Tag Archives: culture

Velvety sin.

I made this for dessert for our Easter Sunday feast. Yes, it has taken me a month and a half to post it, but better late than never! It was to die for. The chocolate was so rich.  I used O’Connaill’s organic chocolate, which is made in Co. Cork. The smell of the chocolate alone was enough to send me into a cocoa coma.

The chocolate really acted as a launch pad for the floral-citrus flavours of the cardamom. This spice changed the mousse into a luxury, which was sinfully delicious. I loved crushing the cardamom pods in the mortar, releasing the smell throughout the kitchen. The kids loved sticking their noses in to experience this new smell.

I poured the mousse into little Moroccan tea glasses. It was great because I could prepare it and put them in the fridge the day before. This saved on time the next day amidst the frenzy of cooking three other courses.

Chocolate & cardamom mousse, amaretti and coffee

Chocolate & Cardamom Mousse

2oog good-quality dark chocolate (minimum 70% cocoa solids)

100ml single cream

4 eggs, separated

1 teaspoon caster sugar

half teaspoon cardamom seeds

(this serves 4 people)

Method

Break the chocolate into a glass bowel suspended over a saucepan of simmering water. Stir often to make sure that no lumps form.

Ready for action!

Remove from the heat and stir in the cream, egg yolks, sugar and cardamom seeds.

In a clean bowl, whisk the egg whites until they form stiff peaks.

Fold the whisked eggs into the chocolate mixture.

Fold in gently to allow air into the mixture

Pour the chocolate mixture into individual glasses and place in the fridge for 1 hour or until set.

Pour into cups or glasses, even espresso cups will do

This recipe is taken from Homemade: Irresistible recipes for every occasion by Clodagh McKenna, 2010

Of course this would not have achieved without the help of my two trusty tasters helpers.

Olwyn's gobstopper

Seren's chocolate beard

Then it was seriously a case of death by chocolate…

I don't need instructions on how to eat this!

See! I am an expert at it.

I think Babi and Olwyn approve.

And the award for the biggest chocaholic goes to...

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Bloomin’ marvellous

This Bank Holiday weekend saw Bloom 2011 take place in Phoenix Park, Dublin. So we packed up the kids, snacks and teddies and went along on the last day. After getting the train, tram and shuttle bus, we arrived to the buzz of thousands of people attending. We were not alone!

Arriving at Bloom

Upon arrival we quickly made a bee-line through the Victorian walled kitchen garden and were made jealous of their perfect crops of potatoes, strawberries, onions etc.

Seren climbing up to the sky

The first port of call was the massive playground to tire out the kids. We were lucky to get there early on in the day before the crowds came so the kids got a turn on the swings and had plenty of fun running around, climbing, jumping without bumping into other little ones. Olwyn loved the bug slide and went down it about fifty times and in the end was just as happy climbing up and down the step. Seren had a blast joining in with the big kids on the climbing frames. 

Olwyn loved the bug slide

Once we had sufficiently ran the legs off the girls, we grabbed two sausages from the nearest vendor and sat in the walled garden to eat them. We were a bit dismayed not to have brought a proper picnic. The sausages cost 6 euro each and to be honest were not worth it. Peter’s could have done a few minutes extra on the grill.Oh well, it gave us sustenance and the girls enjoyed the bread! Now that we had full tummies we were ready for the madness of the show gardens…
 
It was difficult to tackle the crowds with a double buggy! But nothing  that a little patience helped with. Although some people seemed to fail to notice the giant buggy and tried to plough straight through it! Some of the gardens were really inspirational and a real delight to look at.
Foxgloves galore!
I loved this garden for the shere amount of foxgloves dotted throughout the garden. It was magical and the photograph doesn’t do it any justice. I think foxgloves were highly fashionable this year as we saw lots of people carrying these plants around, after having bought them. However I thought to myself “would they actually survive the trip home”? My favourite garden was designed by Anú Green and Hortisculptures, but unfortunately I did not get the opportunity to take a photograph of it. This garden was aiming to promote conservation of Ireland’s unique boglands and incorporated moss and lichens into the sculptures. We even got talking to one of the designers, who was very cool and a pleasure to chat to.
 While Peter went to help out a friend who had an exhibition stand, I took the kids to Hamley’s kids corner. This was such a huge hit with Seren and Olwyn. Seren got to pet a real snake and she didn’t blink an eye in fright. There were two baby dinosaurs too and their keepers were brilliant with the children.

The dinosaur keeper!

 Next it was down to some serious business doing colouring in!

Do not disturb!

There was great excitement in the area when the Hamley bear appeared out of thin air. He was surrounded by children. The girls were real lucky though as they got story time with the bear and they got to sit right on front of him. It was so much fun observing them. Olwyn was nearly beside herself with excitement. Here are some photographs of their joyous moments.

Story time with Hamley bear

Big bear hug!

Next it was off to make some bird feeders out of peanuts, which I ended up making myself. But it was nice to just sit down in the sun for a minute, hee hee.

Clearly enthralled in the art of making a bird feeder - not!

Then it was off to the chill out zone where the kids got to laze on gigantic bean bags and listen to someone read stories aloud. Seren was enthralled.

My little bookworm

 Seren had been going on about having an ice-cream for about two hours now. Not only that but it had to be a vanilla ice-cream, not chocolate! So we eventually gave in and got her a cone. Pure bliss and …silence!

Happiness is....eating ice-cream

 and coffee for mum and dad – phew

A bit of r&r

So now that the kids were happy, we went to the artisan food stalls and got to pick on lots of yummy samples. We couldn’t resist and bought some Bluebell goat’s cheese and a jar of ginger and chili jelly, which we devoured once we got home. The trip home was a mammoth task in itself. The women’s mini-marathon was on that day also. So all the public transport was packed. But we made it without the kids having a meltdown! We were so happy to be at home at last after a great family day out for all the kids (big and small).

 
 

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The Isabella Plantation

I was recently on a work trip to London and my colleague took me to Richmond Park and we went for a walk through the Isabella Plantation. This place is truly stunning and a feast for the eyes. We came at the right time of the year as all the Azaleas and the Rhododendrons were in their full glory. I walked into a wall of sweet smells and bright vivacious colours as I entered through the beautiful wrought iron gate.

Winding paths
A child’s paradise
Kurume Azaleas
Kurume Azaleas
Azaleas
Azaleas and Rhododendrons
The wild stream
Peg’s pond

These little mandarin ducks take time to reflect on the important things in life!

 

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Whispers

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.

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Filed under research