fun with the children!

The summer has flown by so fast that I almost cried when I started to upload a few of these photos, wondering as many parents do 'where does the time go?'

With moving house and having a revolving door of visitors since April, we have spent much of our time sightseeing and enjoying a lot of time around our dinner table reminiscing with old and dear friends. The children have made lots of new friends in our neighborhood (see above photo). They are getting very excited about going back to school and thankful that they have a few more weeks of freedom at the same time.
We crossed a few hurdles this summer with the children. One being that of spice tolerance! Rory (from infancy) was used to eating spicy foods as she was weaned on Mussels Diavolo around 4 months of age. Jack on the other hand (as he came to us later at the age of 7 months) was weaned differently and has had a certain intolerance to spicy foods since then. Up until now, I have just made sure not to give him anything too hot - because the ranting and raving was not worth it.
So, a few weeks ago, I decided it was high time to educate his palate to all the different spices we use on a regular basis and see how he did. What a star!!
Rory's favourite 'spice' is still Raw Garlic (imagine that) followed closely by Coleman's English Mustard. Jack's was amazingly enough the Franks/Louisiana Hot Sauce followed by the Diavolo Sauce Ron uses frequently. Now when he tastes something hotter than hell, instead of freaking out and racing to the tap for water, he actually can identify what is is, and understands that it is not going to kill him! Saving the vindaloos until he gets a little older!

Another HUGE hurdle crossed this summer (and this one is big) both of the children learned how to ride their bikes without stabilisers/training wheels. It all started when we moved house because their is a huge field in the back of the house and the house is also surrounded by bikeable pavement. Jack was first to 'let go' and race around the grass with no help - an amazing feat for any child let alone a 4 year old, however, not to be outdone by her little brother, it was Ms. Rory Belle herself that raced around the house a few times solo before even realising she was 'doing it' without Daddy chasing after her to catch her when she fell!
This has been liberating for them both, and needless to say for Mama too!

We have spent a lot of days beach combing around here (as there are lots of beaches) and we have had a hard time keeping the children out of the water. Even with the temperature of the water being frigid, they still strip down to near naked and dive right in. I think their blood runs so much warmer than ours - as we sit shivering on the sand watching them.

They are still little American babies at heart. They have (amazingly) great memories of our life left behind in America and it is so cute to still hear the little Yankee twang they both speak with.
I am certain in another year that twang will just be a distant memory for all of us.

All in all the children are growing like weeds and eating us out of house and home. They are happy and healthy, as are we!
Looking forward to catching up with y'all soon!
That is all the WiseWords I have for today,
WiseMóna



Wednesday, August 05, 2009

The worlds most expensive indoor clothes line!

It all started just about a year ago, when Ron met our SlowFood friend - Cáit Curran at the local market here in Galway. They were talking veggies and growing when she made the statement 'well surely you have a polytunnel by now' and he hung his head in despair stating he had not! Thus began a year of convincing and pleading for Ron's new toy!

Over the course of the last year I have heard all the best reasons (and some of them are great) to make this considerable investment - not to mention the fact that my handsome Chef has never been without a vegetable garden in his life, and in addition to his passion and flair for cooking he has the greenest of thumbs too!

Twelve months growing of all my favourite salad leaves, onions, garlic etc. Better quality and increased yields on all his plants due to the fact that you can control the level of pests quite easily by keeping the doors closed!
The ability to grow 'incredible corn' what we miss the most from our life in America (Farmer John - please send us some seeds or deliver them in person!!!).
My Blueberry bush will be protected from botrytis it's number one enemy as it will live in a safe, dry and hot environment most suitable for a 90% yield on this one!!
Tomatoes...................nice, juicy ripe red tomatoes and if anyone out there has some heirloom seeds to share we would be delirious to have them!
Peppers - especially chili peppers of all kinds which for some terrible reason cannot be sourced here in Galway at all - you can barely find the dried ones!
After all this reckoning and reasoning and convincing we finally decided to take the plunge and invest (heavily might I add) in this new office for my darling husband.

Shortly after he arrived home from work the day it was installed and ready to 'grow' he finally sold me on having this monstrosity sit right outside my kitchen window when he hung a lovely clothes line in it for me! I gotta say - around here with all these leaky clouds - I love it!!!


After all the excitement of digging and nipping at heels to make sure everything went according to plan, an evening of snoozing by the fire was all little Pearl was able for.

Stay tuned on the Polytunnel - we have just put in our first load of rotted seaweed (excellent organic fertiliser) and after a few weeks we will add in a few loads of horse manure to prep the soil for perpetual growing!

That is all the WiseWords I have for today!

WiseMóna

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Wise Food Alert!

Blueberry Bliss!


Folks around here do not make Blueberry Pie like they do back in the good ole USA, and as it is one of my darlings very favourite desserts ever (besides Pecan Pie, Cherry Pie, Ice cream, Fudge, etc.) I decided that it was high time I made an effort to make this tasty treat!

Please keep in mind that whilst I really have developed a serious love for cooking, a baker I am not and have no love for baking either! However, knowing that my handsome hubby, a few of my siblings and my dearest darling Mum would be chomping at the bit for a nibble of whatever I threw at them, encouraged me to give it a whirl!





Ireland does not have great conditions (too much rain, lots of boggy marsh land, not enough sun) for blueberry growing so most of them come from Spain and Holland. However, we have a similar berry here called a Billberry, which is almost identical expect much much smaller and they grow wild on the heather bushes in some local bogs around here.

Armed with a recipe given to us by some very good American friends of ours I tried my hand at this task and got rave reviews from all, including a very happy Chef!


WiseBluePie


1 cup sugar (unrefined brown)
3 tablespoons of cornstarch/cornflour
1/8 teaspoon of salt
1/4 cup of water
5 or 6 cups of blueberries
1 sweet apple (peeled)
1 tablespoon of butter
1/2 lemon (juiced)

1 nine (9) inch shortbread pie crust (blind baked)

Get a decent size pot and mix together the sugar, salt and cornflour. Add the water and 3 cups of blueberries. Chop the apple into small pieces and add to the mixture. Keep stirring all the time and make sure this does not burn. Once the mixture has come to a boil and is clear - not cloudy, then remove from the heat and stir in butter and lemon juice. Set aside to cool. Although tempting it is not advisable to taste the goopy mixture at this time as it is very very hot and you will most likely burn your mouth. Trust me, it tastes great!

Once cooled spread the pie mixture into the pre baked pie crust then add a layer of the remaining blueberries, finishing with a layer of the pie mixture.

Leave the pie in a cool place to set for a while (fridge is fine too) then enjoy with some whipped cream and a nice cup of tea!

Probably the nicest pie you will every have!


That is all the WiseWords I have for today!

WiseMóna

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