A new favourite cookbook

Although it is not yet on the shelf at home it is possible I may have found my new favourite cookbook.

Two weeks ago The Observer Food Monthly had an article in it on a book called Persiana by Sabrina Ghayour. There was a picture of a plate of aubergine, cooked on a grill with black ridges and dressed with yogurt coloured with saffron with red chilli and coriander. There was a recipe for tomato salad with pomegranate molasses and another for seafood stew with saffron.

We had the tomato salad a couple of days later and it was particularly good.

This evening we had a Spiced Vegetable Soup from the same article. I fiddled around with it a bit; keeping the potatoes and chickpeas whole rather them blitzing them in a blender with rest of the ingredients and making up a second bowl with pieces of chicken.

Each bowl was garnished with a mixture of caramelised onions and chickpeas, feta cheese and a sort of pesto made with parsley, dill, coriander and pistachio nuts

We ate it with bread made to look more interesting by punching the rising dough with a sharp knife.

In the week that we have been away the garden has expanded. The trees are now overhanging with green leaves and every bed is drunk with bluebells.

At the end of the garden the laburnum is about to burst into yellow against the yew tree through which it has grown. There is no greater sense of time moving on as there is now. A few weeks ago I was talking about the first days of spring and now the daffodils are almost gone, each flowering lasts only a brief moment before being taken over by another. By the time the laburnum is over we will be into midsummer and the dahlias that I potted a few weeks ago will be coming into flower.

In the meantime the rudder is brooding and propped up in out hall waiting for me to find something to do with it.

Remaking the bench and eating turbot

One of the casualties of the storm at The Cottage was the made wooden bench at the end of the garden just behind the sea wall that overlooks the beach. It was put together about eight years ago from two stumps of wood and a thick plank which was screwed into place. Perhaps the surprising thing is that it managed to last so long.


It sat just above a corner of the beach that leads round to the pier patch and where in the summer evenings we build our fires. Over the years people have sat on it wrapped up in rugs to keep warm, played guitars from it and it has been used as a tray for plates of food and drink.

It went in the storms although the plank survived and was found washed up against a wall of The Cottage. It was put to one side to be used in a new bench.

Having spent an afternoon splitting wood and filling the wood shed I came across a couple of lumps of wood that were just too heavy, wide and thick to split. I pushed them to one side. Maybe another year or two of weathering would brittle them up and make them easier to crack.

The storms had also washed in another piece of wood. It was about seven foot long, a foot wide and six inches thick. It had been pushed into a corner of the garden in the expectation that it could be cut up for firewood. But then looking at it I realised it would fit well on the stumps of wood that were too thick to split.

I took a wheelbarrow up into the field and manhandled the stumps of wood into it and brought them down into the garden. The length of wood was too big to lift and I manhandled that onto the wheelbarrow and was just about able to manoeuvre it onto the two stumps of wood. And there we had it. A new bench overlooking the water.

That evening we ate a whole turbot that I roasted in the oven. All I did was chop up an onion into the bottom of the terracotta dish and put the trimmed turbot on to. I seasoned it with olive oil, lemon juice and salt and pepper and it then went into the oven for about 45 minutes.

The turbot had come from Central Fish in Bantry. we were there for a few hours in the morning. it felt strange to be there and the market not being on  but it was good to be without the crowds. unfortunately Ma Murphy’s was closed and I was not able to refresh myself with a pint there.


We left the next day to come home but not before i was able to manhandle the old wooden rudder I found last year into the back of the car. it is now stood against the wall in our hall, smelling vaguely of the sea, and there is some debate in the family as to what we should be doing with it.



An open fire in The Cottage means that there is an insatiable thirst for new wood, especially outside of the summer months, when there is not enough sun to be had in the day to take off any chill in the evening.

There is plenty of wood to be had. Trees grow quick and tall and need to be cut back on a regular basis and if they are not cut back there they run the risk that the wind will take them down.

Last summer the wood shed was running on empty and we had to pick away at whatever could be turned up from its corners. There was some benefit to this as last summer I found under the last pile of logs an old boat’s rudder. It must have been put in there years ago and left until someone had the time to chop it up. I firmly believe that it has a home in Birkenhead and with luck I will be able to fit into the car this time.

Over the course of the last few months the woodshed has been filled back up with the wood that has come down over the winter. But a lot of it has been great thick logs too big for the fire so there has been a need to chop some of it down to size.

We have been doing that this afternoon using a heavy axe and grenade. The grenade is a hard lump of metal in the shape of an arrowhead. This is knocked into the log until in place and is then taken to with the flat end of the axe until the log is split. The older logs go quickly and are split in two or three blows. The new green wood is far harder and can be unyielding as I try to drive the spike of metal through.


No matter how unyielding all the logs go until the last which is almost two foot wide. The spike goes in an inch and then moves no more. I drag Galen out to have a go at it and we can feel the metal heat up as all the energy we put into each blast on the top tries to find somewhere to go. It is clear the spike is not going to split the wood and so we try tease it out, tapping it out at an angle, until it is slowly released.

We are left with a pile of logs to go back into the woodshed. No doubt they will be burnt out by the time we are back next summer.



A Good Things Lunch

We have spent six or seven Easters at The Cottage and on the last three times we gave been here we have had lunch at The Good Thing’s Café.

Five years ago we walked there and back along the back road that runs in a straight line through the hills from Ahakista to Durrus. The walk there took about three hours. On the walk back we were buoyed up with wine and good food and got back to The Cottage as it was getting dark.

There was talk of walking again this year but the weather was too good to be away from The Cottage that long and there were boats to be taken out onto the water and coffee to be drunk.

I then decided to walk part of the way. The table was booked for 2.00 so if I left at 1.00 I would be able to get a few miles under my belt before one of the cars that was bringing the rest of the party caught up with me and could take me the rest of the way.

I was about to set off when Dad said he would join me. So I waited a few minutes more and then we left to see how far we could get before being picked up.

Driving through the previous night in the dark some of the damage from the storm was caught in the car headlights and we caught flashes of where the sea wall had been washed away. Walking back in the daylight the damage was more apparent. Stretches of wall were gone and boulders and large stones had been put in its place so the passing cars knew not to drive into the sea. Some of the stone wall on the landward side of the road had also collapsed and there were patches of field strewn with dried seaweed and gravel from the sea.

Any piece of land that was next to the sea has had its shape shifted. Large rocks had been moved and those too big to move had been further exposed. Bare earth had crumbled away and a familiarity has been taken away from the place. It will take another few months for those edges to blur.

We got about three miles before the cars caught up with us and we were given a lift the rest of the way.

Lunch was a fixed menu – 2 starters and 2 mains with prawns on as a special. Out of that we had enough to keep everyone happy.

We never went to the butterfly house in which The Good Thing’s Café makes its home but we must have eaten there now two or three times, if not more, each year since it opened, and we have never been disappointed.

This Easter Sunday lunch was no exception. Four of us had the fish soup which then came in a white tureen and we served it out amongst ourselves. Cora had decided that all she needed was the fish soup and she had four bowls of it which she eeked out with bread and cheese.

There were then plates of salad and prawns and roast lamb with mashed potato. One of the highlights was a pile of spiced, almost fermented, finely chopped carrot that came with the salad. Kristen decided it was too spicy for her and so I forked it off her plate and onto mine and ate it.

It was a slow lunch measured out with a clutter of spoons and knives and voices.

Two hours later we walked out back into the light replete and looking forward to the summer when we can go back.