Monthly Archives: April 2011


I work in a most amazing place that is steeped in history. It is a house that has been standing for two centuries and has seen people from all corners of life walk through its doors.  I feel like I walk among ghosts when I wander through the endless warren of corridors. In its youth, this mansion was full of grandeur, entertaining the wealthy and beautiful lords and ladies of Dublin in the early 1800’s. The architecture suggests affluence and the grounds are extensive. There is a walled-in Victorian garden at the end of the property where a curvilinear glasshouse still stands. It is my dream to have this restored to its former glory. I think it dates back to before 1850.  There are magnificent views of Dublin Bay. The grounds outside the estate were popular with the gentry of that time for hunting. This is a sketch of the house, dated 1867. The original house can be seen on the right hand side. It had a massive conservatory which housed many exotic plants, but sadly no longer stands there today. A viewing tower was constructed as one of the lords who occupied the house was in love with the scenic views. 

In 1863, a religious order took ownership and it became a school and convent. The nuns constructed the left-wing, which was attached to the original house. The following  photograph is of one of the ladies who attended the boarding school, taken c. 1870. The school was originally a poor-school but it soon became popular with the higher classes in society as the quality of education given by the nuns was excellent. It was not long before the daughters of the rich began attending. This is evident from the school registers which record the addresses of pupils at that time.

The voices of the nuns are now also but a whisper, just as the  occupants before them.  The nuns have moved out of the convent since 2007 as the house was too big for them to manage. They are a dying breed unfortunately. Many of them are quite elderly now. The school has taken over the use of the convent, holding lectures and meetings there. The house still preserves the smell of history and the shadows of eras gone by.


Filed under research

Who needs television?

Really?! I mean, children are so easily amused. Take my children for instance. Plonk them onfront of the washing machine and they pretend that they are in the cinema.

What kid doesn’t love getting messy with a paint brush, paper and bright colours. This is always a winner until the kid tries finger painting. Then it is time for some disaster management!

A favourite past-time is by far flicking through the many, many books they have on their own dedicated book shelves. You know when it has gone all quiet that they are sitting happily sifting through and reading their books. Either this or they are up to no good…

When it is not raining outside, no child wants to be stuck indoors. So on with the wellies and off out with them to explore, dig for worms, smell new blossoms and generally act the maggot.


Filed under Family, Motherhood

rampaging ramsons!

Here are some ideas of what to make with ramsons, which are also known as wild garlic or bear’s garlic. It is more akin to chives than to the garlic bought in the shops. Not only is it free to pick in woodland areas from March to end of April but it is also quite diverse.

So here are some thoughts:
First off, you can make the easy classic wild garlic soup. This was originally a war-time soup. It is made with potato and ramsons and a dash of cream.

Shove a few handfuls of ramson leaves into a chicken, together with a lemon. This gives the chicken a sweet garlicy taste. Roast the chicken breast side down for the first hour. Then turn over for the last 30 minutes.  I made this on Sunday and it was to die for!

Jamie Oliver makes a ramson carbonara. He blends the ramsom leaves in with the carbonara sauce before adding the cooked spaghetti to it. I reckon this is a good way to introduce ramsons to children. Here’s hoping they are not discouraged by the green colour!

The first recipe that pops into people’s minds is of course the ever-popular  pesto. I like to make mine with a twist – using walnuts instead of pine nuts. For a milder pesto try sun-dried tomatoes, basil leaves and ramson leaves with the obligatory pine nuts, olive oil and pecorino.

Ramsons go well with eggs. So scramble your eggs and sprinkle freshly torn ramson leaves over it when cooked. Alternatively, you could make a light omelette.

Another way is to make a goats-cheese and ramson quiche.

Throw in a handful of torn leaves into some mashed potato, a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkle of sea salt.

Lastly, mix the chopped leaves with butter and lemon zest. Form it into a roll and freeze. Then when you have a fillet of salmon/steak cut off a piece as a sauce.

And there you have it! Now get picking…

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Filed under food, Herbs, Recipes