Cáca Baile Mhamó

Cáca baile

Bhí mé ar Radio na Gaeltachta inniú ar Iris Aniar le Éibhlín Ní Chonghaile. Tháinig sí ag an teach cupla seachtain ó shin lena cuid páistí álainn, chun labhairt faoí céard a chuirim insteach i mboscaí lón na caillíní. Ach ar nós gach ‘chat’ maith, thosaigh muid ag caint ar neart eile agus thíos faoí tá an taifeadadh a tháinig as. An cineál bean a chloiseann sibh ar an radio, sin go díreach an cineál bean í Éibhlín – tá sí faoir eascamh labhairt leí…tá sí  álainn.

Ghlaoigh sí orm i ndhiaidh an clár agus d’inis sí dhom go raibh cúpla duine ag cuardach an oideas nó ‘recipe’le haghaidh an cáca baile. Tá an recipe seo thíos, chomh maith le link don píosa ar an radio agus téacs an sean alt a chuir mé suas ar an mblog. Bhí an téacs sin i mbearla agus tá brón orm nach mbeidh cuid agaibh in ann é a leamh.

Cáca Baile Mhamó:

  • Déanann sé 2 x tin puint
  • Cur an oigheann ag 180C, 350F nó gás marc 4.

Measc na comhabhair tirim le chéile i mbabhla:

  • 2 x cupán plúr ‘self-raising’;
  • 2 x cupán plúr ‘whole meal’;
  • Glac ‘Wheat Germ’;
  • Leath spúnóg tae salann;
  • Spúnóg tae ‘Bread soda’;
  • Spúnóg tae siúcra;
  • 100-150g meascán síolta (pumcín, giúsach, poipín)

Measc iad seo go maith agus déan poll sa lár le haghaidh na comhabhair fluich:

  • 15ml ola ológ;
  • 3/4 L bainne gear (Cuinneog más féidir leat) – is garmheastachán é seo. Cuir i ndótháin isteach chun meascán fluich a dhéanadh ach meascán nach mbeidh ag rith amach as an mbabhla.

Cuir neart margarine ar an dhá tin and cuir na chácaí san oigheann ar feadh 35 noiméad. Seiceáil na cácaí ag an bpointe seo agus cuir isteach san oigheann iad arís gan an tin an t-am seo.

Bá cheart go mbeadh na cácaí réidh ag 45 noiméad. Seiceáil go bhfuil fuaim folamh ag teacht uathu.

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Clár radio Iris Aniar a bhí air an aer inniú le fail ANSEO – tosaíonn an píosa ag 26 noimeád.

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Alt a bhí foilsithe ar an suíomh seo 5ú Bealtaine 2015 –

Many of life’s most intimate minute details can come flooding back at the sight or smell of particular foods. It happened to me recently when I baked some brown bread. I asked my Aunt Cáitín for the recipe Mamó used for her brown bread or cáca baile (bread for the home). It always looked very different to my mother’s brown bread and I remember as a child realising for the first time that baking could be a very individual expressive thing. And also at the time, very much a woman’s domain. Everyone’s brown bread, from my mother’s to Mamó’s, to the headmistress of my national school, to Cáitín’s  all tasted completely different despite the fact that they all contained basically the same ingredients. Baking from that moment on became a strange act of alchemy in the oven for me. I never quite knew what was going to come out.

I was never much good at baking sweet desserts. That was my sister Eileen’s area. Her strawberry pavlova Swiss roll is a work of art that gets savaged at every family get together. I stayed on the road of bread making and fell in love with flour and yeast experimentation. I’m not very good at that either but the recipe for proper white yeast bread could not be simpler: strong flour, salt, yeast and warm water. You can add extras like garlic and herbs but that is the basic recipe. Yeast is a living thing that can be kept alive in a starter dough for repeated use to make fresh bread, as long as you look after it and feed it. I heard about a French woman who had her starter dough for over 30 years.  Mine never lasted the week – a thriving half jar of bubbling goo in the fridge one day to dead as a dodo the next. I end up using dried yeast or if I can get it, some fresh yeast. The kids love making fresh dough and watching it grow and puncturing it with their fingers as it proofs. They love turning it into pizzas or garlic bread or just tasty, properly proofed white bread.

The other day as I made cáca baile using my grandmother’s recipe, I was transported back to when I was about six or seven to her back kitchen, standing at her elbow in front of the window with my sister at the other, watching her stir her cake with her wooden spoon. I can see it and smell it.

 

Barbecue Season

My own grandmother would have cooked on a barbecue over the last few weeks the weather has been so glorious. There is something about cooking outside and eating outside that whets the appetite and makes us look at food differently and prepare it with more thought and appreciation I think. Unless you are a diehard barbecue cook who fires up the coals in all weather, the barbecue is something that most of us only pull out from under the mouldy tarpaulin a few times a year. Therefore, below is a list of what I have found to be barbecue essentials.

Tools of the trade – If you find tongs useful get a long handled one. You’ll save your hands and forearms from getting burnt as you turn meat that will spit and burn. Better still get a proper long handled meat fork. It’s really the best thing to use. Also, wear an apron. There’s no point cooking an amazing meal and then looking like the St. Valentine’s Day massacre when you’re finished.

The most useful tool I have found for a barbecue is a wire brush to clean the grill with. Obviously, it’s important to clean the grill after the barbecue – a clean grill will ensure meat and vegetables don’t stick during cooking. But also give the grill a brush between batches during cooking. This stops meat drippings and charred bits from sticking and burning onto the next batch. Trial and error however has taught me to always buy a good quality wire brush in order to avoid picking metal prongs out of your burger!

Cooking tips for the barbecue – Meat should be seasoned with salt before grilling. Use good big tasty flakes of sea salt for this – Achill Island Sea Salt is ideal. As salt will draw moisture out of meat, it is important to season just before grilling. The salt enhances the flavour of the meat and also builds up that char crust that is so delicious on well barbecued meat. As the meat comes off the grill, you can season with some ground black pepper.

It’s hard to tell sometimes if meat or poultry is cooked when cooking on the barbecue. It is important not to under cook meat especially poultry but it is also so important not to overcook. I always use a meat thermometer for this. Then I’m confident the meat is cooked to perfection. Sometimes if I am cooking a lot on the grill, I tend to barbecue the chicken first. I like to cook chicken on the bone. I barbecue it first to get that char and flavour and then I finish the pieces off in a pre-heated oven. They have the barbecue flavour and are also cooked through by the even oven temperature. They are then finished at the same time as other cuts of meat that can be served rare or medium. Below is a table of internal cooking temperatures – make sure to insert your meat thermometer into the thickest part of the piece to check the temperature.

Rare Medium Rare Medium Well Done
Beef 54⁰C (129⁰F) 57⁰C (135⁰F) 60⁰C (147⁰F) 70⁰C (158⁰F)
Lamb 54⁰C (129⁰F) 57⁰C (135⁰F) 60⁰C (147⁰F) 70⁰C (158⁰F)
Pork     60⁰C (147⁰F) 70⁰C (158⁰F)
Chicken       75⁰C (167⁰F)

Then sit out and enjoy your barbecue feast in the best country in the world when the sun is shining!

 

The New Year’s Goose

Cooked Goose

If you’re going the whole bird this Christmas and getting a goose for your new year table, check out cooking times below.

Happy New Year!

You will need:

Large onion, peeled and sliced;

10 – 12lb goose;

Stuffing;

Salt and pepper.

  • Place the onions in a layer in your roasting tin.
  • Stuff the goose and place it, breast down, in the pan and roast for 1 – 1 ½ hours.
  • Turn the bird breast side up, scatter with salt and pepper and roast for another hour or so, spiking with a thin skewer every 20 minutes.
  • Drain off the fat at intervals and jar it to make the most delicious roast potatoes.

 

 

Image source: https://pbs.twimg.com/media/CXarxhIUkAEpIZD.jpg:large

Turkey tips for a Happy Christmas

cooked turkey

NOTE: Ok so I forgot to post this here before Christmas and before you would actually need it! It was published in The Western People on the 21st December in good time for Christmas!

 

The Christmas day dinner is all about timing but more importantly having time yourself to enjoy it, not sweating and slaving over a dinner that’s going to be devoured, let’s face it, probably in 30 minutes flat.

I usually do the cooking in our house as there’s less call for the fire brigade that way. I used to be a purist about the turkey. I always wanted the whole roasted bird in all its glory for carving on the day. I maintained that the whole bird roast was needed to make good gravy. I was converted two years ago by a butcher that I know well (the hubby) to try boning, rolling and stuffing both the breasts and the legs separately. This meant that the breasts went into the oven much earlier than the legs and both emerged perfectly cooked and still wonderfully moist. And you could use two different types of stuffing to satisfy everyone’s taste.

I had a roomier oven to cook all my veggies as we love simply roasted root vegetables such as carrots, beetroot and parsnips not to mention the goose fat roasted potatoes. But I still had the problem of the gravy as very little pan juices would come from the boneless bird. I decided to roast the carcass of the turkey on Christmas Eve on a regular roasting tray and make the gravy using these pan juices and a stock made out of the giblets. So the gravy along with the ham and the stuffing, was made the day before. As a result I only had one pot on the hob on Christmas day for mashed potatoes and a very tidy kitchen!

It’s on the cards again for this year but for you purists out there, I have below some cooking times for the whole turkey and the ham and a fool-proof turkey gravy recipe.

Have a happy and healthy Christmas and New Year everyone.

Roasting the Christmas Turkey

You will need c. 300g butter, at room temperature.

  • Preheat your oven to 190⁰C/375⁰F/Gas Mark
  • Weigh your stuffed bird and calculate the cooking time: 15 minutes per pound up to 14lb and for each extra pound allow 10 minutes. Therefore, a 14lb turkey will take 3 ½ hours and a 20lb turkey will take 4 ½ hours.
  • Place the bird in a large roasting tin, breast-side up.
  • Use your hands to loosen the skin from the breast and the legs taking care not to tear the skin. Rub half the butter under the skin and the other half over the skin. Season well with salt and pepper.
  • Cover the turkey with foil and roast for 40 minutes. Then lower the temperature to 170⁰C and cook until 30 minutes from the end of the cooking time, basting occasionally.
  • Remove the foil and cook for the remainder of the time to brown.
  • Juices will run clear when cooked – Internal temperature of 74⁰C.

The Christmas Ham – cooking times and glazes

  • Cooking times for ham:

Up to 4 ½lb in weight, allow 30 minutes to the pound and 30 minutes over;  4 ½ – 10lb, allow 20 minutes to the pound and 20 minutes over. Extra-large ham times roughly are: 12lb = 3 ½ hrs; 16lb = 4hrs; 20lb = 4 ½ hrs; 24lb = 5 hrs.

  • Put the ham in a very large pan, cover in cold water and bring to the boil for 10 minutes. Discard this water and fill pan again either with just water or a mixture of water and cider. Add a chopped onion, carrot and celery along with a bouquet of parsley, bay leaves and thyme tied together. Cook for the calculated time.
  • IF GLAZING, remove the ham 30 minutes before the end of the cooking time.
  • Remove the skin and cut a diamond pattern into the fat. Preheat oven to 190⁰C/375⁰F/Gas 5.
  • Mix together 1 tablespoon wholegrain mustard, 1 tablespoon muscavado sugar, 1 tablespoon honey. Smear all over the ham. Stud the diamonds with whole cloves in the traditional way.
  • Or I also like to slice an orange thinly and stud the slices with the cloves onto the ham prior to glazing.

Cooked Christmas Ham

Great Turkey Gravy

You will need: 1.9l pan dripping from the roast turkey; 200g butter; black pepper; 170g plain flour. Extra thinners can include red wine, marsala.

  • Drain pan juices from the roast turkey through a strainer and allow to sit. Skim the settled fat off the top.
  • Make up the juices to 1.9 litres using either chicken stock or stock made with the giblets (boil the giblet in some water with onion, peppercorns, carrot).
  • Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over a very low heat and add freshly ground black pepper.
  • Add the flour and whisk continuously for 3-4 minutes over a low heat.
  • Slowly add the turkey juices and stock, whisking constantly over a medium heat until bubbly and thickened.
  • To thin the gravy slightly and add flavour and complexity, use some red wine or Marsala wine.
  • Taste and season if required. Serve in a hot gravy boat.

 

 

Published in the Western People 21st December 2015.

Dripping with flavour!

RoastPorkCrackling

Sunday is our family day – it’s the one whole day we’re all together in the week. Cooking on Sundays is one of my favourite things as I have time. I have to say that I tend to be a lazy cook during the week as, like most people, whether working or homemaking, find time is at a premium. Therefore, the Sunday roast serves another purpose – I cook for leftovers. If saves time and roasts also make dripping.

I realise it’s a controversial subject but dripping holds an amazing amount of flavour. Our grandparents used it all the time but a lot of people are concerned about saturated fat levels and rightly so with issues like obesity and heart disease. If you cook fresh food as opposed to eating processed foods, fast foods or takeaways, using a little dripping with whole fresh ingredients will result in much less saturated fat than in the processed alternative. Using one small teaspoon of dripping to start your stew or soup is the best stock cube you could wish for.

One of my favourite big roasts is a slow roasted shoulder of pork. I usually use half a shoulder as it will weigh about 4.5kg. I save this for Sundays when family or friends might be visiting as it will feed 8 including extra for all-important left overs.

Also shoulder of pork is very economical. Buy the best pork you can. I have a few tips.

  • Firstly find a butcher that handles whole carcases as these will be able to give you a shoulder in the first place, and it will probably be fairly local. Secondly, they will be able to give you a shoulder with skin on and bone in, a must for crackling and flavour.
  • If your butcher handles whole free-range pork, it is probably local and you may be surprised at how little extra you have to pay to go free-range.
  • Remember that the more off-beat cuts such as shoulder, belly or hocks that require that extra bit of time and care are the less sought after cuts and are therefore cheaper. Get the best you can for your money – it’s out there, especially if you’re a willing and eager cook. You won’t be disappointed – think of the leftovers!

Slow roasted shoulder of pork – they don’t call it slow for nothing as you will need 5-6 hours.

You will need:

  • 1 x 4.5kg half shoulder of pork – bone in , skin on and scored at 1cm intervals
  • I heaped tablespoon fennel seeds
  • Olive oil
  • 3 onions
  • 10 bay leaves
  • 4 apples – skinned, deseeded and halved
  • 2 red onions
  • 1 heaped tablespoon plain flour

What to do:

  • Take the pork out of the fridge to come to room temperature.
  • Preheat oven to 220⁰C/425⁰F/gas 7.
  • Crush the fennel seeds in a pestle and mortar with a good pinch of sea salt and pepper.
  • Rub all over the pork with a good glug of oil making sure to get well into the scores.
  • Roast for 1½ hours.
  • Meanwhile peel and quarter the onions.
  • When the time is up, pour away all the fat (or transfer when cool to a jam jar to keep as dripping in the fridge).
  • Reduce oven to 130⁰C/250⁰F/Gas ½
  • Put the onions and bay leaves under the pork in the tray. Pour in 750ml water and cook for 2 hours.
  • Baste with tray juices and add the halved apples to the tray with a little water if required.
  • Roast for a further 2 hours until the meat pulls away from the bone freely.
  • Remove from oven and transfer to a plate with the apples and cover.
  • Put the roasting tray, with onions on a medium heat on the hob and stir in the flour. You should have plenty of liquid to make gravy. Add the pork resting juices. Stir well and simmer until a good consistency is reached. Pour through a sieve into a jug.
  • Serve everything together with seasonal greens along with your own usual trimmings.
  • Don’t forget to make good use of the leftovers during the week!

Published in The Western People – 14th September 2015

Filling back to school bellies

Meatballs in tomato sauce

Well ‘back to school’ time is almost upon us again. Every year I feel torn at this time between the craziness of summer with the kids and the comfort of the routine of school. I have to be honest and say that there was a time when I didn’t think much of the notion of having a dinner plan for the school week. I used to think that it would take too much time to do and took the spontaneity out of food. Then, of course, as the kids came along and got a bit older, I learn that ‘spontaneity’ was a luxury that ironically, someone with time would have!

This last school year, I found it not only invaluable but absolutely essential to plan the week of dinners in advance. If I didn’t I found that I either had nothing really to cook when I got home or I would spend too much money buying ingredients for one-off meals that hadn’t been properly thought through. This ultimately meant a lot of waste in the kitchen aswell. I suppose this is all just about good housekeeping but for me, I didn’t really learn what that meant until the kids came along. You don’t want hungry tired children finishing school with no dinner in sight. Life is too short for that!

The weekly dinner menu does get predicable but they are all dinners that are made from scratch, made relatively quickly, have plenty of vegetables and flavour at their core and the kids love them. Our meals include the predictable spaghetti bolognaise, chilli, chicken curry, pork meatballs and pasta, homemade fish fingers with potato wedges and veggie frittata (which is basically a massive omelette containing vegetables mainly potatoes).

Monday’s dinner is always based on leftovers from the Sunday roast. If we’ve had roast chicken, the leftover chicken (you’d be surprised how much meat you can get off the carcase) is bulked up with plenty of vegetables to make a chicken curry. This could even be done on the Sunday evening but that’s always been wistful thinking on my part.

The kids’ favourite is meatballs in tomato sauce. We use our own Fennel and chilli meatballs from the shop but you could use a good sausage that has the flavours that you want to taste in the finished sauce. Our hot Italian sausage does the job well as does Jane Russell’s Fennel and chilli sausage. Find a highly flavoured sausage with high meat content that your family likes. You could fry off the sausages directly and roughly chop them or use the sausage meat as follows.

For a meal for 4 there is plenty in 500g of sausage meat. Squeeze the meat from the casings into a bowl – kids love doing this! Smell the meat. If it seems to be lacking on the aroma front you can add some finely chopped red chilli or garlic to your taste, a teaspoon of cayenne pepper and maybe a tablespoon of ground fennel. Mix well with your hands and form into meatballs. Colour the meatballs gently in the bottom of your casserole pot. They don’t need to be fully cooked through but just firmed. Add a finely chopped medium onion at this point. When the onion is softened a little, add a full 700g jar of passata. Find a brand that doesn’t have sugar listed in its ingredients. It should only contain sieved tomatoes and a little salt. Let the pot bubble away for about 30 minutes on a very gently heat. If you have good sausage meat with plenty of flavour either in it or added, these flavours will leech out into the tomato sauce. Finally, to add some extra fibre, strain a 400g tin of Barlotti beans and add towards the end to heat through. Once cooked, taste and check for seasoning. If the passata you’ve used is a bit acidic, you might want to add a teaspoon or two of sugar to balance the flavour. This is actually a very quick dinner to make and there is always a queue for seconds!

 

 

First published in The Western People on 24th August 2015.

The Humble Spud

NewPotatoes

I get annoyed when people dismiss certain vegetables out of hand as ‘fattening’. I spoke with a lady the other day who said she couldn’t eat potatoes because they had too many ‘empty carbs’ and she questioned ‘what’s in them anyway?’ Firstly, you don’t have to eat potatoes for breakfast, lunch and tea. Secondly, we could all learn to shown some restraint with portion size. But to rule out an incredibly nutritious vegetable altogether I think is wrong – especially one that has such a strong history with this country to the point where it has become synonymous with Ireland.

How the potato got to Ireland in the first place is a bit of a mystery. Sir Walter Raleigh, Sir Francis Drake and John Hawkins have all been credited with introducing the tuber into Europe. The usual story for Ireland is that Sir Walter Raleigh brought it here when he was came to help suppress the Desmond Rebellions between 1579 and 1583. However, there is absolutely no evidence to support this dating from that time in any of the Raleigh-related estate records. Some evidence comes in the form of hearsay some 100 years later through the minutes of a Royal Society meeting held 13th December 1693 when it’s president Sir Robert Southwell (1635-1702) stated that his grandfather had ‘brought potatoes into Ireland who had them from Sir Walter Raleigh after his return from Virginia’. This may or may not have been the case. There does seem to be a connection with Spain however as an early name for potato was An Spáinneach. A likely scenario is that the first potatoes reached us from Spain via commercial trading routes.

Either way, Ireland fell in love with the spud. And as a staple food of a country, potatoes weren’t a bad option. They were one of the few staples that one could live nutritionally on exclusively which was the case for about 40% of the population in the 1800s. Potatoes are a good source of protein, vitamins and minerals such as iron and zinc, and of course the First World dreaded starch. All was good until 1845 when the potatoes were struck by blight and this, coupled with Ireland’s political and commercial practices at the time, resulted in the famine.

When Irish people think of potatoes their eyes often glaze over at the thought of freshly boiled new potatoes and rubbing the thin skins off before eating them with butter, salt and some new onions. Or colcannon, which is one of the most celebrated of Irish potato recipes and one of our favourites. It has all the simple goodness of floury potatoes, kale, milk, butter and scallions – Heaven! Maybe this is what the lady meant when she said that she couldn’t eat potatoes as they were fattening. But is there any dish that can evoke an Irish childhood more?

Colcannon

What you need:

  • 2lb or 1kg of Floury potatoes
  • 400g chopped kale
  • 1¼ cup/ 320ml milk
  • 6 tablespoons butter
  • 4 scallions, finely chopped
  • Salt and pepper

What to do:

  1. Boil the potatoes in a large pot until tender. Always start with cold water, never using hot water. Otherwise you will end up with floury outside and a hard middle.
  2. Add 3 tablespoons of butter to a pan over a medium heat. Add the kale and cook until just wilted. This should take about 5 minutes.
  3. Strain the potatoes. Add the milk, butter and scallions to the pot and let simmer gently for 2 minutes to infuse the milk with the scallion. Add the kale and the peeled potatoes to the pot. Mash until smooth.
  4. Season with salt and pepper
  5. To serve traditionally, make a crater on top of each portion using the back of a spoon. Add a knob of butter to each crater so that every forkful of colcannon can be dipped into the lake of melted butter.

Published in The Western People 20th July 2015

Mutton dressed as lamb

WP LambSalsaVerdePrep

Not being from a farming background and having been in contact with butcher shops that refer to lamb as lamb when it is actually hogget, I used to always wonder when a lamb became a hogget and indeed, when the Spring lamb season actually ended what with Easter being a movable feast. I have since learned that spring lamb is in season for a few weeks around Easter when the lamb is around 5 months old. It is known as lamb from then on until Christmas time after which it is called hogget. At two years old it is referred to as mutton.

As most sheep are grass-fed, Ireland produces the most excellent flavoured lamb. Mountain breeds tend to be leaner than some of the other lowland varieties, but living on different grasses, heather and wild plants gives mountain lamb a very distinctive flavour. Lamb from the hills of Connemara, Kerry, Donegal and Mayo’s own Achill Island has become sought after for this flavoursome distinction.

Hogget has a more pronounced flavour to lamb and I much prefer it. Mutton is stronger again in flavour and can be a bit tougher if not treated with care in the kitchen. Most people I have spoken to about mutton speak of a lasting impression left on their sense memory of the smell of it boiling in their mother’s kitchen as children. Undeterred by this, I have tried but have found it difficult to get mutton as I believe farmers can’t afford to keep the lambs this long for a relatively small number of interested people! But I will persevere.

The following recipe is incredibly easy and is good in the depths of winter as well as on the BBQ – which is just as well with the weather we’ve been having!

 

What you need:

  • 1 boned leg of lamb, or ½ leg of hogget, about 1.25kg weight
  • 1 small bunch of rosemary
  • 2 large cloves of garlic, peeled
  • 6 anchovies (about ½ 55g tin) – feel free to substitute black olives here, about 20 large ones
  • 2 red chillies
  • The zest of ½ a lemon
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

 

What to do:

  1. Ensure the meat has been left out of the fridge to come completely to room temperature before roasting. I usually leave it out for at least 1 hour.
  2. Heat the oven to 220⁰C/425⁰F/Gas Mark 7
  3. Strip the rosemary leaves off the twigs and set aside. Place the twigs in the bottom of the roasting tray, and place the opened out lamb on top. Your butcher can bone the leg for you. I usually keep the bone and add it to the tray for roasting if there is room.
  4. Put all the remaining ingredients, including the rosemary leaves, into a processor and blitz. Spread this paste over the lamb.
  5. Roast in the oven for 40 minutes, or until the lamb is still nicely pink inside. Set it aside to rest for at least 15 minutes before serving.
  6. Deglaze the roasting tin with 200ml of wine, stock or water to make simple delicious gravy.

First published in The Western People 22nd June 2015

Reek View Farm

PatGrimes5

We lived in a mid-terraced townhouse in Nenagh for 7 years before we moved back home to Castlebar. It had a postage stamp sized back garden that was filled with dock leaves, thistles and piles of maintenance when we moved in. We wanted to grow some vegetables and herbs for the kitchen and soon realised the work involved even in a tiny garden. I distinctly remember discussing in amazement the people that grow vegetables for a living. After our own very limited and forgiving experiences in the garden, we will be forever in awe of people who do it every day. They are really up against it. If you get your produce grown in the first place, what with the war that has to be waged against weeds, slugs, aphids, blight, mice and other competitors, you’re still trying to compete in the market place with foreign supermarkets that are selling bags of carrots for 99cent; a product someone somewhere has paid the price for.

Westport native Pat Grimes was a builder when the recession hit. He started doing odd jobs for people as building work waned and found that he was leaning towards the gardening and planting jobs more than others. He grew up on Reek View Farm in Carramore on the Westport to Leenane road. His parents always grew a wide variety of vegetables for the table, but Pat’s recollection is only of weeding. He never in a million years thought he would end up growing vegetables himself and would have laughed at the suggestion. But the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.

After doing a short organic vegetable course in Mayo Abbey, Pat knew that he wanted to study planting more extensively and attended the Organic College in Dromcollagher, Co. Limerick. He had started developing his home place on Reek View Farm growing salads, vegetables and herbs. He grew everything at first to see what would sell and what people would be interested in. He also had to work out what he could grow and rotate on a farm that, while not certified organic yet, is based on an organic ethos utilising organic systems of pest control, rotation and composting. He started selling his mixed salad leaves, herbs (thyme, sage, rosemary, basil, parsley and coriander) and vegetables (for example: cauliflower, tomatoes, beetroot, courgettes, French beans, kale) to local restaurants and hotels. Sol Rio was his first client and the number has grown to include Sage, The Lodge at Ashford, Bar One, Seasons, Mill Times Hotel, Hotel Westport, The Pantry and Corkscrew and the Idle Wall, to name a few. He also supplies SuperValu and Centra in Westport and ourselves, De Búrca’s in Castlebar with his bags of Elia’s salad leaves. For his farmhouse eggs and any surplus vegetables he keeps an honesty box at the end of his farm lane – it seems a lot of people have making the spin out the Leenane road just for this.

Pat’s leaves were recommended to us last year when we did our first proper De Búrca event at the Banbh Market on Rushe Street. We absolutely loved them. Not just because they were so varied, fresh and delicious but because we were dealing with someone at the end of the phone that was so calm, where nothing was a problem or an obstacle – which is probably why he grows vegetables.  Despite having spoken to him twenty times on the phone I didn’t get to meet him until the day of the Market. He came to the stall with his wife Corey, a Californian who came as a volunteer to his farm two years previously and never left, and their little baby girl Elia in a sling. That was last year. Elia’s name is on his bag of greens in the shop now, and seeing as they are due their second baby this summer, I’m looking forward to see what else comes from Reek View Farm.

 

First published in The Western People 25th May 2015

PatGrimes6

PatGrimes7