Good Things and volcanic cheese

Friday nights food was a tribute of sorts (albeit unintended) to some of the food that we ate over the last couple of weeks at The Good Things Cafe.

We started with a courgette carpaccio, went on to gazpacho and then onto a volcanic Gubbeen cheese before finishing with sliced mangos and coffee and too many bottles of wine.

The courgettes came from the garden. One of the advantages of going away early in the summer is not coming back to a bed full of marrows. On the way down the garden I came across a bright slug and a frog. I sliced them (the courgettes – not the slug and frog) as thin as I could and laid them out out on a plate and then layered up the flavours with shreds of red chilli, good olive oil, lemon juice, rocket and parmesan cheese. The plate was decorated with courgette flowers and nasturtium  and the a squirt of fresh squeezed lemon juice. Salt and pepper was involved as well.

The gazpacho was made by way of instructions over the phone during the afternoon. There were a couple of bags of cherry tomatoes in the kitchen. On instruction these went into the magimix along with a knob of cucumber found at the bottom of the fridge, some bread, a grated onion and some garlic. The resulting sludge was put in the freezer until I came home. I them put it through a sieve with the back of a spoon flavouring with olive oil, sherry vinegar, salt and pepper as I went.

The volcanic cheese was the highlight of the meal. I have made it before but forgotten quite how good it can be. A baby Gubbeen was cut in half and garlic, thyme and rosemary smeared across the top of the exposed bottom part together with some salt and pepper. The ‘top’ was put back on and the cheese was then snugly fitted into a small terracotta pot and covered over with some foil. It then went into a hot oven for half an hour. It came out bubbling and we spent the next half hour either dipping pieces of bread into the molten cheese or scooping the cheese out with a knife and smearing it onto bread. All in all a wonderful excuse for making sure that you always have a baby Gubbeen lurking in the back of the fridge.

Writing this now I have just put on a jumper unwashed from last week and it is filled with the smell of a fire on the beach that has been boosted along with some dry looking seaweed.

Mackerel at last

On the last Sunday of the holiday we at last started to catch some mackerel. Before that there was a sail across to the other side of the bay. A line was dropped over the side of the boat and we had a bite just before we got to the other side but the fish managed to fight itself free before I could get it in the boat.

On the way back we saw dolphins breaking through the water in the distance. Behind Owen Island the sails came down and more lines went over the side. It wasn’t long before the fish were biting and after a furious ten minutes we had a good twelve of them in the green bucket. Some of them were of modest but good eating size but at least three of them were big and heavy and needed a large fist to hold them steady for the tap on the back of the head.

Back at the Cottage I filleted it them down by the water. The gulls came in quickly pulling up short in the air as we threw out the guts.

We had the fish for lunch cooked plain on the BBQ. We didn’t eat them all but those that were left were put to one side. I cleaned the fillets of their skin and bone and masked the flesh with a fork. Some mayonnaise was stirred together with a flavouring of squashed garlic, salt and pepper and some parsley. It was good spread on toast.

That evening we ended up for a final night in The Tin Pub listening to music and saying some good-byes. Unfortunately there was no opportunity to mistake the famous neighbour for a hobbit (he had been spotted the previous weekend in an elaborate waterproof which when I saw it out of corner of my eye led me to ask who had come into the pub dressed as a medieval warrior!). We were compensated by a version of Alfie sung acapella by the youngest daughter after the band had finished. There may be some money to be made in the pubs next year.

We walked back through a light drizzle of rain camera lights flashing in the sudden dark under the trees.

Cooking for Good Things

There was a day last week – Wednesday – when the rain came down with such a weight that a seagull stood by the rocks looked beaten and bowed down by it. It came in billowing drifts up the bay clouding everything so all we could see was a veil of grey thickening the air.



Every so often it would clear and we thought it would be dry for the day but then we saw another cloud breaking over the tip of Rosskerrig and the rain came down again heavier than ever. The apron of concrete at the head of the pier was slick with the water that flowed back from a blocked drain and all the green in the garden and such that we could see in the surroundings hills seemed to thicken again.

Eventually, sometime after midday, the billows of wet stayed away and the air started to dry itself out. This was just as well as a BBQ had been planned for the evening.

The bad weather made it easier to spend time in the kitchen preparing.

  • Red peppers were scorched black under a hot grill, skinned and then put through a liquidiser with olive oil, red wine vinegar and whatever herbs and spices I could find in the cupboard that seemed appropriate for chicken piri piri. The dark red sauce was smeared over the chicken pieces and they went into a fridge to take on the flavour for a few hours.
  • Lentils were cooked for an hour or so in boiling water flavoured with half a dozen crushed cloves of garlic, drained and mixed with more olive oil and red wine vinegar and topped with semi sun-dried tomatoes and feta cheese.
  • More tomatoes, radishes, cucumber, peppers, rocket, mint and parsley were chopped and mixed together with crushed garlic to make a chopped vegetable salad.
  • Finally a bag of Kilcrohane potatoes was peeled and boiled. A careful eye was kept on them so they were drained whilst they still had some bite and before they turned to mush in the pan. Once they had cooled they were dressed with some red wine vinegar, diced and mixed with a mayonnaise flavoured with finely diced gherkins, capers and garlic, tarragon and parsley for a potato salad.

All the food was being made for various workers from The Good Things Café that Kristen had invited round. There was real pleasure to be had in preparing food for people that had helped feed me so well in there over the course of the last ten years or so.

Once the food was substantially prepared the sun started to break itself out against the grey weight of the sky. The storms of the previous few days had pushed water and seaweed high up onto the beach and washed away the fire that we had used the previous week. So time was spent clearing back the seaweed and rebuilding the fire.

There was then time for a walk round the block up into the hills behind the Cottage from where we could look down over the long stretch of the bay.

It was then time to light the BBQ and cook the food.

The greatest compliment came when someone mentioned how much she liked the potato salad and the speed with which the food was consumed.

Free Guinness and a Minke Whale

Friday morning and the sun was out and some of us made the drive to Bantry Market. More of us were going to go but the clear blue sky and light persuaded some to take advantage and stay behind. Last week the market had been grey and shrouded in rain and there had been plenty of places to park. By way of contrast yesterday the car park was full and we had to drive out to find somewhere to leave the car.

Outside the car park a man was admonished by his wife for parking on the pavement in such a way so as to block off half of the entrance. Another car, a battered green Vauxhall seemed to be struggling to find enough room to make it through the blocked entrance. Shamed the driver of the first car drove off to find somewhere more convenient to park only for the green Vauxhall to back up into the space he had just left and to block up even more of the entrance.

We timed the shopping so it was all done and back in the car by midday ready for when Ma Murphy’s opened. We piled in for a quick pint before heading back to the Cottage and the sunshine. Murphy’s was ordered and then the barman said those magic words, “Would you like Guinness instead – it’s free?”

We didn’t quite catch what he was saying and said we were happy with the Murph’s.

“Are you sure? The Guinness is free. There is a man there cleaning the pipes and I have five pints here that I’ve poured and if you don’t want it I am throwing it away.”

There were five us so we had the Guinness. Just to make it even better they were playing Dr John’s Gris Gris over the music system – one of my favourite albums.

Back at the Cottage we sat outside in the garden and ate our lunch – a collection of meats, cheeses and olives picked up from the market.

We then attempted to catch mackerel. Although it was the right time of day – late afternoon – we were doing it on a falling tide. There were seven of us on the boat and three lines. We dropped them in the just off Owen Island and spent a happy fifteen minutes catching no fish when there was a shout. “What is that!?”

A hundred hards or so ahead of a great black shape heaved itself out of the water and then slid back down a small fin showing just as it disappeared under the surface of the water.

“That was a whale,” we agreed.

We then spent 15 minutes stalking it around the bay.Every time we motored towards where we had seen it it came up again either a hundred or so yards in front of us or sometimes behind us. It came out of the water every couple of minutes always a slow curving black shape coming out of the water with the fin following at the end. Sometimes the head came out as well and we could see the open mouth and baleen and then a puff of water up into the air.

So that was a good day. Sunshine, free Guinness and a thirty foot Minke out in the bay.