Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Pancake Day - Shrove Tuesday

Today is the traditional Pancake Day in this part of the world, certainly in Ireland and Britain, and probably in many other countries. Wikipedia tells us that it is tradition to eat pancakes among Anglican and Lutheran communities on this day - which is why I am always a bit skeptical about the veracity of Wikipedia reports as fact! I always reserve judgement, as I would argue that Pancake Day is as much an Irish Catholic tradition as it is among the Protestant community!

Pancake with cream, maple syrup, banana and pecan nuts

The day before Ash Wednesday the first day of Lent is known as Shrove Tuesday in these parts, and radio and television reports today are full of voxpops on the favourite way to eat pancakes as well as numerous recipes and much debate about the best fillings/toppings. As Lent was a time of fast and abstinence (in the past more so than now), Shrove Tuesday was seen as the last fling before the penance began. I can recall my mother abstaining from meat for all of Lent, and Ash Wednesday and Good Friday being "Black Fast Days" where you could only drink black tea (a real hardship in the home of milky tea!) and eat dry bread and one meatless meal. In other words, no meal at all by Irish standards in those pre-vegetarian days!

Shrove has something to do with shrive which means getting absolution for sin, which Irish people excel in, as we lead the world in Catholic guilt. This has somewhat diminished in recent years as the church was forced to loosen its stranglehold on the nation's morality since it lost its own moral compass when the scandals of child abuse and clerical collusion were exposed.

We always called today Shrove Tuesday or Pancake Day, and Ash Wednesday marked the start of six weeks of Lent, which always entailed fast and abstinence - the giving up of something addictive like alcohol or cigarettes, or in the case of children, sweets or chocolate, or crisps, or soft drinks. It is often seen as a good opportunity in these secularised times to go on a bit of a detox and lose some weight! Of course the one exemption is St. Patrick's Day, when anything goes in the name of the national Saint.

One nice custom that is synonymous with Lent in Ireland in recent years is the Trócaire box, where families and individuals are encouraged to put the money saved from the abstention from treats in a box which goes to the aid agency for a specific project every year in the developing world. The focus is generally on children affected by war, famine, climate change, child labour, and this year's theme is forced migration from war, either as refugees or internally displaced persons. It is always personalised, with a real child's story told on the box, which really speaks to the relatively privileged Irish kids. Regardless of the economic hardship we might be facing here it is nothing compared to what kids and adults in the conflict zones of the poorer countries face.

In my childhood Pancake Day was a much anticipated feast, as pancakes were not eaten during the rest of the year and were associated with this day. Sugar and fresh-squeezed lemon juice were all that you needed for a delicious treat! Today the humble pancake has been pimped totally over the top, with every imaginable filling competing for space in the cookery pages and television cookery programmes. I have just had a feast of pancakes with sugar and lemon filling, which is probably the best as it brings me right back to my childhood and is pure nostalgia trip, and a fancy filling of maple syrup and cream with roast chopped pecans or walnuts sprinkled on top. Strawberry jam or Blackcurrant jam, honey and lemon, and Chocolate spread are other options, and cinnamon and cocoa dusted over the top, or icing sugar, are worth a try. In fact, anything goes!

In Ireland there is a savoury potato pancake called Boxty, which uses both mashed boiled potatoes and grated raw potato, millk, egg and flour - plain or wholemeal flour or a mix of both. These can be eaten with eggs, or ham and cheese, or a ragout-type sauce filled with mushrooms, chicken, ham - any savoury filling you like!

A pancake in the pan!

In Holland some years ago we visited a wonderful "pannekoekhuis" in Lierop, a village in Brabant, with some Dutch friends. It was in an old building in the centre of the village and had the biggest pancakes I ever saw, and they were both savoury and sweet, with wonderful fillings. In Spain, our son Shayne has worked for a number of years in an internet cafe-cum-gelateria and creperie, Melias in Malgrat de Mar near Barcelona, and they do wonderful crepes and pancakes in which I over-indulge every summer! My favourite is the banana, honey, whipped cream and walnuts, which is (cliché alert!) to die for.

So after all that rambling around, here is my recipe, which has pretty standard proportions, with a slightly higher egg ratio, most recipes of this quantity use 4 eggs but I prefer to add one more.



  • 11ozs/300gms plain flour

  • 5 eggs

  • 1 pint/600ml milk

  • quarter-pint/150 ml water

  • pinch salt

  • 1 teaspoon vanilla essence (optional for sweet pancakes; omit for savoury pancakes)


Put all ingredients into blender jug and whizz for 1 minute until smooth batter consistency

Alternatively put flour in bowl, add beaten eggs and pour in milk while beating with whisk -hand or electric - till smooth.

Add vanilla and pinch salt.

Stand covered in jug or bowl for an hour or more - no idea why but it is part of the pancake gospel that it mproves the end product.


Heat small frying pan or crepe pan, add some cooking oil - I use olive but any good oil will do - and heat to smoking.

Pour in ladle of batter and swirl pan immediately to spread over base thinly.

Cook until set, turn down heat to medium to avoid burning

Flip over by tossing pan if you have good wrist action and are feeling lucky! (or use spatula!)

Cook flipside till golden brown

Eat immediately with preferred filling.

Enjoy with lots of different fillings!

Handy Tip: Keep warm on plate over saucepan of hot water, do not heat in oven as this will crisp them and pancakes must be soft. They are not chappatis or tortillas!

Monday, February 23, 2009

The March of the Masses

Saturday saw the biggest mass gathering of angry citizens and workers in recent memory who collectively marched in protest against the government's approach to the economic crisis. I wrote in my last post about the inequity of the proposed pension levy on public sector workers, and the turnout for yesterday's march organised by the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU) showed the level of emotion felt by many in both the private and public sector.

The INO group gathering at the Garden of Remembrance

Jan and myself set off at 6:00a.m. for the 130 mile trip to Dublin for the afternoon march, preceded by a morning joint Labour Party/PES (European Socialist Party) Summit in Dublin with the theme "The State of the Nation". It was inspiring to hear such committed speakers offering valid and viable solutions to the crises we are mired in and depressing to hear how abysmal our fiscal reputation has become in international circles, we are a notch above junk bond status and our interest rate on borrowings is over 2% higher than that paid by more stable economies like Germany, such is our perceived risk.

Can you read the poster held by one of the INO staff? Not very complimentary on "Sherriff Brian"!

The march was led by the recently laid-off Waterford Crystal workers who have been told their pensions may be no more, despite having paid for years into a pension scheme or, for those laid off a few years ago when the Dungarvan factory closed, invested their redundancy money into shares, and the newly redundant may not even get decent redundancy pay.

SR Technics also fronted the march, they are the workers from former Team Aer Lingus who have been told their jobs in aircraft maintenance are going from Ireland - not to a low pay country like somewhere in the Far East, but Switzerland! That is just unbelieveable, that Ireland loses jobs to a non-EU country with a higher standard of living than here. I don't know too much of the background to this story, but it showed the solidarity between those in the private sector and the public sector that they marched together in what the government had been spinning as a protest by the greedy public sector against paying a fair share when many are losing jobs. We are the last handy scapegoat, I guess.

I was with the INO (Irish Nurses Organisation) group and we were there in good numbers; totally it was estimated that between 100,000 and 120,000 marched. Jan marched under the Labour Party banner, along with Jane, another Lismore member. The mood was upbeat and the sense of anger palpable, but there was no violence like that which marred some marches a few years ago, nor was there any sense of hostility from the bystanders, which was great as we were given to understand that the private sector would be no way sympathetic to the march. It has got good international coverage as I have just watched it on Dutch TV.

Every trade union was represented from the teachers and nurses, gardai (police) of all ranks, the military, fire service, civil service of all ranks, and the umbrella unions like Unite who comprise a number of bodies It was heartening to see the diversity of the gathering, and there were marching bands and funky drummers keeping the spirits of the marchers going.

Two views of O'Connell Street with the Spire (a.k.a the Skewer by the Sewer or the Stiffy by the Liffey!) in the background.

Have a look at the photos on the Irish Times slide show which have some great shots of the day. I have some of my own photos up as well.

The banking scandals continue to take us by surprise, or the revelations are being drip-fed to us in the vain hope of off-setting an even angrier reaction - the latest on the blighted bank we are all co-owners of, Anglo-Irish, is that 15 of their clients each owe half a billion Euro (that's 500 million/€500,000,000 for those confused about the zeros and the difference between European and American billions.) Total owed by 15 people = 7.5 billion Euro. This bank was for the elite developers and fatcat clientele, not for the ordinary Joe Soap. There seems to be faint hope of that money ever being repaid, and given the plummeting value of assets held as collateral the true value of the debt may never be realised, with property plummeting as the bubble has well and truly burst.

A good vantage point from the Daniel O'Connell monument's angels!

All this puts the pension levy into perspective in the overall context of the state of the economy - it will barely register a blip on the national debt and yet it will have a hugely negative impact on those affected, spending power and disposable income will be way down and the knock-on effect of less buying will be seen in shops and businesses closing as they are each week, with more joining the dole queues. The cost of social welfare is skyrocketing, with every job lost resulting in one less contributor paying tax and costing the exchequer in payments and allowances, which will barely keep the recipient above the breadline, if not the poverty line.
The INO group arriving at Government Buildings and below, some of the posters on the railings of the National Gallery

I hope that there will be some positive outcome for the protesters, not least a rethink on the scope of the levy to include the higher paid private sector and semi-state bodies, and the president and the judiciary, who, by some arcane constitutional clause, are exempt. If there was a sense of fairness in the distribution of the pain then I feel there would be more understanding from the general public. If it was seen that there was genuine action taken against the perpetrators of the bust like the bankers and developers who have flouted protocol and procedure and gambled away the boom with our money, then the government could call in our patriotic duty with some justification.

Friday, February 20, 2009

The state of the nation.

I have shied away from this becoming an overtly political blog as the blogosphere is awash with them, and if they are from people with my own (left) leanings, then they are readable and enjoyable as I can empathise with them. I will occasionally write some posts with a polemic approach, if I feel strongly about something (as in this post on African colonialism some weeks back) - though I am not aggressive enough to be a true polemiscist by definition!)

This is a "cat's eye" on the road near Lismore - I like the imagery of the Irish Tricolour being driven over by the cubs of the Celtic Tiger which is now barely miaowing.

What has me exercised at the moment is the state of this nation and the carry on of the bankers and what they are getting away with - they have arrogantly bled the economy during the boom with the encouragement and collusion of the right wing Fianna Fáil government, and now when it all goes pear-shaped we are the ones paying for their excesses.
No-one will be called to account and as long as these high-stakes gamblers of our money stayed marginally within the law, morality and ethics don't seem to matter. Now we are all bankers - or owners of a pretty toxic bank - since Anglo-Irish Bank was nationalised a few weeks back. It isn't something you would be bragging about as it seems every day uncovers a new scandal relating to the wheelings and dealings that went on.

The latest insult to the national intelligence is the decision - unilateral - of the government to levy a hefty increase on the pension contribution of the workers in the public sector, which includes me, and most other nurses and teachers, and all civil servants. The rationale for this levy, designed to raise €2 Billion (euro) is that the public sector workers are guaranteed a fine fat pension on retirement with a guaranteed income based on final salary. Which all sounds fine and dandy, and has set us up as grasping pariahs in the eyes of many in the private sector, but is only half the story.

The government would like us all to be as placid as this cow -we need to know our place!
To qualify for a full retirement pension one has to have accrued 40 years of service, and to have paid contributions throughout. The final pension includes the State Pension (the old Old Age Pension in pre-PC days) and many of those who are at the lower end of the spectrum will never get much more than their State Pension, as their final salary would not be much higher than twice the State Pension. The most you can get is half your final salary, after 40 years, and pro-rata below this. The reality for most public servants is that most will not have 40 years service.

This can be partly explained by the bizarre (by todays' standards) ruling that required women to resign from their civil service jobs on marriage! This "Marriage Bar" was firmly in place until 1973, and shows how the past really is another country! The consequences of this is that many competent and talented women were lost to the public sector in those pre-feminism days, and have never re-entered the workplace at a similar level. Those who did resume work after children were reared rarely resumed similar work, and those who did were penalised by having to buy back missed years through either costly AVCs (Additional Voluntary Contributions) or equally expensive PNS (Purchase of Notional Service) payments.

No public servant has an opt-out option regarding their pension. The new levy which is a pay cut in any language is on a sliding scale based on salary, and is capped at 9.6% for those earning over €300,000. So there is inequity even there - it is easier to miss 9.6% at that earning capacity than to have a levy of 5.8% on €30,000 for a lower-paid worker.

So tomorrow there is a big rally in Dublin to protest at the levy and the inequity of targeting the public sector when the fat cats who were responsible for the economic downturn have got off scotfree. I will be there marching through Dublin city centre to Government Buildings, under the banner of my trade union, the INO - Irish Nurses Organisation - who are protesting along with all the other unions in the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU) and probably many who are non-affiliated.

The government is trying hard to drive a wedge between the private sector and the public sector by a divide and rule classic colonial ploy, and the unions are determined not to let this red herring undermine the reality of our anger. The levy is unfair and inequitable by excluding those top-earners in the banks and financial institutions who creamed it during the boom. The public sector is an easy target, and it is to the shame of the policy makers that they disingenuously state that this is the price we have to pay for job security and a guaranteed pension. That this pension can be a pittance for many who through no fault of their own spent many years outside the workforce is conveniently forgotten.

I will have photos from the demonstration for another post - meanwhile please show your support for our actions and if you can - join in the rally and be at Parnell Square at 2p.m. tomorrow, virtually or in person!

Sunday, February 15, 2009

A sunny winter's day in Waterford

The other day we had one of those rare occasions that need to be remembered - a beautiful sunny winter's day in Ireland. These have been so few and far between this winter that I thought it deserved a post of its own, seeing as I devoted a few posts to the bad weather!

Two views of the centre of Lismore showing the Main Street, with the Courthouse, Red House Inn and Monument

I love the reflection of the bare tree in the water of the canal in this shot.

After the absolutely dreadful weather we have had in the past few weeks, with rain causing flooding and icy roads causing mayhem, I delighted in going for a few long walks with Ben the dog and my last-legs old camera in tow. (More on the camera anon!)

"The Spout" - a natural spring that supplied Lismore with water before plumbing arrived!

We are not used to driving on snow and ice like some of you are, nor are our cars designed for such conditions with no snow tyres or whatever you have in normally snowy countries. So as I wrote in an earlier post, the country goes into metaphorical meltdown when this happens, and skids to a halt, with school closures, work stay-at-homes, and latest updates on every millimetre of rain or snow.

The N72 road from Lismore to Cappoquin showing the old canal and the new controversial railings to stop people falling in to the shallow depths!

Lismore Millenium Park showing an obelisk and the quirky statue of St. Carthage, carved into a lightning-struck beech tree by a Welsh sculptor who worked for a week with a chain saw, much to everyone's bemusement. It beats cutting down the tree!

Mind you, there has been such boom-time over-development in floodplain areas in parts of Ireland that there is an economic reason for the impact such weather has on our towns. Whole books have been written, and millions spent on tribunals, on the ruinous planning Ireland has suffered in recent decades. This made millionaires out of many builders and landowners, and left many communities badly planned, with urban sprawl and no infrastructure like decent access roads, shops, schools and community centres. Now we are paying the price in urban decay with no-go areas and crime ridden sink estates in some of our cities and towns.

The moon rising over the River Blackwater

Thankfully Lismore has escaped the ravages of much of the bad planning decisions, perhaps as a heritage town there are more stringent planning restrictions and many listed (preserved) buildings.

Geese and ducks on the old disused canal that brought barges from the River Blackwater where it wasn't tidal and navigable

So I hope you like these photos I took that lovely sunny day, they show how good Lismore looks when the sun shines and are in stark contrast to the photos on the earlier post here, where you can see Lismore and environs in our snowy and wet weather.
I said more of the camera anon. Well, yesterday I got an early birthday pressie of a brand new camera and these will probably be the last of the photos from my ancient old trusty 2 megapixel Olympus which has finally given up the ghost. It has served me and the blog well thus far!

Another view of our garden looking towards our house

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Anzac Cookies - from Australia to Ireland - via Africa.

These cookies are old favourites of mine which I first came across over 20 years ago in Tanzania from an Australian friend, who gave me the recipe when I raved about her wonderful flapjacks. The recipe is simplicity itself, and they are utterly foolproof - i.e. I can manage them effortlessly - and they are ready in no time. The key is to use golden syrup and honey or sugar do not work as a subsitute, the texture will be completely different. Of course you can try and maybe you will prefer them this way, but the chewy crunchy texture will be lacking.

There are a few Australian followers of my blog so I hope you will comment and suggest alternatives or tips for this recipe, as I am conscious of somehow hijacking what is probably a national institution in Australia and New Zealand. It is probably akin to reading an Irish soda bread recipe on an Aussie blog! There is always the chance a critical eye will pick up an aberration and think - oh no, that is not how it should be done!

I also think the name is wonderful. When I think of or make Anzac cookies I am always reminded of Anzac Day in April, which I had never heard of until that wonderful anti-war anthem "The band played Waltzing Matilda" came out in the 70s, and I diligently learnt the lyrics and it became my party piece for years at many a sing-song in Ireland and Bangladesh. It has been recorded by numerous artists over the years, including the Pogues, but my favourite has to be the version recorded by Irish singer Liam Clancy. You can see him singing it on YouTube here. It is a powerful ballad on the futility of war and the waste of young lives. Liam Clancy is still singing, around Ireland and elsewhere, he is in fine voice, and lives in Co. Waterford. So there is a local connection to the Anzac cookies, however roundabout it may be it is somehow serendipitous.

And of course Lismore is twinned with Lismore in New South Wales, so there you have more north-south connections!

So enjoy them and enjoy the music to go with them!


4oz/125gm oatflakes (like for porridge)
4oz/125gm plain flour

4oz/125gm dessicated coconut (dried flaked coconut)

4oz/125gm butter

8oz/250gm sugar

1tablespoon golden syrup (inverted sugar syrup)
1teaspoon bread soda (bicarbonate of soda)

(Pre-heat oven to 180degrees Centigrade/375degrees Fahrenheit)

1. Mix Oatflakes, flour and coconut in a bowl.

2. Melt butter, add sugar and golden syrup and stir till melted.

3. Add bread soda/soda bicarb. to mix in pan - watch it fizz up!

4. Pour this mix into bowl and stir well, use mixer stir attachment if available, or wooden spoon.

5. Transfer to greased baking tray(or lined with baking parchment/greaseproof paper).

6. Press mix to 1cm/half-inch thickness (use rolling pin/bottle/back of spoon).

7. Bake until golden brown, about 15mins.

8. Cool on tray for 2-3 minutes, then cut into squares with pizza cutter while still warm.

9. When cold, remove from tray and ENJOY!

These keep fresh for days in an airtight tin, if they last that long. Mine never do!

Thanks to our friends down under for inventing such yummy flapjacks!

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Cherry and Lemon Madeira Cakes - childhood favourites.

This is a real old family favourite my mother used to make a lot when I was a kid. She usually made the cherry version. Very irresistable especially just out of the oven! I thought to post the recipe as it is very quick and simple, and a real classic recipe.

The photo shows cherry madeira cake and lemon madeira, already tasted!
It is a variation on the Victoria sponge cake 4-4-4-2 ratio, as it has a slightly higher ratio of flour to butter and sugar. This makes for a more solid texture but it is nonetheless light and tasty, and keeps quite well for days in an airtight tin. Of course this rarely happens as it will be eaten pretty fast - perfect for morning and afternoon tea, when visitors drop in, relaxing with a cuppa watching telly or reading or knitting - or all three as I tend to do.

The Lemon Madeira is a variation with a tablespoon of lemon juice instead of the tepid water and some grated lemon rind added to the mixture, and this is a tangier less sweet tasting cake than the Cherry, but equally yummy!

Cherry Madeira Cake

Ingredients (for 2 loaf tin cakes)
  • 12oz/375gm self-raising flour ( or plain flour and 2-3 teaspoons baking powder)
  • 8oz/225gm butter

  • 8oz/225gm sugar

  • 4 eggs

  • 1 teaspoon Vanilla Essence

  • 2-3 tablespoons tepid water
  • 200gm glacé cherries if making cherry cake


Preheat oven to 190 degrees Centigrade/375 degrees Fahrenheit/Gas Mark 5.

Line 2 small or 1 large loaf tins with greaseproof paper.

1. Put everything except cherries into mixing bowl.

2. Using food mixer, mix thoroughly until smooth and creamy - a stiff dropping consistency.

3. Divide mixture between the two tins.

4. Bake in centre of oven for 30-40 mins until golden brown and a knife stuck in centre comes out dry and clean.

5. Cool on wire rack.

Cherry Cake variation
Prepare as above stage 1 & 2, then fold in cherries which have been washed to remove sticky glaze, dried and halved and dusted with flour.
This prevents the cherries from falling to bottom of cake.

Decorate top of cake with 8-10 of the cherries whole or halved.

Complete stage 3-5 as above.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Apple Tart - my favourite comfort food.

This is a simple recipe and is delicious! Some people may call it Apple Pie, probably a geographical/cultural/regional preference. I'm not too clear on what the difference (if any) there is between pie and tart though I'm sure there's someone out there who can put me right. All I can say is - it's all good!

Apple tart is ubiquitous in Ireland; the ultimate comfort food either as a dessert or the perfect accompaniment to that national beverage, the cuppa tea. It can be eaten hot or cold, but must be slathered in lashings of whipped cream for total decadence!
There are as many variations as bakers, with everyone having a favourite recipe that tends to be their gold standard, which is often passed down in a family. I know my mother was a whizz at light pastry and I always remember her mantra when I learnt from her as a child - don't overhandle the pastry or it will get heavy. She was right!

I still use her basic pastry recipe, here with a slight variation of egg and a little icing sugar to make it a slightly sweet and richer pastry than her recipe which is a half-pound of flour to a quarter-pound of butter or margarine, and a little cold water to bind.

The apples are from our three cooking apple trees in the garden, which give a wonderful harvest every autumn of big green Bramleys. This is the nicest cooking apple as it bakes and stews to a light fluffy texture.
We have a shedful from September when the first windfalls drop, through harvesting in October before the November storms and wind knock 'em all down, to mid-Spring when they shrivel and dry up and we have to discard those that are past salvaging. I find even then that steeping the dried-up apples in a basin of water will revive them enough to make them perfect for yet another apple tart.

There is something very satisfying and a little virtuous in cooking with fruit from the garden: seeing it through from blossom in May to harvest in Autumn, picked by yourself (or hubby or son!) and safe in the knowledge that no airmiles were harmed in the making of this wonderful treat!

Photo shows finished pastry and some apples - replete with spots and blemishes - wholly organic!

Handy Tips:
  • I always bake pastry in a metal pie dish or flan tin rather than in a glass or ceramic dish; something to do with better heat conduction and it certainly makes the pastry base crisp and prevents soggy bottoms - always desirable in pies and children!

  • You don't need to bake the pastry base "blind" before adding the apples.

  • When assembled, bake immediately or put uncooked pie in the fridge (refrigerator) to ensure perfect pastry.

  • Remember - minimal handling and cold ingredients are keys to perfection - that's why purists will use marble rolling pins and pastry slabs - I don't go to such lengths but there's method in such madness!

Apple Tart (with Sweet Shortcrust Pastry)

4-6 large Bramley cooking apples.
1lb/450gm plain flour8oz/225gm chilled butter (preferable to margarine).
2 oz/50gm sugar (or caster sugar or icing sugar).
1 egg.
A few tablespoons of cold water to bind.
Photo: Cooked tart before sprinkling of sugar

Photo: Crumbly flour/butter with egg to bind

1. Add butter to flour, chop up with knife and rub in with fingers to crumbly texture.

2. Add sugar, egg and water to bind stiffly.

3. Minimally handling, knead lightly on floured worktop/table.
4. Roll out enough pastry to cover large (10 inch/26cm diameter or smaller pie dishes if you prefer -makes 1 large or 2 small tarts).

5. Sprinkle flour on pastry base in pie dish.

6. Fill pastry base with sliced peeled cooking apples - Bramleys are best I think!

7. Add 5-6 whole cloves if you like the flavour.

8. Add enough sugar to sweeten apples - I sprinkle a generous amount to cover the apples like snow - see photo! - if you don't want a tart tart!

9. Roll enough pastry to cover the tart - use water on edges to stick pastry top to base.
10. Make some airholes with a fork or knife to let steam escape during baking.
11. Flute pastry edges with fingers or use fork to decorate edges.

12. Decorate top with pastry leaves if you feel creative!

13. Bake in top half of pre-heated oven (190 degrees Centigrade/375 degrees Fahrenheit) until golden brown, then move to lower half, reduce heat and bake for another 15-20 mins., totally about 35-40 mins.

14. Cool on wire rack, sprinkle with sieved icing sugar or caster sugar to decorate.

Photo: Ready to pop in the oven!

Serve hot or cold with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.
Enjoy guilt-freely and don't think about counting calories!!!

Waterford's Wintry Weather

We often say that in Ireland we have four seasons - thing is they can sometimes all arrive on the same day! This time of year is probably the most changeable and while we are officially in Spring - St. Brigid's Day on February 1st marking the traditional start of the Irish "spring" - we have had floods and snow in the past week.

These photos show the garden and our house in the snow - a rare sight!

I thought I would share some photos of my locality with you, which show the extremes of the weather patterns in this country and how we are totally obsessed with weather. We don't get proper winters; snow that actually lasts and that you could do something with, like skiing or tobogganing; and we don't get it cold enough to skate, like they do in Holland (where my husband comes from) with their tradition of the Elfstedentocht, or the 11 towns race, where skaters follow a cross-country course over canals and lakes, in Friesland in the north. It only happens sporadically when there is a really hard freeze, but at least it happens.

This shows the same view of Lismore Castle in flood and snow!

Here in Ireland the country shuts down when there is a snowfall for a day or so, the roads can't handle the traffic, and in Britain it is the same. Right now there are news headlines that Britain is running out of road grit for de-icing the roads, and it is causing chaos. What would we do if there was weather like in the movie Fargo, which I loved, where everything is engulfed in a white blizzard wilderness.

A mountain stream in flood

I went to Dublin last weekend for a meeting, and it was raining torrentially for the duration of the trip which is 130 miles or so, taking about 3 hours on our average roads. We don't have motorway all the way - Ireland is only just catching up on the rest of Europe where our road network is concerned - and a large part of the journey is on poor roads through towns and villages. The first 20 miles is across the Knockmealdown mountains (for those of you with Google Earth interest!) and it was pretty dodgy with so much flash flooding and runoff. The mountain streams turned into raging torrents and looked impressively dangerous.

I made it there and back safe and sound, and took some photos of our lovely castle and the River Blackwater in flood, with the flooded inches (the floodplain of the river) which always look spectacular, and on Monday awoke to snow! I took some photos as it is such a rare event it is worth recording.

So I hope you enjoy these snapshots of moments in an Irish winter. I promise you the summer views are even more beautiful, when everyplace is in full bloom - and I'll be back!

The photos show Lismore Castle and Inches in flood, which then froze over when it snowed a few days later.