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Breac House, Donegal

This article was originally published in The Irish Times. There is often a gorgeous moment on holiday when you open the curtains to reveal a view that rushes into your soul like a restorative tonic; you then sigh and wish you were waking up to it every day. Two former accountants from Dublin have made that dream come true with their modern retreat, Breac. House, which they recently opened on Horn Head, the dramatic northwestern headland in Donegal. Starting with a dramatic site, the last thing Cathrine Burke and Niall Campbell wanted to build was “big hexagon of glass”. The primary aim for its design was a balance of modern and traditional, connection to local craftsmanship, and showcasing the beauty of its surrounds. “You see a lot of the modern design hotels and they look like the spaceship that has landed on the side of the hill,” says Burke. “While they have their place, we never wanted to do that. We wanted something that was very contemporary but very in keeping with the locality, so …

Wild Garlic Table Cookery School, Ramelton, Co. Donegal

This article was origianlly published in The Irish Times on August 05 2017.   Imagine learning to cook in an Edwardian bank building where the kitchen is the original banking hall and the old safe cleverly doubles as the cool spot to store potatoes. “Wild Garlic Table” is a new cookery school and catering company run by Ballymaloe-trained Pauline Sugrue in her family home in Ramelton, Co Donegal. Home happens to be an early 1900s bank, which she and her husband Michael renovated some years ago keeping as many of its original features intact as possible. From the first weighty, solid knock of the original front door handle there is a unique feeling as you pass through the entrance hall with original tiling and stained glass into this five-bedroom listed house. Sitting proudly by the river Lennon which runs into Lough Swilly, it has been restored with remarkable love and attention to fine detail by the Sugrues that ensures you feel the reverence of the building. “The house was built in the 1903 in Edwardian …

Recipe – Domini Kemp – Crab salad in baby gem parcels

One of my very favourite people, Domini Kemp, has shared this delicious recipe for a crab salad. Shellfish and Summer are a heavenly match and this is great for dinner parties and outside entertaining, the Tabasco adds a gorgeous punchy finish. Crab salad in baby gem parcels by Domini Kemp This dish, featuring baby gem is a great bit of party grub. Mixing the crab salad with some crème fraiche and a little splash of anchovy sauce (my new secret ingredients for mega-umami hits) and Tabasco was really delicious. This was a great dish to have instead of a “starter” as friends just grabbed one along with a napkin and wolfed in. It is also extremely quick and handy as you can easily buy frozen crab meat in plenty of fishmongers and supermarkets. Just thaw it out, wash your hands really well and have a little search and rescue for any excess shell. It’s not entirely necessary (unless you run a professional kitchen and are in the restaurant business) but every now and then you …

Dining in Donegal 2018

Donegal is magical, majestic and full of mischief. My home county is the most beautiful in the country. Of course I’m going to say that, but it’s true. You’ll find warm people, freezing North Atlantic waters crashing onto dreamy beaches, good food, cosy pubs, rich Gaeilge and the song and story that comes from it, and us. Then there are sights like Mount Errigal, Malin Head, Sliabh League and the magnificent Glenveagh National Park. Trust me, you haven’t lived until you’ve been warmed by a Donegal turf fire, its fizzing and crackly breath embracing you into the very heart of its mountains, its sea, its people and its soul. Grá mo chroí.   Here are some of my favourite restaurants: Harry’s Bar and Restaurant What can I say about Harry’s? I’ve written a longer piece here about this fine restaurant, but what makes it so special is how much they care. The owner Donal Doherty and head chef Derek Creagh are passionate about using local produce that comes from the surrounding area of Inishowen and …

The other yummy things at Christmas – recipes by Gary O’Hanlon

The roasties, the gravy, the cranberry sauce, the lovely sides and extra things that adorn the plates and fill the fridge and presses. One of my favourite things about eating at Christmas are the extras. I asked Chef Gary O’Hanlon from Longford’s Viewmount House (which recently became part of the Blue Book) for some recipes for some extra special festive extras. The delicious things that gild the Christmas lily. Here he shares his recipes for roast potatoes, brussels sprouts (that even impressed his in-laws) and a cracking recipe for an Espresso Martini. Goose Fat, Polenta Crusted Maris Piper Roasties Maris pipers hands-down make the best chips, best baked potatoes and the best roasties. Throw in the flavour from goose fat, herbs and the texture from the polenta and you’ll never make a roastie any other way again. Ingredients 10 peeled maris piper potatoes 4tbspn fine polents 200ml goose fat 4 sprigs of thyme 3 sprigs of rosemary Salt and pepper Method Cover the potatoes with cold water, season well, and boil gently until just cooked …

Irish Christmas Cheeseboard

Christmas can mean a lot of things, but for me it is all about cheese. As one of the great loves of my life all year round, I love that everyone else gets equally besotted with it at Christmas time. Thankfully we have shaken off our Galtee shackles, and fled the Easi-Single prison cell to embrace the delicious cheese from our wonderful Irish cheese makers. We have the best dairy in the world and superb goats and sheep’s milk cheeses that will make your Christmas cheeseboard sing. Every Irish cheese is special because it has a story; the producer, where it comes from and how it is made. As the late David Tiernan who made the glorious Glebe Brethan once told me, ‘You have to be a bit cracked to make cheese, but sure that’s the magic of it.’ This Christmas, do try Irish cheeses if you are entertaining, or even if you fancy just having a party for one with a glass of something by the fire. You will not be disappointed. Trying to …

The Glasgowist features The Mc Bride Guide

A dear friend Paul Trainer left our Irish shores for his native Scotland and his latest Guide to the great and good of Glasgow is an absolute must for locals and if you are visiting. He kindly featured me on the website glasgowist.com By Paul Trainer Billy Connolly once said “if you ever want your flagging spirits lifted, go to Ireland” and thousands of Scots take that advice every year, hopping on one of the steady stream of cheap flights linking the two countries or taking the ferry. There is a particular connection between Donegal on Ireland’s wild west coast and Glasgow with cultural and work related links dating back generations. Caitriona McBride chronicles the finer things on the Emerald Isle at the McBride Guide. We caught up with her to talk about Irish restaurants, family ties and cheese. What was the idea behind the McBride Guide? It’s a celebration of the best of Irish food and beautiful things. I think we are living in one of the most exciting eras for Irish cuisine so …