Summertime Drinks..

Summer drinks

I was surprised to discover this fine and sunny morning that I’d never written a post for you on my favourite Summer time drinks, but what better time to remedy that than our first Summery Sunday, and on a Bank Holiday weekend too?

Regular readers – hello you two! – will know that I make Sloe Gin every Autumn, but rarely have any left for Summer time drinks, as it gets used up/given away over Christmas. However,  following the festive non-event of 2020, I actually do have a bottle left – a silver cloud perhaps, but probably not making up for having no visitors at all over Christmas last year. But here I am, preparing to add a dollop to that bottle of chilled Prosecco from the fridge..

Here’s the recipe, if you can even call it that!

INGREDIENTS:

  • Sloe or Rhubarb Gin
  • Chilled prosecco

METHOD:

  • Pour a tablespoon of your Gin of choice into a Champagne flute
  • Top off with Prosecco
  • Sip in a shady spot

rhubarb gin 2

sloe gin 3 (2)

 

APERSOL SPRITZ:

Another huge favourite of mine – I particularly like that you can add Prosecco or not, depending on your taste – I’ve actually got used to just having an Aperol with just soda water and a big slice of freshly-cut Orange – just perfect!

Aperol spritz (4)

 

Another real Summer time favourite of mine is the Dressed Pimm’s. I’d never had one – which contains one of your 5-a-day by the way! – until our daughter went to university in England. All those long trips to and from the south of England were made easier by the addition of days spent by calm rivers sipping on these quintessentially English beverages! I wasn’t too long bringing this recipe home to Ireland where it sits in good and ancient company amongst my stash of imported recipes, stolen from all over the world! :)

DRESSED PIMM’S:         pimms

INGREDIENTS:

  • Pimm’s No 1 Cup – or a good imitation which I found in Sainsbury’s  – I can’t remember what it’s called but it’s on the shelf beside the Pimm’s.
  • While lemonade
  • Ice
  • Thick slices of skin-on fresh cucumber –
  • Hulled strawberries, cut in half
  • Slices of orange
  • Some fresh mint, lightly crushed

METHOD:

  • Put all the fruit and a handful of ice into your largest jug
  • pour  over 100mls of Pimm’s or more, depending on what time of day it is 😉
  • Top it off with the while lemonade
  • Add the crushed mint, and stir well
  • Serve in long glasses

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Freiend for dinner - Pimm's in the garden

 

Moving on now to the Non-Alcoholic part of this post:

It may surprise some of my nearest and dearest to realise that I’m not a big day-time drinker, unless I’m on my holidays because that’s different, right?

So here’s my useful list of easy Summery afternoon drinkies which will leave you fit to form a coherent sentence, and even think about dinner later on! I know you’ll thank me!

THE HUGO: First discovered at a wonderful wedding in Sicily several years ago, and still a firm favourite. This couldn’t be easier – Some Elderflower Cordial – Shop bought is fine of course, but following some very useful advice from an old school friend, I now freeze a few 500ml bottle of my homemade Elderflower cordial every year for these early summer days when our own Elderflowers are only coming into bud.

http://eatingforireland.com/recipe/homemade-elderflower-cordial/

The Elderflower cordial is poured over ice into a large balloon glass, and topped off with slices of Lime or Lemon, Soda Water, and a handful of crushed mint. Delicious and refreshing!Hugo June 2018 (5)

Robert and Pia 18.5.2018 (19) - Copy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

MINT A l’EAU: Perfect for those of you with rampant Mint growing in the garden! This very pale green minty drink is perfect Summer drinking..and also prefect for adding to a Hugo. Some people find it a bit too ‘toothpaste-y’ but there’s no denying that it’s summery!

http://eatingforireland.com/recipe/summer-mint-syrup/

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And finally – shamelessly stolen from my sister-in Law Dorothy in Australia – my absolute favourite Summer afternoon drink – Iced Coffee!

http://eatingforireland.com/recipe/dorothys-iced-coffee/

iced coffee 3

I’ve added the possible – ahem – ‘flavourings’ you can add to this Iced Coffee recipe!

iced coffee

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cold coffee, milk and Ice-cream – how can it go wrong ? Blended and poured over a scoop of Vanilla ice-cream.. I’m going to make some right now!

I hope you get to try some of these delicious drinks while we enjoy our Irish Summer!

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The Blackwater River from the Argory)

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A Summery dessert on a rainy Sunday..

Strawberry and Rhubarb Bars (4)
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Actual photo of actual wet Sunday morning!

A quick trot around a very wet Ormeau park this morning left us feeling virtuous… well – damp – and virtuous!

Home we came, divested ourselves of our waterproof shoes and coats, and thought ‘well, what now?’ I suddenly remembered the lovely local rhubarb I’d bought during the week, and that box of distinctly not-local strawberries sitting in the fridge and thought: I’ve got a recipe for that!

http://eatingforireland.com/recipe/summery-strawberry-and-rhubarb-crispy-bars/

Strawberry and Rhubarb Bars (18)

If you’ve never made these bars before, I must warn you here – they smell sooo good while they’re baking – but in reality, you should leave them to sit overnight to have them at their best. It’s almost impossible to resist them straight out of the oven, but all I can do is advise you, and let you make up your own minds! I won’t judge.. :)

Strawberry and Rhubarb Bars (4)

If you’re thinking – as I am – of dropping off some little Easter gifts to your friends and neighbours, these little bars would be absolutely perfect ! Firstly though, I’ll have to hide them from Mr Saturday Night, who really loves them – I’m thinking now that perhaps I should make two batches!! 😉

Here’s a picture of a wee dog with attitude, taken in the park this morning! I love the ambition he has, carrying a stick that’s 4 times the size of himself! We can learn a lot from these little critters..:)

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If you can’t bear to wait until tomorrow to taste your Rhubarb and Strawberry bars, may I interest you in an excellent alternative? My Summer Galette is perfect for virtually any fruit that you like – perfect for clearing out the fruit bowl – but Rhubarb and Strawberries are particularly magical together.. here’s the link for my Summer Galette –

http://eatingforireland.com/recipe/the-summer-galette/

Fruit Galette (6)

Fruit Galette (1)

So there’s your ‘wet Sunday’ afternoon sorted for you!

Hopefully, with the hour going forward today, we’ll be able to start creating more ‘Summery’ recipes soon..

I’ll be back during the week to offer some Easter suggestions..

Easter (2) Easter Cake (5) Easter 2018 2 Easter shortbread (2)

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Last Christmas, this Christmas, next Christmas ..

Mince pies (2)
December 20th Belfast (4)

Not this year…

At this stage last Christmas, we’d have been swamped with social engagements – work nights out, dinners and lunches with friends and family. We never thought it would – or could – be any different. Christmas socialising was planned with military precision; juggling dates so that we could attend the School play, the Carol Concert, the Christmas Craft Fairs, and still attend all the other events too..

How we would have laughed, last Christmas, if anyone had said in an outraged tone ‘There’s no Social Distancing going on here’ or had asked if we could ‘please wear a mask indoors’..

December 11th (3)

Not this year either…

But here we are with a different Christmas, coming at the end of a difficult year. Some of our family members and best friends will not be sitting at our tables this year. Some hard decisions have been made; some hearts broken.

My sister and I had the difficult discussion yesterday, and with our great friends shielding, it’s a Table for Three in Eating for Ireland Towers this year. Once I’d broken the news we realised that we’ve never, ever had a Christmas all on our own before.. strange times..

In my case I said, ‘well, that’s that then’ – only not exactly in those words  😉 – had my silent sob in the bathroom and tried to move on, hoping for better times next year. For others, it’s come as a terrible blow, heaped upon all the other terrible blows they’ve had this year.

We try to remind ourselves that it’s ‘just one day’. But it’s a day that comes but once a year, and traditions of years’ standing have been broken; in some cases, forever.

I know that I’ve been very lucky this year. And while loved ones will be missing from my Christmas Dinner table this year, I’ve been making a real effort to send as much of the taste of Mince pies (5)Christmas to as many of my friends and family as possible. Christmas is a time for giving, so why not give them a taste of Christmas to enjoy at home?

I started with posting some ‘taster’  mince pies to friends and family in November.  I’ve no idea how many mince pies I’ve made this year.. You can never have too many Mince Pies, right?

Mince pies (6)

 

 

I’ve made two lots of Tiffin – and they’re heading off too. A good friend sent me an accusatory text saying that she’d eaten far too much Tiffin, as had her Christmas Cake-hating family. She’s finally found a Christmas flavoured product that pleases everyone! If you make nothing else, do try the Tiffin recipe..

http://eatingforireland.com/recipe/christmas-chocolate-tiffin-traybake/

Christmas Tiffen (4)

One item that I’ve had requests for is my (well, Delia’s originally) delicious Stem Ginger Cake.  Regular readers will know that this cake changes it’s coat with the seasons – from Easter to a Christmas version in no time flat! http://eatingforireland.com/recipe/preserved-ginger-cake-with-lemon-icing/

Ginger cake 3

Easter bonnet!

I'm such a fraud!

Santa hat!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We’ll be making one for ourselves too, as it holds the record of being the only Christmas Cake of mine that never made it to New Year’s Eve..

Another huge favourite is the only Nigella Lawson recipe that’s ever worked for me.. Her luscious Chocolate Christmas Cake..

http://eatingforireland.com/recipe/nigellas-chocolate-christmas-cake-with-my-variations/

 

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The best thing – ok, one of the best things – about this cake is that you can make it on Christmas Eve without worrying about feeding it, wrapping it, putting it in a cold place for 6 months etc..

It’s the darkest cake ever – it’s got chocolate in it – and I like it with the Mascarpone icing, as in that really old picture above – even if the icing only lasts for 3 days. But of course you can give it  a coat of ready-rolled fondant icing, if that’s your thing. Either way, it’s my must-have Christmas Cake, and a quarter sent home to someone is always appreciated.

This is my plan for sharing my Christmas with the people I love who can’t be with me this year. Of course, Christmas eating isn’t all about sweet stuff  – there are many savoury recipes on my website – www.eatingforireland.com – in case you’ve forgotten!

Don’t forget those great stand0by Christmas gifts – my Christmas Version of the Irish Tea brack – perfect for cold winter afternoons with a big cup of tea!

http://eatingforireland.com/recipe/the-christmas-tea-brack/

Irish Tea Brack (2) Irish Tea Brack (5)

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m going to try to get out for a walk every day;  this is one of my favourite times of year, as long as it’s not raining (I’m a fair weather walker!) I love the light in the Winter..

The view towards Scrabo Tower

The view towards Scrabo Tower

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So here’s a wish from my home to yours, no matter how far away –

Good health to us; Good friends to us; Good food to us, for Christmas and every day.

Thank you for your kind and supportive words – always appreciated, but particularly so this strange and difficult year.

Becks xx

Mr Sat. Night sends his best wishes too! :)

Christmas card 2020 (2) - Copy

A Winter morning..

 

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Hillsborough Castle

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Mr Saturday Night’s famous Christmas Pudding

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T’was two-and-a-bit-weeks-before-Christmas..

The view towards Scrabo Tower

Christmas cake decorations 20201201_134120

..and I suddenly realised that I hadn’t got my trusty Christmas notebook out on my kitchen counter. In fact I hadn’t even looked for it.. Well, at least that’s sorted now.

It occurred to me then  that perhaps I’d better have a quick glance through it to see what I’m supposed to be doing at this stage..

Hmmm, let’s see..

  • Mincemeat made √;
  • Christmas gravy done√;
  • Christmas Pudding made √ (thanks Mr SN);
  • Mince Pies ditto, but I need to make many, many more to give away..
  • Casseroles for the freezer – well that would be a resounding NO..

I’d bought the ingredients for my Italian Meatballs  http://eatingforireland.com/recipe/italian-meatballs-with-mozarella/ over the weekend but they are still sitting in the fridge, looking around helplessly and saying ‘why am I here?’ ‘What’s it all about?’ and other existential questions.. I might need to move on that..

My excuse is the glorious Baltic/freezing days that we’ve had recently. Mr SN and I have been out making the most of them, and frankly the Christmas prep has gone off track a bit.

This little robin has a permanent perch on this fence!

This little robin has a permanent perch on this fence!

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Lake dweller…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Today, it was so icy that I couldn’t open the door of my car for my Monday morning trip to the bakery. It was still chilly when we got to Mount Stewart, a National Trust property near Newtownards, but a walk up and down a few hills, and a quick trot around the lake soon warmed us up. Mount Stewart was looking beautiful this morning, with the sky reflected in the lake, and the sun glinting through iced vegetation.

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Our coffee companion at Mount Stewart!

The lake at Mount Stewart

The lake at Mount Stewart

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Covid regulations had ensured that the restaurant, reception and shop was closed, but a take-away coffee was a welcome reward for our walk.

However, it was soon time to come home and get back to the Christmas prep, so in the spirit of ticking another little something off my list, I’m going to make my Chocolate cover Orange peel tomorrow – Look! I’ve even bought the oranges! These are so delicious that I wonder if I will be able to resist them before they have to be given away!

http://eatingforireland.com/recipe/chocolate-covered-orange-peel

Chocolate orange strips (5)

 

Chocolate orange strips (1)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you haven’t tried my new Crumble recipe yet, may I recommend it to you?

http://eatingforireland.com/recipe/pear-cranberry-and-ginger-biscuit-crumble/

It’s festive  – it’s got Cranberries in it! – with pear chunks,  and crushed Ginger snap biscuits in the Crumble part – We’re going to have it for dessert for our Christmas Eve dinner – that’s how good it is!

Cranberry, Pear and Ginger Crumble (13) Cranberry, Pear and Ginger crumble (10)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now all I’ve got to do is check my cupboard and freezer staples – that’s in my annual November post – http://eatingforireland.com/2018/11/01/stuff-to-do-in-november-to-take-the-strain-out-of-december/

And I’m not ashamed to be seen with a list clutched in my sanitized hand as I do my socially-distanced Supermarket shop!

There is the small matter of Christmas presents, but I’ve really tried to shop locally this year, and most of it is in the post as I type!

Enjoy these lovely Winter days, and remember that although Christmas is different for all of us this year, the best bit is still the run-up to it.  Sadly, we won’t be at Nativity plays and Carol Services – but Nature has been our support during Lockdown, and is at it’s best  on these frosty Winter days – off you go and enjoy it!

The view towards Scrabo Tower

The view towards Scrabo Tower

 

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A wet Sunday – what could be better?

Remember, you can't get rainbows without rain!

Remember, you can’t get rainbows without rain!

February 24th Hazelbank Park (14)

 

 

 

 

I was woken this morning by the rain slamming – no other word for it – against the bedroom window. Normally that just results in a groan, and a turn over for another doze, but not today – today I’m looking at this rainy Sunday as a opportunity..

This may be the day for Mr Saturday Night (still snoozing, unaware of his fate) to make his Christmas Pudding!

Christmas pudding 5

Christmas day at home 2018 JPG (16)

 

http://eatingforireland.com/recipe/mr-sat-nights-

christmas-pudding/

And as for me, I have a mountain of Mince Pies to make..

Mince pies (2) Mince pies (7)

 

AND.. if I can face going out to buy some chicken thighs, it may be the perfect day to make my Christmas Gravy, and have it safely stashed in the freezer, awaiting it’s moment of glory, on December 25th

Christmas Gravy (5)

Christmas Gravy

Christmas Gravy

And who knows? – it might brighten up enough for us to have a quick trot later on today!

But first I have to unpack my aptly-named  ‘November’ Christmas box, fresh in from the garage, I’ve just opened it – look at all these treasures!!

Honestly, it’s like Christmas!! :) :)

Enjoy your Sunday, whatever you’re getting up to!

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A different kind of November..

Christmas chocolate cake

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Every year around this time, I re-read, review, and trot out my ‘How to get ahead in November so that you can enjoy December’ Blog post

http://eatingforireland.com/2018/11/01/stuff-to-do-in-november-to-take-the-strain-out-of-december/ in an effort to ease us into the Festive Season.

Truthfully, it’s served me well over the years, and with any luck, you’ll have found at least one useful thing to repay you for having taken the time out of your busy life to read this Oul Doll’s ramblings.

However, barely a couple of paragraphs into it this morning I realised that the Festive Season ahead of us bears little or no resemblance to previous Christmases. Apart from keeping Ted out of the Christmas tree – some traditions are forever, apparently – all is changed utterly..

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The Continental Christmas Market, that stalwart of Belfast Christmases, will not be at the City Hall this year – but, and you heard it here first – St George’s Market still open, and is gearing up to make Christmas extra special, so keep an eye out for that, and other local events in your area.

Will there be Nativity plays? School Carol Concerts? Visiting Santa?? And my particular pre- Christmas favourites: Craft Fairs.  I love Craft Fairs – not this year you don’t, Becks…

It’s enough to make even a relatively cheery soul such as myself feel a little, well, flat..

But.. BUT:  the Halloween just past has been hailed by most of my younger pals as great fun and really enjoyable – People decorated their houses; parents and children did the socially-distanced Trick or Treating together; they had fun at home; public-minded actors did Street Theatre around the houses.. It worked out fine.  The kids – and the grown-ups – got to dress up and eat their own body weight in chocolate and sweets.

Halloween Fun at St George's Market

Halloween Fun at St George’s Market

Halloween at St George's Market

Halloween at St George’s Market

Maybe, just maybe, we can pull Christmas off too? Well there’s a thought, and something worth putting some effort into.

Christmas day at home 2018 JPG (16)

I’m determined now, that I’ll follow as much of my previous November advice as possible, so I’ve put the link to that Blog at the top of this one. I’ll fill my cupboards with ingredients and household supplies – I’ll try not to stock-pile toilet rolls, because that’s just not even funny anymore..

Mr Saturday Night will create his Christmas Pudding, and we’ll stir it and make a wish.

I’ll forget about a Christmas Cake until Christmas Eve, as I always do, and either make Nigella’s one,

http://eatingforireland.com/recipe/nigellas-chocolate-christmas-cake-with-my-variations/

The last minute Christmas Cake!

The last minute Christmas Cake!

or ask Little Miss Eating for Ireland to make the Ginger cake and put suitably festive decorations on it:

http://eatingforireland.com/recipe/preserved-ginger-cake-with-lemon-icing/

I'm such a fraud!

I’m such a fraud!

Over the next few weeks, I’ll double up on recipes – Chilli, Bolognaise, Curry, and have a few easy dinners socially distancing themselves in the freezer, waiting for one of my ‘can’t cook/won’t cook’ days.

I’ll make the gravy for Christmas Day and put it in the freezer; that always cheers me up.

http://eatingforireland.com/recipe/christmas-gravy-the-get-ahead-recipe/

Christmas Gravy (5) Christmas Gravy (2)

 

 

 

 

 

 

At this stage I refuse to think about all the things I’ll miss this year. I’ll be trying determinedly to NOT think about who might not come for Christmas Dinner this year.  I’m not going there because it makes me sad, and there’s plenty of time yet before final decisions are made..

And as always, “the way it is, is the way it’s meant to be”. That one-line philosophy has kept me going for years. I find it comforting that the universe marches to its own tune, and my little concerns are as nothing to it..

So have a look through ‘Things to do in November etc.’ and try not to worry about the things we won’t be able to change, regardless of how much we might wish to.

Enjoy the change of seasons; the last of the golden leaves on the trees, the frosty mornings, coming home to a warm house.. Enjoy November.. :) xx

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Halloween, and other scary things..

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Seasonal walks amongst colourful, leafy forests have given me time to think these past few weeks.

I’ve been thinking about how this year has been so unusual for the kids – and now Halloween is going to be different for them too. Once my brain hits Halloween, it stops for a minute to remember my own childhood Halloween celebrations – Turnips hollowed out into a Jack O’Lantern by Dad, bobbing for apples; dressing up in old clothes (no bought costumes for us, back in the day); cardboard masks that got soft and damp if you wore them for too long – anyone remember those? And getting sweets, apples and the odd sixpence from our neighbours..  Good times.. and the good times will return, we just don’t know when.

October 25th

 

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Meanwhile, the children will enjoy their strange Halloween. I think that because the children have all had a strange Summer, strange birthdays and a strange Halloween, they’ll actually be happy enough, because everyone else has had exactly the same Summer, birthday and Halloween.

There are  lots of Pumpkin-inspired cakes and pies, and plenty of cosy dinner recipes over on www.eatingforireland.com to warm us up when we’ve been out in the chilly air  so head over and have a wee look..

Pumpkin Scones!

Pumpkin Scones!

Mmm..Pumpkin and Rum Cake!

Mmm..Pumpkin and Rum Cake!

Pumpkin Pie!

Pumpkin Pie!

Roasted Squash!

Roasted Squash!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Once I’ve given some thought to Halloween, I move rapidly on, and you all know where I’m going next, don’t you? Yes, I’m going to talk about that Big Eating, Drinking, and Present-Giving Festival at the end of the year – and for possibly the first time in my life I know what I want for Christmas..

So let’s face it, Halloween is only slightly scary compared to that, so I’m going to leave it until next time to tell you all about it – bet you can’t wait!

I’ll say no more.. I’ll just leave this picture for you to think about..

Christmas 2018 (11) Christmas day at home 2018 JPG (16) Christmas at home (5)

Ok, that’s three pictures, but hey, it’s Christmas!! :)

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T’was 2 (and a bit) months before Christmas…

Wet Sundays…

February 15th at Titanic (1)

A wet Sunday..

A wet Sunday..

 

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Yep. 4th October, a rainy Sunday, and my inbox is full of Christmas notifications..

I’m not really that cross about it, but it reminds me that Christmas 2020 is, for the moment, an unknown quantity..

We counted up the other day, and the small traditional group of friends and family around our kitchen table for Christmas dinner makes up 4 distinct households. This might well become an issue, but there’s nothing I can do about it right now so I’m not going waste time worrying. All we can do is travel hopefully..

In that spirit, I’ve made my Christmas Mincemeat – because there will always be Mince Pies here at Eating for Ireland Towers.

http://eatingforireland.com/recipe/home-made-christmas-mincemeat/

Mince pies (6)

I suggested to Mr Sat. Night that all the ingredients for his Christmas Pudding were in the cupboard – I got a frosty response 😉 – and a reminder that he always makes his pudding on Stir-up Sunday! So that’s me put in my place then.. :)

Christmas pudding 5

 

I always look on a wet Sunday as an opportunity to make and bake for both the freezer, and the incoming week. I’ve enough raw ingredients to make soups, stews and sauces..so that’s my Sunday sorted. I’m not saying that I won’t be persuaded into a walk if the rain lets up, but for the moment, that’s my cunning plan..

Christmas dinner in a Pie (1)veg and Red Lentil soup (1)

 

Banana Bread 2020 (2)Ahh.. the joy of coming indoors from a cold, wet or frosty day and having a warming bowl of soup for lunch, or a comforting stew, or – always a favourite – a one-pot miracle dinner! As the days shorten, the nights close in, the leaves change colour, and we think about having the heat coming on in the mornings again, these old favourite dinners make a welcome return to our repertoire.

 

Let’s spend a little time,  this rainy day, reminding ourselves of some of the delicious Autumnal goodies awaiting us on the Eating for Ireland site!

Fruit Galette (6)
Rice Pudding (5)P1470376

 

http://eatingforireland.com/recipe/the-summer-galette/

http://eatingforireland.com/recipe/pea-and-ham-quiche/

http://eatingforireland.com/recipe/baked-rice-pudding/

Go check out www.eatingforireland.com for loads more ideas!

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Despite everything, I’m doing a little forward planning this Autumn..

October 10th 2018 (15)

October 10th 2018 (15) October 20th 2018 Rowallane (3)

And here we are again – the linen trousers stashed away in the hopes that I’ll fit in to them again next year – and my fingerless gloves on for the first time today.. Autumn is here, without a doubt.

I’ve got my Sloes relaxing in their annual Gin bath.

http://eatingforireland.com/recipe/sloesall-you-need-to-know/

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I’ve made my Christmas Mincemeat – yes, that’s early, even for me – hoping that it will be beautifully matured when I need it. Mr Saturday Night, ever the optimist, is hoping that I might make a ‘test’ batch of Mince Pies – for Quality Assurance purposes naturally! I probably will though, because my house smelled so divine yesterday..

http://eatingforireland.com/recipe/home-made-christmas-mincemeat/

Mince pies (6)

And today I’m making Marmalade. This has very little to do with Autumn, but more to do with the fact that I appear to have eaten/given away every last jar that I made earlier in the year.. I blame lockdown! As it’s way too early for Seville Oranges, I’m making a three-fruit marmalade – ordinary Orange, Pink Grapefruit and Lemon marmalade – which is fast becoming my favourite, and another possible reason for the fact that there is none of the last batch left!

http://eatingforireland.com/recipe/traditional-seville-orange-marmalade/

Marmalade 2018 (18)

The festive smell in my house reminds me that, unlike previous years, I haven’t actually started my Christmas shopping yet. I usually start around the end of August, picking up a few bits and pieces which – every single year – lulls me into a false feeling of satisfaction. In my head, I’ve got everything done. This is all well and good but come the second week in December when I decide to start wrapping presents for those living far away, and realise that I have in fact no Christmas shopping done at all.  This realisation rapidly leads to my annual ‘running around like a headless chicken’ phase. Am I ever going to learn? Probably not, at this stage..

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Any of you who know me well, or who have read any of my other blogs will know how strongly I feel about buying from local businesses. And if ever there was a year to buy local, then 2020 is definitely it. Small local businesses, services, artists, entertainers, crafters and producers have suffered huge losses due to lockdown, and if we want these small businesses to survive, then we must support them. There is so much talent out there and I really don’t want that to disappear.

I’ll be starting off in my local St George’s market, where there’s literally something there for everyone: Foodies, Antique or Vintage collectors, art lovers, and crafts fiends. Some of my favourite stallholders have taken their businesses online for the moment, so all of those can be ordered on line this year. Every single thing that you buy has an immediate effect on local suppliers – for some it will inspire them to keep going for another wee while, for others it may stop them throwing in the towel as a lost cause. Every purchase keeps people in jobs, feeding their families, paying their mortgage, and cautiously looking forward to the future.

Cottage Pie and roasted cauliflower (2)

Mm..Vegetable and Lentil soup!

Mm..Vegetable and Lentil soup!

Be sure to look out for local food and crafts markets near you – despite the cooling temperatures, they’ll be running outdoors as long as they can.

With the trees starting to turn, I’ve gone back to my comfort food recipes – warming, tasty dinners and cosy baking.

There are loads of family-friendly recipes on www.eatingforireland.com – why not check them out this weekend? Don’t forget to try to get out to enjoy our beautiful country as the leaves change colour – it’s one of the best times of the year!

Lough Neagh on a cold, sunny morning

Lough Neagh on a cold, sunny morning

October 20th 2018 Rowallane (1)

 

October 14th Mount Stewart (17)

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It’s a #staycation kind of year!

October 10th 2018 (15)

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2nd July Newcastle (2)

As I was packing up my weekly shop the other day, the check-out lady in Dunnes and I were chatting, and we agreed that we wouldn’t want to be anywhere but home at the moment – even with the unrelenting rain that hasn’t stopped for weeks.. This was after a quick discussion about people flocking like sheep  to sunny spots in Europe – who are probably glad of the money we bring, but who don’t really want us there at the moment.. At the same time we both also agreed that we needed to get out more 😉

Lough Neagh, from Antrim

Lough Neagh, from Antrim

It started me thinking about how lovely Ireland is – even in that pesky rain – and how truly magical it is on a sunny day. We’ve had some lovely Irish holidays in the past couple of years, where it rained, but the sun also shone; where we could put as many shoes, coats and sun hats into the back of the car as we liked, so that we were ready for all weathers, rather than having to weigh everything and stand for hours in an airport. For me, the age of enjoying air travel is long gone. Even that carry-on luggage  palaver is too much for me – take off your shoes, belt, coat..

We were very fortunate to share a couple of spring days with our daughter just before lockdown. We stayed just outside Kenmare in Co. Kerry and despite rain – for 24 hours – on our first day, we managed to get out to see as much as we wanted on a fairly short trip.

March 8th Sheen Falls Lodge (6)

 

My parents’ happy retirement home in Skerries, Co Dublin taught us to love small Irish towns, and particularly small Irish towns by the sea.. Even though Mum and Dad are both gone now, we still all find our way back to Skerries at least once a year – to take a bracing walk around the head – it’s bracing or Baltic, depending on when you take the walk, and then to sit in one of the many coffee shops listening to the local chat all around you..

Around the Head at Skerries..

Around the Head at Skerries..

the view towards Skerries harbour on a mild September Evening

the view towards Skerries harbour on a mild September Evening

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We’re so lucky here in Ireland to live in such a beautiful place – with so many interesting and amazing places to see..

If you’ve never been, may I suggest a trip to the Boyne Valley to see Newgrange, or Bru na Boinne, as it is in Irish. This amazing monument, built by our ancestors back in the mists of time, is one of the most special places in Ireland – you actually get to go into the monument, and see a simulation of the sunrise inching it’s way along the passage tomb, as it does on the longest day of the year. You can also enter a raffle to be one of the lucky few who get to visit Newgrange at sunrise on 21st December – I’ve entered the raffle every time I’ve been there and never won, so I’ll be wildly jealous if you win! Newgrange predates the Pyramids of Egypt – it really is a wonder!

Newgrange Sept 2012 (3)

Newgrange, Co Louth – well worth a visit!

A little closer to home is one of my favourite walks – the Giant’s Ring. This is a Neolithic Henge monument which is close by the Lagan river near Minnowburn – I always think it’s at it’s best on a frosty morning, and poor Mr Saturday Night has been dragged here several times in freezing temperatures.

A Portal tomb in the middle of the Giant's Ring

A Portal tomb in the middle of the Giant’s Ring

The view from the Giant's Ring on a frosty morning

The view from the Giant’s Ring on a frosty morning

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This year in particular, I’m more than happy to stay at home, take a chance on the weather (!) and offer some support to our local businesses – those who know me well will know that I’m a great believer in supporting local industry – You’ll find me buying my meat and vegetables at St George’s Market, having breakfast in Newcastle Co Down, visiting the 1st Thursday market in Comber , and generally having a great time at home!

I hope that I’ll see you there! :)

the Blackwater river at Antrim Castle gardens

the Blackwater river at Antrim Castle gardens

The promenade at Newcastle

The promenade at Newcastle

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Our favourite coffee from St George's Market

Our favourite coffee from St George’s Market

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