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Sometimes I wonder why I rarely share the bits about our life on this Irish farm that aren’t so pretty and delicious. My instinct is to look on the bright side of things….namely, the tasty treats of Ireland. I suppose it is makes life easier to focus on the good instead of the not so terrific.

If I am to be honest, it’s not all roses. I’m sure this comes as no surprise. That’s life. Whether it be the 7th gray day in a row, witnessing an animal die during childbirth, or, worse, the loss of a friend taken by the act of suicide which seems to occur at an alarming rate in this small country

….while there are moments of absolute splendor, there too are dark days in this quiet, pastoral setting.

I may be stating the obvious or the immaterial, depending on who you are, but for me, food, has become tremendously healing during difficult times at Dunmoylan. By healing, I don’t mean bingeing on pints of pecan praline ice cream or making not one, not two, but three chocolate chip cookies in a cup, though there is that on occasion…I’m human after all.

I am talking about the mere act of tying on an apron and stirring up my son’s favourite pot of macaroni and three {Irish} cheeses, baking an airy Victoria sponge with plenty of homemade jam and freshly whipped cream to treat the hard working crew after their dinner at the farm, or simply picking fresh vegetables and herbs to go with farmer’s cheese for Sunday evening omelettes….washed down with tumblers of Tempranillo.

Somehow standing in my kitchen with a spoon in hand goes a long way to ease moments of melancholy. Previously unbeknownst to me, I have discovered that the act of nourishing yourself and others can be quite the perfect way to find balance when the scales of my life seem to be tipped. Cooking is restorative. Making butter becomes Baddha Konanasana. Baking bread breathes faith into this no-matter-how-long-I-am-here-will-it-ever-not-feel-new-life. Sharing my bounty through this blog fills me with a sense of purpose and pride. It heals the hard parts. It can soften sad days.

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Nonetheless, food does not complete me. I do not live for food. Rather, I eat to live. Like everyone else. In a world filled with hunger, we are lucky enough to have the resources to purchase food, and better yet, to have the faculty to grow and raise our own on this Irish farm. Not only is food comforting, but we can take pleasure in its plentiful bounty. That, I do not take for granted.

Yes, I will absolutely gush over trying a new restaurant, recipe, or reading the new issue of Bon Appetit. But, what I really love is how food can inject such comfort and joy into an unassuming, ordinary…perhaps heartbreaking moment in time. A conversation with friends over drinks and a meal at a tea-lit restaurant buzzing with the din of laughter and life.  Photographing a slice of pie that sings….especially close up. Feeding my family every day. Working creatively with others to promote a local food event. Writing a blog post. Hosting an outlandishly decadent Sunday lunch…just because. Meeting an artisan food producer. Sharing a recipe. Going to a butchery class. Foraging for whatever fruits we can find. Making a film about Irish food.

When there is havoc at home, I turn to the rythmn of roast. When served, it will always bring a comforting smile to all faces around a table. A yankee pot, a rib of beef, a leg of lamb…..or, without question, the best: simply roasting one of our chickens and surrounding it with crusty roast potatoes and a big scoops of carrot-parsnip mash, all blanketed in velvety herby chicken gravy.

Which foods comfort you and bring you close to home?

Comforting Roast Chicken

1.5kg whole free-range or organic chicken

1 lemon, halved and zested

1 tablespoon butter

2 tablespoons fresh oregano, marjoram, chervil, tarragon, thyme or any fresh herbs

1 teaspoon olive oil

100 ml dry white wine

Sea salt and black pepper

Preheat oven to 220°C. Lightly grease a roasting pan. Place a wire rack into roasting pan. Rinse chicken (including cavity) under cold running water. Pat-dry with paper towels. Season cavity with salt and pepper.

Gently squeeze the juice from half the lemon over chicken, rubbing juice into skin. Place both lemon halves into chicken cavity. Tie legs together with kitchen string.

Place lemon zest, fresh herbs and butter into food processor and blitz into a paste. Massage under the skin of chicken.

Brush both sides of chicken with oil. Season chicken all over with salt and pepper. Place, breast-side up, onto rack in roasting pan. Pour wine into bottom of roasting pan. Roast for 1 hour or until juices run clear when chicken thigh is pierced with a skewer. Stand, covered, for 10 minutes. Serve with roast potatoes, parsnip and carrot mash.

Photo and styling by Imen McDonnell 2013. If you suffer with depression or know someone who does, please get help. In Ireland you can contact Pieta House or Samaritans. Also, if you are concerned about someone who may be suicidal, here are some warning signs from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention

 

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