Yvette van Boven

23 Jan 2013

I gotta tell ya. It’s a good thing that I am still addicted to reading the Sunday New York Times. No, it’s not folded up and happily nesting on my breakfast table at former buzzy haunts such as Pastis or the French Meadow Cafe, {which has been torture taken some getting used to}, but good things happen when I spend quiet Sunday time, sipping strong coffee and nibbling on Saturday night’s dessert while perusing the Times via my laptop.

Things like being introduced to Yvette van Boven. The Times Magazine did a couple little pieces on Yvette and her HOMEMADE books last year and I was utterly awestruck. I adore her fun, scribbly, typographic, illustrative, die cut….ermmm, the best word I can use here is craftwork, which so fittingly festoon her ridiculously tasty + creative recipes that are absolutely to be relished.

BUT, that’s not the best bit. Yvette was born in Ireland! Her parents are Dutch, but her family lived in Dublin until she was 10 years old. This is why I so strongly felt the need to interview Yvette here….I wanted to know if spending formative years in Ireland would mold your creative sensibilities, tastes, and even more importantly, what she considers to be her favourite Irish foods and places to visit when she is on the craggy green isle.

Here’s what she said.

Both of your parents were Dutch, but you were born and raised in Dublin until you were 10 years old. How did your family end up in Ireland? Were they creatives as well?

Yes, my Dad was a landscape architect. He was somewhat of an adventurer and wanted to leave Holland. When he married my mum they left for Dublin right away. My mother is very artistic by the way. She has always been painting and drawing or making her own cloths for example.

Tell us about your childhood in Ireland. How was it different when you moved (did you move to Amsterdam?)

I loved growing up in Ireland. I’m happy my parents let me have that childhood. All the space, nature and freedom is something I still miss in Holland every day. I remember that Holland was so different for us when we moved back. Everything was so well organized; there was no real nature, only tidy parks and dunes with signs and paths showing us where to walk. Roads didn’t have bumps or cracks and supermarkets were packed with food we never heard of. It was also nice, but very different. Life in Holland is so well controlled; I really think that you get more creative in a surrounding where your spirit is freer, like in Ireland. In that way I do understand my Dad’s first idea of moving out.

How did you get involved in food?

I don’t know. I think I always loved to cook. I remember helping my mother out in the kitchen from a very young age. Well… helping out, I might have been completely standing in the way but I loved to watch her cook and scribbled down recipes even before I could write! It’s always been something I enjoy doing. Cooking relaxes me. Later on in life, when I studied at art school I worked in restaurant kitchens to earn a little money. After working as an interior architect for a couple of years after school I missed cooking professionally so much I decide to change jobs and here I am now. Best decision I’ve ever made.

Do you have any specific taste memories from Ireland?

Oh yes, lots!
Bangers pop into my head first. DE.LI.CIOUS. When we go to Ireland and I get a chance to eat them I will. Black pudding, Lamb stew, plum pudding, all kinds of baked goods with raisins and currants in them, butterfly cakes, curly kale, real butter and Irish buttermilk, to name a few. And soda bread of course….my mum used to bake that almost every day. I still do quite often.

Do you think there are aspects of Irish culture that have left an imprint on your life?

Oh yes, I’m a hopeless sentimentalist and I love folk music and long walks.

Does any of your design + styling inspiration come from an Irish point of view/do you think you draw any inspiration from things in your Irish childhood?

I’m not sure, I definitely think that everyone’s childhood determines your further development in life. I always carry this Irish upbringing with me and I’m proud of that.

How do you think the world views Irish food? Do you think it is changing for the better?

I’m not sure the world thinks too well about Irish food unfortunately. But Ireland is quite famous for its produce: Fish, lobster, oysters, Dublin bay prawns, Irish beef, cheese and butter are quite legendary. But in terms of changing for the better I certainly do think it is. There still is a lot to win though, but all in time I guess. The Irish are less adventurous and more laid back as people from the continent I think. But we certainly had some great meals when we were in Ireland the last time. Places like Fallon & Byrne or The Winding Stair in Dublin are quite cool.

When you come back to Ireland, what do you do, see or visit?

I call old friends to catch up with over cocktails first of course, then I have to go for a walk in the Wicklow Mountains. Or just drive through the countryside with no destination at all: I love that.

Any favourite restaurants?

Fallon & Byrne (http://www.fallonandbyrne.com) in Dublin, not only the restaurant, I love the wine cellar in the basement and the food hall too. The Winding Stair (http://winding-stair.com) in Dublin, The English Market in Cork (http://www.englishmarket.ie/) is a place where I could wander every day. I love to have lunch or home made cake and some tea in the Cake Café (http://www.thecakecafe.ie/ ) hidden away in a lovely little courtyard in Dublin.

Anything inspiring coming out of Ireland at the moment that you can think of?

Love this: http://thepoetryproject.ie

What is on your desk at this moment?

My markers, paint and huge piles of paper, all waiting to accompany me to the south of France where I’m going to start on my new project. I need to be alone for a little while to find inspiration. I’m really looking forward to that next month.

Take us through your creative process… I love your mixed media styles: illustrations first or recipes or photography?

I have no particular preference for all the different things I do, it all goes the way it goes and depends on my mood and time. One thing is for sure: it’s never dull!

Tell us about your personal style, what do you like to wear when you are working?

HA! You do not want to meet up with me when I’m working. I look terrible, no make up, hair in an untidy bun, and in comfy clothes: Tees, sweatpants, huge pairs of socks and soft scarves. Oh yes and I’m always wearing an apron. I’ve got so many of those.

If you had to print your motto on a t-shirt, what would it say?

Never regret the choices you’ve made before, keep going. (I think you could have said that too)

Thank you so much Yvette, you’ve been very generous, and I wish you continued success!

Slan Abhaile,

Imen

Yvette’s book HOMEMADE SUMMER will be released in Ireland and the USA in the spring. {If you liked this interview, I have done a series of interviews with Irish-born creatives here} All images and illustrations were supplied by Yvette. 

 

 

 

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Milk Jam

28 Nov 2012

Milk jam. Confiture de Lait. Dulce de Leche. The beautiful byproduct of a simmering pot of milk + sugar. A prime suspect in the mystery of the ill-fitting jeans. A case as easily solved as Nancy Drew’s Case of the Crooked BanisterI could eat milk jam by the spoonful, which is why it is only made for special occasions. Special occasions like “Hey mom, it’s Wednesday!”

Thought I’d share how to make milk jam with you as it’s another fun adventure in dairy farm living. The milk I use is from our cows, but you can use any whole milk (grass-fed and organic would be superior, but not necessary.)

Pour it over ice cream, pudding, cake, apple pie or crumble, prepare it with goat’s milk for cajeta, spread onto sandwich cookies, gift it for the holidays…or just simply put it in a jar and dip a spoon in when the mood strikes. Yes, it takes a wee bit of patience…these time-honoured traditions take time. But, by all means, just make it.

Farmhouse Milk Jam

1 Litre (4 cups) whole milk


300g caster sugar


½ tsp sea salt


½ tsp baking soda


1 tsp vanilla extract

Method

In a large pot add milk and stir in the sugar, salt, baking soda and vanilla extract.

Turn heat to med-high and bring the milk mixture to a boil without stirring. Once you see the milk start to boil and bubble slightly, lower the heat (the milk will froth and rise rapidly if it is overboiled.)

Once it’s boiling, turn the heat down to low and skim the foam from the top. Continue to simmer uncovered for around 2 hours, stirring constantly. (consider it the workout before indulgence!)

It’s best to cook it as low and slow as possible. If the heat is too high, the milk will boil and form a skin that won’t disappear no matter how much you whisk.

Check your consistency at about 2 hours. I usually stop it now when I want a runnier caramel to use in other recipes. Cook it a little longer if you want a thicker jam to use as a spread or to sandwich cookies. Just remember that it’ll thicken up more while it cools and when it’s in the fridge.

I have decided to start sharing some inspiring bits + bobs that I come across during the month. all the time.  Will post on an ad hoc basis and call it Bits of Bacchanalia.  {I love the term bacchanalia, by definition, a gathering of people eating, drinking and having a good time…aka, our kind of people!} 

Tis the season, right? I hope you enjoy.

{Bits of Bacchanalia}

Last weekend, I spent a night at the bucolic & welcoming Barnabrow House in East Cork. Geraldine Kidd is the consummate host, and Scottish Chef Stuart Bowes prepared an absolute *mean* Feast of East Cork. We went home happy with holiday puddings and bottles of Cork’s own 8 Degrees Brewing seasonal Winter Ale. 

The Christmas Market opens at Doonbeg on the 7th of December. We will surely be going, beautiful location + wonderful gift ideas. Not to mention, aul’ Santa.

The first commercially brewed Belgian style ale, Dr. Rudi, has been produced in Ireland under the Brown Bag Project label.  According to head brewer, Brian Short, ‘Dr Rudi is best enjoyed poured into a stemmed glass that tapers in at the top, to concentrate all the lovely big fruity aromas of the hop. Serving temperature should be about 10 degrees Celsius to allow the flavours to shine through.’ Available at two of our favourite Dublin haunts  L. Mulligan Grocer + W.J. Kavanaghs 

RTE Lifestyle did a wonderful little recap of the Kitchen Archives: From Spoon to Screen discussion that I participated in at the National Library in Dublin last week.

My butcher buddy, Pat Whelan, has launched his {first in the world} Beef Bonds this month. Exciting! 

We received a this beautifully illustrated book in the post this week from a Dublin PR co….compiled by Bord na Móna for Focus Ireland…proceeds go to fight homelessness in Ireland. 

Apparently, the New York Times was jazzed by juniper junket last week too.

I have just completed Jeanne Oliver’s Creatively Made Home e-course, I recommend it highly. Now, apparently I can gift it to you at a discount price of 38 USD since I am a former student! Leave a comment below if interested.

My farming friend, Kimberly Taylor, of Blackberry Farm, has just opened her Tiggy + Grace online shop..nip over there now!

Keep an eye out for the fabulous new Foodie Crush holiday issue

I just love Ilana’s blog….how could I resist, she likes to refer to it as  “the blob”

I’m on Instagram if you want to follow along for more farm + food adventures!

Slan Abhaile,

Imen

Photos, styling, and slurping by Imen McDonnell 2012

 

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Sex And The Country

11 Apr 2010

When R and I first met he insisted that I was the midwest’s equivalent to Carrie Bradshaw. While I found this idea flattering, if not humorous, I couldn’t help but be reminded of the episode in which she and Aidan go to his rustic cabin in the country and how she barely survived two days there. I thought to myself, oh yes, that would be me. Then I thought to myself, oh nooo!…I am falling in love with a farmer!  A real live F-A-R-M-E-R. Farmers live in the country surrounded by animals and well water.  I won’t even drink filtered tap water and I never leave the house in flat shoes. Ever.

Fast forward six years. I married him. We live in the Irish countryside and the closest thing to my former Sex and the City lifestyle is a walk-in wardrobe filled with the residual Mui-Muis and Manolos of days past. They seemingly have no use in these parts. Nope, nowadays life is more like an episode of “Sex and the Country”. Not saying it’s not fascinating…even entertaining, just “tis different”. Quite different indeed…

Life then: Sunday breakfast or a bagel and coffee at the perfect city café around the corner chatting away with friends followed by reading the beautiful New York Times newspaper and magazine.

Life now:  Sunday morning awake with fingers crossed that we have everything for me to make breaky in the fridge because the store is ages away and I can’t be bothered to drive it.  Followed by reading the news on nytimes.com followed by witnessing two cows getting it on in the pasture.

Yes, cows getting it on. Or “bonking” as an English friend calls it. With all the mating rituals I’m witnessing round’ here I think it is safe to say that there is definitely more sex in the country than sex in the city that I used to live in.  I have to admit, I just could not believe my eyes the first time I witnessed a cow mounting another cow. A bull just wanders around the pasture jumping on random heifers whenever the mood strikes him.  Very aggressive.  It just doesn’t look right. They’re too big for heaven’s sake! The act appears to be really clunky and awkward. Not sexy AT ALL. Plus, it looks like the girl cow is not happy. Plus, they are in the middle of a pasture and there’s no privacy…just not right. And it looks just as strange to me with all of the animals out here; sheep and horses too (yes, it is shockingly true what they say about horses.eeeewwwwww) Even our dogs seem to constantly be humping around with eachother and they are all males. Way too many country pheromones in the air for me to handle at times. Way too many indeed.

R is in charge of animal health and animal reproduction at the farm. He sees that the heifers hook up with the bulls and if that doesn’t work he works his A.I. magic.  A.I., or artificial insemination, is quite an interesting process to go through with cows.  Let’s just say that there is a 3-foot long glove which needs to be worn whilst doing the procedure.  And it’s not the cow wearing it. I’m sure now you’re wondering where the “inseminatory” fluid comes from to begin with, aren’t you? (yes, I made that word up because I don’t think you can say the S word on a blog or at least I’m not going to).  Well, I just happened to find out whilst watching a farming program on the telly the other night. Let me try to paint the picture…generally speaking, there is a very important man in County Meath who is an aficionado in this area and he goes in and intervenes and collects it just as the sire is mounting the cow. He uses an apparatus that he designed that so realistic that the bull doesn’t know the difference. Again, really TMI to watch.

I’m not sure why all this animal breeding business makes me feel so uncomfortable. What I do know for sure is that writing about it has made me feel the urge to immediately book a divine, girly city holiday as soon as possible.  {Ok sweetie?}

Coming up: I will be featuring a very different kind of Irish sexiness, Trish Deseine, the best-selling author who was born in Belfast, now living in Paris and whom has been dubbed “The Irish woman who is France’s Nigella.”

Slan Abhaile,

Imen

Photo courtesy of Easy Living

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